Introduction to Sustainable Farming
Sustainable farming is a very wide concept that is used for the growing of food with the use of methods that will nurture the environment or the society as well as the economy. Sustainable farming can be considered to be an alternative to mainstream agricultural practices that adopt industrial methods (Anibaldi et al., 2021). In this type of farming, it has been found that sustainable farmers are willing to support the health of the community as well as its well-being so that it can work with nature in coordination. Such measures can also bring about profit in business. There are many people who take up farming as a business, not making profits or just for recreational purposes. In this essay, I am going to reflect upon a visit to one of the local organic and sustainable farms in my area. The name of the farm is ALM Organic Farm. ALM Organic Farm is a sustainable organic farm situated on a 15-acre land in Sooke of Vancouver, British Columbia, which was founded by Mary Alice Johnson. The farm has been certified to be organic and sustainable since the year 1994, and the farm believes in growing each and every produce organically that would make a contribution to the health of the environment as well as the people who are eating food (ALM, 2022).
The outstanding produce grown by the farm includes herbs and flowers for the market of farmers, various unique and special events, local eateries and a box program. The farm also grows seeds and seedlings for their seed company named “Full Circle Seeds”. ALM Organic Farm is also engaged in hosting annual plant sales that support other farmers in the community along with local organisations (ALM, 2022). During my visit to the farm, I was guided by Mrs Johnson, who helped me a lot in getting answers to the questions which I was curious about. I chose this farm for the visit as they are dedicated to working towards sustainability, and a visit to this farm could help me a lot in fetching information about the environment and nutrition. At the same time, they are well-known for doing a great job of community welfare in recent times.
Sustainable and organic farming is essential as it provides the solution to problems that are caused by the way food is grown nowadays. The industrial methods of farming, which have come into popularity ever since the Green Revolution, are depleting natural resources in different ways. Soil erosion is one of the adverse impacts that arise due to poor farming practices, which exploit farming land to a great extent (Seitz et al., 2019). I have found that ALM Organic Farm reduces the chances of soil erosion by agents like wind and water by stabilising the topsoil from becoming lost. Methods of organic farming are well suited to reduce degradation of land (Meemken & Qaim, 2018). They do the same by implementing techniques like crop rotation and reducing the usage of any kind of synthetic agricultural materials. They revealed that the farm controls weeds and pests without making usage of herbicides and pesticides. The yield of products such as herbs and flowers may be comparatively less, but I have understood that these strategies, when implemented, can increase the fertility of the soil and are associated with the rise in biological diversity. The farm operators revealed the main soil structure through stabilisation of soil aggregation. From this, I have come to a deduction that the contents of Soil Organic Matter in the layer of topsoil are more in organic farming than farming using conventional methods. This factor helps in the stabilisation of soil to a great extent. I have come to know that in ALM Organic Farm, no machinery is used for tilling the land or improving the quality of the same and hence usage of organic matter leads to improvement of water infiltration along with the capacity of retention of the same. This reduces the amount of water required for irrigation, and thus the soil remains in good condition.
Exploring ALM Organic Farm in Vancouver, BC
After visiting the farm and spending a lot of time there while interacting with the people working there, I have seen that ALM Organic Farm practices crop diversity on a regular basis. The farm grows fresh and green vegetables in varying amounts and on a rotational basis which definitely strengthens the quality of the soil. I have learned that the management of crop diversity is very fundamental to the growth of agriculture which enables breeders and plants to develop varieties of crops that are productive. I have found that through crop diversification, ALM Organic Farm is incorporating improved and better conditions for the security of food while enabling the growth of products that are surplus for sale in the farmer’s market. This, in turn, is helping the farm earn enhanced income for meeting the other needs associated with household and well-being. From the visit, I have come to know that ALM Organic Farm has engaged in crop rotation as well as a companion, which involves growing different plant varieties in the same place. Crop rotation enables a farm to deter pests and also render the soil with enough minerals and nutrients, thereby rendering vertical support (?ervenski et al., 2020). The farm grows the seedling in an enclosed nursery where they are taken great care of under optimum light and moisture. After they are grown to a certain level, the plantings are shifted to an open area under the sunlight.
