The Seven Tenets of Sustainable Production
At TomatoCulture, we follow “The Seven Tenets of Sustainable Production” to produce top quality heirloom tomatoes. In a nutshell, this means I try to work with nature, rather than against it. As you develop an understanding of natural systems and learn how to make them work for you, it minimizes labor and cost while at the same time conserves valuable natural resources such as soil and water.
My farming practices include the use of cover crops and “green manures” to build soil structure and fertility; inter-planting and species diversity; integrated pest management, water efficiency, mulching, and minimal tilling. The goal is to get as close as possible to a self-sustaining ecosystem, free of dangerous chemicals, that takes advantage of nature’s principles to achieve long-term stability and productivity. This approach fosters metabolizing systems that can generate more value than the sum of their many biochemical parts. When we garden or farm, we need to realize that we are all operating in this environment.
In a metaphysical sense, natural systems, perfected over billions of years, function outside of our own objective human experiences. In this theoretical place called nature, no one is there adding fertilizers; no one is weeding or watering; nobody is adding compost or applying pesticides. These things all sort of happen on their own. They are components of ancient closed loop ecosystems that take care of themselves without us; but we cannot live without them. They provide what are referred to as “ecosystem services” – the transformative and life sustaining benefits from nature on which we humans rely for survival. These services include things like clean air and water, topsoil, pollination, food, climate regulation, waste cycling, bio-diversity, etc.
In 1994, a group of esteemed Pew scientists and economists got together to discuss the implications of declining ecosystems in traditional economic terms. Their mission was to try to apply economic principals – normally associated with human production of goods and services – to nature’s ecosystem services. From these discussions came an important paper called “The Value of the World’s Ecosystem Services and Natural Capital (Robert Costanza et al, 1997 British Journal of Nature) that estimated the global value of ecosystem services at an average of $33 trillion per year (since then revised upwards significantly). These services are so fundamental to human life that they are easily taken for granted, and until this paper was published, there were no attempts to measure their economic value. In a simple illustration, it’s easy to grasp the monetary insurance value of a coastal community of hotels and condos destroyed by hurricane flooding after ecosystem services (i.e. cypress swamps, mangroves, sand dunes, etc.) were removed without any thought to their value.
When associated with ecosystem services, the term sustainability takes on a much broader meaning. The need for methods of harvesting or using natural resources to meet present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs has never been greater. For our little part, it means following the seven tenets of sustainable production, which I will cover in a series of individual blog posts:
- Obey Your Sense of Place
- Nourish the Soil
- Strike A Balance
- Manage Water
- Encourage Diversity
- Practice Prevention
- Share the Utility