“To be a successful farmer one must first know the nature of the soil.” – Xenophon, Oeconomicus, 400 B.C.
In our house hangs a cross stitch made by my great Aunt Helen. It reads: "Mankind owes his entire existence to a 6 inch layer of top soil". We believe that the foundation of our farm is its soil. This is what gives life to our plants, which in turn give life to us. One handful of soil has more living organisms in it then there are people on this planet. We use soil-building practices to enrich our soil and all the life within it including cover crops, organic compost, and kelp meal. We never use harsh tillage methods which pulverize the soil, killing the life within. Using methods like the silage tarp pictured, we can break down crop residue without running a tractor through the soil while also providing an incredible environment for the soil organisms.
“Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.” - Wendell Berry
Pests, Weeds, and Diseases
Maintaining excellent soil health is the first, and best protection against disease and pests. The next best protection is maintaining healthy plants, a sick plant is much more susceptible to a disease, as are we. We do this through providing compost, foliar feeding, building our soil's organic matter through cover crops and using natural fertilizers such as kelp meal in our irrigation system. Constantly on the look out for diseases, we are always aware of what's going on in our fields. We only control diseases naturally.
To protect from pests our first line of defense is to put row covers (a breathable, light-penetrating fabric) on hoops over our plants which prevents the bugs from getting in. In the hot Summer months we put an insect netting over the plants so they don't overheat. We never use any synthetic pesticides.
Combating weeds is always our biggest struggle. The silage tarps pictured help to control weed seeds by providing moisture so the seeds germinate but no light so the seedlings die. This cuts back on weed pressure tremendously. Our trusty hula-hoes, wheel hoes and other hand implements help to combat weeds and we always make sure to get them when they're small. We never use any herbicides.