How We Grow
We get a lot of questions about how we grow, what does "chemical-free" mean, and what products we use.
Even certified organic produce can be sprayed with organic products that can be even more harmful than some synthetic products.
There is a lot of slight of hand in the food industry and as consumers, we don't like that. We believe in honesty and transparency, so this page documents exactly what we do on our farm to what crops. Over the years our growing methods may change, but we will always keep this page updated with our specific practices.
Pesticides and fungicides
All of our produce is grown without the use of synthetic chemicals and follow organic practices, what we call "chemical-free". But we take it a step further - we only use a few organic products and in a few specific circumstances.
- Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt, is a bacteria that's naturally found in soil and is certified for use in organic production. We use it to control caterpillars that destroy brassicas like cabbage and broccoli. We apply Bt to brassica plants several times through the growing season, and a few days before harvest.
- Baking soda (potassium bicarbonate) used as a fungicide and certified for organic production, primarily on tomatoes to control blight and leaf spot. As any gardener knows, tomatoes will get blight easily, especially in wet and hot years. Blight is a fungus, and baking soda will keep it contained, although it is imperfect. It needs to be applied after even the lightest rain or the fungus will continue to progress.
We use only organic (OMRI certified) fertilizers. What's available to us and is cost effective changes from year to year, but generally we use some combination of pelleted and composted chicken manure (like the common Espoma product), fish fertilizer (Neptune's Harvest), feather meal as a nitrogen source and potash for potassium. We may apply other organic products to amend our soil based on what our soil tests tell us, but we'll always use natural organic products.
Being a small farm, each square foot of ground needs to be as productive as possible. This means, like all farms, we need to carefully manage our soil health. We till as little as possible to keep the soil structure intact, which greatly reduces erosion and runoff. It also allows the microbial activity in the soil to flourish, especially when amended with natural fertilizers. In short - there needs to be a reason for us to till certain ground, beyond just convenience.
We make good use of cover crops to add carbon to the soil and keep it covered. In areas where we need to get two or three crops out in a season and there's no time for a cover crop, we add a mulch later of compost and plant into that.
We do not use chemical weed control methods (herbicides). Weed control is achieved by the use of mulches, either natural mulch like compost, straw, a mulched cover crop, or weed mats/landscape fabric to smother the weeds. We also make use of silage tarps to germinate then kill any weed seeds prior to sowing the desired crop leaving a clean, stale seedbed.
As any gardener knows though, it doesn't matter what you do, there will still be weeds. In those cases, we resort to clearing weeds by hand. Obviously this is time consuming and we try to avoid it, but sometimes it must be done.
We choose varieties that have high disease resistance whenever we can. This helps us minimize our use of fungicides. These are typically F1 types that have been bred specifically for their resilience. This helps us use very few pesticides and fungicides.
We use row covers to create a physical barrier to keep pests out. This isn't foolproof, but it can be used to reduce how many times we apply Bt to our brassica crops, for example.
Heirloom tomatoes, which we grow a lot of, have poor disease resistance when compared with modern strains, since they're open pollinated old varieties. To allow these plants to thrive, all of our heirloom tomatoes are grown in high tunnels, where we can control the climate. This keeps the foliage dry and doesn't allow blight to spread as easily.
Come see for yourself
Want to actually come see for yourself? Farmer Jeff would be thrilled to show you around our farm and tell you everything you want to know.
Just use our contact page to request a farm visit and we'll get something scheduled.