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Agricultural Influences

Wingless grasshoppers are plentiful in the lavender fields during the summer months. In a bio-diverse environment they do no harm and while I am sure there is a good reason for their attachment to this plant it often seems like they just enjoy the smell. Insects are very much part of a balanced farm ecology, they are food for reptiles, birds and small animals and then there are the bees whose benefits to our production are irreplaceable. Needless to say on an ecological farm insecticides are never an option.

Wingless grasshoppers are plentiful in the lavender fields during the summer months. In a bio-diverse environment they do no harm and while I am sure there is a good reason for their attachment to this plant it often seems like they just enjoy the smell. Insects are very much part of a balanced farm ecology, they are food for reptiles, birds and small animals and then there are the bees whose benefits to our production are irreplaceable. Needless to say on an ecological farm insecticides are never an option.

Wingless grasshoppers are plentiful in the lavender fields during the summer months. In a bio-diverse environment they do no harm and while I am sure there is a good reason for their attachment to this plant it often seems like they just enjoy the smell. Insects are very much part of a balanced farm ecology, they are food for reptiles, birds and small animals and then there are the bees whose benefits to our production are irreplaceable. Needless to say on an ecological farm insecticides are never an option.

INFLUENCES IMPORTANT IN SHAPING SNOWY RIVER LAVENDER

Underpinning farm development at Snowy River Lavender are the concepts of: ecological nurture and preservation through sensitive and observant participation in the environment in which we farm and live; the nurture of a ‘living soil’ away from external inputs; and, the production of essential oils true to their origins in this environment. The following are some of the agricultural influences which are helping us to achieve our goals.

ECOLOGICAL FARMING

  1. Ecological styles of farming see farm production as part and parcel of a custodial relationship to land which is ecologically complex. From this perspective the farm production resides alongside an understanding and nurturing of the biological diversity that already exists in the ‘natural’ environment (topography, flora and fauna). The farm is acknowledged as part of a much larger living system.
  2. Farming becomes strategic, designed through observation and adaption with the aim of building resilience into the natural systems of fertility and hydration and away from a dependency on external inputs including fertilisers and irrigation. This is a bespoke attitude to farming, not a ‘one size fits all’ model.
  3. In this system the specifics of landscape, the geography, the indigenous flora and fauna, are cast as important to the productive cycle of a farm as whole. The inherent biodiversity of the natural world is a balancing mechanism through which the cultivated farm receives nurture and relief. Instead of land clearing as per most agriculture, re-vegetation in the form of hedging and land restoration is an integral part of farm activity.
  4. A key luminary in this holistic approach to farming and land restoration is Peter Andrews. His pioneering methodology of Natural Sequence Farming highlights the role of landscape patterns in land hydration; and, places great importance on permanent vegetation and ground cover in managing the landscape. Specially lauded by him are the pioneering capabilities of plants including weeds in restoring and managing soil nutrients, water and the carbon cycle. Select Publications:Andrews, P. (2006) BACK FROM THE BRINK: How the Australian landscape can be saved. Sydney ABC Books Andrews, P. (2008) BEYOND THE BRINK: Peter Andrews’ radical vision for a sustainable Australian Landscape, Sydney ABC Books
  5. Mulloon Creek Natural Farms is a working example of Peter Andrew’s Natural Sequence Farming and an experimental farm which seeks to draw together many different natural approaches to farm production including biodynamics and permaculture. Mulloon Institute, founded by Tony Cootes, is the very active research wing of the farm and seeks to explore possibilities, experiment and educate for a better future of land use in Australia.

‘TERROIR’ - THE ‘SPECIALTY OF PLACE’ IN BESTOWING CHARACTER TO WINE

‘Old world’, and premium wine making, use the French word ‘terroir’ to denote the ‘speciality of place’, the importance of how the landscape binds with the vines to produce qualitatively distinct wine. Indeed, the concepts of provenance and vintage in wine making, is a celebration of what is biologically and climatically possible from that ‘special place’. It is the site of origin which gives agricultural product character and authenticity. Our approach to essential oil production is dedicated to a similar sensitivity to the distinctiveness of place and how this produces natural variance in the essential oils.

