So you’ve chosen the road to self-sufficiency, studied the natural attributes of your surroundings and finalized your farm design, the next step is to weigh the pros/cons of different species and breeds to populate your farm.
Start by rating each plant or animal based on their: 1) exposure and tolerance to elements, 2) ability to perform at multiple levels, and 3) requirements – specifically water, food and shelter.
Above all, the key is to avoid dependency on a single crop or animal for any need. Think of it as an “agricultural insurance policy”.
When examining exposure, consider extreme weather conditions like heat waves, drought, flooding and strong winds. But also assess the likelihood and impact of diseases, poisonous plants, local wildlife, and even people. Then select plants and animals that are the most adaptive to these specific area characteristics.
For example, while installing a fence around the garden is a helpful safeguard, it is not fool proof. In Maryland, deer are well-known pests that will hop over many strategic hurdles to demolish gardens. Instead of expending energy fighting this or using harmful sprays, pick deer resistant fruits and vegetables such as artichokes, asparagus, blueberries, leeks, mint, onions, pomegranate, potatoes, and squash.
Next, consider the benefits of using plants and animals that assist in the arduous work of farming. This can range from tasks like insect, disease and weed control; nutrient recycling and fertilization; and tillage.
Consider beans, which are a high-producing crop that is perfect for long-term storage, but also replenishes nitrogen in the soil so is ideal for crop rotation. Or get free-range chickens that will produce eggs, eat harmful insects like ticks, and help keep weeds at bay.
Finally, planting or raising within proximity to necessary resources will ensure efficiency and that you’re spending energy wisely. Herbs, vegetables and animals that require daily care should be located closest to the house, while low-maintenance livestock and tree crops can be placed in a more remote area.
Ponds should be utilized to optimize irrigation and watering livestock, in addition to fish farming and growing aquatic crops. Furthermore, canal-like ponds could serve as barriers to livestock movement, limiting the roam of goats and chickens for instance, and will attract migrating animals like ducks and geese (an alternate food source).
Before purchasing any plants or animals, avoid potential dilemmas through careful planning, identifying threats and weaknesses, and formulating a contingency plan B and C. Then build on and invest in inherent strengths to guarantee the most success.
>>See also: A guide to self-sustainable living: Designing your farm – Part one