How We Grow
Intensive Production /// Maximum Yields
No matter how well our farm might promote the health of our local ecosystem, if it can not support ourselves and the community then we can not ensure its growth and its future. We therefore utilize strategies to make sure we grow the most food possible all year long.
Efficient, Practical Design: We simplify the complexity of natural systems by laying out standardized growing spaces which are easily planned and managed to limit our workload.
High Fertility, High Activity: We are not dogmatic about the use of fertilizers and soil amendments. But we strategically use compost, organic materials, and naturally-sourced mineral amendments to optimize our long-term nutrient levels and to assist the natural cycles of biological activity maintain and increase fertility over time. There initial additives are being reduced and will eventually be eliminated once the system is full developed.
High-Density Planting: We space crops close together to maximize every square inch of our limited bed space.
Season-extension: We have both temporary and permanent greenhouse structures which allow us to harvest crops beyond the confines of the outdoor growing season.
No-till /// Soil Health
The primary goal of a no-till system is to facilitate the health and vigor of the soil biology. There are many ways to achieve this goal, and many definitions of a "no-till" system. Most define it as a system which never inverts the soil layers, which we agree with, but even in the uncultivated forests and prairies we can find pigs digging, birds scratching, bison trampling, trees uprooting, and all manner of soil-disturbing forces churning away. Therefore we do use strategic and controlled disturbance to increase soil health, but always with clear goals and understanding of our actions in mind.
Broadfork: The broadfork is a wide human-powered fork which penetrates deep into the ground loosening and aerating the soil. This is especially useful in increasing the depth of our top soil by slowly allowing aerobic bacteria and organic material further down into the soil without inverting their habitat.
Fungal Structures: Mushrooms and their long "root" systems are the internet of the plant kingdom. They upload and download nutrient packets transferring them across species and between plants.
Root Crops: We love harvesting root crops, reaching deep into the soil to uproot carrots, daikon radishes, leeks, potatoes, beets and other crops which help loosen the soil. We also leave the roots of many plants like lettuce and kale which decompose below ground and provide nutrient-rich channels for worms and soil biology.
Shallow Cultivation: We do cultivate between different crops, as well as to control weeds. We make sure that this cultivation never unnecessarily interferes with soil life.
ROTATIONAL planting /// Natural succession
The hallmark of a biological system is natural succession. Every day it becomes more perfect, more productive, more mature. A strong healthy system is one that you can walk away from and it continues to produce and increase in strength and vigor.
No Empty Beds: We try to never leave beds on the farm empty for more than 1 week.
Transplanting: Though directly seeding crops in the field often takes less time up front, in order to facilitate our intensive production we we have a constant supply of baby plants on hand to plug into empty spaces. It also ensures a higher success rate because we know that every plant we put in the field is strong and healthy before it takes up any bed space.
System Succession: We don't plan only to have a bed of carrots followed by a bed of kale. We plan to have the whole vegetable field someday followed by trees. We make sure the various enterprises on the farm are constantly maturing and progressing.
Management Succession: We intend to leverage the resources and yields of this farm to empower others and allow their ideas and skills to eventually take over and manage the farm as we move on to other agricultural projects.
Intercropping /// Complementary plantings
Because our farm is focused on maximizing space as well as diversity, we grow many of our crops together. While the "three-sisters" model is the common illustration of this, it goes beyond beans, corn and squash. Our crops are planted alongside others, specifically ones that provide serves to each other and utilize what the other is not able to access, ultimately producing a greater yield on a small square footage.
Resource-partitioning: Crops are intentionally group to utilize different amount or degrees of nutrients, water, and sunlight as they grow together.
Mutually beneficial: Plants that make use of each other's waste streams or by products to leverage their own growth are incorporated together on the farm. Sometimes these relationships span large distances or times and sometimes they are within the same bed.
Succession: We manage a crop rotation that is progressive, in that it does not always cycle but grows and evolves as the system matures.
Crop Diversity /// Bio-diversity
Just as a person is a much greater whole than the sum of their individual interests, their voice, their face, or their laugh, the beauty of an ecosystem comes when the properties and processes within it are the result of wonderful and complex interactions between many different organisms. And just as a resilient business is one which has many revenue streams, the resilient farm has many crop species whose functions are duplicated and reinforced by the other species.
Pest management: Facilitating habitat at the farm naturally leads to larger numbers of predatory insects which help manage our pest populations and educe disease pressure.
Useful weeds/perennials: Rather than visualize the negative side of wild plants that show up on our farm, we attempt to understand what harvestable yield they can give us. We also identify what niche they fill and whether there is a more productive plant that plays a similar role.
Resiliency: When certain item don't sell or we experience crop failures having a diverse array of crops allows us to continue to be profitable.