Peter Andrews speaks about the pioneering capabilities of ‘weeds’ to restore land which has been misused. We learnt this inadvertently when in our original land preparation we used to disc plough and row form raised planting beds. What is now known is that we were de-naturing the soil and allowing compaction to occur, which induced a proliferation of various plants, especially the blue flowering Vipers bugloss.
Peter Andrews speaks about the pioneering capabilities of ‘weeds’ to restore land which has been misused. We learnt this inadvertently when in our original land preparation we used to disc plough and row form raised planting beds. What is now known is that we were de-naturing the soil and allowing compaction to occur, which induced a proliferation of various plants, especially the blue flowering Vipers bugloss.
Vipers bugloss is a vigorous plant with a large tap root. Allowed to grow to full expression this plant works to initiate soil restoration both above and below the surface of the soil. The tap root works on de-compaction and restoring organic matter to the soil, while the cut top forms a thick layer of mulch to maintain soil hydration and overtime the decay adds life sustaining organic matter.
Vipers bugloss is a vigorous plant with a large tap root. Allowed to grow to full expression this plant works to initiate soil restoration both above and below the surface of the soil. The tap root works on de-compaction and restoring organic matter to the soil, while the cut top forms a thick layer of mulch to maintain soil hydration and overtime the decay adds life sustaining organic matter.
The young lavenders are semi protected by weed matt which helps to demarcate rows amongst the exuberant growth.
The young lavenders are semi protected by weed matt which helps to demarcate rows amongst the exuberant growth.
The previous photo of the field full of Vipers bugloss is Corolla Paddock in 2008. This photo is the same paddock 2015. The soil is repaired and grass now grows between the rows. We no longer plough as land preparation for planting .Minimum till methods help to maintain soil structure and soil fertility from the beginning.
The previous photo of the field full of Vipers bugloss is Corolla Paddock in 2008. This photo is the same paddock 2015. The soil is repaired and grass now grows between the rows. We no longer plough as land preparation for planting .Minimum till methods help to maintain soil structure and soil fertility from the beginning.

BIODYNAMIC AGRICULTURE

Seminal in the 1924 lectures of Rudolf Steiner, biodynamic agriculture centralises the concept of a ‘living soil’ as a jointly cosmic and earthly ecology. Plants through their dependent metabolic processes; transpiration and photosynthesis; and, by way of their integral place in both the carbon cycle and the development of soil humus; critically and naturally bind the ethereal sphere of sunlight, air, water, cosmic rhythms (climate & seasons); and, the earthly ecology of animals, minerals and biological processes of growth and decay. The understanding and nurture of these connections are fundamental to natural or ‘organic’ farm fertility. As Podolinsky, states, it is ‘farming within the organisation of nature, and that is not only what goes on in the soil’ (2004, p.32). Biodynamics is a comprehensive set of specific practices through which the farm as a complete ecology is nurtured and sustained. Some influential Australian exponents of biodynamics are:

  1. Alex Podolinsky, who has been a critical figure in developing the biodynamic method for Australian conditions and for large scale agriculture. His, BIO DYNAMIC AGRICULTURE, INTRODUCTORY LECTURES, VOL 1 & 2 (Gavemer 2004, 6th Ed.), are a helpful way of coming to terms with the subtleties of this approach. Available through Biodynamic Growing.
  2. Hamish Mackay and John Priestly make biodynamic philosophy and practice accessible to everyone through experience based workshops and consultancy. www.biodynamics2024.com.au
Plants only assimilate minerals in soluble form. In bio-dynamics these soluble elements are available through the microbial colloidal soil substance, humus, for which plants have a specific root system distinct from their moisture uptake roots. This is different from ‘in-organic’ agriculture where mineral elements are made soluble in the soils moisture forcing the plant to take up nutrients every time they need moisture. The important issue is that the plants need for nutrients and their need for moisture do not always coincide and key metabolic processes are disrupted.
Plants only assimilate minerals in soluble form. In bio-dynamics these soluble elements are available through the microbial colloidal soil substance, humus, for which plants have a specific root system distinct from their moisture uptake roots. This is different from ‘in-organic’ agriculture where mineral elements are made soluble in the soils moisture forcing the plant to take up nutrients every time they need moisture. The important issue is that the plants need for nutrients and their need for moisture do not always coincide and key metabolic processes are disrupted.
The vortex is important in bio-dynamics, the flow form uses a lemniscate (figure eight or infinity sign) action to create and disassemble the vortex as it cascades down the form into a pond at the bottom before being pumped back up to be cascaded again.
The vortex is important in bio-dynamics, the flow form uses a lemniscate (figure eight or infinity sign) action to create and disassemble the vortex as it cascades down the form into a pond at the bottom before being pumped back up to be cascaded again.
Bio-dynamic preparation 500 is sprayed out in large droplets in the late afternoon. This image shows the deep ripped rows where the young lavenders will find their home.
Bio-dynamic preparation 500 is sprayed out in large droplets in the late afternoon. This image shows the deep ripped rows where the young lavenders will find their home.
Unique to bio-dynamics are special biologically active preparations which are stirred and sprayed out at times guided by a very specific cosmological understanding. The flow form is one way of stirring the preparations. Preparations are run through the flow form for an hour during this time it is energised and becoming silky to feel. The preparation will be sprayed out within an hour of being stirred.
Unique to bio-dynamics are special biologically active preparations which are stirred and sprayed out at times guided by a very specific cosmological understanding. The flow form is one way of stirring the preparations. Preparations are run through the flow form for an hour during this time it is energised and becoming silky to feel. The preparation will be sprayed out within an hour of being stirred.
Through photosynthesis, plants are fundamentally ‘creations of the sun’. Bio-dynamics, by understanding the living soil and its life blood humus as intricately bound in the life processes of plants, also sees a naturally fertile soil as energised by the sun. For this reason silica has found a special place in bio-dynamic practices.
Through photosynthesis, plants are fundamentally ‘creations of the sun’. Bio-dynamics, by understanding the living soil and its life blood humus as intricately bound in the life processes of plants, also sees a naturally fertile soil as energised by the sun. For this reason silica has found a special place in bio-dynamic practices.
 

