The Bio-Integrated Farm
Shawn Jadrnicek has lived many places, from the islands of Hawaii to the mountains of California. Now, as farm manager at the Clemson University Student Organic Farm, Jadrnicek is using two decades worth of knowledge to educate readers in the Upstate. With the release of The Bio-Integrated Farm: A Revolutionary Permaculture- Based System Using Greenhouses, Ponds, Compost Piles, Aquaponics, Chickens, and More, Jadrnicek (and his wife, Stephanie) hopes to offer both insight and instruction into the world of permaculture. One rainy day he shared more about the book, and how he was getting the wayward weather to do the work for him.
This looks like a lengthy book; there must be a lot of know-how involved. Exactly how long have you been farming?
I’ve been with Clemson for five years now. But, I’ve been growing or in some aspect of growing or design or landscaping or irrigation for probably 18 years. Longer than my daughter’s been alive!
Did you always want to be a farmer?
Originally, I wanted to go to dental school. Once I interned with a dentist, though, I realized I couldn’t stand to be indoors that much, so I switched to the biology program. I started working at a farm and kinda got the bug and haven’t stopped since.
And how long have you been interested in permaculture? Also…what exactly is permaculture?
Probably 17 or 16 years ago I got interested in the philosophy. It really appealed to me because it was about designing things to function, creating these functional designs for your farm or landscape. And basically the more your landscape functions, the less resources you consumed and the less energy you had to put out in order to satisfy your needs. As a really poor farmer in the mountains of Santa Cruz I was basically living off the land so I could design systems that would provide for my needs without taking a lot of work or energy. Plus, I’m just lazy, so if I can create a design that will work for me instead of me having to do extra work, it just makes sense. It allows people to grow food, heat their houses, heat their greenhouses, have chickens, and not having to do as much work.
That sounds like a lot of work though!
Well, for example, you can harvest rainwater and use rainwater for different things. At my house I harvest rainwater off my roof, filter it and use gravity to move it to a pond that’s at the top of the property that I use to irrigate the landscape. I use it to water my garden. I’ve even connected it to the water in my house so I use that water to flush the toilet.
What if a reader doesn’t have room for a pond?
I’ve done projects for small houses in urban areas. The book runs the gamut from six acre down to half-acre and gives all these different design patterns that can make the landscape more sustainable or more functional. And then I’ve got farm patterns here to make harvesting and processing produce more efficient, even how to size parking lots for CSA operation. And then a list of all the basic tools you’d need to run a small farm.
What is a tool that people don’t realize is so simple, yet so integral to this type of farming?
One of the most useful tools for us has been a box scraper, it allows us to grate the land. Not a lot of people would think of that as a useful tool for a farm, but being in bottomland that’s not very well drained we’ve used the scraper to put ditches and roads in the right places so that the fields drain properly. Without that tool, I don’t think we’d be able to farm.
And no farm means no CSA. How have your methods improved the agriculture here at Clemson?
We’ve got a lot of stuff, a lot of diversity. Diversity helps the CSA because we have failure of one crop then you’ve got other stuff to back it up. It also gives the CSA members a large diversity of produce so they’re not getting the same thing all the time. I try to make it more of a farm experience for the members, too. We do u-pick flowers and some of the harder stuff to harvest, like cherry tomatoes, we’ll have them harvest those. It’s really fun for them and they get to see all the stuff growing every time they come to the farm. Since we’re so centrally located, we’re right in the center of campus, we’re just as close as a grocery store, really.
What’s your favorite crop to grow and eat?
Kale. It’s so dense and nutrient rich. Kale got me back into growing. I remember moving to the Lowcountry of South Carolina and you couldn’t get good kale all the time, it just didn’t grow well. So not having it was really frustrating, and it got me back into growing. My body just craves it.
Kale yeah! How do you prepare it?
I like to braise it in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Usually take out the stems and cook it for a long time on a really low heat until it gets nice and tender.