FARMING WITH THE WILD
Farming has traditionally been viewed as a war against the natural environment. There is, however, a middle path where the needs of the wild can co-evolve with sustainable human agriculture. It’s called Farming With The Wild. We believe that with the proper incentives, assistance and resources, farmers can and should be encouraged to manage their lands more sustainably, and profitably, while protecting wildland values. Our Future Solutions agroecology program, sited on the edge on the Los Padres Wilderness, offers a real-world working laboratory to discover and refine this exciting new approach to farming.
Like oaks and cool shady oak groves? You can in part thank the Western Scrub Jay. Scrub jays, a member of the Corvid family (crows and magpies), are known for their intelligence and constant caching of acorns—hiding more than they need to consume. The remaining acorns germinate into the next generation of trees. Research has shown that this “scatter-hoarding" behavior increases stands of oaks and pines across the landscape.
Farmscaping is a method of farming that uses diverse native plantings, beneficial insect and animal attractors in combination with more traditional edible crops. Through the use of hedgerows, insectaries and other wild habitat, pollinators, predatory insects, birds, bats, amphibians, reptiles and large mammals are accommodated to encourage a balanced system. These perennial plantings are also valuable as windbreaks, erosion control, carbon sinks, air quality and dust control, boundary creation and they add aesthetic value.
Insectaries provide multiple benefits to a farm. Benefits include habitat for beneficial insects which reduce the need for pest control and pollination services to crops by increasing the numbers of bees, beetles, flies and ants that pollinate plants. While insectaries don’t have to consist of native plants we have chosen to use only site-specific natives as they encourage the native insects and require less water and maintenance.
Among the many species we have planted are:
Ascelpias fasciculatum – the native milkweed critical for the Monarch butterfly’s life cycle
Encelia californica – coastal sunflower hosts many insects including common ladybird beetles, Hippodamia convergens who eats aphids as well as nectar and pollen.
Solanum douglasii, nightshade is a hardy host to many insect species.
Lonicera subspicata var subspicata
Isocoma menziesii, Menzies’ goldenbush
Hazardia squarrosa, saw toothed goldenbush
Sisyrinchium bellum, blue eyed grass
These programs, methods and practices are some of the viable future solutions we intend to incorporate into the expanding Growing Solutions lexicon of classes and workshops taught at Santa Barbara garden sites and on our own eco-farm.