Soul Fire Farm is very intentional and transparent on how they tend to the land while farming. In their work, they make it a point to primarily use Afro-Indigenous practices. I’ll share some of their practices below and you can also find these located on their website here:
No Till: Rather than rototill the soil to add air and remove weeds, they use heavy mulches to smother the weeds and encourage the worms to do the aeration. This helps keep the carbon in the soil, where it belongs, rather than releasing it into the air.
Cover Crops: Nature never leaves the soil bare. Just as Dr. George Washington Carver encouraged, we use cover crops like peas, oats, and buckwheat to protect the soil from erosion and add important nutrients.
Compost and Manure: They produce as much fertility on site as possible by composting manure from their livestock and crop residues. Cleopatra knew the value of the earthworm in creating compost and went to great measure to encourage their proliferation. Women farmers in Ghana and Liberia produced “African Dark Earth” by combining ash and residue. They emulate these practices to enrich their soils with organic matter and nutrients.
Polyculture: Rather than planting a whole field in just one crop, they integrate dozens of crops in each section. Modeled after the Haitian “jaden lakou” they have fruit trees interspersed among mint, bee balm, and chamomile and other medicines. In their “milpa” they learn from the Mohican farmers, who are the original stewards of this land, about the integration of corn, beans, squash, and sunflowers.
Raised Beds: Just as the Ovambo people have mounded their soils for centuries to control water flow and increase crop root depth, they grow all of their crops in raised beds. Their heavy clay soils rely on the pathways for drainage and the raised growing areas reduce compaction.
Heritage Crops & Seedkeeping: They grow dozens of native crops as well as culturally significant African heritage crops. Some of their cherished plant friends at the farm include bee balm, echinacea, moyamensing tomato, West African garden egg, pwa congo, Lenape blue corn, and Eritrean basil. Each year, theysave 3-5 seed varieties that are distributed through the Truelove seed catalog.
Silvopasture: The integration of trees and pasture for livestock, is among the top solutions for climate healing in “Drawdown.” They raise small ruminants, like sheep, which are experts at surviving on native grasses and forage with minimal purchased feed. Their silvopasture system includes sugar maples and chestnuts integrated into the fields to provide shade, food, and windbreaks for the animals.
Natural Building: The structures on the land are hand built using locally sourced and natural materials, like adobe, straw bales, and pine timbers. They heat the water primarily with solar energy and warm the buildings with the sun and efficient wood stoves. Whenever possible, they source recycled and reclaimed building materials and design for energy efficiency. The buildings are clustered into just 1.5 acres leaving the remaining acreage for nature.