The Whole Systems Approach

The theoretical model for our little farm is a living organism. This model includes the subsystems that make up the whole organism, as well as the supersystems into which the organism belongs. We could not exist with out the subsystems of our bodies like our immune systems and digestive systems. We also could not exist without the greater systems that we are included in, like communities and ecosystems. The same is true for plants in the garden, they need healthy microbial systems as well as the support of the greater ecosystems and weather systems. We look to nature and observe the orderly universe and applying what we see to our farm. When we walk into a forest, we see that a tree does not exist independently from the rest of forest life, but rather inter-dependently. The tree needs the tiny micro organisms in the soil as well as the greater community of the forest and even the solar system to support it.

Many of the best principle of systems are counter-intuitive and indirect. Causes will often be separated from effects in time and space. The intuitive way to deal with pests is to poison them. The results are immediate, but there may be unforeseen difficulties. When pests die, so do the predators that depend on them for food. When they inevitably return, they multiply unchecked creating infestations even more severe. This is why, at the first sight of a problem we do nothing, and some ladybugs will come in and take care of the issue. And so it is that in many ways by doing nothing, we can accomplish everything.

Just as a deer needs no understanding of ecology to live well in a forest, a whole systems gardener needs only know a little about systems to have a great garden. Systems are always with us whether we like them or not--want them or not--or know anything about them or not; no matter how we might try, we are ultimately a part of everything, and everything a part of us. The whole systems gardener serves her garden just as the hands serve the human being. By knowing she is not an end in herself, she endlessly becomes herself.