Michelle and Michelangelo Galea – young agriculture enthusiasts.
Growing food has become our passion. The journey started when my husband Michelangelo and I decided to have a go at growing broad beans. Years later we are growing a variety of organic fruits and vegetables for ourselves and our family, looking at the idea of food growth in a more holistic manner, making sustainability a top priority.
Through research and practice we have found that implementing a permaculture and a closed-loop system not only benefits the land but also ourselves, making food growth more sustainable. When working with nature instead of controlling and working against it, not only do you put in less energy and hours of work but the area thrives with a greater diversity of flora and fauna. As obvious as this might sound, the basic rule in growing food is that you have to have proper soil; soil that is filled with life and organic matter.
Producing your own compost implements the idea of a closed-loop system since the unwanted scraps/vegetation are being transformed into a super nutritious hummus. In fact, we have a number of compost piles; some are made from wooden crates, others assembled from wooden pallets and another is a bathtub full of wriggly worms ready to turn our scraps into vermicompost, also called ‘black gold’ in gardening terms. All the items, including the scraps, would have otherwise been discarded. Reusing, repurposing and repairing items are key features of sustainability, don’t break the cycle.
As far as letting nature be, a ‘no-till system’ is a less meddlesome practice that we have adopted. Unfortunately, whenever the land is tilled, a multitude of organisms in the soil are killed. ‘Weeds’ or a more adapt term, ‘wild plants’, are beneficial cover crops that are also destroyed in the process. Bare soil leads to faster rates of erosion, compaction due to rainfall and irradiation of vital microbial life in the topsoil due to exposure to UV, damaging and degrading it. Wild plants also bring diverse biota to the area, they act as sacrificial plants and attract pollinators too.
Wild plants that would be smothering our crops are removed using the ‘chop-and-drop method’, that way the soil is always covered and protected from weather elements. We cannot understand the fascination some farmers have with having bare soil, as if the field looks clean…give nature some space! Being sustainable is about maintaining an ecological balance, sustaining ourselves without depleting the land.
It’s about giving back to Mother Earth by providing a safe haven for plants and animals alike, creating a shared space, it’s the least we can do.
Michelle and Michelangelo are young FoEM volunteers that love anything to do with nature, agriculture, food production, repurposing material and waste reduction and creative, hands-on work. They have a beautiful piece of land that they have transformed into a permaculture haven.
Friends of the Earth Malta gratefully acknowledges financial assistance from the European Union. The content of this article are the sole responsibility of Friends of the Earth Malta and cannot be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union. The European Union cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information provided contained therein.
This project is co-financed by the Ministry for Education and Employment (MEDE) and the Parliamentary Secretary for Youth, Sport and Voluntary Organisation.