There are many valid interpretations of words and methodologies used to describe current agricultural systems. To clarify this, at Eaglerise Farm, we use these words based on our interpretation. It’s all about our interpretation. Eaglerise Farm management and design systems encapsulate all these systems with an open mind. However, where we identify short comings, limitations, we need to acknowledge them. We do not take any of these systems wholly or literally. We seek our own path and follow the permaculture principle of designing from patterns to detail. We observe the pattern in these paradigms and seek out the detail that reflects the ethos of Eaglerise farm.
We briefly discuss them here, in no particular order. The images will link you to further information.
1. Sustainable agriculture
In our minds, short-term and long-term sustainability are oxymorons. For a farm to be sustainable, it must be able to perpetuate for countless generations! To achieve this, it must sustain the current paradigm and then evolve as the ecosystem evolves. Therefore, by our definition, to be sustainable you must be regenerative. Sustainable agriculture incorporates social, community sustainability into the farm system design. In practice, simple sustainable agriculture does not work. To us it must increasingly sustain the enhancements of the evolving agricultural system.
2. Regenerative agriculture
From our definition, you cannot be practicing regenerative agriculture unless you are sustainable too. Ecosystems must be able to grow and regenerate. This involves all elements within the ecosystem. We consider that the farmer is an Ecosystem Element and not an Ecosystem Controller. The farm landscape needs to be designed and redesigned to encourage the efficient transfer of energy from within the soil ecosystem through the production ecosystem, to the retailing ecosystem of transferring food to consumers. Consumer feedback and interaction completes the energy loop of regeneration. In many aspects, the term “regenerative agriculture” should be interchanged with “agroecology”.
Here we see the implementation and management of ecosystem processes to yield an agricultural product. When we look at the ecosystem from an agroecological perspective, we see that we are, in essence, Ecological Niche Managers. When you have a weed, insect, disease issue, it signifies that your ecosystem is out of balance. The way to restore the balance is to manage the niche appropriately to re-establish diversity. By managing ecological niches, we are regenerating our sustainable, organic system. As an example, if we create a diversified soil ecosystem with multiple, varied niches, there will be a diversified soil biological community. This will produce a positive flow-on effect on the pasture (vegetables/crop) quality and quantity, then the quality of the livestock, the quality of the food produced and finally, the quality and health of the customers and communities consuming the food. It doesn’t start with the soil. It starts IN the soil. Stephen Gleissman is one of the principle fathers of modern agroecology.
4. Holistic Management
This is a great system approach to the complexity of management decisions that farmers face on a daily basis. It provides a framework to steer you towards your vision and the triple bottom line – economical, environment and social. Holistic management incorporates many of the aspects of these other higher-level paradigms. Allan Savory is the great champion of holistic management and it has achieved much for farmers across the world. One of Allan Savory’s great passions is reversing desertification by holistically managing livestock grazing.
Permaculture is a compilation of previous and new ethical principles and concepts focusing on wholistic system thinking. They were brought together by two great men, David Holmgren and Bill Mollison. It is an integrated, design system to create a permanent, living system with minimal inputs, that can provide generous subsistence to those dwelling within the system, including the community. In later years, permaculture has been largely co-opted by the many backyard vegetable growers. Small land holders have been able to incorporate the permaculture principles in quite an intensive manner. This has resulted in some excellent designs. This does not downplay the many rural permaculture designs. The rural examples are often influenced by a meld of many of these systems. This is certainly the case at Eaglerise Farm, where the original design was, very much a permaculture design, that has evolved through increased attention to agroecology.
6. Social Ecology
At Eaglerise Farm, we extend our farm ecosystem to all those participating in all levels of our produce, whether it be farm produce, training, farm catering experiences, farm tours, farm stays etc. Our view of social ecology has been influenced by Prof Stuart Hill’s papers. Social ecology is in parallel with the social aspect of permaculture. More technically, social ecology is the part of our design that concentrates on the relationship between our ecological and social issues, the interdependence of community and the ecosystem.
7. Restoration Agriculture
Mark Shepard has championed this approach and it is highlighted by his “STUN” method of management. That is “Strategic (or Sheer) Total Utter Neglect”. It is the do-nothing approach with a twist and has been very successful on his farm in Viola, Michigan. Mark has concentrated on perennial plant production within a natural style system. He champions his strategic origins in permaculture design. There is also some degree of influence from Masanobu Fukuoka in Restoration Agriculture.
