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Planning and Productivity

Continuing  from our last blog about beginning with the end in sight, the second part after everything has been planned is to achieve the highest productivity possible.  Our farm plans include detailed designs which account for every single plant that will be grown on the farm including trees, herbs, flowers and vegetables.  Because we are working with such a limited amount of space, it is important to pull as much food out of every square meter of the farm as possible.  This can only be done by accurately measuring yields constantly and through experimentation, testing and adapting to what works.

The one really positive note is that through our contacts and friends who run similar styles of farms there is almost universal agreement that through improving the soil after each crop rotation, yields increase rapidly the first few years.  Our ability to add a cubic meter of vermiculture to a cage every month ensures that each time we plant crops in a cage, the soil is better than when we planted crops there the last time.  Add in the fact that we will have about 150 chickens and 80 rabbits producing fertilizer as well as thousands of talipia producing fish water which all can be used to improve soil quality.  On top of all that we will be growing hundreds of comfry plants and over a thousand Moringa trees which act as deep soil nutrient accumulators which are then used to fertilize the vegetable garden either directly or through animal waste.  So in the end, based on the experiences of others, we are fairly confident that production levels will increase by around 20% per year for the first five years just from soil improvements

Another area where we expect to see significant improvement over the first year is seed and type selection.  In the first years we will be doing a lot of experimentation with different types of lettuces and tomatoes, among other vegetables.  The amount of information available regarding growing different types of lettuces in the tropics is limited.  We will also be experimenting a lot with shade cloth, watering and plant placement in order to see what we can get to grow, and what we can get to prosper.  These crops are important because they are the ones that are difficult for the local chefs to get, and providing them presents a window into selling more easily grown vegetables.

Bees are an important part of fruit and vegetable productivity.  As quickly as possible we hope to have multiple beehives on the property.  There are reports that on small farms where beehives are present, productivity of certain crops is increased by as much as 25%.  This would include valuable crops such as tomatoes and peppers.  Making sure pollination rates are as close to 100% as possible will greatly increase crop production.  The honey and wax produced by the bees is an added bonus.

The final area that will really effect productivity is pest pressure.  Insects are difficult in any organic farm environment but even more so in the tropics where insect densities are so high and unrelenting.   Our design includes preventive things such as a concrete wall around the property, surrounding the property with Neem trees which cause not only a physical barrior for insects, but allow us easy-to-produce Neem oil.  Each of the cages is also separated by a flower garden, and each cage is surrounded by herbs and flowers all of which have been chosen for their ability to thwart pests.  The layout inside each cage is also laid out in such a way as similar plants are separated so that if insects do find their chosen plant, they do not have free access to all of that type of crop.  The other important part of pest control is being hands on.  With our small garden area and isolated cages, we hope it is easy to notice and manually eliminate pests early before much damage is done.

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