ORGANIC AGRICULTURE

Generically, organic means a living and self sustaining system, continuously capable of developing out of its self through processes of growth and decay. In this way it has influenced the way we have developed our agricultural practice around a concept of a ‘living soil’, farm ecology and low inputs. Organic is now mostly used as a legal term commercially associated with specific certifying organisations and their respective standards for agricultural and industrial practice. We have not gone through certification, so it is not legal for us to tag our farm ‘organic’ or ‘bio-dynamic. Key organic certifiers are Australian Certified Organic (ACO) and the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA). They are also mediate bio-dynamic certification, as does The Bio-Dynamic Research Institute, who mediates the prestigious Demeter Certification, based on the Podolinsky developed Australian Demeter Bio-dynamic Method and Standards.

Mid spring sees the tawny winter lavenders transformed into lush green. By late November these bushes will have tripled in size with long stems and immature flower spikes. The grass between the rows is mowed allowing the sunlight to envelope the plant unimpeded.
Mid spring sees the tawny winter lavenders transformed into lush green. By late November these bushes will have tripled in size with long stems and immature flower spikes. The grass between the rows is mowed allowing the sunlight to envelope the plant unimpeded.
Mid - summer, the lavender fields are transformed into the picture book version everyone is familiar with. Unfortunately at this point the flower is harvested and distilled for essential oil and the beauty is lost for another year.
Mid - summer, the lavender fields are transformed into the picture book version everyone is familiar with. Unfortunately at this point the flower is harvested and distilled for essential oil and the beauty is lost for another year.
Essential oil and hydrosol are the only things taken from the farm. Lavender straw, the spent stems and flowers, left over from distillation will be returned to the farm as nutrient rich vermi-compost.
Essential oil and hydrosol are the only things taken from the farm. Lavender straw, the spent stems and flowers, left over from distillation will be returned to the farm as nutrient rich vermi-compost.
Lavender straw is layered with manure, kept moist and allowed to decompose in heaps. Red compost worms soon proliferate in the heap, turning the composted straw into a colloid rich substance used in the nursery and farm.
Lavender straw is layered with manure, kept moist and allowed to decompose in heaps. Red compost worms soon proliferate in the heap, turning the composted straw into a colloid rich substance used in the nursery and farm.
Lavender is dormant throughout the winter months and pruning is a significant farm activity at this time. Pruning, especially when the plant is young, is necessary to keep the plant compact, let sunlight into the plant and keep the flowering bountiful. Prunings are left on the paddock as mulch.
Lavender is dormant throughout the winter months and pruning is a significant farm activity at this time. Pruning, especially when the plant is young, is necessary to keep the plant compact, let sunlight into the plant and keep the flowering bountiful. Prunings are left on the paddock as mulch.