Regenerative Farming On The Ground

After moving to Crete, we saw the strain of conventional farming for the first time, up close. We believe there’s a better way, so we bought our own 200 olive trees. Apprentices to local farmers, and self taught regenerative, producing small batch olive oil in harmony with nature.

In the pursuit for increasing yields & cheaper foods, it’s our planet, our health and the people who work the land, that pay the biggest price. Soils which once stored carbon, retained water and grew nutrient dense food have become lifeless and addicted to chemicals.

Redefining our relationship with farming and food is vital to combat the climate crisis. We’ve seen the benefits of promoting healthier ecosystems, seeking a deeper understanding of nature and rebuilding soils. As we’ve shared our story, we’ve seen food can be a force for good. The answer is regenerative. Farming that’s good for the land, good for the farmer and produces quality food.

Fundamentally, we try to replicate natural systems within our fields. Our approach relies on understanding that we have more than just 200 olive trees. We have an ecosystem that’s interlinked, from tiny insects to flowering plants. Too long has farming reduced land to just crops. The key is holistic land management and healthy soils full of life. When the eco system thrives, so do the trees and we produce amazing olive oil.

The Magic of Microbes

Our fascination with soil lead us Korean Natural Farming. Part of that involves making use of indigenous microorganisms (IMO). 

This means going to untouched, forest floor like areas to collect microorganisms to reintroduce into our soil. The organic matter of the forest floor creates the perfect conditions for life to thrive. Next time you’re in an old forest, dig under the surface. You can feel the moisture and see the white, fluffy, fungal hyphae in the soil. That’s life!

We use boiled rice as a food source and put it in a wooden box which acts like a petri dish. A few days later, it’s teaming with microbes. You can see the Fungal Hyphae and know you’ve got a healthy collection. Any red or yellow colours can indicate a collection with higher pathogens and are best avoided. 

The key is the I in IMO. Taking from local, healthy and undisturbed soils which ensure the microbes are suitable for our Two Fields. They are indigenous, highly diversified and it’s these microbes that have symbiotic relationships with tree and plant root systems.

We feed this culture and multiply the microorganisms in water to create a liquid solution. This can be sprayed directly on our fields, combined with our mulch & compost or used to inoculate biochar. 

Essentially we are capturing the amazing microbiology from thriving, undisturbed soil and bringing that into our soils. Diversity really is the key to a healthy soil ecosystem. We’re actively rebuilding our soils with diverse microbial life. 

Creating condition for life to thrive

Our low input approach means no chemical use and only using certified organic sprays very minimally. If we don’t need to spray anything, then we don’t. 

For example using white kaolin clay to protect our olives. A simple, non invasive, natural solution to our biggest pest threat, the fruit fly, without the need for industrial chemicals.

Small scale farming means everything’s hands on.  We handpick our olives, so there’s no need for big industrial machinery compacting our soil. And unlike the conventional norm, we take a low till approach, limiting any soil disruption or damage.

It's all happening in nature

Nature is cyclical, so that's how we manage our fields. 

Our offcuts are used as firewood or chipped, mulched and returned to the land. We create compost from food waste and use local manure around our trees. Trying to replicate the idea of the forest floor. Natural materials falling, decomposing and enriching the soil beneath our feet.

In the works at the moment is Biochar. The controlled burning process solidifies carbon allowing it to be stored in the ground long term. It offers amazing structure to the soil and combined with our microbes, is an incredible way to improve soil health. It’s in the testing phase at the moment.

From our fields we can heat our home, create mulch and biochar to rebuild our soils and sequester carbon long term. This all happens in a natural system, we’re just applying it farming.

Finding Biodiversity in Industry

One area that’s particularly challenging is biodiversity. Like much of the Mediterranean, it’s olives as far as the eye can see. The reality is, it's not a natural environment, it's born from industry.

And though we won’t change the sea of trees, we can change our fields.

We let wildflowers and clover cover grow freely. Insects, bee's and birds are safe. No nests destroyed or cutting back important flora. 

Allowing nature is step one. Next is a year round, multi seed cover crop. It will add variety of species to our fields, help with water retention, add valuable nutrients, improve soil structure and attract more insects. We’re bringing the biodiversity back. We’ve just started the first phase of trials on this. Keeping our fingers crossed and very excited to share our journey.

The future of food

To date, our trees are visibly healthier and producing beautiful olive oil. Life long olive farmers are really impressed at how healthy the trees look. In fact, we doubled our yield from our first batch to our second and consistently produce high quality olive oil, testing high in polyphenols and with a low acidity.

The last few years have given us real hope. Local farmers are asking more questions, people have discovered our small business, supported us and want to understand food in a new way. Our land is healthier and more resilient and we’ve found an incredible community working towards a better food system. 

Ultimately, the transition to regenerative happens together. We may only be two fields but we believe regenerative, small scale farming can have a big impact

 

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