In the farming of fruits, flowers and vegetables, pollinators are important. It is organic farming that provides more support to pollinators than conventional farms (Erickson et al., 2020). Since ALM Organic Farm does not make use of harmful chemical and pesticides, therefore reduced exposure to such agents have declined the chances of hazards to pollinators such as bees. Instead, techniques of integrated pest management have been utilised, which help in controlling the growth of insects and pests on the farm. Also, pollinator decline is seen to occur due to the loss of their habitat and sources of nutrition (Drivdal & van der Sluijs, 2021). Just because ALM Organic Farm needs to operate their farms in a way that complies to provide a diverse landscape while preserving nature, they have to plant more and more flowering plants which become home to pollinators. Also, ALM Organic Farm revealed that they receive funding from the White House for protecting the habitat of bees which helps them in facilitating pollinator conservation.
I have found that ALM Organic Farm makes hand-cultivation methods for growing crops instead of using machinery for the same. They use machinery such as vacuum seed cleaners for the cleaning of seeds in bulk. They also make use of a seed cleaning screen for segregating seeds while cleaning weeds and dust particles effectively (Vacuum Seed Cleaner, 2022). The farm has made greenhouses for taking extra newly grown plants so that they get conditions of growth that are favourable and the plants able to grow without any interference from external agents. I have hence learned that inculcation of greenhouse farming, as adopted by ALM Organic Farm, can increase the production of crops that occur due to the provision of optimum conditions for the growth of plants and seeds.
Benefits of Sustainable and Organic Farming Practices
Direct inputs of energy to a farm are the fuel oils, electricity and gas that are consumed by the farm and are considered to be variable inputs that are directly proportional to the size and their respective enterprises. On the other hand, indirect energy inputs include the ones from fertilisers, pesticides, field machinery and other intermediate inputs like chemical treatment of crops (Šarauskis et al., 2019). After visiting ALM Organic Farm, I have learned that the farm is trying to be sustainable in every way possible without exploiting nature and its resources in all ways possible. To achieve the agenda of sustainability, I have seen that the farm uses alternative sources of energy such as solar energy. I have learnt about the energy management techniques adopted by the farm. The farmworkers revealed that they do not make use of fossil fuels and energy derived from them for the operation of their farms. Instead of whatever requirement of electricity, they have to run the machines for vacuum cleaning and seed screening along with other tasks; the farm harnesses solar energy in solar panels that have been installed on the farm. Avoidance of the usage of synthetic fertilisers is another way of conserving energy. The farm also utilises this technique to emerge as a sustainable and eco-friendly farm by all means. The main vision of the farm is to render well-being to nature and the community in every way possible.
After the visit to the organic farm, I have also learned about the human resource management of the farm as well. Human resource management is a very crucial aspect of the proper management of people within an organisation, whether small or big (Ren, Tang & E Jackson, 2018). The ALM Organic Farm, though, consists of a very small workforce and hires employees or workers through a very properly framed method. The farm sets several criteria for the hiring of employees. Firstly, organic farms require their employees to be compassionate and empathetic towards nature. They should be a lover of nature who would grieve the loss of the same and hence would not undertake any sort of measure at work that exploits the organic farm in any way. Secondly, the owner of the farm expects workers to be hard-working and take care of the seeds and plants as their own children. The workers hired on the farm are mostly local workers who belong to the local community. However, at times of need, they also hire off-shore workers on a contractual or part-time basis. There is a mix of both full-time and part-time workers hired on the farm. To my surprise, which was indeed a pleasing one, I have come to know that ALM organic farm also offers volunteer programs and apprenticeship courses to people who are willing to volunteer themselves for the community or are willing to work on the farm, respectively. They also participate in the SOIL apprenticeship program ("Get Involved — ALM Organic Farm", 2022). The owner of the farm revealed that around three full-time apprentices join as employees on the farm from February to October so that training can be imparted for the next upcoming season.
