We manage our farm with an understanding that the soil and ecosystem is the basis for the food we produce. We rely heavily on cover crops to improve soil health and reduce weed pressure. Cover crops are crops that can either fix nitrogen, produce lots of organic matter to cycle nutrients from deep in the soil back to the soil surface, provide nectar for pollinators, or cover the ground quickly to outcompete weeds. We usually try to mix multiple species together for the additive benefits. Cover crops and rotations are the basis of our farm ecosystem. When we started managing the farm last year the organic matter was 1.4% which is relatively low. We are hopeful that with dedicated effort we will see that number climb over the years.
In the photo to the right you can get a sense of our crop rotations. Each year we plan to keep one third of our fields in vegetable production and two thirds in cover crops. This gives us the ability to rotate our vegetables through different fields each season to keep fertility high and to reduce weed pressure and disease.
The back field (tallest grass) was planted in sorghum sudan grass, sun hemp, buckwheat, sunflowers, and cowpeas and will likely be put in another cover crop next season and won’t be in vegetables until 2020 or 2021 depending on growth. The middle field was planted in oats and yellow blossom sweet clover, which will flower in 2019 providing sweet nectar to our bees and get an additional planting to be ready for 2020 vegetables. The field in front which is just sprouting was planted in oats and peas and will be our main vegetable field in 2019.
We manage pests first through cultural practices including rotation, variety selection, and netting. We complete thorough scouting to know what the problem is so that if we need to spray we do it when the pest is most vulnerable. We always select the least harmful product available and we only use materials certified by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI).
For irrigation we used both drip irrigation and overhead sprinklers. In 2018 our irrigation was pond fed but we are now blessed with a high yield well which we hope to use more next season.
We also are beginning to put in place additional infrastructure to produce more winter greens in unheated tunnels. We plan to have a propagation greenhouse, 2 small tunnels that we will move around in the field throughout the year, and we are planning to construct a permanent high tunnel next season.
Feel free to visit or contact us with any questions you have!