Integrate rather than segregate.
Specialization is good. A farm that raises only cows or only corn is going to be more expert in getting its product to market than a farm that tries to do both.
But specialization also creates problems. Traditionally, animals and plants were raised together, mimicking the way natural systems are structured. In this traditional method, the farmer benefited from the ways plants and animals work together. As one example, the waste from animals makes great fertilizer for plants.
In modern farming, this simple solution has been turned into two problems. Because animals and plants now are raised separately, farms with animals can’t get rid of the waste, and farms with plants have to pay to bring in artificial fertilizer. Financial costs and environmental harms are incurred on both sides.
Another example is the practice of raising plants in monocultures. In the past, crops were raised in mixed plantings. In the famous “Three Sisters” system, farmers planted corn, beans, and squash together. The corn provided a pole for the beans to climb, the beans pulled nitrogen from the air to feed the nutrient-hungry corn, and the squash shaded the soil to help the other plants conserve water. When these crops are raised separately, the farmer has to provide all the services that the plants would otherwise provide for each other.
Bringing together plants and animals with compatible habits lays the foundation for a successful garden, turning problems into solutions and shifting work from the gardener to the garden itself.