Rigid dogmatism and one-dimensional thought significantly hinder growth in all its forms. At Gingerhill, we seek not to profess, but to receive. In all aspects of life, it is essential to open your eyes and ears to the knowledge and perspectives of others, incorporating all that you obtain into your own reservoir of wisdom. We belief this approach to living is what distinguishes us from other organic farms in Hawaii.
Receptivity is something that we practice not only in our social lives, but also in the way that we work. Our directors and interns possess a broad range of agricultural skills, knowledge, and experience. As we continue to learn from others, our approach to sustainable agriculture evolves. Today, our agricultural practices and tenets are primarily guided by permaculture, agroforestry, Jadam Korean natural farming, and syntropic farming. Our innovative fusion of unique yet intertwined agricultural methodologies sets us apart from other organic farms in Hawaii.
Permaculture: Inspiring Organic Farms in Hawaii
Permaculture, deriving from “permanent agriculture,” is an agricultural methodology that entails paralleling natural ecosystems. Permaculturalists observe the organization of natural ecosystems, recording when and where certain plants grow in clusters of mutually beneficial metabolic activity. They then plan the organization of their own gardens and orchards in accordance with their observations.
The objective of permaculture, in an agricultural context, is to re-create the symbiotic relationships that exist in natural ecosystems. In so doing, permaculture seeks to provide biological advantages over mono-cropping systems, in which farmers cultivate a single species across a large tract of land. A permaculture approach requires planting crops in pairs or guilds of reciprocal benefit, enhancing the health and fertility of the crops.
Permacultural practices also create more productive ecosystems. In mono-cropping systems, uniform species must be planted with enough space in between to reduce competition for nutrients. In Permacultural systems, the facilitation of symbiotic relationships requires that crops be planted more closely together. Thus, these systems can be much more densely populated without compromising the health of individual organisms, creating a greater crop yield per unit of space. They also require fewer inputs and reduce waste, as they are designed to be synergistic and largely self-sustaining. More and more small organic farms in Hawaii are practicing permaculture in order to make their operations more sustainable and cost effective.
At Gingerhill farm, permaculture is not simply a productivity tactic, but also a lifestyle. Though Permacultural systems permit greater productivity, Permacultural philosophy is, at its core, about fostering health and nutrition in humans by first nurturing and restoring the planet. Permaculture is a strategic process, but it is also intuitive, a way to attune to the desires and integrity of Mother Nature. At Gingerhill, we implement Permacultural practices in order to pursue our vision for a better world.
Agroforestry: The Key to Biodiversity
Agroforestry is, in many ways, a Permacultural practice, although it possesses its own theories and scientific principles. It treats agriculture and forestry as inherently intertwined, and it entails planting trees and shrubs amongst smaller plants or crops to promote symbiosis and mutual benefit. For example: at Gingerhill, we plant trees around smaller crops that enjoy a lot of shade.
Agroforestry, like permaculture, creates dense, productive, and sustainable ecosystems that emulate nature’s intelligent design. Ecosystems influenced by the tenets of agroforestry boast incredible biodiversity, sustaining a far wider array of wildlife than traditional mono-cropping. This wildlife, in turn, consumes harmful pests and produces fertility that enhances plant growth, fostering cyclical benefit and exponential growth.
Utilizing agroforestry methods has been highly beneficial at Gingerhill. Agroforestry systems promote the growth of ground cover plants that minimize erosion—a great benefit to our gardens during the rainy season. They also produce a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, allowing us to serve diverse and nutritious cuisine.
Jadam Korean Natural Farming: Restoring Farmer Sovereignty
Over the past few decades, increasing consumer demand for organic produce has made organic farming difficult and prohibitively expensive. As wealthier operations continue to leverage patented technologies to produce huge surpluses, small farmers are finding it more difficult to sustain their operations. Jadam Korean natural farming provides “ultra-low-cost” agricultural methods to increase soil fertility and productivity. In so doing, this agricultural method seeks to restore farmer sovereignty.
Jadam Korean Natural Farming is most innovative in its approach to soil inoculation. Artificial or commercial microorganisms for soil inoculation are minimally adaptive to foreign ecosystems. Jadam Korean Natural Farming advocates instead the inoculation of soil with indigenous microorganisms, which are already adapted to their given agricultural environment. Using steamed rice, decomposed leaves, and bamboo stumps, small farmers can cultivate indigenous micro-organisms cheaply and effectively.
Farmers often don’t realize how essential it is to protect the microbial health of their soil. A diverse array of indigenous microorganisms will attract the earthworms, nematodes, and other life forms that enhance soil health and, by extension, create abundantly fruitful ecosystems. Additionally, indigenous microorganisms break down complex compounds, producing enzymes, antibiotics, and acids that are essential to plants. At Gingerhill, we are working to inoculate our own soil, cultivating indigenous microorganisms through composting.
Syntropic Farming: Building Healthy Soil and Ecosystems
At Gingerhill, we strive to replace costly, unsustainable inputs with efficient and eco-friendly manual processes. That’s why we employ Ernst Gotsch’s syntropic farming methods—a fusion of permaculture methodologies, agroforestry principles, and Gotsch’s experiential expertise.
Syntropic farming, like permaculture, requires emulating the organization of analogous ecosystems. This planting of crops in “guilds” or “companion plantings” instead of long rows of a single crop produces dense, bio-diverse, and productive organic farms in Hawaii and around the world.
Syntropic farming is a form of regenerative agriculture that seeks to enrich depleted soil. In so doing, this method of farming increases the economy of even the largest and most degraded tracts of land. More specifically, it creates what Gotsch terms a “positive energy balance”—an ecosystem whose production exceeds its consumption. In reducing inputs and multiplying crop yields, syntropic methods make Gingerhill economically sustainable and highly productive.
Gingerhill’s directors, Iris and Zach, actually studied syntropic farming in Brazil under the guidance of Ernst Gotsch. One of the most valuable techniques that they learned, and continue to implement at Gingerhill, is pruning. Pruning a tree alters its root activity, which in turn affects the microbial make up of the soil and facilitates metabolic activity that produces giberillic acid. Giberillic acid makes nutrients in the soil more bioavailable, strengthening symbiotic relationships and making plants more fertile and productive. Pruned trees also exhibit a higher rate of photosynthesis, simultaneously generating new plant growth and preserving moisture in the soil. Without syntropic farming, Gingerhill would not be one of the most fertile organic farms in Hawaii.