I am laying down the first blog post of our farm, which we have dubbed Umami Farms. We closed on the land this spring and have big plans for it. It is a ton of work and we don’t have money for tractors or machinery, fencing, or much of the seed we need. We both have jobs outside of the farm, so we will continue to nurture it and buy what we need for it little by little.
This is going to be a slow venture. We don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars to quit our jobs and buy what we need right away. Instead, this paycheck we might buy some fencing. Next paycheck, we’ll order some trees. We have to chip at it little by little.
Jess and I are foodies. We love to try fare prepared in new, creative ways from close to home or from different cultures. Whether it is a new food truck or a 4-star restaurant, we enjoy the experience, the flavors, and the skill involved in preparation. We love fine dining, savoring the layers of taste and the elegance.
We also love Good Eats and all things Alton Brown. Before we bought our land, we binge-watched Food Network and cooked and ate. We researched truffles and garlic. We had dreams of raising our own ducks and pigs and lambs.
Our love of food is the prime driver behind Umami Farms. We want to share delicious flavors with the world.
By now, everyone has heard of sustainability. The idea has reached far beyond agriculture and eco-evangelists and has not become embedded in a lot of businesses: the idea of taking only what you can replace. It is a big goal. Most fossil fuels are not sustainable because we consume the resources at a much faster rate than they will ever be replaced. Many chemical/plastics/technology industries require resource inputs of material and energy that is virtually impossible to calculate, let alone replace. Other industries, like forestry/logging/paper products can easily be sustainable. By replacing the trees (and nutrients in the soil) that they harvest, and by using alternative energy sources, a logging company can easily be sustainable. Logging is a bit of an easy case. They see all of the things they take from the earth as plain as day.
We are designing our farm and our lifestyles such that we are giving back to the earth more than we are taking.
There’s also the concept of pollution. Vehicle pollution, plastics, chemicals, and industrial waste. Agriculture has been determined to be the largest contibutor to climate change. 24% of the greenhouse gases emissions (per EPA 2010 Study) are from agriculture and forestry. Agricultural runoff is responsible for fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides entering the waterways and changing ecology and water quality. Deteriorated soil from industrial farming and erosion has led to desertification and farm fields which are basically inert because they have been stripped of their mineral and biological content.
We are designing our farm and our lifestyles such that we are not contributing to the madness of traditional or industrial agriculture and the pollution that it creates.
We’ve researched the permaculture movement for years (Thank you Permaculture Podcast, Permies, and the Permaculture Farm & Garden Podcast. You are my permaculture inspiration!) and we are finally acting on it. We believe that permaculture does not have to be a political thing. It doesn’t have to be a social movement. To us, permaculture is designing a sustainable agricultural ecosystem in harmony with human environments such that they function together as a system. Permaculture is full of great design tools and methods. It is our intent to pick the right tools to minimize the energy and material inputs to our farm and maximize the outputs, while staying simple and practical.
Every permaculture wizard defines it slightly different. Grandfathers of permaculture Bill Mollison and David Holmgren may have a different outlook than Sepp Holzer or Paul Wheaton or Geoff Lawton. To us, they are all heroes.
We constantly remind ourselves of the permaculture principles. We realize every day that the problem is often the solution and waste is a resource. We are trying to observe and maximize the number of functions everything serves. That being said, we are at the very beginning. We are only able to observe these snapshots in time so far and design and plan.
Right now, there are a TON of certifications that we want to get. USDA Organic is one of them, since we will be making food. There are others that pertain to ethical treatment of livestock. We plan on getting these. Since we are just starting up and just bought the land: give us a bit!
It is our goal and hope to build more biomass, build a thicker and healthier soil. It is our goal to treat water with respect and using rainwater collection and swales and other tools to minimize dependency on pumped water. It is our goal to have more plants and animals on this farm, in food forests, silvopasture, and tree crops.
We will never use chemical fertilizer. We will use crushed rock (limestone or volcanic rock), kelp/fish, manure, and compost to fertilize our plants. We will design in a way that does not lead to erosion or loss of valuable topsoil. We will design in a way that is simple and easy to maintain and doesn’t require a ton of inputs or energy once it is started. We will build our resources, not waste them.
We will build agricultural ecosystems that do not deplete our resources nor harm the environment around us.
Best Laid Plans
I am sure the entire process will be like this. I did a rough sketch of what we want to do with this land 3 months ago when we bought it: