Our focus at ELSEE these days is the regenerative farm model we are designing for the Santa Clara Agrihood, a unique place for plants and people.
Yes, our farm will have a “different look” than most farms. Our methods will produce higher yields—up to four times greater income than the top industrial farms in California—and food miles and food print will be minimal.
The agrihood project will demonstrate that if we grow food near the people who will consume it, if we reuse our stormwater for irrigation and we consolidate and reuse our waste on site, we can reduce our current carbon emissions by 86 percent.
This farm will look different from other farms in California.
It will feature polyculture, not monoculture. It will be small. Including the farm, open space and landscaping, a total of 2 1/2 acres will be used.
Young farmers in training will grow and harvest it, along with residents who may want to help. We’ll invite guest chefs to prepare these foods in delicious ways for many diverse community and school groups.
We’ll farm vertically and on rooftops. Food towers will grow multiple foods in columns of soil 10 feet tall. Aquaponics and hydroponics farms will demonstrate how 40 percent more food can be grown when we use vertical space or rooftops for food production.
There will be row crops like other farms, but we won’t till the soil.
We’ll create wide mounds and compost in place. We’ll use vermicomposting teas for foliar fertilizers. We’ll inoculate our plants roots with mycorrhizal fungi to build soil microbiology for improved production and yield.
The plants will be planted closer together. We’ll be continually harvesting and planting 12 months a year.
We’ll irrigate our farm with subterranean drip irrigation. We’ll capture storm water for farm and landscape irrigation. We’ll build a wetland utilizing captured stormwater.
We are already growing many of the food plants we’ll plant there.
The diverse list includes: edible lupine, lab lab beans, tree collards, Indian potato, chayote, Millet, sorghum, sunchoke, artichoke, New Zealand spinach, French sorrel, Malabar spinach, purslane and parsley.
In our aquaponics farm we’ll grow lettuce, kale, wintercress and watercress. These are in addition to tomatoes, corn, squash, chard, other beans and peas, onions and garlic.
Native edibles including quail bush, wild grape, elderberry, chokecherry, strawberry, prickly pear, and acorns, will be stars of the show. These native plants will bring pollinators, predators and decomposer insects into the farmscape.
We’ll be planting orchard trees throughout the development. Most will be genetic dwarf and selected for our soils and climate.
We’ll grow apricots, plums, pluots, almonds, avocados, figs, persimmons, white peaches, Asian pears, pears, apples, walnuts, nectarines, citrus, including oranges, grapefruit, clementines, lemons and tangelos.
We have formed a technical committee to bring many disciplines together who are contributing to the development of our model. No-till specialists are influencing our soil building priorities. Permaculture farmers are influencing our perennial approach and the integration of food plants in an ecological landscape.
Certainly, my background as an ecological garden designer is paramount to our vision of a sustainable food future. Designing according to the native plant communities of our region is central to sustainable land use principles we’ll be employing in the open space and hedgerows.