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Bramleigh Manor is an eco-establishment and regenerative farm.
Bramleigh Manor’s ethos is one of environmental stewardship, eco-friendly practices and restoration by mimicking natural processes around us so that our environment can function as the perfectly designed eco-system that it is, with a hope to educate and inspire others to live sustainably and restore our environment. Our property is a proud member of the the Lion’s Bush conservancy and borders on to the Fort Nottingham Nature Reserve.
Regenerative agriculture is a holistic framework including permaculture, organic farming, no-till techniques, crop rotation, composting, mobile animals, pasture cropping and carbon collection all with the aim of increasing living topsoil. Animals and growing plants are active contributors to this process, doing most of the work naturally and non invasively but at the same time, provide a by-product.
Sustainable agriculture uses practices that protect the environment and prevent further damage while regenerative agriculture rebuilds and repairs damage. It is closely connected with the principles of permaculture by stimulating and utilising patterns in naturally occurring systems. The main aim of this system is to improve and revitalise soil and the environment.
We are farming soil primarily! Healthy soil produces healthy, nutrient dense food.
It is estimated that at current rates, within 50 years we will not have the topsoil available to grow quality food resulting in degraded nutrition, loss of important minerals nor enough topsoil to feed ourselves.
Regenerative Agriculture practices:
Agriculture has traditionally been very harmful to the environment through the release of carbon in standard commercial farming practices such as deforestation, petroleum based fertilisers, tilling and transportation. Carbon sequestration through regenerative practices aims to restore and encourage carbon storage in the soil. It is estimated that with the vast expanses of land dedicated to farming, if farmers began to practice carbon sequestration we could not only reduce our emissions but exceed our overall global annual carbon emissions thus not just mitigating but reversing climate change! Farming carbon is done in the following ways:
No till techniques:
When areas are tilled, microorganisms are forced to the surface of the soil and begin breaking down organic matter, making it available for growing plants. This results in quick growth but over time is detrimental to the soil health as well as releasing large amounts of carbon every time the area is ploughed. The most beneficial part of building soil and organic matter is the ability to retain moisture. Animals are used to prepare growing areas through carefully managed rotational grazing.
2. Rotational and intensive grazing:
Although animals are major contributors of methane to the atmosphere, natural grazing methods build topsoil. Animals are designed to move in herds for safety and spend short amounts of time in any one place. By grazing animals intensively in smaller paddocks and rotating them more frequently, grasses have time to recover. This provides superior nutrition for the animals but also avoids them eating only favoured grasses, leaving unfavoured species at an advantage. As the animals graze, they trample a certain amount of foliage which turns back to organic soil matter, acts as mulch and is fertilised by the manure. The grass is healthier and the animals healthier, therefore more productive while also reducing the need for chemical fertilisers and pesticides as well as burning of veld that releases more carbon into the atmosphere. Roller-crimpers are designed for large-scale farmers by rolling over cover crops and creating a thick mat of organic matter that suppresses weed growth and retains moisture – reducing the need for herbicides and excessive irrigation. The organic matter is incorporated into the soil as it decomposes to feed new crops. During harvesting, roots are left to decompose which deposits carbon into the soil.
Agroforestry techniques involve relationship between fodder, livestock and timber to create a productive savannah with multiple yields off the same piece of land. Silvopasturing is one such method. Trees planted throughout a pasture store large amounts of carbon but also provide protection for crops growing below. Animals are also moved through the same piece of land thus the yield off the area increases – produce from trees, plants and animals. Perennial trees and crops avoid annual disturbance of the soil. An example of this is growing chestnuts or hazelnuts which have similar nutrient profiles to conventional grains, soy or beans. Chickens, for example, could prepare and fertilise the soil, grazers (cattle, sheep, goats) eat a rich diet off the grass, chickens eat the larvae and insects found in the dung of the grazers and turn these into eggs, pigs could then consume any fallen or left over produce from the plants and trees. We are planning to increase our perennial crops and silvopasturing once we have better access to the land on the mountain. Farming on such a steep slope brings its own challenges! Currently the land on the mountain is resting after being poorly grazed allowing the growth of unfavourable grasses to take over and severe erosion due to soil compaction. The mountain was burnt in Spring 2017 and rested, with carefully planned grazing to restore the natural balance of grasses again.
Bramleigh Manor practices a holistic view of farming which is closely intertwined with the way we live. We minimise our human impact by recycling glass, plastic, paper and tin; we use eco-friendly cleaning products and dividing organic waste between free range chickens, a worm farm and composting.
Closed Loop Systems
Our market garden is dedicated to growing quick succession crops in a dense layout. This area was prepared using chickens initially (pasture cropping), followed by hand tools to break up the soil (no till). At the end of planting season, roots will be left to decompose and deposit carbon into the ground. As the worms in the wormery break down organic waste and kitchen scraps, they produce a nutrient rich liquid fertiliser which is pumped onto the growing vegetables. Mobile chickens assist with preparing land for planting our fruit and vegetables, by scratching as they forage for insects, gently aerating the soil and fertilising as they go. The chickens also assist with pest control.Waste from the chickens is either used to fertilise an area as they rotate through the orchard, or collected and used for making compost from garden refuse. A small flock of geese assist in keeping the grass short as well as fertilising their area.
Solar Power and Spring Water
We run primarily off a solar power system, with low energy lighting and appliances, geyser timers and use wood burning stoves for heating. Wood is sustainably harvested from alien trees on our property. The thatch roofing also provides excellent insulation. Solar production is stored in a Tesla Powerwall that provides energy for use at night. Water is collected from a natural spring on the property, stored in water tanks and used sparingly. All production areas are mulched to reduce water usage.