If you find
What we try to control, controls us
Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed as Francis Bacon put it so beautifully so many years ago
Having the farm work for you rather than you work for the farm sounds like an ideal and probably sounds unrealistic.
However, it is certainly achieved by many farmers and may be something you can achieve.
It doesn’t mean you just sit on the veranda sipping cocktails while the cattle load themselves onto a truck and drive themselves to market.
What Bacon was getting at when he said Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed is just that we must follow the laws of nature if we want to guide nature to do what we want. Farming is about guiding nature, in accordance with the laws of nature.
What Farm works for farmer means is that the workload of the farmer is dramatically reduced because the farm is now more in balance and thus takes less running around, less use of chemicals and less time.
For most farmers in the Western world, farming takes more than it once did to achieve a living: more effort, more money, more risk and more land.
This is because there is a greater emphasis on chemicals instead of systems, and on genetically-modified organisms. These cut into the profits before the crop is harvested. And there are more people wanting a slice of the pie — quality assurance people, regulators, middle people and so on. Most of these cut into the profits after the harvest.
An farmer in this situation is unlikely to have Reasonable terms of trade (the difference between their income and their outgo) because their terms of trade are getting worse.
Income minus outgo is supposed to equal a sustainable profit. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Profits are often too small to live on unless you get bigger.
As a result, to produce the same income takes more crop and that usually means more land, time, effort and capital.
Farm works for farmer is usually the result of the farmer being a beneficial farm manager rather than one who gets in the way of his or her own aims.
The best farm managers have a massive positive impact on how well all the other organisms on the farm work.
Those who set up Self-managing systems leave themselves less work to do because their role is primarily that of a Conductor, just keeping everything In tune with Nature without a lot of effort or stress.
When I used to take farmers and students on visits to various farms, some farms stood out.
People would marvel at how the farmers managed their farms almost by standing back and not getting in the way of a system which just hummed along.
Most of the work the farmers did was just helping to keep the system in balance such as by ensuring that a particular stage was a Fed process.
Sometimes they would need to find a way to deal with a surplus of product such as when they had a good season. That’s the sort of problem I like to deal with.
These farms ran with the efficiency and smoothness of a well-oiled machine.
The farm was doing more and more of its own work of producing crops, building soil fertility, minimizing weeds, eliminating pest problems and so on.
From time to time, the farmer would need to find out about some aspect of the system just to help re-balance it as it drifted slightly off course. Once the farmer had this new understanding they might add something or take something out and the new balance would run like clockwork till the next bit of fine tuning was needed.
So how do you get it working like this?
- Start by looking for what is limiting your farm’s performance.
- Track causes rather than trying to deal with symptoms.
- Pests (including weeds) are a good example of a symptom which is often mistaken for the cause of the problem. The cause of a weed problem in a crop may lie in the rotation, choice of variety, sowing management or a dozen other areas. By isolating any shortcomings you can deal with them and thus let your crop achieve its potential.
- In looking for a shortcoming, you may find several. Fixing all of them will allow your crop to be much more self-managing and thus save you a lot of work.
- Use Natural indicators and you will have measures which are accurate because they reflect reality rather than being less accurate because they are one step removed from reality.