Wednesday April 22, 2015
Whether we’re aware of it or not, humans are a part of nature’s cycles. Billions of highly complex cycles and exchanges happen on our planet every day, as nutrients, water, and more change hands.
Unfortunately, industrial agriculture has done all it can to divorce itself from nature’s cycles. Excessive use of fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides has greatly simplified the ecosystems in our farmland. Irresponsible irrigation has drained limited underground aquifers and eroded topsoil. And that’s just scratching the surface of the damage our industrial food system has done.
They seem to have forgotten that when you take, you must also give.
We try to think in terms of cycles and look and how we fit into the big picture of our farmland’s ecosystem. We want to be an integrated part of our farmland’s ecosystems, a part of mutually beneficial relationships rather than parasitic ones.
In honor of Earth Day, we wanted to share some of the ways that Hawaiian Organic Noni is committed to giving back.
Mulching is a hugely beneficial farming practice. It’s also very easy to implement. Mulching means covering the soil around plants with a layer that retains moisture and provides habitat for worms and beneficial microorganisms.
Organic mulch can be made of plant material (leaves, grass clippings, wood chips) or shredded paper and cardboard. By returning these materials to the soil, we are investing in our land, and engaging in the cycles that grow the noni trees we rely on.
Composting is a pretty similar concept as mulching – but on a larger scale. To make organic compost, you mix “green” waste that is high in nitrogen (food scraps, leaves, grass clippings, etc) with “brown” scraps, which are high in carbon (paper, cardboard, woodchips) and allow microorganisms and bacteria to get to work. They feed on your compost pile, turning it gradually into humus – a vital part of healthy soil.
When you add humus to your soil, it makes nutrients more readily available. Think of it as feeding pre-digested nutrients to the soil and your plants. Composting will also boost the living beneficial microorganisms, worms, insects, and fungi in your soil.
No Till Agriculture
Most conventional agriculture relies on a system of tilling, which means turning over the soil in a bed each season. People till because it makes it easier to plant new crops, but it’s not worth the negative effects. Tilling the soil kills many of the living organisms in that ecosystem, allows nutrients to escape into the air, and gives weed seeds a chance to germinate.
Tilling is largely responsible for the huge amounts of herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers needed by industrial agriculture. By adopting a no-till system at Hawaiian Organic Noni, we commit to protecting our soil, and reduce our need for all those chemicals.
Some of our favorite animals on the farm are our earthworms, who provide us with black gold (worm castings) that greatly increase the fertility of our soil. We use native species of earthworms on the farm, allowing them to fit into their natural ecological niches. We also keep some worms in vermicomposting bins, where they help us to make compost more quickly.
Wind Powered Electricity
We capture the energy of the wind in order to create some of the electricity we need to run the farm. One major way we use the wind energy is to power the dehydrators where we make noni fruit leather.
Solar-Voltaic Powered Irrigation
Industrial agriculture has a serious irrigation problem. They use huge amounts of power to pump and distribute water across their land. Worse yet, the water is usually allowed to run off, stripping topsoil and nutrients away and causing erosion.
We use water from our own wells, pumped using solar-voltaic power. Because we rely on our own water supplies, it’s very important for us to collect runoff so the water can seep back into the water table, to be used again later.
We love having albatross nesting grounds neighboring our land, and we do what we can to protect these rare, amazing birds. Recently, we helped build a fence around the nesting ground to keep dogs from attacking the albatross.
All of these different practices allow us to give back what we take from nature when we harvest the noni fruit to make our fruit leathers and lotions. There’s nothing wrong with taking and using what the land has to offer, as long as you give back. We try to be good stewards of our land, and to us, that means engaging in the natural cycles that have made it the beautiful place that it is. We want to preserve it for many years to come.
Have you considered finding ways to give back to the land? Maybe you’d like to try mulching or composting this season. There are easy ways to get started without getting overwhelmed. Even if you don’t have a garden, you can give your kitchen scraps to someone else who composts. There are lots of ways to get involved in nature’s cycles – even purchasing food grown on sustainable, organic farms can have an impact.
How do you give back to the land that supports you? Let us know in the comments!