The 8 Principals of Sustainable Food Production
GROW BIOINTENSIVE Mini-Farming uses 8 core principals, which are the key to truly sustainable food raising. By using each principal together, we can grow enough carbon for the compost pile, produce enough calories to feed ourselves, and create a micro-climate in our garden that encourages biodiversity and vitality. If any single principal is overlooked, the system cannot be truly sustainable.
The Roots of Sustainability
Of the 8 principals, the first 3 can be considered the roots of sustainability. The roots create the connection between heaven and earth, anchoring the system and providing life.
Deep Soil Preparation
The first principal is deep soil preparation, which helps us to create ideal soil structure in our garden beds.
When soils are compacted, we loosen the soil to a depth of 24 inches, creating pore space for air and water. This supports plant roots and soil organisms which give life to the soil and enhance nutrient availability.
The technique used to accomplish deep soil preparation is Double Digging. Using a spade and spade fork, beds are carefully worked by hand, with the help of a digging board to minimize soil compaction. The result is a naturally raised bed that fosters life below and above the soil surface.
The second principal is composting, and is vital to maintaining soil health and sustainability.
Compost returns nutrients and carbon to the soil, increases water and nutrient retention, supports microorganisms and builds soil organic matter.
GROW BIOINTENSIVE compost piles are made by creating layers of mature plant material, immature plant material, soil from the garden, and water.
Creating our own compost increases our self-reliance and sustainability, because we will no longer have to import fertility from off the farm.
The third principal focuses on creating enhanced and uninterrupted plant and root growth.
We begin with starting all of our seedlings in wooden flats, which allows us to select only the most vigorous plants to transplant in to our beds. This also increases sustainability on the farm, by eliminating the dependency on nurseries to provide seedlings. We can also ensure uninterrupted growth by following the Master Charts and transplanting before roots have run out of room.
When transplanting, we use hexagonal offset spacing in our garden beds, each plant the same distance from the next. This spacing technique creates our living mulch, reduces water and fertilizer requirements, increases productivity and yields, and creates our garden micro-climate.
We can create beneficial relationships in the garden by choosing plants that encourage each other's growth.
Companion plants can follow one after another in the same bed, grow next to each other, or be interplanted together. For example, growing beans before planting corn will fix nitrogen in the soil, which the corn needs in abundance.
By using many types of plants that flower all season long, we can attract a wide variety of insects. Having biodiversity in the garden means we have beneficial insects that can control pests, and we ensure adequate pollination.
Carbon farming promotes sustainable soil fertility by focusing on growing crops that produce a large amount of mature, carbonaceous material for the compost pile.
GROW BIOINTENSIVE mini-farming dedicates 60% of the growing area to Carbon crops.
By emphasizing crops that produce compost AND a significant amount of calories - cereal grains like wheat, rye, and maize - we can sustain ourselves and the soil at the same time.
Calories are the energy we gain from the food we eat.
GROW BIOINTENSIVE dedicates 30% of the garden to 7 Special Root Crops, that are both calorie-dense, and have a high yield in a small area.
By choosing these specialized crops, we are maximizing the amount of calories we can grow, in the smallest area possible. Doing so allows us to dedicate more of our land to regeneration and reforestation.
Starting with Open-Pollinated seeds empowers us to save our own seed, and grow the same true-to-type varieties year after year.
By saving our own seed we are increasing our self-reliance and sustainability by using only the freshest seed, and by no longer depending on seed companies.
Seeds saved from open-pollinated plants will also have adapted to the local growing conditions, making them more resilient against climate change, pests and diseases.
A Whole System Approach
GROW BIOINTENSIVE is a unified farming method, and all 8 principals play an important role in creating a thriving garden ecosystem.
Because GROW BIOINTENSIVE farming can increase yields up to 600%, it can also deplete the soil at an accelerated rate. That's why it's extremely important to use all 8 principals together, so we are sure to give back more to our soils than we take.
The closer we get to a closed-loop system, the more sustainable the farm becomes.
Remember that all things in the garden are connected, and that only a healthy living soil will produce health and nutrient dense food.