Ecological Farming

How is ecological cultivation different from organic, biological or sustainable production?

• Ecological cultivation matches the plant to the ecosystem. Look at where the wild plant has naturalized (grows by itself). What is the altitude, latitude, average winter low temperature, water supply, exposure to sunlight, acidity of the soil, and other characteristics of the site? Then find a similar location on a farm. This approach is different from other kinds of farming, which amend the soil and modify the ecosystem in various ways to promote growth of the plant.

• The ecological approach seeks to imitate nature in every way possible. Usually, no fertilizer is applied to speed up plant growth. Bigger is not better. Annual vegetable crops require intensive fertilization; however, most of the herbs actually do better in “lean” soils with low organic matter. We want the medicinal part to closely resemble its wild counterpart, to be concentrated and strong, even if growth is slow.

• Ecological cultivation, especially with perennial (long-lived) plants, avoids tillage, compaction or any other disturbance of the soil. Mulches such as forest leaves or living ground covers are preferred. Again, it’s about mimicry of the wild.

• The steward works constantly to increase the biodiversity of the setting. Practices can include planting bird, bee or butterfly-attracting plants, recycling organic matter, understory planting, or any appropriate measure that increases the variety and complementarity of the life forms.

• Ecological growers learn to think in decades rather than in years. Some trees take many years to reach harvest stage; likewise the whole setting can take many years to mature to ripe productivity. We are banking value in the landscape for future generations.

New economic arrangements are required to support the development of a permanent agriculture. The only way to avoid being bound by conventions of the past is to invent and practice new forms. Fortunately for the success of our enterprise, public support for alternative agriculture and medicine has opened the way forward.