How do we farm?
We aim to create a healthy environment. Our goals are healthy soils and healthy people. We are not certified organic, rather our vegetables are Certified Naturally Grown. We use organic materials, amendments and processes and participate in an annual peer inspection. Our aim is to ensure that the soil is better for us having grown on it. We use purchased compost and cover cropping to ensure the long term fertility of our soil.
Other soil amendments that we use include: Alfalfa meal, Blood meal, Feather meal, Azomite mineral supplement, Bone meal (phosphorus) & Greensand (potassium)
Cover cropping is essential to our farm's fertility. By growing legume crops, we harness the nitrogen that is in the air, free for the taking. When we mix this with grasses, we are adding organic matter to the soil that is then processed by the life of the soil. As we increase the amount of organic matter in the soil, the plants are healthier. To the right is a picture of buckwheat in full bloom. The insects love it and it holds the soil in between spring and fall crops.
What about pests and diseases?
We are creating an environment that is in balance, with strong fertile soil and healthy populations of beneficial insects. We are establishing permanent areas around the farm with perennial and annual flowering plants that can host insect predators all year. Healthy plants grown in strong soil are less susceptible to pest and disease issues. While we build this up over a few seasons, we rely on compost tea applications, release of predatory nematodes, sprays of biological controls (BT for caterpillars and Serenade alternated with compost tea for disease suppression) When faced with the loss of a crop due to pest pressure, we rely on Neem and Spinosad botanical insecticides in targeted applications to ensure our hard work is not wasted. If a crop is too far gone, we will till it in and figure out what is needed in the future to ensure a healthier crop. To the right is a photo of a lady bug larvae eating aphids.
Over the last couple of years, we have converted the main gardens to no-till practices. We no longer use the tractor in the fields, and only use the walk behind tractor to help reshape the permenant raised beds. We use lots of hand tools for weeding, broad forks for loosening the soil, and plastic tarps to terminate cover crops so that we can plant into the mulch.
Where does the water come from and is the produce clean?
We irrigate out of a creek that feeds the South Toe River with an electric pump. With a combination of drip tape and sprinklers, we are able to insulate ourselves against the risks of low rainfall. We have tested the water and it tested very low on the scale for bacterial counts, well in the safe range. There is little activity up creek, mostly the forest of Seven Mile Ridge. We bring all the produce back to our wash station by our house to wash it with water from our natural spring. Most items receive a triple rinsing in our stainless sinks and are spun dry in re purposed washing machines. The last rinse water is treated with an Organic approved water sanitizer called Sanidate 5.0. It is a peroxide product that neutralizes bacteria but leaves no harmful residues.