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Unconventional Agriculture

"There are farmers who believe in biodiversity instead of monoculture. Farmers who build soil fertility wihtout depending on chemicals. Farms who go beyond organic. Farmers who do thigns the old way because they've already seen the new way and said, "No, thank you." Farmers who farm the way their grandfathers did. Farmers who work with nature, not against it. Farmers who treat theirland as if it's alive, something to be carefully tended by gentle hands, who observe their fieldsin silient reverence...and learn. These farmers are simply unconventional." - Douglas Gayeton

What will the farms of our future look like? In this edition of the Food List, we’re challenging today’s conventional methods of food production.

A common motif within unconventional agriculture is working with nature. It is beyond organic. Unconventional agriculture encompasses a philosophy that addresses the complexities of sustainable farming and reflects on the local history and resources of the land. It benefits from innovative research,mathematics, and thinking in abundance.

Sustainable agriculture promotes minimal input of natural resources while focusing on building soil fertility. Perennial crops support such practices and research in this field is reflective of our agrarian history. The emphasis of perennial gardening revolves around ecological intensification and the protection of soil integrity in response to issues of industrial agriculture.

The livestock industry has also taken a heavy toll on our environment, motivating many to stray from eating meat, but what if as Allan Savory believes,livestock could actually reverse climate change? A farmer in South Carolina shares with us how his runaway cattle caused him to transition his conventional farm to a more sustainable model.

We witness a recurring undertone to all lessons learned by these pioneering farmers: nature has the answer to our problems. With patience and persistence, trial and error, we can build agriculture focused on good food. We encourage you to follow nature’s lead and think unconventionally!

This week's terms


For a sociologist, agroecology means that human systems work in concert with natural systems with benefits for all community members. Agroecology strives for practices and relationships that promote a healthy ecosystem, economic security and social inclusion for all within that ecosystem.


Holistic and regenerative farming practices focused on the integration of plants, animals, soil health, and biodiversity. They keep the ecosystem in balance by producing the nutrients needed to nourish all aspects of the farm with a minimum of inputs imported from off site.

Beyond Organic

There is a fundamental difference between the organic movement and the more recent organic industry. We need to dig deeper and look beyond narrow legal definitions to find a philosophy that truly addresses a system of agriculture that is incredibly complex and multidimensional.


Perennial plants bloom on their own, continuing to thrive year after year. Unlike annual plants, perennial plants require minimal watering and fertilizing.

Holistic Management

A triple bottom line planning process and decision making framework that results in outcomes that are ecologically regenerative, economically viable and socially responsible. This paradigm shifting planning process can address the historical causes of both desertification and of agriculture’s failure to sustain city-based civilizations by enabling managers and policy makers to overcome complexity and unintended consequences.

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