The Valley Foundation is developing an Agroecology research and education center on 250 acres at Valley Park, Oklahoma. Agroecology, as stated on the world stage by the United Nations, is the only way to feed a growing world population and to sustain our planet with its finite natural resources. Jane Goodall, one of our primary program partners, points to Agroecology as a critical methodology to preserve the bio diversity necessary for the compatible survival of man and nature in a sustainable ecosystem. The Valley Foundation recognizes Agroecology as a means to provide better nutrition while improving the environment for rural, suburban and urban populations, with a particular focus on providing Food Security for the 2.5 billion at risk rural poor living in abject poverty.
Agroecology is a method of creating an agricultural system that follows ecological principles dictated by the planet and faculty of nature itself. It is often referred to as Permaculture, Permanent agriculture, where perennial cropping replaces or largely out weights that of annual cropping, creating a food system, modeled after nature, which becomes its own food-producing ecosystem sustaining both humans and animals alike.
Agroecology is a sustainable form of agriculture that works together with the ecology of a region to provide humans with food, building materials, shelter, community and long-term environmental sustainability. Unlike intensified agriculture and mono cropping which has become the default system for reaching global markets, Agroecology dramatically increases the land’s ability to produce food and plant material, while also increasing soil fertility and the ecosystem’s ability to purify and infiltrate water. In terms of input, big agriculture uses increasingly more fossil fuel based products like synthetic fertilizers and agro-chemicals, to produce the same amount of food, while decreasing the soil’s fertility and ability to hold water and grow food. We continue to subsidize fossil fuels for this reason. If we continue on the path of big agro-business and mono-cropping we will not only destroy our soil’s ability to grow food, but we will also use and pollute all of our potable water. Agroecology inherently uses fewer and fewer outside inputs as the system develops, meaning that the fertilizers and inputs needed are produced as outputs of the system as a whole.
The Valley Foundation is developing the Valley Park Agroecology Center in order to further the application and understanding of Agroecology as a means to end world hunger, increase agricultural sustainability, and rebuild the connection between people and their food and environment. The Center will have both international and domestic reach, serving to educate all levels of respective communities involved with the center.
• The Center will act as an incubation site for local Agroecology methods, including perennial cropping and animal husbandry, providing eco-region specific data and resources for other agroecology farmers.
• The Center will serve as an educational sight for children involved in local programs at River Field School, Up with Trees educational programs, Tulsa community outreach programs, and Heartstrong Farms, while extending a global reach in support of Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots program, Trees for Life, and numerous overseas Food Security projects.
• The Center will serve as an educational sight for students traveling to agroecology projects in developing countries such as JBFC in Tanzania and MBF in Paraguay, not to mention new projects yet to be created. The students will be able to get the basic understanding of agroecology, allowing for maximized impact abroad.
• The center will be a demonstration sight and nursery for local farmers shifting towards perennial cropping and agroecology.
• The Center will allow for hands on experimentation for methods to be deployed in agroecology projects around the world. This will include water catchment and management systems that can be used in tropical to semi-arid climates.
• The center will be used to empirically quantify the impact of a purely agroecology based system on the surrounding environment.
• The center will be used to empirically quantify the output of a agroecology system based on food and material production. This type of data is what is needed to popularize and validate agroecology as a mainstream agricultural system.
• The center will work with Communities around Tulsa to create a model for agriculture centered community development programs in which food production unites said communities to create positive change for its primary stakeholders.
• The center will provide tools, equipment and know-how to other farmers who cannot afford the up front costs of implementation. This will also include plant variety and plan layout consultation for farmers starting agroecology systems on their own property.
The Valley Foundation has been gearing up for implementation of phase two of the Valley Park Agroecology Center. In the initial phase landform methodologies and plant varietal studies were conducted with the help of renowned Restoration Agriculture expert Mark Shepard. Our primary stakeholders have worked with Mark, domestically and internationally, installing similar Perennial food systems to garner knowledge and understanding of the implementation process. It is in the interest of the plan that an extensive Keyline system be installed at the Center. Keyline construction is a method of creating swales and berms to control and direct overland runoff, causing greater water dispersion over a broad area and water infiltration in desired plant sights. In Climates like Oklahoma (or East Africa and Central America) where the majority of the rain comes in large rain events during a few select months of the year, key-lines tremendously increase the amount of that rain infiltrated and stored in the soil and Biomass.
In order to further the development of a keyline system it has become apparent that Valley Foundation will need a tractor with sufficient horsepower and hydraulic capabilities to complete large scale terra forming. The Center will also need one or two implements for the Tractor such as a multidirectional scraper blade, a double bottom plow, and a box blade. There will also be need for a new trailer capable of transporting equipment to and from neighboring farms and other local project sights. The New equipment will allow for a much broader impact than simply within the property boundaries of the center itself.
The first component of development at the center will be the keyline construction process, followed closely by tree planting and fence structures to protect the young trees. The Center has started keyline development and tree planting in the fall of 2014 which will continue in the spring of 2015. The Valley Foundation has four other sights pending immediate development, The Riverfield school system in west Tulsa, Heart-strong Farms in Oologah, the Brady Heights project in North Tulsa and that of a private landowner in the Bixby Area.