8. Organic agriculture
Simplistically, this encapsulates the farming style that complies with the national organic standards. Certification provides a framework to ‘grow organically’. From our point, at Eaglerise Farm, it is unfortunate that this can include what we call, “Input Substitution Farming”. The certification industry, in Australia at least, has a strong leaning to “Big O” organics i.e. export quantities and quality. This encourages a commodity mentality within those farmers. Organic screams out “untouched” or “true” to those with some understanding. However, to many it screams out “overpriced”, “fraud” and “manipulator”. It is with slow education and sincere, persistent examples that we refocus consumers’ views that organic means “deep organic” with its ecological imperative and social conscience. That does not, in any way, mean that we consider organic agriculture inferior. Careful and thorough consideration of the organic standards, highlights that they are inclusive of sustainability, regeneration, agroecology and social ecology. At Eaglerise Farm, we were first certified organic in 2007.
Albert Howard and Lady Eve Balfour with others are credited with defining organic agriculture.
9. Participatory Guarantee systems (PGS)
PGS is a self-regulatory, generally organic, certification system. There is no third-party audit. The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) has promoted the PGS system, as it is particularly applicable and relevant to developing countries with limited resources. It provides an economical system for groups seeking a market edge to increase meagre profit margins. It is taking hold in Australia due to its lower price tactic, its independent, local structure and non-reliance on external scrutiny.
10. Beyond Organic
This paradigm has evolved from two streams of thinking. There is a cultural thought where many believe their farming system stands alone and they do not require any certification to tell them how to farm. There are some countries that have this view deep-rooted in their independent, national pride. Many also have looked at the Organic Standards and have been able to highlight short comings. They have developed their systems to move beyond those individual short comings. Some certified organic producers feel that using the term, “Beyond Organic”, leads to confusion in the consumers’ minds.
11. Conventional Agriculture
Our view at Eaglerise Farm, is that conventional agriculture has been a capitalist, petrochemical, commodity driven system. In many ways, it has been manipulated to line the pockets of big agribusiness in town. Once food was listed as a commodity, its value was manipulated by a multitude of players. Like all other agriculture paradigms, there are many conventional farmers passionate about sustainability and the environment and struggle like the rest of us against the tide of profit driven consultants and experts. Conventional agriculture includes the use of synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, high input levels, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO), high irrigation levels, intensive tillage and genetically engineered organisms etc. In the current world, conventional agriculture supplies the majority of western peoples’ food. At Eaglerise Farm, we feel strongly that, for small-scale farmers/land managers, the way to make money farming is to be a retail farmer, not a commodity farmer.
12. Masanobu Fukuoka
Masanobu Fukuoka was a Japanese farmer and philosopher and developed his style of farming along deep ecological processes. He was an early adopter of “natural farming” and “do-nothing farming.” Many of his techniques have been slowly and quietly adopted by many of the later developed food production systems.
13. Natural Sequence Farming
Natural Sequence Farming is a broad, rural landscape management technique and concentrates its energy into improving the soil hydrological cycle. Peter Andrews was visionary in his application of the maxim to “slow the water down”. Leaky weirs feature strongly in natural sequence farming and this has instigated frustration when proponents try to build them on larger water courses. The most well-known example, in Australia, would have to be the Mulloon Creek Natural Farms site at Bungendore, where Peter Andrews did much work with Tony Cootes in negotiating with governmental agencies in developing a trial site.
14. Biodynamic farming
Biodynamic farming extends the national organic standards with an additional supplement to comply with biodynamic requirements. These include methods and ingredients for compost making and the correlation of food productivity and celestial movements and energy flows. The esoteric concepts are drawn from the lectures delivered by Rudolf Steiner.
15. Syntropic Farming
Syntropic farming is a technique that emulates a rainforest ecosystem with its array of diversity. Ernst Gotsch incorporated multi-stacking of plant crops into his syntropic works in Brazil. The stratification is based on the photosynthesis requirements of each organism and the harvest interval for each species. It is related to permaculture food-forests and organic farming.
16. Holzer Permaculture
Sepp Holzer was practising permaculture on his small farm, The Krameterhof, on the steep mountainsides in Austria in the early 60’s, before Bill Mollison and David Holmgren developed the modern concept of permaculture and gave it a name. He established terraces and a series of ponds and managed rocky outcrops to create micro-climates.
17. Keyline Farming
P.A. Yeomans developed the Keyline system as a design mechanism to manage the flow of rain runoff and increase the retention of water within the farm system, as high up the system as possible. It utilises mechanical intervention to develop rip lines to divert the water from the sides of drainage lines towards the ridgelines.
For us, it’s all about our interpretation. Eaglerise Farm management and design systems encapsulates all these systems with an open mind. However, where we identify short comings, limitations, we acknowledge them. We do not take any of these systems wholly or literally. We seek our own path and follow the permaculture principle of designing from patterns to detail. We observe the pattern in these paradigms and seek out the detail that reflects the ethos of Eaglerise farm.
Read on at Our Vision page