Conventional agriculture promotes tilling as a means of aerating and softening soil, while providing access to sub-soil nutrients by mixing them to the surface. Unfortunately, by tilling soil the natural ecosystem created by microorganisms during the breakdown of organic matter (the living soil) is lost. Once this delicate soil ecosystem is disturbed imbalances develop in nutrient cycling, water and oxygen availability, and pest species populations. This results in the need for chemical inputs such as fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides to produce food, even in conventional organic agriculture. The financial cost and environmental impact of growing such food is greater than we are willing to accept, but there is another way!
Hanley Farm is currently transitioning towards permanent no-till agricultural practices. By focusing on feeding the microorganisms that build soil (i.e. mulching with organic matter), we can build from or rehabilitate the soil ecosystem. With an active and diverse soil ecosystem proper soil structure will develop, leading to adequate moisture and oxygen retention within soil, balanced nutrient cycling, and a natural defense against outbreaks of pest species. By allowing soil life to flourish and do most of the heavy lifting we eliminate the need for chemical inputs. This results in healthy productive soil, cleaner water, and more nutritious and delicious food!