Owen Hablutzel

Today in New Mexico water is an increasingly crucial and precious resource. Watershed groups, public environmental focus and individual actions statewide have made it a top priority. Given all this energy and activity, it is surprising more farmers, ranchers and folks concerned with water’s importance for fertility have not already heard about the practice of Keyline Design®! This is about to change.

A well-known practice “down-under” in dry Australia, the Keyline® Plan offers meaningful practical solutions to pressing water issues for a sustainable agriculture. Starting in the 1940s and working in some of the planet’s least fertile soils, Australian farmer P.A. Yeomans brought his mining engineer background to the field of agriculture. His visionary approach to whole farm fertility planning included a powerfully effective plow innovation. He called the whole approach Keyline® Design. Rather than focusing on mere soil conservation, Yeomans demonstrated new soil creation! Even today his famous “Yeoman’s Plow” non-inversion tillage instrument continues this activity around the world.

Keyline® farming’s focus is on the two most important elements for farm fertility: water and soil. Yeomans reckoned if you could get those key aspects right, and do it sustainably, well then the rest would turn out pretty well. He did this by working with “the lay of the land,” the actual shape of the landscape, to guide water flow inexpensively and to maximize the harvesting and storage of rainwater in the ground. This process, in turn, is capable of creating topsoil at revolutionary rates. In addition, farming expenses and inputs, such as inorganic fertilizers or extra irrigation, are reduced, and atmospheric carbon is sequestered, creating even greater capacity for moisture storage in landscapes. Long-term fertility, the true wealth of any farm or watershed, is continuously amplified. Keyline® is a robust and versatile strategy well suited for cropping, grazing and diverse mixed-use operations.

Among farm and ranch clients, and Keyline projects I’ve known personally in New Mexico, Texas, Nevada and California, we have seen many fertility benefits. These include increased topsoil and soil organic matter, restored pasture on abused former cropland, reduced soil loss from erosion, reduced or eliminated invasive brush, longer growing seasons, and greatly increased soil moisture, soil life, and overall fertility. An approach with much to offer for these water-limited times!

Most of us interact with the fertility and land health of our watersheds every day without giving it much thought. Too often we don’t stop to realize that the local foods we consume are a complete and true embodiment of soil fertility as well as every production practice and process that brings this nutrition to your table. Our foods concretely integrate all factors that created them. Fertile farms and watersheds mean more minerals, vitamins, nutrition, clean air, abundant water, healthy plants, animals, foods, and the kind of overall environment we desire. Think this through the next time you’re enjoying a healthy and succulent local meal!

Farm and watershed fertility is truly the gift that keeps on giving! After eating these delicious foods, benefits continue to expand and cascade throughout our communities. When our bodies and minds receive the nutrition they need, we are enabled to fully express ourselves and to engage with our fullest life potential. This means far fewer health problems, fewer expenses, better daily attitudes, improved family and social experiences, institutions, and organizations (now run by people with better attitudes), and more enjoyable communities overall. The effects pervade and bless all areas of our lives.

Greater fertility, like Keyline® Design, is ultimately about empowerment; empowering farmers to greater sustainability at lesser expense, empowering people to meet life’s challenges with their fullest resources, and empowering New Mexico’s communities to shape their collective future by reducing outside dependencies, increasing natural effectiveness and enjoying life together.

To discover more about how Keyline Design® solutions work, see an on-site demonstration of the amazing Yeoman’s Plow, and understand how these tools can empower your farm and community to produce greater fertility and all of its benefits, register to attend the July 24th workshop. Together we’ll “water” the most fertile resource of all, our collective imagination for what is possible!

Owen Hablutzel is a whole farm planning consultant, educator and a director of the Permaculture Research Institute, USA. He collaborates with clients to generate fertile and resilient farms, ranches and watersheds using a diversity of proven practical, cost-effective and ecologically sound strategies. To register for his workshop, Call 505.298.4434 or visit www.carboneconomyseries.com