When we think of a farm in our heads, we picture cows, chickens, and vegetables all growing together. While many family farms used to be run this way, conventional agriculture has introduced a monoculture approach to farming. Specialized machinery has made it more efficient to grow only a few crops in large quantities. Farmers increasingly concentrate on only livestock or produce. While this helps increase efficiency it also weakens the overall environment of the farm.
At Eden Hall, we approach agriculture very thoughtfully by combining new and traditional concepts. Intercropping and livestock integration are crucial to the health of our growing spaces here. Increased biodiversity, especially through our use of livestock, helps enrich our soil quality and decreases the impacts of pests. Currently, we have 7 chickens, 4 ducks, and 9 goats. Our chickens are our longest livestock residents and we continually research and experiment with how we can use them to enhance our growing abilities. Our chickens’ coop is mobile, and we move it every other week during the growing season so that the chickens can fertilize the soil and eat insects to prep the beds. We use the goats to help mediate invasive species in our forests.
This upcoming growing season will be our first opportunity to integrate the ducks into our agricultural practices. Farms can use ducks to manage pests. Orchards have used ducks to control snails that can damage the trees. We are also working to create a compost pile for the livestock manure that we will be able to add to our beds to increase the organic matter in the soil. Our approach to livestock integration is multi-beneficial, allowing us to harvest animal products as well as sustainably enhance our growing capabilities as a farm.
In the past, we incorporated the livestock into our farm and garden service activity, but as our awareness of the beneficial purposes of livestock has grown, we have decided that livestock integration is a subject so rich it deserves its own lesson plan. Therefore, our program has decided to create a new activity focused on livestock. During this activity, students will learn about the importance of livestock in sustainable agriculture and will make treats for them to supplement their regular diet. This hands-on experience will bring students face to face with animals they have only seen in pictures giving them a deeper understanding of where their food comes from.