I’m sitting here in my campervan with a belly full of the tastiest vegetables one can grow, produce that’s literally fit for a prince. That’s because I’m on my return trip from a visit to the far south of NZ, to Jim O’Gorman’s farmlet in the sea-side town of Kakanui, just South of Oamaru. Jim is also known as “The Dirt Doctor” and it was many of his ideas that contributed to the inspiration behind Bucky Box over a year ago.
Jim lives simply, very simply. His house is a 9.9 square metre hut with no power, phone let alone luxuries such as a inside toilet. He came onto this property 18 years ago, looking for the most toxic soil he could find to demonstrate something wonderful…
His was an experiment in healing the soil. And doing it “from nothing, with nothing” as he likes to say. What he has today required no input of resources or investment, it was created from what he found on the land and by working smart.
When he arrived the soil was so hard from previous years of chemical farming that the ground would break steel machinery. Jim holds up to me a rusty relic he found buried on his property, it’s a curved piece of metal an inch thick, it used to be part of a tractor tool to break up the ground, “it’s been warped and snapped off by the soil” Jim tells me with gusto.
In the first two years they’d greet Jim at the local hardware store with, “looking for another spade handle?”, but in those two years he managed to revive his soil. He calls his techniques biological farming, that is agriculture based on an intimate knowledge of the complex microbial eco-system that keeps our soil vibrant. The techniques seem quite radically different from standard organic practices, he proudly states “It’s 15 years ahead of existing organic farming”. Indeed Jim is considered one of the world’s top 10 in his field.
Today Jim produces from 1,000 square metres of land $45,000 of premium produce that goes out to our country’s best restaurants. “The executive chef from Government House requested my produce to feed Prince William”, Jim tells me with a smile.
His yields are 20% higher than equivalent chemical farming practices, all without costly and damaging nitrate fertilisers and pesticides.
That’s a small sentence, read it again, as the implications are vast. In one sweep, it discards the myth that chemical farming is needed to feed our growing population, and holds promise that we can mitigate 33% of the world’s carbon emissions for which industrialised agriculture is responsible for. That’s not even mentioning a massive reduction in oil consumption, around 15% of the world’s oil is used in fertiliser production from memory.
Needless to say, we at Bucky Box see his work as a important part of the puzzle to a new food system and are laying down a commitment in helping him spread his technology worldwide.
Jim O’Gorman runs regular workshops through his charitable organisation, including The Urban Eden program where one can feed a family of four from 10 square metres of land with no more than half an hour in the garden a week. Contact details are on their website.