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The UltraViolet

Marlborough School Student Newspaper
The Student News Site of Marlborough School

The UltraViolet

The Student News Site of Marlborough School

The UltraViolet

Small farm, big plans


With little piglets happily chasing each other in a wide green pasture and birds chirping about the rows of fruit trees, my tour of Apricot Lane Farms (ALF) was a magical, inspiring experience that I highly recommend. Not only is it fun to see the baby animals living joyfully in their habitats, but it is also an important reminder that the way our food is made matters. ALF is a biodiverse farm that gained notoriety from the documentary “The Biggest Little Farm.” Thirteen years ago, filmmaker John Chester and chef Molly Chester began the process of reviving the dead soil of previously overfarmed land to create a 200-acre regenerative farm just north of Los Angeles.

Biodynamic farming is an environmentally friendly cultivation method where planters prioritize growing plants in harmony with nature, without the use of chemical pesticides. A fully biodynamic farm has water and soil conservation efforts and space for wildlife. It also must be regenerative, biodiverse and fully organic.

From pixie oranges to their newest crop, the red baron peach, there are 64 varieties of fruit trees grown in the Chesters’ orchard, which they call the Fruit Basket. Experimenting with different crops helps them learn which will grow best naturally in the California region.

ALF uses succession planting to acquire more nutrients and biodiverse activity. The succession method involves continuously planting a variety of crops that mature at different times. This method maximizes the farm’s yield, maintains nutrient biodiversity, reduces their carbon footprint and minimizes tilling.

Contour plowing and windbreaks or shelter crops also prevent the need to till the soil. The contour shaping can additionally help collect rainwater runoff into a pond. Cover crops, or little plants that grow alongside main crops and trees, help to absorb the extra rainwater so it is not wasted. Crop rotation, through which the crops are periodically moved from area to area, prevents the soil from being depleted.

ALF mostly grows heirloom plants and all of their animals are heritage animals, meaning that the organisms’ genetics have fortitude and can withstand changes over time. They have lambs, chickens and goats, as well as adorable guard dogs that protect the farm animals from danger. Like the produce, the animals are varied. There are more than 13 types of chickens in the coop, producing a diverse array of colored eggs.

Animals and beneficial wildlife are used throughout the farm to consume pests rather than using pesticides. Great egrets eat gophers. Native bees pollinate plants. It is a mutually beneficial relationship, as 25% of Apricot Lane Farms’ land is dedicated to wildlife habitat conservation.

Leftover crops are combined with animal manure and added to cold and warm composting systems. The cold compost has earthworms that eat the waste and turn it into naturally made fertilizer. It is incredible to behold natural processes working in tandem to create delicious, nutrient-dense food.

If you can’t experience the tour firsthand, check out the documentaries, “The Biggest Little Farm” and “The Biggest Little Farm: The Return” or pick up a copy of Molly’s ALF cookbook, filled with delish farm-to-table recipes and a foreword by the impactful slow-cooking pioneer Alice Waters. ALF also plans to host community workshops in the near future on topics like how to grow your own at-home biodiverse garden.

This small farm is doing big things. They have inspired neighboring farms’ practices; one previously resistant neighbor even asked to borrow ducks for pest control. The couple who started this farm may not have imagined the substantial impact their single farm would make, just as we may not realize our small actions make the big difference.

Supporting biodiverse, regenerative and holistic farms benefits our health, our environment and the wellbeing of the plants and animals around us. At your local market, look for labels indicating biodynamic so you too can support this effort for cleaner, more natural food production.



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