- Education and Training: mentoring
- Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement
The project achieved a greater system-wide approach to integrated pest management, and support for pollinator populations has been successful. The following are observations surrounding the results, and deeper evaluations of why each step was important for our holistic practices.
- EarthDance sought to address decreasing native pollinator habitats in the St. Louis region through native plant propagation, with our SARE project “Farmscaping and Permaculture IPM at an Organic Farm School.” Decreasing insect populations are a marker for disaster when it comes to sustainable agriculture, gardens, natural forests, and large-scale monocropping. Without increased land devoted to habitats, increased natural pollinator populations, and secure sources of pollination, agriculture will collapse. EarthDance planted a full native plant meadow, incorporated native flowering plants into permanent permaculture berms, and used insect netting to demonstrate to our cohorts of Farm & Garden Apprenticeship program participants that reliance on pesticides can be reduced or eliminated.
- The project educated apprentices and farm visitors. In this report we share numbers of farmers trained on-site, visitors to the site, and school children who came to EarthDance during the final year of the project. Due to the nature of educational projects and visual/hands-on learning, EarthDance believes that each individual exposed to these ideas and techniques is a potential avenue to decrease pesticide use, and increase natural habitats. If 5% of Farm visitors plant a few native plants in their own backyards, the collapse of insect populations in our immediate area may be avoidable (actions of other locales notwithstanding).
- EarthDance saw effective pest-management strategies increase yields due to less produce lost to pests. In addition, pollinator experts saw thriving populations of native bees and flies, as well as farmer reports of less organic-safe spray usage.
- Farmers visiting the farm from other areas commented on the insect-netting and integrated pest management strategies as ground-breaking, and informative. Despite these techniques stemming from ancient practices, traditional modern farming fails to account for the need for biodiversity. All apprentices who trained at EarthDance during this project (and all future cohorts to come) are leaving with permaculture at the center of their farming ideology. Over the course of this project, EarthDance equipped 50 farmers with permaculture and IPM expertise.
EarthDance proposed to increase the effectiveness of its pest-management efforts through floral farmscaping to attract beneficial insects, and the use of insect netting as an exclusion method.
Objective: Intersperse perennials that have proven highly attractive to beneficial insects amidst our fields, in orchard “strips” and a centrally located 3,000 square foot plot.
Progress: EarthDance has planted the orchard strips with approximately 700 native plants. The 3,000 square foot plot was solarized in the fall of 2017, and after a successful second solarization in 2018, was planted with an additional 400 plants.
Objective: Test the effectiveness of using insect netting in place of Remay rowcover as a means of excluding insects from tender crops.
Progress: EarthDance saw a decrease in pest populations, and increase in yields. While it’s difficult to denote singular causality (in terms of yield increases) with regard to EarthDance’s insect netting, it certainly has decreased damage to vegetation and fruit.
In addition to measuring the effectiveness of these methods, EarthDance is educating the beginning farmers of its Farm & Garden Apprenticeship program about the use of these techniques.