Most of the meat, dairy and egg production in this country comes from monocultures — confinement operations raising only one type of animal. This is said to be “efficient,” and maybe it does make it easier to maximize short-term profits. But polycultures — farms that raise many types of animals and plants — are more resource-efficient and more practical for homesteaders looking to raise healthy food in healthy soil.
Often, waste products from the garden or the animals can supply the needs of other parts of the farm system. Called “farm symbiosis,” this can save lots of money on the homestead – and reduce our waste, too.
I’ll start with the model I know best, the farm I’ve worked for the last 16 years. We grow a big garden and a small orchard as well as goats, chickens, rabbits and pigs. These are all raised in separate spaces, but they use each other’s waste products.
The garden is mostly fertilized with compost, which is rich and quick to break down because it contains plenty of animal manure. Our other main fertilizer is rabbit manure, which we apply directly to the garden beds. Rabbit droppings provide a rich slow-release source of nitrogen and phosphorus, and they don’t burn plants the way other uncomposted manures might.