Aweside Farm's story
As a monoculture field used for three decades to conventionally grow maize crops, the land they acquired was significantly degraded. In particular, the soil was compact, with limited to no organic matter and thus poor carbon absorption, as well as a loss of stored carbon. This situation made Sinead and Adam realise that there was a need to go beyond "sustainable" farming and food production, which in their view only slowed down the degradation of land. The pair decided to adopt regenerative and agro-ecological principles instead, aiming to fix and reverse the degradation of the land.
Throughout 2020, the couple have adopted various nature-based practices to restore their smallholder farmland. Rather than using mechanical equipment to speed up work on the soil, Aweside Farm operates based on a "no-dig" approach which involves laying compost on the top of the ground, allowing it to slowly condition the soil and increase its organic matter. Additionally, instead of immediately mowing the field, the weeds are allowed to naturally grow and die to further organic matter production. Another technique adopted to restore the soil has included tree planting to create a piece of woodland and a hedgerow. 2400 trees have been planted so far, with the goal of planting 2000 more by the end of 2020. It is expected that the extensive roots of the trees will help to make the field's soil less compact in the long term.
The first harvest of the Aweside Farm took place in August 2020, consisting of a variety of edible flowers, edible leaves, herbs and vegetables. For Sinead and Adam, their regenerative and agro-ecological farm is representative of the importance of diversity both across both natural ecosystems and among countryside farmers. Aweside Farm isn't only enhancing biodiversity by enabling the return of wildlife to the plot, but is also showcasing how rural cultivation can be done by all people, and not just the small demographic that normally leads the practice.
Image: CC Stock Photo
Useful learnings from Aweside Farm
Regenerative farming is a process of constant evaluation, learning and improvement.
Allotments offer a good entry point for those potentially interested in organic cultivation.
Practical on-the-ground learning on organic growing is as important, if not more, as checking textbooks and written guidance.