"Cultivate the smallest possible amount of land, but do so excellently." This was the motto of the Marachers, nineteenth century French market gardeners, whose meticulous precision and devotion to the highest standards of horticulture produced enough food for themselves, for their Parisian markets and a surplus for export to England, whose burgeoning capital, London, sucked in agricultural produce from not only Britain, but other lands.
The marachers are gone,swamped by the undercutting pressures of big producers and a century of two major wars, but not they are not forgotten and as the world swings towards the need for more intensive production, their time is coming again. The concept of bio-intensive agriculture [and horticulture] began to develop again in California in the 1960s when John Jeavons, who had a microfarm, began to promote it again.Jeavons' agriculture is based on veganism, but bio-intensive agriculture does not have to be, and later on we will see that it is a system that can include animals.
Jeavons system included double-dug raised beds,a feature that might run contrary to the modern idea of no- dig gardening, but like all bio-intensive systems it places great store by compost produced on the farm. However, Jeavons grew compost crops, which he called carbon farming, and while this obviated the need to purchase compost, it ensured that fewer crops were produced on the farm than would have been the case were compost brought in from outside. While sustainability is vital, it is the whole system that must be self-sufficient rather than each individual farm. If food is being sold out of the farm, resources are being lost and so must be replaced from outside.
An example of imported fertility comes at La Ferme du Bec Hellouin discussed below, whose owner has compensated for the low fertility of the land, which according to an archaeologist has not been tilled since the Neolithic age,being used only for pastoral purposes, by importing rich manure from a stable owner glad to get it off his hands. This farm is as bio-intensive as Jeavons' farm, but unlike Jeavons farm, which is ideally a closed system operation intended to be internally self-sufficient, La Ferme du Bec Hellouin provides food for the neighbourhood and so is an open system. [See Permaculture.,issue 94, Winter 2017]
The system works on the maximum usage of land, so bio-intensive agriculture applies the principle that crops, which are companion-planted where possible, should be so closely spaced that at three quarters of their growth their leaves should touch.
Good comment, Derdriu. Amending soil is necessary, but we must ensure that our efforts are not counter-productive. This means that we must research our techniques to protect against depletion. Maybe the Anglo-Saxons, who left a field fallow every third year, had a point. Periods of rest are part of organic farming.Maybe over-reliance on manure is a problem as compost and other soil enhancers, such as rock dust and seaweed, both of which provide trace elements, which can be lacking in soils, may be necessary.
frankbeswick, Thank you for the photos, practical informations and product lines.
I already am acquainted with the three books.
Did you know that Jean-Martin Fortier published The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower's Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming? He also has a comprehensive online course in organic farming.
The Hervé-Gruyer approach may be quite taxing on animals and soils. The UN published last year a report on soil depletion from heavy soil modification and wear-and-tear, near-year-round and year-round use. Would it not be possible that intensive cultivation of crops, especially those not normally grown there, could be wearing out the soil even though they use manure as organic fertilizer?
The notion in Cooperative Extension Master Gardening on this side of the pond -- there are Master Gardeners in Canada since Canada eliminated extension agents in this century -- that amending soils can have long-term, opposite effects and that alteration, such as of pH, is a never-ending battle.
I had heard the term, but did not know much about it. Thanks.
Don't think of the American usage as a distortion, for I suspect that Scottish usage might be at the root of this
lingustic nuance, for the Scots used to call a garden a kaleyard, so yard in Scottish usage could denote a garden. Whether this usage continues today I know not.
Frak, I just recalled the man behind square foot gardening's name. It was Melvin.
About 30 or more years ago an engineer named N+Bartholomew, I cannot recall his first name, wrote a book and promoted on television a concept called square foot gardening, where one makes square feet areas in the form a=of a grid. Then one would plant each square foot with whatever one wanted, with the constraints of not shading plants needing sun, nor allowing pollen problems for plants that can cross over. So, one square foot might be beans, then three more might be squash, then another could be onions, and so on. Of course I would not plant corn in from=nt of tomatoes. He had charts for spacing and the number of each type plant for a square foot. This is yet another use of small plats of land.
In the U. S. a backyard refers to the area behind the house, or on the opposite side of the house from the street. It is used in urban and suburban places, where houses occupy most of the width of the land. In my area homes are often set 20 feet back on a 50 foot by 100 foot lot, and 5 feet need be not built on for the sides, as a fire protection. So, a typical home s about 40 feet across with a 50 or so foot depth, and the remaining 50 by 50 space, paved or not, is the back yard. Apparently this is another distortion of the english language we have done as a nation. In rural areas it would be a much larger plot of land, and perhaps the area immediately behind the house might be called a yard if it served the family for recreational use.
Brilliant! I love what you say.
You mention a back a backyard.In Britain when we speak of a backyard we speak of a paved space. Is such a space what you mean? I have an allotment, but no garden at home.
Excellent! I remember the days when some city folk (often immigrants) turned the backyard into a garden and produced a lot of their own food. I hope we bring those days back, as well as encourage lots of local market farms.
Where I live, I think we have a vibrant food-production community. Land is getting chewed up for development, but not all of it. The gentleman who wrote the Lean Farm book is within easy driving distance, and I hope to see his new place in the spring (he's moving his farm from one side of the town to the other, actually making it closer to me).