Farmscaping at Spring Valley Ecofarms

Farmscaping has been defined as a whole-farm, ecological approach to increase and manage biodiversity with the goal of increasing the presence of beneficial organisms. At Spring ValleyEcofarms, we prefer to broaden the definition to mean an approach to agriculture in which crops are grown in the terrain to which they are ecologically best adapted. The Google Earth View of Spring Valley Ecofarms illustrates the concept.

Google Earth View of Spring Valley Ecofarms. Length of the farm is about mile and area is 100 acres.
Click image above for larger view

There is a 75 foot gradient between the high point of the farm (the blueberry site) and the low point (East Branch, Trail Creek).  Soil conditions vary greatly between sites, and we have tried to match the activity at each location with the soil type most appropriate. 

  • Along Trail Creek there is a buffer zone of moist forest (tulip poplar, red maple, river birch) .  Water from the creek is pumped to a storage tank at the high point of the farm, and from there it is distributed by gravity flow to the blueberries, grapes, vegetable beds, and watering tanks for stock in the pastures. 
  • Just above Trail Creek are the vegetable beds. This is the best soil on the farm as a result of topsoil erosion when the farm was a cotton plantation. 
  • Above the vegetable beds are a series of terraces constructed in the cotton plantation days.  We planted our fruit trees along the edge of the terraces, where air drainage and soil conditions are  good.  
  • The pasture is divided to permit rotational grazing.
  • The blueberries and grapes were planted at the top of the hill on the poorest soil, because the soil beneath perennials is not cultivated. As the mulch placed at the base of each plant decomposes, it improves the quality of the soil.
  • The area labeled secondary forest was abandoned from agriculture probably around 1930 or 1940. Loblolly pines initially invaded the area, and we brought in a logging company to take them out in 2009.  The site is now in hardwoods that established under the pine. 
  • The area labeled Field Crops is used for non-irrigated corn that is ground and fed to our poultry. 
  • Tree rings of the oldest trees in the old growth stand indicate the trees are about 150 years old.  The well developed soil horizons at this site suggest that the soil has never been cultivated, and resembles the original soil type of the Georgia Piedmont.  Because of the proximity to the farmhouse, the site may have been a wood lot for the original farmer. 
  • The mixed species forest plantations were planted on abandoned pasture. 
  • The Wagon Trial circumnavigates the entire farm and is used for horse drawn hay rides.

When crops are cultivated, animals grazed, and trees grown in the soil type to which they are best adapted, the energy required is less than when they are managed on soils to which they a not well adapted.  For example, many organic farmers in the Piedmont grow vegetables on upland soils where organic matter content is low, because that is the most commonly available soil.  As a result, weed problems are intense, because weeds out compete crop plants where nutrient availability is low.

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