If we were to give one word to our farming, even if only aspirationally, it would be "pro-biotic." Our aim is not to kill all life excepting the crop we are growing -- which would be an anti-biotic approach -- but to let all life flourish in balance, especially the crop we are growing. Easier said than done, of course. This is how we work at doing it.
Living Mulch -- One third of the vegetable farm is in pathway as a permanent nitrogen-fixing and insect attracting living mulch cover. This improves nutrient production via fixation, nutrient uptake via fungal life, nutrient retention via extreme water event management, better plant growth from controlled traffic improvements in soil oxygen and water infiltration, and pest control via permanent beneficial habitat.
No-till and Strip-till -- Approximately 65% of the vegetable farm has an in situ, grown-in-place, mulch into which we plant our crops without tillage; or a narrow strip which we shallowly cultivate. While we must still prepare the ground to plant the cover crop in the fall, we reduce the field passes, and so reduce the amount of carbon we "burn" out of our soil. We also keep soil covered, which improves water retention and the health of soil micro-life. Overwintering cover crops that we grow to maturity also greatly, greatly magnify the above- and below-ground biomass that we are able to introduce into our fields every year.
Perennials -- Two out of three acres on our farm are in perennial cover, either as fruit trees, berries, herbs, flowers, good-bug insectaries, or pathways. At a minimum, the advantage of a perennial agro-ecosystem is a reduction in disturbance, which gives the farm a chance to fall into the working balance of health that can characterize natural systems.
Self-Fertilizing -- We "grow" all of our own nitrogen fertilizer on the farm through cover crops and, to a lesser extent, the living mulch. We also employ a diversity of specific non-cash crops that, in sum, reach, accumulate, and make available nutrients that our largely weak-rooted cash crops would otherwise not have access to. Our other farming practices also preserve, as best we can in an annual system, the fungal life that is the true root system of our farm.
Good Bug Border / Insectaries -- Over 10% of our vegetable beds are systematically planted into specialized flowers and grasses that act as permanent habitat and food for a diversity of beneficial and predatory insects. In general, we don't spray against pests because these good bugs balance the bad.
Probiotic Drenches -- We selectively cultivate health-promoting bacterial and fungal life to inoculate leaf and soil surfaces against their bad counterparts. Actively aerated vermicompost tea is the common term for this. When this fails, we sometimes resort to organically approved sprays, but never think (nor even know) about the synthetic chemical alternatives.
Low Horsepower, Human Scale -- We are ever asking ourselves how to improve the efficiency and ease of our farming, with the end goal being a human scale farming that protects, energizes, and heals the body, ours and the earth's. Our tools define our farming, and so we devote our dreams, and every spare moment, to redefining our tools, and the ground of thinking that they spring out of.