We haven’t written with a focus on growing practices in a while and therefore it’s time again. How we grow food for you is the leading motivator for us. Here is what guides us daily: Growing food for optimum nutrition, using only biological/ecological/eco-ganic/Certified Naturally Grown practices.
But what does all that mean? We often hear from members of our community that they don’t know what “organic food” really means. What is conventional farming? Is there really a difference? What does Certified Naturally Grown mean? We offer tours each spring and fall to show people our farm, explain what these terms mean, and explain how and why we grow vegetables. As a way of introducing this fall’s tour, giving you all a head-start on understanding these methods, and for those that can’t make it to a tour soon, here is our primer on how we grow and what it means.
For us, the process begins with the soil and the seed. As required by our certification, we purchase Certified Organic seed whenever available (not all seed varieties area available as Certified Organic), and never any GMO seed. We start our plants in a potting mix that we make, containing only organic fertilizer, and also beneficial mycorrhizal fungi to inoculate the soil with colonies of fungi that help the plants take up mineral nutrients.
What does “organic” mean? Organic agriculture uses only inputs from plant, animal, and mineral sources. Synthetic (human-made) and petroleum substances are not part of an organic farming system. We use only plant, animal, and mineral inputs on our farm, from seed to harvest.
Organic inputs allow the microbiology of the soil to be alive. Living soil biology allows for healthy plants that can better take up nutrients needed by us human consumers. Healthy plants resist pest and disease better, taste better, and are more nutritious. We are here to serve the health of the consumers of the food that we grow!
We take soil samples for testing every year, sometimes twice per year, so that we know what macro- and micro-nutrients are needed in specific areas so that we can amend the soil appropriately. We source organic soil amendments to make the soil have what it needs to grow this food in a sustainable, nutritious way.
For pest and disease control, we first aim to avoid problems by allowing the plants to be as healthy as possible through the management described above. Plants without healthy soil to grow in are more likely to have pest and disease problems. This is analogous to the fact that healthy people are less likely to succumb to a disease when exposed.
We also work to attract beneficial insects – those that prey on the pesky ones – by planting plants that the beneficial insects like to live in. That doesn’t always work perfectly, of course, and therefore when needed to combat bugs or plant disease, we utilize substances that have plant, animal, and mineral ingredients.
The alternative to organic agriculture is known as “conventional” agriculture and currently makes up 99% of agriculture for the US and for the state of Virginia. Conventional agriculture uses fertilizers that are synthesized and petroleum based (synthetic). This fertilizer wrecks the biology of the soil and also runs readily downstream, wreaking havoc in our watersheds, namely the Chesapeake Bay. Conventional farming also uses synthetic/chemical methods for pests, disease, and weeds. (Weeds on organic farms are controlled using mulch and cultivation – ie: ripping up the weeds.) These chemical treatments also destroy the biology in the soil, in addition to being toxic to humans and wildlife. So, if you see food for sale, presume it is grown with chemical inputs. We think this is not a sustainable method for growing food, nor a healthy one.
~ *~*~ Vegetable Profile Intermission! ~*~*~
Pictured above is a strange looking (to most people) cucumber. We love it. It is incredibly delicious, and it shows great resistance to Downy Mildew, which is one of the plant diseases we deal with a lot. The hot, humid climate here makes perfect growing conditions for mildew. If you look up the mainstream way to kill this fungus, you get a recommended list of fungicides (that are not available to gardeners). That means professional food growers (farmers) get to apply it. These substances are not allowed in organic systems. So we find other means to combat the disease, including variety selection. So, fear not the unfamiliar cucumber! Embrace it, eat it, enjoy it, and know that it, like everything else we sell, is grown by us, and Certified Naturally Grown, free of any synthetic/chemical inputs,
and managed for optimum nutrition. This is how we build health through real food!
As part of our commitment to transparent, biological growing practices, farm education, and community involvement, we are proud to be once again participating in the Richmond Farm Tour, put on by Ellwood Thompson’s and the VABF. We will be open for tours on Oct 3 and 4, with guided tours at 3:00 each day. See the website link above for ticket purchasing info, or purchase tickets at the Ellwood’s customer service counter. There are lots of options for you to be able to visit farms and learn more about biological farming!
Thank you for caring about how food is grown, and for caring about our role in this community. Please feel free to ask us any questions you may have!
Available for Market Share CSA members to choose from this week:
Beets, Collards, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Garlic, Green Beans, Kale, Lettuce Mix, Microgreens, Okra, Peppers (sweet and spicy), Salad Mix, Summer Squash (yellow and zucchini), Tomatoes…and Naturally Leavened, Organic Multigrain Bread.
Recipe Suggestions: see these and others cataloged on our Recipe Page
These are from CSA members, tried and true:
Quick Braised Swiss Chard with White Beans and Chorizo
Chickpea Flour Stuffed Peppers – use any type of pepper, even very small ones. We are told this is delicious without mango powder and to just slit the peppers and put the spiced-flour-paste inside. Then bake or shallow fry. Yum!
Roasted Okra – simple and delicious!
Cucumber and Charred Onion Salad
Summer Squash Saute
Vegetables not ordered by our Market Share CSA members will join us at the Brandermill Green Market , Market at Magnolia Green, or the South of the James market this Saturday. Anyone may order select goods from us through Fall Line Farms, Richmond’s online farmers’ market. You can use discount code “broadfork” to earn a complimentary 6 month subscription.