From his small, organic farm in the Siskiyou Mountains of southwestern Oregon, Don Tipping has been producing fruits, vegetables, seeds, herbs, wool, eggs, and lamb for more than 20 years. But that’s just what you see on the surface. Look closer and you’ll find that Don is not just a farmer; he’s an agricultural expert working in harmony with the land, water, plants and animals of this region to create a completely harmonious ecosystem.
Understanding and Utilizing the Environment
Through a practice called biodynamic permaculture—a natural approach to self-sustaining agriculture—Don’s farm works as a self-contained, life-regenerating system, with waste products being recycled and used to feed other elements. His Keyline water system uses the natural landscape and flow of water to make irrigation more efficient, creating benefits for his farm and for the landowners downstream.
Through a system of holding ponds and channels, water moves through the land—mostly driven by gravity—sustaining agriculture and native species. Large amounts of controlled water flow through the landscape and soak directly into the earth in a process called Rapid Flood Irrigation, which makes for very little evaporation and much more efficient use of water than a traditional sprinkler irrigation system. The Keyline system enhances the local groundwater, with neighboring farms reporting increased well water supplies and healthier stream flows.
Cultivating the Pioneer Spirit
Tipping’s mission is more than his own sustainable operation. He embraces his role as consultant and teacher, educating others on permaculture-based landscape design, running workshops on permaculture, crop planting and rainwater harvesting, and hosting a biannual Seed Academy.
Seven Seeds Farm is one of the founding farms of the Siskiyou Sustainable Cooperative, which runs a 250-share Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program in the Rogue River Valley. And Tipping’s Siskiyou Seeds, an organic seed producer and catalog supplier, was a supporter of Josephine County’s Genetically Engineered Plant Ordinance. On May 20, 2014, the voter-approved measure banned production or cultivation of any genetically modified or engineered crop within Josephine County—with the exception of state or federally licensed medical research. It became the second county in Oregon –after Jackson County– to be designated free from genetically engineered crops.
The Economic Benefit of Sustainability
The benefits of Tipping’s smart agricultural management are visible everywhere you look. Strong organic seeds grow into crops that require less help with disease management, and working in harmony with the land creates efficiencies in pest control and water management which saves money. The benefits of his hard work, expertise in biodynamic permaculture and dedication to education and community, continue to improve the success of Seven Seeds Farm.