sustainable farming practice basics

6 Sustainable Farming Practice Basics for Your Homestead

Rachel Lark - January 23, 2023

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Growing food at home decreases your carbon footprint by reducing your trips to the farmer’s market and grocery store. It also imparts a significant degree of independence, especially during rapid inflation. To keep your operations green, you need the best practices — which may require a learning curve. Here are six sustainable farming practice basics for your homestead. 

1. Composting

Composting benefits your plants and the environment at large in several ways. It enriches soils, repressing plant pests and diseases, eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers. It also encourages organic matter breakdown, creating nutrient-rich earth. 

Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to construct a compost bin and you can do it the eco-friendly way with repurposed materials. For instance, most hardware stores give away used wooden pallets, perfect for this purpose. 

Once you construct your bin, it’s time to add your organic scraps. If you planted grass, perhaps to make a dog run, your grass clippings belong inside. So do vegetable-based food scraps such as banana peels, apple cores and unbleached coffee filters and tea bags. 

What doesn’t belong in your compost bin? Please refrain from dumping your kitty litter within or your grisly T-bone leftovers. Meat products and animal waste contain bacteria that can contaminate your soil. You probably don’t relish the thought of digging your hands in poop, anyway. 

2. No-Till Farming 

Many industrial agricultural practices are toxic to the soil, causing the loss of 23 billion tons of fertile earth each year. Tilling involves turning over the first six to ten inches of soil, contributing to erosion. Undisturbed soil clings together like a sponge, bound by gummy organic matter. However, tilling removes this “glue,” leaving it to blow like so much dust in the wind. 

No-till farming skips the aeration step, maintaining the structural integrity of the soil. This process preserves nutrients and protects the microorganisms that support nutrient cycling and prevent plant disease. 

This method also minimizes evaporation and helps your soil maintain moisture. As a result, your irrigation needs decrease, which is important if you’re trying to save water. 

3. Keyline Design

Another way to maximize water use is keyline design. This method requires you to put on your topographic hat and follow the natural flow of liquid around your land’s contours, starting from a keypoint and fanning out where rain would naturally seep. 

Keyline design can also add a pleasant aesthetic to your landscape. Many layouts include various water features, which you can plant into miniature meditation gardens for zen-ful contemplation as you stroll your crops. 

4. Windbreaks 

If you’ve ever seen fields surrounded by natural living hedges, the farmers weren’t trying to keep prying eyes from seeing whether they planted rhubarb or rutabagas. Rather, they were doing their sustainable best to preserve their soil from erosion. 

You can take similar measures to protect your soil. Plant a living hedge around the fields you sow. Species like bamboo grow quickly, while others like forsythia add a splash of color to your property. 

5. Crop Rotation 

If you plant the same crop season after season, year after year, your soil will lose nutrients. Crop rotation involves planting various species at different times to preserve soil integrity and combat weed and pest pressure. 

A classic example is corn and beans. Corn strips nitrogen from the soil, but beans replace it — farmers often follow one with the other because crop rotation is an easy way to use sustainable farming practice basics.

Most crop rotation involves changing crops season by season. For example, you might follow a wheat, fallow, alfalfa and potato rotation if you live in a 4-season climate. Some complex rotation schemes change crops as often as 12 times a year. 

6. Reduced Volume Irrigation

Water is a precious resource. One way to conserve it is by harvesting rainwater. You can set up barrels for this purpose as long as you live in a jurisdiction where such practices are legal. Some municipalities ban the act to cut down on mosquito breeding grounds. 

However, you can also save water by selecting crops native to your region. For example, nightshade plants do particularly well in desert regions, so load up on peppers, eggplants and tomatoes for flavorful salsas and chutneys. 

Hand-watering also reduces your use if practicable for your homestead. If you have a smaller plot, consider walking it daily with a watering can. You’ll up your daily step quotient while feeling closer to the good earth and the plants you nurture. 

Sustainable Farming Practice Basics for Your Homestead 

Growing food at home promotes independence. It also greens your carbon footprint, reducing trips to the grocery store. 

Embrace the six sustainable farming practices above for your homestead. You’ll enjoy rich, organic crops while doing the planet good. 

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About the author

Rachel Lark

Rachel serves as the Assistant Editor of A true foodie and activist at heart, she loves covering topics ranging from veganism to off grid living.