Posts Tagged william albrecht

6 Rules of Biological Farming

Today I actually found the time to read. Gardening for Profit is buried somewhere in the moving boxes, but I did manage to bring along my copy of The Biological Farmer. I’ll finish posting notes for Gardening for Profit when I get back to Oregon, but now seems like a good time to start sharing what I’m learning from Gary Zimmer.

This author runs a sustainable agriculture consulting firm in the upper Midwest and this book was originally intended to be a primer for consultants-in-training. He also owns and operates a 500-acre organic crop and dairy farm, and manages a 240-acre livestock and crop demonstration farm. It sounds like he’s heavily influenced by Albrecht, so I’m using this book as an introduction to soil-focused agriculture.

Some of the information isn’t new to me, since I studied environmental science and ecology in school. My eyes didn’t perk up till chapter 2, when he described 6 rules essential to biological farming. By “biological” farming, he means farming to maximize productivity and profits over time by understanding and working with biological processes (whereas conventional practices focus on maximum productivity and profits ASAP, and don’t give a @#$% about biological processes). He goes a step further and describes his criteria for sustainable agriculture, which can be achieved by practicing biological agriculture properly and in the long run: zero soil loss, nutrient balance, and 25 earthworms per cubic foot of soil.

So here are the 6 basic rules essential to biological farming: Read the rest of this entry »

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Fuel for the Soil Factory

My Albrecht studies continue with an article titled Loss of Soil Organic Matter and Its Restoration. Like The Drought Myth, it was packed with insights and information. The metaphors were especially striking. He referred to the soil as a breathing, working entity, like a factory where organic matter is fuel, bacteria is fire, and nitrogen is the building material of choice. It uses the equivalent of 1 horsepower per acre to burn organic matter, “exhaling” more than 25 times as much carbon dioxide per day as an adult man at work.

The organic matter (its supply of fuel) has been building up gradually for 25,000 years in North America, since a glacier receded and left minerals in its wake. Then came the pioneers who tilled the soil, and a steep decline in soil organic matter (SOM) began. With the loss of SOM came a proportionate decline in agricultural productivity, and the trend continues to this day (compensated for by chemical inputs, of course). In this article, Albrecht outlines ways in which this trend can be halted or even reversed. Read the rest of this entry »

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To do: Read loss of soil organic matter, compare (Done)

After I read the nitrogen myth article, I’ll be reading Loss of Soil Organic Matter and Its Restoration by Albrecht and then tying it all together (along with the compost study I just read).

Done, see notes here.

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People to study

Just added Donella Meadows to my study outline under systems thinking, which lines up quite well with how my mind likes to operate as well as how sustainable agriculture works. I’ve been intrigued by systems theory for several years now.

Albrecht seems to be a systems thinker, applying a holistic and systematic approach to agriculture. I’ll probably be all over his writings for the next several months. By the way, you know you’re getting hard core about studying something when you become a fan of someone who doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry.

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