Farming on The Wild Side
Those of us who care about the natural environment often worry about farming’s impact to native plants and animals, and wonder if farming can actually do something to promote our wildlife. The good news is that the answer is yes. In a movement that takes organic farming and sustainable agriculture to the next level, a group of advocates and wild lands proponents formed the Wild Farm Alliance (WFA) in 2000. As stated on their web site: “Our mission is to promote healthy, viable agriculture that helps protect and restore wild Nature.”
Based in Watsonville, California, the Wild Farm Alliance is a national organization whose members include farmers, agricultural professionals, and environmental conservationists. Twelve steering committee members, and twelve advisory committee members determine its policies and priorities. Some well known sustainable food advocates sit on their advisory board including; Alice Waters, Wendell Berry, Fred Kirschenmann, and Frances Moore Lappe.
The Alliance encourages farmers to focus on the landscape, keeping in mind the needs of native plants and animals, and looking at ways to increase biodiversity on the farm, with the goal of reconnecting our food systems and ecosystems. It basically involves everything from taking advantage of nature’s services like pollination and rodent control, to restoring sensitive habitats with native vegetation that was previously there.
How it goes beyond organic and sustainable farming is that instead of just focusing on their own borders, wild farmers look beyond at the connectivity that happens within their watershed, where wildlife movement is coming through. The Alliance encourages farmers to farm within the natural landscape, which can often result in solving problems they have had with areas that flood or marginal areas on the farm.
Many sustainable agriculture and conservation groups including California Certified Organic Farmers, Community Alliance with Family Farmers, Community Farm Alliance, Western Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, Audubon California and the Sierra Club also endorse the Alliance’s platform. A great resource to learn more about wild farming is the book Farming with the Wild, written by Dan Imhoff, a Wild Farm Alliance steering committee member. The book looks at what different farms are doing across the country. For more information on the book you can go to his website, http://www.watershedmedia.org/fwtw_overview.html.