The best organic vegetable farm I have ever seen is located near Norwich, England. It is part of a dairy farm. The cows graze on a pasture for four years, and then vegetables are grown on the field. It is then sown back into more pasture for the cows. The 100-acre farm had only 20 acres of vegetables growing on it at any one time. The main benefits of this arrangement are threefold: increased fertility, fewer weeds, and fewer pests and diseases. The pasture increases fertility by fixing nitrogen from the air. This, combined with the cow manure, provides all the fertility needs of the vegetables in the fifth year. The pasture takes care of the weed situation by smothering out perennial weeds. Annual weed populations never get out of hand, either, with only one year of vegetables out of every five. It also decreases pests and diseases by reducing or eliminating the carry-over of pests and diseases between vegetable crops (since, again, there is only one year of vegetables out of every five years).
To eliminate the need for buying-in fertility and to maintain our organic integrity, this is the direction we need to go. I’d like to see us growing our own fertility and producing great-tasting vegetables with the least amount of inputs possible. This is particularly relevant following the news discussed on this blog yesterday. We’re thinking about incorporating more animals over the next few years, though cows will likely not be an option. I am not sure quite how this will look or develop but will keep you posted.