Making Use of the Land You Have

Your location in the world dictates much of what you can do as a farmer: what you can grow, what livestock you own, how you grow and harvest crops, who you sell to and for how much. Just as different crops are successful in different areas based on exposure to sun and type of soil used, differing food preferences can affect what farmers choose to plant and what livestock they will raise.I’ve always been interested in why other regions farm the way they do and why they grow what they grow.

Although I would love to grow coffee here on my farm, my land is nowhere near suitable. I would need a much warmer climate, like that in Kenya. There, they grow some of the world’s finest coffee through a co-op system of small farms. It is government regulated and the beans are sold through a coffee exchange.  Many areas require shade trees to help the coffee trees grow but in Kenya they have been able to remove many of their shade trees. This is a prime example of growing something in the proper environment.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, many developed countries use large factory farms to raise livestock. Livestock can be expensive to feed and the more you have, the more land is necessary to feed and house them. However, they also provide benefits to the land. For example, sheep trample weeds and prevent them from spreading. For that reason, even though wool isn’t really produced in England anymore, sheep are still raised.

Aquaculture has been a legitimate technique used in Asia for centuries. For example, many Japanese people who live in hilly areas would not be able to grow much produce. Instead of moving or being dependent on others for their food, farmers worked around the problem. They created tanada, or rice terraces. This technique actually utilizes the hilly terrain to its best advantage. Rice does not take up a large amount of space to grow so it was the perfect crop. The plants need water and trap it when it rains. This prevents landslides, flooding, and erosion. These rice paddies also encourage a rich and flourishing ecosystem that would not survive without the tanada.

Another example of using the land to your benefit can be found in India. India is a large grower of banana crops, which can thrive there when using proper growing techniques. Prior to planting the trees, they prepare the ground by growing a manuring crop like cowpea. The cowpea plants give the ground nutrients and act as a covering crop. We use similar techniques here at my farm for growing other crops. It cuts down or eliminates the need for synthetic fertilizer. Next, they often use a tissue culture plant technique which allows for more uniform growth and is pest/disease free. It guarantees most plants will yield fruit and allows farmers to continue to plant year-round.

I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed writing it. If I come across another interesting technique, I’ll write another post about it!