As we prepare to enter fall, we are nearing the end of the bulk of our field work and plowing for the year. This would make a good time to share some of our growing practices, which many of you already have a pretty good idea about. Obviously, we are all about growing sustainably, but that means different things for different people. To us, it means using the land in a way that it will be able to replenish itself and even have improved soil over time. It means not spraying chemicals and adding synthetic inputs, which conventional farmers do to address immediate problems without addressing long-term concerns. It means farming on a scale that works for us and the land that we farm. We also strive to have economic sustainability, so that we can continue to do what we are doing. All of these aspects are important.
You may know that we are not certified organic. This is not because we would not pass organic certification. On the contrary - we go above and beyond those requirements. We aren't certified because that presents, for us, an unnecessary cost in money and in time for a certification that we don't really need. We sell all of our produce locally and directly to our customers (via the CSA, to local restaurants, or at farmers' markets), so with all of those face-to-face relationships, the power of word of mouth, and even our web presence, we know that our people can trust us to be growing food the right way. Plus, we do offer an open door farm policy, so if anybody ever wants to see what we're doing, we encourage a visit to the farm.
I'll go on to say that the organic certification can also be tricky because it allows consumers to let their guard down. Even certified growers are allowed to add inputs to their farm that still really aren't that great for people to be eating and for the land itself. But once ready for harvest, organic produce is not allowed to have certain levels of a known list of chemicals. So I guess the point of saying this is that it is best for us all to know where our food is coming from, whether or not it has an "organic" label on it.
We also follow Biodynamic practices when we are able to. Biodynamic farming is "a holistic understanding of agricultural processes" that was created and promoted in the early 1900's by Rudolf Steiner, the Austrian educator who is also responsible for Waldorf schools. The biodynamic website says it best:
"Biodynamic farmers strive to create a diversified, balanced farm ecosystem that generates health and fertility as much as possible from within the farm itself. Preparations made from fermented manure, minerals and herbs are used to help restore and harmonize the vital life forces of the farm and to enhance the nutrition, quality and flavor of the food being raised. Biodynamic practitioners also recognize and strive to work in cooperation with the subtle influences of the wider cosmos on soil, plant and animal health.
Most biodynamic initiatives seek to embody triple bottom line approaches (ecological, social and economic sustainability), taking inspiration from Steiner’s insights into social and economic life as well as agriculture. Community supported agriculture (CSA), for example, was pioneered by biodynamic farmers, and many biodynamic practitioners work in creative partnerships with other farms and with schools, medical and wellness facilities, restaurants, hotels, homes for social therapy and other organizations. Biodynamics is thus not just a holistic agricultural system but also a potent movement for new thinking and practices in all aspects of life connected to food and agriculture. "
So we try to use some of these principles even when we aren't able to use them all. For instance, we don't have the ability to create enough compost on our farm, so we end up buying it from different local sources to supplement what we are able to produce on farm. And while Biodynamics promotes starting, caring for, and harvesting specific plants on specific days, sometimes you can't realistically make that happen easily on a working farm.
In addition to using compost to provide nutrients to our crops and to improve the soil with organic matter, we also use a variety of tools and equipment which allows us to work the land to the best of our ability and at our scale. We use tractors to spread compost, to plow, to make seedbeds, and to cultivate. We also do an awful lot by hand: weeding and hoeing, planting, mulching, trellising, harvesting, etc. Basically, we are working hard to do things efficiently, at the right scale, and in a way that leaves the land better than we found it, while fostering community at the same time. All of you get to be a part of this too, and we are very glad about that.
A nice bit of news: we have enough fall crops growing now that we should to be able to offer some greens this week! We'll start out with a bit of mixed salad greens, similar to what you were able to try in the spring. This will be some combination of arugula, mizuna, tatsoi, mustard greens, and maybe even baby leaf lettuce. You can eat it raw as a salad or throw it on the stove to wilt with eggs or other vegetables. We hope to have a constant supply of greens from here on out!
In addition to the salad greens, we have plenty of great stuff growing in the fields: broccoli, kale, collards, lettuce, carrots, beets, radishes, and much more. We are excited to share the harvest with you this fall!