My Garden ~ soil health

Tonight I read an article Farms of the Future in my February 2007 copy of
New Zealand Lifestyle Block. In it, research by a Dr Anderson found “food nutrient levels in the developed world are deteriorating.”  The article quoted him urging farmers to “step off the treadmill of agricultural chemicals and onto a path of managing soils, crops and animals in a profitable and sustainable way.”
I also believe there is a link between the health of the food we eat and our own health. This article sparked childhood memories I have of the way my father practised farming (in the future 40 years ago, perhaps!).
In a previous blog, I described how my late father was a farmer a man who cared for the soil. The high level of soil fertility (of the farm) was a result of applications of liquid seaweed and dragging a chain harrow to spread the animal manure over the paddocks. This was in an era when neighbouring farmers were applying fertiliser such as superphosphate to promote pasture growth. He grazed fewer dairy cows yet achieved similar profitable milk production figures to other farmers in the district. Less stress on the animals – they did not have to compete for blades of grass. Each year, a different paddock would be cultivated, sown in turnips as a winter feed crop before being re-grassed – no agricultural chemicals used. Not like the current focus of intensive practices to achieve high returns from farms. Animals and soil are respectively dosed and dusted with agricultural supplements and chemicals that indirectly enter our systems and affect our health. Dad cared for the soil which in turn grew healthy plant life and in turn, healthy animals. It was the same for the vegetables he grew – no sprays. He worked hard, but he in tune with nature and understood how to nurture the soil that provided for our needs.  It is my practice to rotate crops and to build the levels of humus in the soil without chemical interventions. I’ll sow a nitrogen-fixing crop in a bare plot with the intention of composting the green crop later on in spring to prepare the soil for planting summer vegetables. It is do-able on a small lifestyle block to improve the health of the soil and of the food we eat.

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