Closed Loop Farming System Brings Positive Results for ‘Italian Garden’ | Way of life
“Why do we have land where everything grows and yet we are not self-sufficient with our food supply? That’s the powerful question asked by Christopher Binns of Zion Ites Farm, the farming side of Stush in the Bush, located in Free Hill, St Ann.
“We should be able to feed ourselves,” Binns said in an interview with The gleaner.
And it’s not just discussing. For the past 23 years, Barnes has practiced Italian (as opposed to organic farming, which he cites as an imported term), regenerative and sustainable agriculture on the vast family estate.
This sustainability is based on the fact that Binns, in his own words, uses the closed loop farming system in which all of the farm inputs come from the farm itself.
The farm, or garden as he likes to refer to the estate, relies on itself to deal with areas such as pest infestations and plant nutrition, without resorting to conventional methods such as the use of insecticides and artificial fertilizers.
The result – a sustainable system that Binns recommends for use throughout Jamaica’s farming community.
He began by addressing the non-use of herbicides and pesticides to ward off pests, emphasizing the use of the intercropping method.
“Intercropping, or companion planting, specifically uses certain types of plants to repel certain insects,” Binns said.
He added: “We plant a lot of herbs, the herbs usually have a strong scent, a pungent flavor, that’s why we humans love them to season our food, but at the same time, if you don’t. not a certain seasoning in your food it repels (you). Pepper is a repellant, although we love it so much; we do things like cilantro which is also a repellant because it has a very strong scent. The same thing for rosemary, so if you plant certain things you can use a rosemary field as a trap crop or as a pest control and you can line it up around both sides of the thing you are planting which is now more susceptible to these types of insects.
He referred to the popular practice of planting tomatoes with basil in some parts of the world as an example.
“Tomato and basil are always a great harvest; it is probably one of the oldest companion plants. If you go to places like Tuscany in Italy and these places you will find that they usually plant these two together because number one is good for the menu – you have your pizza with your tomato sauce and your fresh basil. , or you make a bruschetta – basil is said to enhance the flavor of the tomato but what it also does because of that pungent aroma, it repels some insects.
In the absence of basil locally, wild basil and even sweet parsley can be used.
Sometimes the so-called parasites are even beneficial, Binns pointed out, as there are a certain variety of wasps that eat caterpillars.
“So the first thing with pest control is how we look at the so-called pests; the second thing is knowing that you are sharing your surroundings, you are sharing your space, you are sharing your food, you are not planting for yourself. Know your pests, know their life cycle, (know) the sanitation of the field, which means you remove the old leaves that might be carrying (pest) eggs from the field because if you kill something, kill by contact , you don’t necessarily kill the eggs. ”
Coupled with intercropping, Binns employs another traditional practice that omits the use of modern, if not harmful, methods. As a Rastafarian, he does not consume any animal products or by-products but, on the farm, uses animals in a particular way.
A donkey, a horse and a goat form a growing group which naturally contributes to enhancing the value of the farm.
“As you grow up, you use a lot of manure; manure now becomes that active ingredient as you will activate things like your compost. It is essentially a food, it is full of nutrients and after being broken down in the right way, it can be added directly to your plants. So that’s where the animals come in.
TURN THE GRASS INTO MULCH
“They take your weed, turn it into mulch and spit out nutrients, so we recycle it all in this closed loop system. ”
These two systems used at Zion Ites Farm have helped push it towards sustainability, a state that could otherwise only have been achieved with the use of expensive pesticides, herbicides and artificial fertilizers.
“Italian agriculture must be sustainable, because number one, the practices we use are sustainable. You promote sustainability from the ground up, without poisoning the soil, which conventional farming has done every day. Millions of gallons of poison get pumped into the food supply, they go into the food, they go into the soil, and then they go into our water.
Citing the evils of modern farming techniques, which apparently seek primarily to earn money at the expense of health and safety, Binns said he is 100% defending Italian agriculture.
Italian farming is sustainable because of the practices, and financially it is the most sustainable form of farming, and it will be proven because it will be here for generations, Binns said.
According to him, Italian agriculture will respond to the challenges of climate control and economic self-sufficiency.
That said, Binns revealed that his farm, as a traditional organic entity, does not receive any special attention from the state because there is no category for it, and RADA grants its farm the same. treatment than others. But he said he didn’t blame anyone for it.
“I don’t really blame the government; I think we, as people who grow up this way, need to contact the government and tell them what we’re doing. We can work with the government to get to a point, as long as they want to.
According to the Planning Institute of Jamaica’s (PIOJ) Economic and Social Survey for 2020, the government has distributed millions of dollars to help various agricultural sectors affected by COVID-19, including $ 25 million for livestock, over $ 90 million for sugarcane, cocoa and coffee producers, $ 226 million for fisheries resilience, $ 8 million for the egg industry and $ 4 million for the pork industry .
Zion Ites Farm is not a single-crop establishment, but consists of a wide variety of crops including pulses, vegetables, plantains, potatoes, herbs and spices including chili, as well. only wood.
Probably the most unique thing about Zion Ites Farm is the way the company reaches its target market. Through his restaurant, Stush in the Bush, which is essentially the marketing arm of the farm, people from Jamaica and around the world travel to the cool climates of Free Hill for the dining experience, designed by his wife Lisa, the food expert.
“The idea is to take what’s in excess and turn it into something. So I’m not trying to go to the market and sell five bunches of bananas; I did it, it’s heartbreaking, ”Binns explained.
“What we are trying to do is add value to the end; we make our own vegetable cheese, we make vinaigrette, three different pepper sauces; we try to use that ‘use what you have to create what you want’ approach, and that’s part of our culinary experience; our dining experience brings people from all over the world, we are overbooked, right now we are booked until March (2022 approx) and we have people who have booked years in advance as they arrive every year.
“We don’t really market advertising, but our best marketing tool is the quality of our products and the quality of our experience. We are committed to using the first two ingredients in all of our products – love and affection – and we apply them.