A Zero-Waste Ecosystem at Hinkle Hemp Farm
by the Farmer of Sunlight, James Hinkle
In a world dominated by short-term solutions and synthetic shortcuts, we as a people have to find a way to mitigate the damage that we are dealing to our planet and more specifically, to our farmable land. Here at Hinkle Hemp we strive to build and maintain a thriving zero-waste ecosystem on the farm. This is certainly a lofty goal in our modern world, but one worth pursuing. We aim to accomplish this through the management of household and farm waste while constantly looking for ways to improve the system.
We have found that by simply observing nature, many natural solutions can be easily found.
A considerable amount of waste is generated by the typical household.
In our case, the primary forms of waste are food scraps, aluminum, paper and cardboard.
We shred and cycle all fruit, vegetable and paper scraps into our worm bins for the purpose of producing worm castings (an organic and nutrient rich fertilizer).
Shredded cardboard also serves well as bedding for the worm bins, but most of this gets burnt down into ash that we use for composting and amending soil.
Recycling our aluminum required a bit of creative thinking as it is not a type of waste that our animal helpers can take care of. We melt down the aluminum into ingots which can then be later used to create support posts for our crops. These come in very handy as the plants begin to flower or bear produce that will weigh the branches down.
The overall goal that we have with household waste is to keep it all within our closed loop system as opposed to taking it to the local landfill.
The majority of our waste material comes from the farm itself.
Some examples include lawn clippings, scraps from harvested crops, manure, leaves, wood chips and fallen trees.
Fall leaves and grass clippings are gathered while mowing the yard using a bagging attachment on the back of the mower. This bag of material will first go into the chicken and duck coops to be used as dual purpose bedding and feed. During the first few days the birds will feed from the clippings as well as the insects that came with them. After that phase, they will continue to serve as bedding and a medium for capturing manure until being cycled out and sent to the compost pile for next year’s soil. That soil will provide nutrients to the following year’s crop which will in turn eventually be harvested and the scraps from that will also serve as bedding for the animals and be cycled back through into the compost.
Wood chips are used to create temporary pathways and mulch on the property that will not leave lasting damage for years to come and they also serve as great compost material.
Fallen trees around the farm provide firewood and the ash from that wood is also used as a soil amendment.
Through composting, all of these materials remain within our ecosystem.
While we are proud of the systems we have created on the farm it is always important to be looking for ways to improve upon them.
A few improvements that we would like to make in the future include the implementation of solar power, cattle and the utilization of the pond water at the farm.
Solar power would provide us with a sustainable form of electricity that could fuel the lights that we use for indoor winter grows.
Cattle serve as an excellent source of meat, land maintenance and manure. The beauty of farming cattle is that the primary resources required are sunlight and water. With adequate sunlight and water the land will provide the cattle with the food that they need to thrive through the spring, summer and fall months and in turn the cattle will keep the weeds and grass mowed down.
The pond on the farm is supplied water from the mountain stream that runs through the property and it is absolutely thriving with life. Our ducks spend a decent amount of time in that pond eating the insects and other small critters, which they then convert into nutrient rich manure that goes into the pond water. The goal is to utilize the water from the pond to provide our crops with a nutrient rich organic water supply.
By pursuing improvements such as this we hope to eventually achieve a completely zero-waste, closed-loop ecosystem on the farm.
The efforts on our farm represent a very small drop in the bucket with regard to mitigating the impact that conventional farming has on our planet. With the global population rising and the amount of farmable land shrinking, it is our hope that our minor efforts are able to serve as education and inspiration to other farmers so that we can work towards a better future together.
We have covered how to repurpose household waste, how to make nutrient rich compost out of farm waste and provided you with a few examples of improvements that we seek to implement here at the Hinkle Hemp farm.
If you have but one takeaway from all of this it should be that we can all benefit by working with nature, as opposed to against it.
Have some suggestions, questions, comments to share? We'd love to hear them - contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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