Duncan Farms is a small 60 acre, permaculture-based, family farm just outside Huntsville Alabama. We believe in and actively practice using no synthetic fertilizers, chemicals, pesticides, herbicides or anything that could be deemed harmful in the production of the food on our farm.
Everything on the farm is part of a system, animals graze openly and mimic the wild as much as possible, cover crops are used to protect vital soil nutrition, and we nourish the ground in every way we can.
The intent and purpose of the farm is to create a learning environment for those who visit, and create a quality product to supply our customers.
What is Permaculture?
The dictionary definition of permaculture is the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.
How do we define it and apply it on our farm?
We believe in creating systems that work together. Like nature does. We try to mimic natural systems, like a herd of graising animals coming into an area, eating a lot, and moving on. In nature, birds would come in afterwards, and the grasses and weeds would re-grow. This is different than the factory farm systems of today where animals stay on the same piece of land for years, causing it to become barren and lifeless. This isn’t healthy for the land, and it isn’t healthy for the animal. We believe we should be adding TO the soil, and creating an abundance. We create our own compost, we don’t bring in fertilizer. We try to grow as much of the feed for our animals as possible, and know exactly what they’re eating and where they’re eating it. We create healthy rotational graising systems that reduce pests, which eliminates the need for medications and chemicals, and we create patterns on the land that catch water, soak in nutrient and leave the land in a better state year after year.
A simple visual representation of permaculture in action on our farm goes something like this:
- We move pigs into a pasture, let them eat, root, manure and till.
- Pigs eat fruit that falls on the ground, disrupting worm and pest cycles, root out stubborn weeds and love eating bugs/beetles.
- We move the pigs out, and move chickens in behind them who will spread out their manure, eat flies/maggots, pick up any remaining seeds and root parts missed by the pigs and help flatten out and soften the land.
- We let the land lay fallow for a period of time so grass can regrow, and seeds can root.
- After the land has recovered we rotate the pigs back into the pasture and repeat the process.
This is a simplified look at what’s possible on a permaculture farm, we would love to give you a tour and show you this in progress and how it works.
How is what you do different than organic?
We like to think of ourselves as “beyond organic”. The reason being, organic farming practices do not mean sustainable or even healthy. There are many organic farms that are ruining the land, hurting the planet, and abusing cheap labor markets. Sustainability should be considered at every level. We are proud to spend our money locally, add value to the community, create a beautiful product without hurting the land, and help repair damaged soils. Organic standards are also at the whim of politicians and organizations, where as our standards are uncompromising principals. Comparatively, you can run a nutrient density test on a standard “organic” egg, for example, and an egg from a farm like ours, and you’re going to get many more nutrients in our eggs and a better product. Organic doesn’t address the quality of food, only that certain things, like chemicals, won’t be in it. Beyond organic means much more than organic, and, in our opinion, far surpasses those standards. We need nutrient diversity in our diets. We believe we need to eat foods that used to grow here, but are not easy to package so lost their place on grocery shelves, and we need to know that the things we eat are grown in an environment where they can absorb as much natural nutrient as possible.
How do you treat your animals?
We like to say our animals only have “one bad day”. The rest of their lives they’re running, playing, eating, and relaxing in beautiful pastures, sunshine and fresh air. We love our animals, but also know they serve a purpose. We are forever grateful for that, and appreciate the opportunity to steward them. All of our animals are treated with love, honor, and respect. We believe this is important, and we want to know where our food comes from, and we want you to know where your food comes from. We teach our children the importance of knowing your food, and understanding that animals make the ultimate sacrifice so that we can live. We believe we shouldn’t be disconnected from our food, we shouldn’t just pick it up in a pack at the store without understanding that. We believe when we eat food we should understand what that means, and honor it. I can speak from personal experience that when you live this way, and you believe these things, your food can taste better than you’ve ever imagined, and can become a very pure, and very humbling experience.