Note: This is a formal paper written on the sustainable integration of eco-farming.
The foremost example of a prolific ecology in terms of the products it contains is the densely populated tropical forest. The intensity of production is created in the use of the vertical growth area unlike the savanna, grasslands, or the commercial mono cropping of grains which can be classed as horizontal growth crops. And The variety of plant species that co-exist enhance the health of their neighbors. We can learn much by studying the use of the vertical growing terrain in terms of increasing yield of all nutrients per horizontal acre of land. The phrase “vertical farming” was coined by Gilbert Ellis Bailey in 1915:“Vertical Farming”… The farmer farms deeper and goes down (or up) to increase area, and to secure larger crops. Instead of spreading out over more land, he concentrates on less land and becomes an intensive rather than an extensive agriculturist. The farmer soon learns that it is more profitable to double the depth of his fertile land than to double the area of his holdings.”
Vertical farming is based on the cultivation and harvesting of tree crops. The advantages of tree cropping are many. Trees are, in the main, perennials and therefore self-renewing. Once established, the crop tree requires maintenance as opposed to replanting each season as one does with horizontal crops such as grains. While pasture grass is certainly a perennial as well, the protein content is on the low side in comparison to most
Crop trees. Many crop trees are legumes and therefore nitrogen fixing, recharging the soils as they produce their crops. When intercropped with pasture grass for example, the leguminous tree enhances the companion production of the grass by the addition of valued naturally-produced nitrogen by the legume to the grass, in turn naturally increasing the quality of the grass, without the addition of costly fertilizers. Another significant contributor to our goal of higher yield is the fact that leguminous trees typically are sources of highly concentrated proteins, packed with minerals and vitamins, desirable for animal concentrated feeds. The production of protein per acre is significantly increased with tree cropping in comparison to horizontal grain crops. For example, the leucoxene tree intercropped with pasture grass with rows 20 feet apart increases the protein yield of that acre by 58 % – 22% directly from the leucoxene tree and 7%to 8% from the grass. The intercropped tree greatly enhances the protein uptake and weight gain of cattle, whiles the feed
cost is reduced over cattle fed grain.Another major advantage to tree cropping to those farming in
The tropics are the drought tolerance of most tree crops. This is due to the large established root system as well as the genetic variety, most of which are indigenous to the tropics. Some tree crops can be farmed by mechanization. For example, Nicaragua has been row cropping moringa olefeira for some 15 years. They harvest with a sickle mower periodically and feed the fodder to dairy cows. The milk production was documented as having risen 43% to 65% since the introduction of the moringa to the feeding regime. Here in Belize there is a splendid example of intercropping and vertical farming, the result of many years of work at San Lorenzo Farms, Cayo District. First cleared in 1922 by Santiago Hanna, who later changed his surname to Juan when he immigrated so as to “fit in with the locals”; this 400-acre farm is a sustainable, integrated farming model that is
Also superbly ecological. The acreage was assembled by the Hannas and designed originally as an integrated, vertically cropped landscape by the senior Mr. Juan and his sister, Salima.The tradition of this 80-year old eco-farm is carried on by his grandchildren. Santiago maintains the grasses and tree crops. Dominic works the dairy and cheese fabrication while Daniel is developing a dairy goatherd to be sustained on vertical crops. One of the amazing aspects of San Lorenzo is the preserved wildlife corridors interconnected with three reserves that exist alongside lush multi-cropped pastures, coffee, organic gardens and a magnificent reestablished selected forest of mature Guanacaste originally reforested by the senior Mr. Juan some 70 years ago. The Guanacaste grove hovers over the coffee plantation on the edge of the Mopan River and is one of the most elegant and beautiful stands of guanacaste seen in Belize. The pods of the guanacaste are edible to cattle and horses, and complement the dietary regimen during the dry season when grass growth is lowest. Many species of birds are supported in the wilderness areas. The reserves leading
To the river’s edge provide cover for wildlife as well as respite for cattle. San Lorenzo’s ‘protein banks’ of bay cedar, moringa, and nacedero (origin: Columbia) are densely planted three feet on centers several rows deep on either side of meandering horse or foot paths, providing relaxing cool shade for trail rides from Hanna’s Stables to Xunantunich as well as easy access for harvesting leaves. The numerous protein banks on the farm are an intense production of high protein materials for Supplementing the feeding of dairy cows and horses. These supplements replace the need to horizontally farm grains such as corn and Milo. Hence the protein productivity of the acre is greatly enhanced by vertical cropping. Taiwan long-grass pastures are co-cropped with leguminous materials such as kudzu that both enhance the dietary structure of the pasture while nitrogen-enriching the soil. This co-cropping also significantly enhances the protein uptake of the forage. Crop rotation is regularly practiced among all of the paddocks, rotating potatoes, carrots, grasses, beans and other vegetables, balancing and replenishing soil
Nutrients for highest quality of production from the paddock in each ensuing season. Fence boundaries are all lined with productive trees such moringa, leucaena and chaya as well as Norfolk pine for future timber. A chayamansa forest feeds the pigs. Chickens subsist on finely chopped mulberry, moringa and nacedero
Without the use of any grain supplements and free range part of the day for high nutrient egg production.
Maringa, high in calcium and protein, is now being row cropped for cutting to allow the expansion of the bovine and caprine dairy operations in the production of prime quality organic milk products. San Lorenzo uses no chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers. The ecological balance is totally maintained by
The intelligent and studied management of the farm and constant attention to the rebuilding of the soils.
Four generations of farmers have succeeded in creating and maintaining a breathtaking masterwork of agricultural sustainability that is as beautiful as it is functional. Hanna’s San Lorenzo integrated eco-farm indeed serves us all as a working model for a sustainable, integrated farm that is also supremely ecological.