We are asked that question frequently as we move our first third of an acre to bio-intensive farming versus the “tractor” farming we have done for the first four years at Opal’s Farm.. The simplest definition of “bio-intensive farming” is to use organic methods to achieve “maximum yields from a minimum area of land, while simultaneously increasing biodiversity and sustaining the fertility of the soil.”( http://bionica.org/library/biointensive-method/ )
When properly implemented, bio-intensive farming has the potential to:
- topsoil at a rate 60 times faster than in nature” (Worldwide Loss of Soil – and a Possible Solution Ecology Action, 1996).
At Opal’s, the third of an acre that is being transformed this Spring has 134 twenty-five-foot beds. Most of these beds are for tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants but they also contain some of our carrot crop, radishes, greens, and lettuces/salad mixes. Each of these beds yield produce equal to what our 100-foot rows have done in the past. We hope to add more bio-intensive beds over the coming growing seasons.
Bio-intensive means just that – intensive. Management of these beds requires constant attention, but even the time spent on each bed is lessened as the soil becomes cleaner (less weeds) and healthier. The system is perfect for the home gardener or small producer like Opal’s.
Building the infrastructure for bio-intensive farming is time-consuming. That’s one reason we have not utilized it in the past. We’ve simply not had the labor to build and maintain these beds in the past. Now that we’ve added Amber Carr and Amanda Vogel to our staff, we are able to change our focus, knowing that once the infrastructure is in place we never have to build it again! We’ll be sharing our successes with you over the coming Spring and long-term plans are to have educational classes available to the community.
I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you how much we appreciate the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). On February 23rd, they came in mass with engineers to help design a more efficient irrigation system for us. We already have drip irrigation for our bio-intensive section, but having more efficient water use over the whole farm is something we’ve been striving for since the beginning.
NRCS and its parent agency, the USDA, have begun to concentrate on urban agriculture and smaller producers in a big way. We can lead the way in developing practices and programs right here for future urban farms in North Texas. We would love to thank our Urban Agriculture representative, Michael Higgins, and our NRCS rep for this district, Michael Brookes, for the extra attention and help they are giving Opal’s and urban agriculture throughout the metroplex!