II.10: MIXED FARMING

If more than one kind of enterprise share the same space, and to some extent interrelate, then this can be called “mixed farming”. In its ultimate form it may bring all the elements together in one great synergy: arable, livestock (herbivorous and omnivorous), horticulture, agroforestry, and aquaculture. This is when the principles of Enlightened Agriculture can let rip, on all fronts.

First, truly mixed farms really can be operated as ecosystems: all the crops and livestock interacting to their common benefit; and the domesticated plants and animals interacting, not always to their advantage but at least with net benefit, with the wild creatures all around. As one farmer said to us, “I regard my farm as an ecosystem, a closed system with leaky boundaries.”

Secondly, mixed farms offer enormous social and economic benefits, often of novel kinds. In truth all farms potentially offer such benefits, but because mixed farms by their nature are more complex, the possibilities are greater.

Thus there is scope for share farming. The different enterprises on the farm may be run by different individuals as quasi-independent businesses, though all cooperating so that the whole is greater than the individual parts. Or the farmers may collaborate more closely and form a true cooperative. Although enlightened farms in general are small to medium sized (see Part I), when several enterprises combine there is scope for constructive growth. Inevitably, then, the overall expense is great – but what individuals cannot afford, communities can, if they pool their resources. The land is then placed in trust, for the benefit of all in perpetuity. Methods and examples are discussed particularly in Parts IV and VII. There is plenty of opportunity too, in such set-ups, for ethical investment (Part III).

Again, because mixed farms are complex, they need plenty of hands-on, skilled labour. This means plenty of satisfying jobs – surely a great bonus! – and forms the basis of a true local community and economy.

So the mixed farm, properly conceived and executed, can enact better than any other system the three pillars of Enlightened Agriculture: agroecology, food sovereignty, and economic democracy. Its products between them, too, provide the complete diet. This, together with the local population which the farm also helps to provide for, is the core of food culture. Indeed it is the ideal.