Final Report for FW09-041
Restore fruit production as a key part of the integrated biodynamic farm.
Major Work Completed:
Establishment of cold air corridors, wildlife areas for beneficial insects and animals, enhanced irrigation capability, intercropping and a soil development program.
Measurable change in cold air flows, reduction in the size of the farm’s frost zones, major improvement in beneficial predators.
Vibrancy has been restored to the farm. Visitors and instructors comment on the power of mutually-supportive and integrated features boosting production.
Fostering sustainable agriculture:
The Camino de Paz Farm & School is an educational facility serving adolescents and adults. It consists of a middle school and a fully functional, diverse, biodynamic farm. A core part of the curriculum is for the students to run the farm and its programs – experiencing the profit and loss and day-to-day challenges of agriculture and community work. The students produce as much of their own food as possible. They take their surplus to the Santa Fe Farmers Market 52 weeks per year. Their businesses include: pastured poultry (meat and layer), goat dairy (milk, cheese, soap), market garden farming, fiber sheep and goats, and finished fiber arts. In addition, the arm serves the greater community as an environmental learning center by hosting six weeks of summer camps, biodynamic farming conferences and permaculture and sustainability workshops.
*Correct systemic imbalance that has impeded past efforts for increased production.
*Restore fruit production as a key component of the biodynamic farm organism.
*Install wildlife corridors and reintroduce beneficial insects and animals.
*Conserve soil and improve the aquifer.
*Promote good community farming practices.
*Increase added value production and farm viability.
*Enhance marketability and return on farm production.
What we did:
We took our repeated failures seriously. We documented our failed trials, stepped back, analyzed what we knew of past success, looked for features that we could observe yet did not understand and sought outside advice.
How we did it:
We brought together all of our soil and water testing reports, planting records and management history in a comprehensive mapping project and laid them out on a detailed site plan. We introduced elevation lines and documented existing planting. We noted insect, predator and invasive plant movement through the site.
We have restored our ‘frost free’ zones to their 1920s size, thereby allowing perennial fruit production to return from nil to as much as 30% of farm horticulture revenue. With added emphasis on beneficial insects and animals we have improved both our cash crop and pasture production. We have reduced erosion and improved wildlife habitat. Our gopher and squirrel capture rates have increased 400%.
Educational & Outreach Activities
1) Our students, their families and friends though out the region were our first tier of outreach.
2) The 6,000 customers per week that attend the Santa Fe Farmers Market and buy from our farm and students were our second tier of outreach.
3) The 3,000 annual visitors to the farm school were our third tier of outreach. Groups including: Numerous public and private schools, Traditional Native American Farming Association, 2nd-45th National Guard Farming Division, Permaculture Institute Farmer Training, NM Horse Powered Farming Association, Cottonwood Gulch Foundation.
4) The six weeks of intensive summer programming that we conduct with other non-profits from our region was our fourth tier of outreach.
5) Our students travel to, and conduct presentations at, four regional conferences each year as our fifth tier of outreach.
We finally found a farm historian that had analyzed farming practices in our region from the 1800s and before. He immediately identified the structures and explained their relationships and noted where key components to the original farm plan had been removed or eliminated. We discovered that as we laser-leveled and re-graded certain fields, we had slowed the cold air drainage from the farm and therefore had to widen certain corridors beyond what they were originally.
We defined the primary cold air corridor that had been blocked by several hundred feet of non-native invasive Russian olives running in an east-west direction. We removed these trees and restored most surface grading to its earlier design. We replanted wildlife corridors in a predominately north-south orientation to facilitate and channel air flow. We selected well-buffered sites for more delicate plantings and introduced hardier plant material closer to our frost lines.
We installed spray irrigation systems in certain areas to allow for a pre-frost misting to reduce crop damage. We integrated pastured poultry under certain fruit plantings and adjusted the composition of our pasture mix to reduce grasshopper pressure and enhance soil quality. We introduced several more farm cats to serve as predators for the gopher problem and changed to a baited live trap system for our squirrels.
We quickly observed man-made contour lines that made no sense to us. We brought in several consultants that where equally puzzled.
Grasshoppers, gophers and ground squirrels had continuously plagued our site, along with bind weed, sand bur and goat head.
As a training center with 3,000 annual visitors we introduce and reinforce these management concepts to all.
Visitors frequently comment on the sophistication of the biodynamic farm, its high degree of integration and mutually supporting facets.
Development of affordable trellising systems that aid in controlling fruit loss to birds and quantitative research yielding watering and misting guidelines for frost management are much needed.