Farming Cheats: Learning about natural systems

While many farmers read articles and books about the problems they face, there are few resources where farmers can get an idea of the basic natural systems that will allow them to farm more cheaply by farming with nature rather than against it. These practices allow farmers to use less expensive inputs like chemicals and fertilisers. Here’s some advice:

■ Form small study groups among your fellow farmers. Visit one another regularly to see what works and what doesn’t, and then replicate the successes. Small changes can have a big impact.

■ Among the best people to turn to for advice is Dr. Christine Jones, an Australian soil ecologist. You can read about her work on the internet or search for her on YouTube, where she explains what systems work and what changes you should be making.

■ If you would like to see some of the results that can be achieved, look for Walter Jehne’s videos on YouTube.

■ The international farmers with whom South Africans share the most similarities are the Americans, not the Australians, as one might think. Like South Africa, the US has younger soils, more diversified farmers and even more available labour.

■ Visit for numerous videos and information on the evolution and development of soils.

■ Don’t become despondent. A lot of people want to give up trying to farm more cheaply with nature… just before they make a breakthrough. That is why study groups are so important – that is where farmers can support and motivate one another.

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