Update: Moving Forward
Thank you everyone for your wonderful support during this campaign! Many people have asked if we will continue with the project, even if we don't meet our funding goal. The answer is YES, we are dedicated to this project and it's goals. We will complete the project! We will not let something like lack of funds stop or deter us!
Follow the Food Web progress on our blog, http://VelaCreations.com/blog.html.
We will continue to offer advance copies of the book and ebook through our website. Visit http://VelaCreations.com/foodweb
Thanks to everyone that supported us during this campaign. For a full list of everyone that participated, please check out the Thank you page:
The Concept: A Web of Life
The Food Web is a real world model for integrated livestock and food production. We have tested the methods, and we hope to provide a unique way for small farmers to establish a diversified livestock system that is sustainable and economically viable. This is a holistic approach that focuses on animal welfare, waste integration, water conservation, innovative feed systems, and profitability for small farmers.
A web is a simple system. To make a Food Web, we select species that have feed inputs that align with waste outputs of other species, thereby reducing costs and increasing the diversity and resilience of your revenue streams.
Consider this basic example:
Harvest "weeds" and grasses from local sources to feed your small group of rabbits. Manure from the rabbits feeds a worm bin, where you grow earthworms. The earthworms are harvested regularly to feed a small flock of chickens. The chickens browse pests from your garden area (soil fertility is increased by the vermicompost from the worms), keep the fly population under control, and clean up wasted food from other animals. Slaughter waste from the rabbits and chickens makes an excellent pig feed. Pigs offer a variety of high value products, and their manure adds to your worm population.
Even such a basic food web saves significant feed costs, while providing a diversified product range. There are at least 5 potential products being produced from the same resources it would take to produce just one of these products in a conventional setup. What's more, the farmer has eliminated multiple waste streams!
For a more detailed look at the concept, check out:
Our Model: A Web In Action
We are building a model of the Food Web in action. The model will be used as teaching tool for farmers in Northern Mexico. It will consist of a 30ft x 20ft barn that will offer its occupants a place to get in from the rain, heat or cold, and danger from predators. Also included will be a loading ramp, doctoring and milking station, and a fully enclosed area to store feed and tools.
The pens, pastures, and habitats that are customized towards the specific needs and tendencies of each species. Grazing animals like pigs, goats, and donkeys all benefit from pasture, which will be enclosed by an electric fence and divided into a rotational system, so that no patch of land is overgrazed or overused. Poultry can be let out at times, but will also need shaded pens to decrease predator risk. Rabbits must be kept apart from other animals and need underground shelters to provide a comfortable climate. We can include a variety of species like rabbits, chickens, Muscovy ducks, turkeys, quail, pigs, goats, a donkey, earthworms and Black Soldier Flies (BSF). These critters are ideal for the Cascading Feed System, with rabbits and goats as our top tier animals, poultry (chickens, Muscovy ducks, turkeys and quail) as secondary level, pigs as third, and insects and earthworms for the base.
The model includes a 7,000 gallon water tank that will be fed by rain water catchment from the roofs of both the barn and the tank itself, and only 14” of rain per year will fill the tank. That amount of water is enough not only for the animals included in this system, but also a considerable area of gardens and trees for animal forage.
Read more about our plans and details:
Our book, Food Web (Volume 1), can serve as a complete documentation of the model. This will include all details of construction and planning, as well as a full description of the input, output and integration of each animal included in the web. We estimate the book to be about 250 pages of text, plus any relevant photos and diagrams. We hope to provide people with all the knowledge necessary to duplicate or scale this system. As it is modular by nature, people can pick and choose which animals they want to include, depending on the space and resources available to them. The book will include a detailed overview on a variety of livestock species. The more animals you can incorporate into the system, the better. Not only will efficiency be increased with more connections, but multiple income streams will also give you some insurance in case one of those facets fails or has a bad year.
If we exceed our funding goal, we plan to translate the book into Spanish. This will allow us to distribute copies of either language to libraries and communities where it might be of most use to others.
More information about the book:
Our Inspiration: Struggling Farmers
Conventional farming and ranching methods have devastated many areas around the world. Farmers and ranchers fall into a cycle of reduced profit, degraded land, and poor market values. This cycle is hard to break, and puts a rancher at great risk when the unexpected happens, like a severe drought. These small producers will continue to fall into poverty, unless they undergo a paradigm shift. The Food Web is that shift. Creating change is very difficult, but farmers have an innate understanding of the challenges they face in living with the land, and we feel that they will readily respond to examples that are sustainable and profitable.
It’s time to weave the Food Web, a model of integration that increases yields while lowering costs. The Food Web focuses on diversity in livestock, is inherently simple, resilient, and profitable. It is a much needed example in the developing world and beyond.
Who: The Weavers
We are Abe, Josie, Leo, and Nicky Connally. We are a family of four that have been living off-grid for more than a decade. To date, we've built two homesteads from scratch with our own hands and our own resources. These homesteads focus on sustainability, integrated systems, and open source documentation, to provide real world examples of how anyone can build a home, raise their food, and produce their own energy and water.
We use the name VelaCreations to brand our instructional and educational material. Our material is dedicated to documenting our experiences of living the modern pioneer lifestyle. We've been featured in press like Popular Science, Newsweek, Treehugger, Boing Boing, and Earth911. We are regular contributors to Make Magazine, with a focus on DIY articles related to homesteading and animal husbandry.
We've published a number of instructional articles over the last decade, from building a simple wind generator out of junk to creating beehives from accessible materials. The Food Web consolidates our experiences, builds on them, and takes them further, beyond a simple how-to, to a design manual for a complete food production model.
Learn more about our work at http://velacreations.com
Get Involved: Contribute
We have confidence that people want this information, want these opportunities, and want to help us make this dream come true.
You can help us weave our Food Web. We have already started work on both the construction and writing phases of this project, but by contributing to our cause or telling others about it, you can give us the boost we need to complete it.
Select from one of our reward packages to the right, which include a copy of the book when it is completed, a book sent to your local library or school, fur products from our sustainably raised bunnies, and more. See a full list of our How-to's: http://velacreations.com/foodweb/howtos
We have the knowledge, the ambition, and the will, but we need your help to get the model out there.
Thank you for your wonderful support!
Together, we can be the change we want to see in the world!