LA FERME A NAROQUES

“You never change things by fighting against the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Diversity

Nature, the worlds finest farmer, always mixes plant and animal life. A mixed farm in which livestock, grass, crops and trees interact is the only basis of sustainable agriculture. From such diversity we create the resilience of sustainability of the forest system; a constant recycling of elements brought up from all layers of the soil and integrated into the surface by huge armies of beneficiary workers. At the farm we create this diversity by restoring hedgerows and planting trees. In the fields we sow hugely diverse and deep rooting pastures. We grow our crops in associations, and under-sow these associations with a still more varieties of ground cover.

No till

The carbon and fertility thus locked away has to be carefully preserved. We do this in two ways. Innovative growing techniques in which crops are sown into rolled cover crops meaning the earth is never tilled and is permanently covered. There are only 2 passages in the field – sowing and harvesting. Last year our yields from this system surpassed those of the conventionally farmed control. Further refinements are ongoing.

Secondly, we have converted the farm to modern horse power. After visiting the Amish and studying the economics of the question, it became clear that on a diversified farm of a reasonable size, animal traction is an economically better choice. It also avoids the soil compaction problems inherent in tractor farming, and entirely cuts out carbon emissions from the production process.

There is vastly more carbon in europe’s soil than in its forests. A 1.7% change in soil carbon content in the world’s farmland would sequester enough carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to get us back to pre-industrial levels. This could be done in 5-10 years following a change of farming methods. In soil terms, carbon means organic matter and organic matter means fertility. So it’s an entirely virtuous cycle.

Varieties

For 10,000 years mankind selected his crops for their taste and nutrition. Since the misnamed ‘green revolution’ we have hybridized our crops to tolerate huge doses of chemicals and in doing so, rendered them weak and nutritionally worthless. The restoration of local varieties suited to real farming and the production of real food is an essential part of our project.

Soil

Since the 60s, industrial food production has been based on sowing the same hybrid seeds everywhere, into soil that’s dead – killed by chemicals and heavy machinery. Inevitably the plants that grow are weak.The same people who sell the seeds and heavy machinery that created the problem then sell fertilisers and pesticides to keep this weak plant growth alive. This further kills the soil meaning next year you need even more chemicals and fertilisers. Great for the salesman, a disaster for mankind. The food that comes from this system is tasteless, innutritious and laced with chemical residues to which we add loads of sugar, salt and more chemicals to make it palatable. This is not food.

Every time you go shopping you shape the future of the planet. Why? Because under industrial farming we have only 60 harvests left, it’s destroyed 75% of our fauna, it’s toxic chemicals are entering our water supply and its confined animals are factories for anti-biotic resistant bugs. But it will only exist as long as its products get bought. There are ways of farming which improve the land year on year, which create life and diversity, grow real food and secure the future for those that follow. There farmers are out there who are doing it. They take risks , developing new ways to grow and fighting to preserve locally adapted seeds that the agricultural corporations are copyrighting and declaring illegal. To support them, all you need to do is to buy great food. It might be a bit more expensive but if we paid the real price for our industrial food, these natural alternatives would be far cheaper.

Nature, the worlds finest farmer, ensures her ever bountiful harvests by feeding the soil with a huge diversity of plant and animal life. In our fields we do the same, rotating over 50 plant varieties, cattle and poultry, preserving woodlands and restoring hedgerows. We work with horses rather than tractors to preserve the fertility we’ve created. Each year we go into the fields and hand pick the best seeds to be resown. This way our heritage cereals and vegetables become perfectly adapted to the farm and give our crops their unique flavour.

At our farm, after only 4 years (not even the beginning of the blink of an eye in terms of natures timescales) we can see that given a chance, nature comes roaring back. It’s clear that an agriculture which provides health, nutrition and diversity is readily achievable. Our belief is that the only way to affect this change is to provide working alternatives.