I have learnt about the economics of ALM Organic Farm throughout my visit to this farm. I have learnt that the firm takes up innovative and interesting tactics to promote its products in the market. They sell their products in the Moss Street Market of Vancouver, which is a quite popular market and many people visit this market. Moreover, ALM Organic Farm produces in various restaurants as well as by private chefs who present these fresh vegetables and fruits to various customers. The farm holds a “Box Program”. In this program, the farmhands out a box of the best-produced products that grow on the farm to the buyers. It is a very effective and beneficial program that enables people to eat seasonally as well as locally produced fresh products from the farm. This box contains a newsletter mentioning recipes which can be prepared with the produces, which makes this program of promotion even more interesting. I have learned from the owner of the farm that challenges are a very common part of her business as there are other organic farms producing and selling fresh products as well. Hence, the quest is always to improve and become better. With the help of collaborating with Community Supported Agricultural programs, I believe that ALM Organic Farm is growing its revenue earning quite efficiently.
I have come to know from the visit to ALM organic farm that they are well connected to the community. Farmers are very crucial to the community of America, and community forms the heart of ranching and farming ("Farmers and Ranchers: Connecting with the Community", 2022). Building a great bond and foundation within the local community will enable ALM to stay connected. Farmers are hard-working, and farming encompasses a large sphere where work is to be done. Achieving sustainability through farming may apparently appear to be a very convenient task, but it requires effort and teamwork (Eyhorn et al., 2019). Participation in various developmental activities eventually helps in capacity building that fosters the community in becoming efficient and effective for identifying and implementing while monitoring, evaluating and necessarily developing projects of sustainability. With community participation and involvement, sustainability can be achieved faster and better (Ceptureanu et al., 2018). ALM Organic farm participates in country fairs and local markets by selling off their produce, thus fostering engagement in the community and creating goodwill in the market. After the visit to the farm, I have learned that Mr and Mrs Johnson have run their business on this farm for over many days now, and the same rose to popularity presently. All of their family members are somehow or the other involved in the working of the farm, and it is through collaboration that the business has made success in the local market. The founder told me that the earnings generated by selling the produce of farms in the local market are sufficient enough to sustain the family and livelihood of the couple. Other members of the family are not dependent upon the earnings generated by the farm, and hence Mr and Mrs Johnson do face any problems.
Pollinators and Organic Farming
One of the key challenges for maintaining sustainable intensification is to produced sufficient amount of food and feed the population with little or not biodiversity loss (Schrama et al., 2018). I have come across the fact, as revealed by the founder of the farm, Mrs Johnson, that they want to further expand the operations of the farm in the near future. For this, they certainly have a long-term plan to be implemented on the farm. The company aims to embrace and achieve long-term sustainability. By this, ALM will increase the chances of surviving in the future by ensuring the fact that all resources being utilised by the business are maintained and handled properly. Another future plan of ALM is to look into public health and associated services through increasing production. This farm aims to bridge the gap between food scarcity and food availability. They aim to look into the fact that the general public gets enough access to fresh, healthy and affordable foods. Another future plan of ALM Organic Farm is to reduce the exploitation of farmers on industrial, agricultural farms and provide ample amount of dignity and respect to all farmers and workers. I have understood by talking to the owner that she wants to see her business, ALM Organic Farm, flourish and prosper for many more generations to come.
It can be concluded that maintaining and building a sustainable business is always necessary and mandatory. The practice of adopting sustainability should be embraced more and more, which can certainly reduce the chances of degradation of soil or erosion of the same. The implementation of an organic farm not only prospers the economy but also includes community participation to a great extent. Through voluntary workshops, ALM instils in the minds of people the curiosity to learn and serve nature. Thus, more and more people get engaged in a work of noble cause that would certainly lead to the betterment of the planet.
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