The Polyface Farm – the farm of many faces i.e. many sides – located in the Shenendoah Valley in Virginia illustrates the external demand interfaces of a company offering Deep-Connect value. It aims to usher in a new kind of farming in which the essence of plants and animals is connected up to form a sustainable – and profitable – ecosystem.
The farm presents itself as a pioneer, leading the way to a new paradigm for agriculture. Starting with the wood from the forest and leading through the cattle, pigs, chickens and rabbits to the blades of grass on the pasture, all resources on the farm are cultivated in a natural way. Yet the farm products are not certified as organic; external attestations are regarded as unnecessary. Unnecessary are also expensive machines; much of the infrastructure is hand-built or modified from standard equipment. The farm is a successful business yet managed in stark contrast to the capital-intensive, “industrialized” farms which dominate American agriculture.
The farm is able to work naturally by operating as a diversified ecosystem within which every animal, plant and step has a clear and unique role. A small part of the complex and thoroughly thought-through circular system looks like this: The cows only graze on a pasture for 24 hours; then they are led elsewhere by moveable electric fences (see photo). Only the upper part of the blades of grass is eaten away, leaving enough green to allow the grass to absorb carbon dioxide from the air thanks to photosynthesis. This results in fertile humus, which strengthens the soil. The chickens come out to pasture after the cows. They pick worms, maggots and fly larvae from the cows’ excrement, and fertilize the grass with the natural nitrogen from their own excrements. At the same time they lay eggs that are sold. The pigs also have a job to do: after winter they come to the cows’ stables, where they stir up the soil filled with sawdust – wood from the farm’s own forests – corn and cow dung. In this way they bring oxygen into the solid anaerobic manure. The result is valuable fertilizer, which is added to the grass soil to increase fertility.
The ecosystem is designed to mimic the patterns and flows of wild herds and flocks and thereby attains the stability and sustainability of nature. In contrast to the predominant monoculture of today’s agriculture, Polyface farm nurtures the diversity of several animal species and cultivates wood, vegetables and fruit. Its concept is based on permanently functioning, sustainable and pseudo-natural cycles.
Yet Polyface Farm strives to be much more than just a successful organic farm. It’s mission statement reveals its underlying purpose:
To develop environmentally, economically, and emotionally enhancing agricultural prototypes and facilitate their duplication throughout the world.
Polyface Farm wants to be the germ to turn farming on its head. It is a “disruptor”, to use the current parlance, not only for itself but for the entire branch. It has developed extremely efficient and easily replicated production systems which it wants to see adopted by more and more farms. These production systems heal the land rather than exploit it. The more of such production systems operating on farms, the faster the land will heal. Polyface Farm’s determined drive to expand it’s market serves the overriding purpose to open up more opportunity for land healing and germinating the corresponding new kinds of farmers.
How the farm goes about spreading its message and gaining adherents is the subject of Part 2 of the Polyface Farm blog.