Charlotte Anthony, a farmer from Kimberly, Oregon in the United States is challenging the “norms” with her approach to farming. She is the founder of Terra Lingua Farms. The farm is located in an area that gets only 8 to 14 inches of rain a year.
She is a 74 year old a farmer who comes from 10 generations of farmers and learned permaculture techniques in India.
So I asked her what is the secret?
What she told me was that is it pretty simple.. “Just work on the soil”… I was not expecting such a simple answer.
This seemed almost unreal because she had a viable business on land that gets limited rain.
By improving the soil, people are able to have gardens and farms in harsh areas where most would think nothing should grow.
I asked Charlotte if she had any advice for newbies and she was gracious enough to share some of her knowledge.
Practical steps you can take…
1. Your soil is alive
The first thing Charlotte told me was that you need to do is to think of your soil as a living organism and you want this organism to be healthy.
If your soil is healthy, everything else will be fine. A healthy soil is teeming with life. One teaspoon of healthy soil has over 8 billion living organisms in it. These living bacteria and fungi allow the soil to soak up and store extra water, hold extra nutrients, help water stay in the ground and go into aquifers. These bacteria and fungi also pull carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, out of the atmosphere.
2. Avoid fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides
The next step is to avoid any fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. Charlotte told me that these chemicals may help in the short run but are really bad in the long run because they kill living organisms in the soil. Once, your soil is dead, your lawns and gardens will soon die.
Also many of these chemical pesticides and herbicides are dangerous and have been shown to affect the endocrine system and the brain especially in children and in pets.
What she did Terra Lingua Farm when she first start was hand spray about 500 pounds of microorganisms on her 17 acres just like a large farmer might spray a pesticide. About 6 months later, she had about 6 to 8 inches of the additional dark rich topsoil. This was without any added water or chemical supplements.
3. Put more carbon into the soil
Charlotte Anthony recommended is to put more carbon in the soil. This basically means is to put more organic matter such as compost or leaves back in the soil.
She also suggested adding a compound called biochar which is charred wood, grass, or leaves. You can make it yourself or buy it at some garden stores. By adding more carbon or organic matter to the soil, you increases the soils ability to hold water and nutrients.
4. Use native plants
Native plants are more resilient to disease, require little to no maintenance and use less water compared to other plants.
There are several online guides you can use to select appropriate plants.
You might be asking, is this really important? I would answer with a hearty YES. The benefits of gardens and healthy green spaces go beyond their appearance.
Healthy gardens and soils require little water, help decrease flooding, increase ground water levels which is extremely important since many areas in the world are in states of drought, and help put carbon back into the soil.
Also, healthy gardens are little to no maintenance so you will end up saving money and time as well. I hope you consider one or more of these steps Charlotte recommended. They are simple actions but will have a significant impact on the health of your garden, your soil and the health of the planet.
Below is a video she recorded from 2015
Tags: carbon sequestration Charlotte Anthony Dry land farming environment organic farming permaculture pesticide Terra Lingua Farms