Regenerative Agriculture - First Steps
Regenerative agriculture is an approach to land management which enhances life above and below the soil surface in a way that is self-perpetuating far into the future. These 4 workshops offer a chance to learn in a hands-on environment, some of the ways that we can reshape our thinking when managing incredibly complex relationships which touch all of our lives.
Participate with on-the-ground learning about Regenerative Agriculture at the beautiful Varian Arabians Ranch site in rural Arroyo Grande. The 4 one-day workshops touch on topics related to management which will enhance the bounty of life.
Social distancing will be practiced.
DATES: Saturdays, October 17 - November 7, 2020
INSTRUCTORS: Timmothy LaSalle, Robert Rutherford, and guest presenters
This workshop will provide an introduction to holistic management, a process of management that is central in regenerative agriculture. Holistic Management takes into account the situational complexity, context and whole under management of any farm, enterprise, organization or even family and is therefore an invaluable tool in managing successfully the economic, environmental and social impacts inherent in all decision making. In this workshop time will be spent both inside (in safe and spacious conditions) and outside of the built environment with active participation anticipated and welcome.
Agriculture is an extremely complex set of relationships. Regenerative agriculture requires management that is holistic due to this complexity. This workshop will acquaint attendees with a way to perceive and react to complexity. Our lives are an entanglement of social interaction, economic priorities, and environmental balance. For the past decades, agriculture has relied heavily on chemistry and technology in order to feed people. This and the other three workshops will show the power of using biology as well in order to restore balance to our food web.
This workshop is intended to show how we can use domestic ungulates (grazing and browsing livestock) to create the vegetative landscape that we desire. Traditionally, we have relied heavily on the tools of chemistry, rest, fire, and technology when managing our landscapes. There are other tools available- biology, grazing and animal impact- that we can utilize which restore balance and are self-regenerating. In this workshop time will be spent both inside (in safe and spacious conditions) and outside of the built environment with active participation anticipated and welcome.
It has been said that Mother Nature never tries to farm without livestock. This implies that livestock are critical to the balance of biology which defines a landscape. Wild ungulates numbered in the 100’s of millions across the California landscape centuries ago. Their role helped to shape our ecosystem. We currently have a landscape that requires billions of dollars each year to put out fires, destroy unwanted plants, artificially manipulate water cycles, add imported nutrients, deal with insect and pest invasions and more. If we desire a landscape that is self-regenerating and supporting massive numbers of species, livestock must play a critical role.
Building the Life of the Soil: Part 1—Vermicomposting and living roots with Tim LaSalle and guest speaker Cristy Christie, owner of Black Diamond VermiCompost in Paso Robles
WHAT DO MINERALS, MICROBES AND EARTHWORMS HAVE IN COMMON?
When the earth was forming, different rocks were created. Inside these rocks are minerals. As these rocks break down, some of these minerals break down and form soils. Soil originates from rocks and the minerals they contain. Because these minerals are small, they dominate soil. The description of soil minerals and the amount of each determines the soil chemical properties, and how fertile it will be.
Soil microbes play a vital role in the sustained growth of plants. They decompose and recycling nutrients bound in organic materials. They help access minerals in rocks large and small. And, they can even refine nitrogen from the air into a useful form for plants!
Healthy soil is rich with biological diversity and complexity that is not immediately apparent to the un-aided eye. Without a strong microscope, you wouldn’t know that there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of organisms in a handful of soil. Bacteria, archaea, algae, and fungi play critical roles in the growth and well-being of plants. The millions of microbes under our feet act as workers at recycling plants, mining operations, and refineries. They all have specific jobs helping make nutrients available for plants.
Vermicomposting, or the use of earthworms to breakdown organic matter, is a great way to add microbes to your soil. In this workshop we will demonstrate two methods of vermicomposting on a small and medium size scale. You will learn the how and why, as well as what not to do when managing a worm farm, no matter the size. You will leave with the knowledge to build a living soil that produces high value, healthy and nutritious crops. After all, just about the only thing we have complete control over is the food we eat. Knowledge is power – in this case, the power to improve the nutrition in your food.
Building the Life of the Soil: Part 2—Building regenerated soils that are self-fertilizing through improved soil microbiology with Tim LaSalle
The history of agricultural practices that has tilled and fertilized continued to degrade the life of the soil. At our current rate of degradation FAO makes a case that we have only 55 years of topsoil left. Regenerative agriculture takes on the challenge of restoring a healthy biome (biological complexity) at a rapid pace reducing, if not eliminating, the need for most costly inputs. With the help of a fungal dominant soil inoculant, soil health, crop yield, water percolation and retention, nutrient cycling, reduced rates of carbon respiration can regenerate soils immediately and reverse this long destructive history of our past management practices.
This workshop will demonstrate how to make the complex soil biome inoculant in your own backyard with your own resources for your garden or large-scale farming operation. This Johnson-Su methodology is created in an aerobic maturing process in a simple self-constructed bioreactor (a name utilized to represent a structure that permits the development of fungal dominant communities of microbes). When all of these natural microbes are available to the root when it emerges from the seed an immediate co-relationship is developed with the plant that will show immediate results in plant performance and in well managed soils it continues year after year. Regenerative agriculture is not only the new paradigm for building healthy soils and is being embraced by many large food companies and consumers, it rebuilds ecosystems creating a more resilient future.