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More on the Subject of Petroleum Inputs…plus mkt 1.26.2019

After last week’s thoughts about plastic bags, this week we have our brains on the use/consumption of synthetics throughout agriculture. Plastic bags are made from petroleum, and so are a lot of inputs in farming.

The industrial food system, which we readily admit we ourselves need, despite our role as food growers, is heavily dependent on fossil fuels. Chemical agriculture (more commonly known as “conventional” agriculture) is the worse culprit, eating up fossil fuels in the form of chemical fertilizers that are usually derived from by-products of the petroleum industry and to power the heavy use of large machinery to till, plant, weed, spray, and harvest. Add to this the fact that most food today is consumed an average 1,500 miles from where it was grown, and you have heavy use of petroleum products to transport food. This is a huge topic and we are just scratching the surface with this minimal explanation. Please dive into reading about this if you are inspired.

In comparison, the organic sector of agriculture uses fertilizers free from petroleum. Our fertilizers are instead made of plant, animal, or mineral ingredients. Think kelp, bone meal, and rock dust for three relevant examples.

{Here are the pallets of organic fertilizer and potting mix that we have delivered this week!}

However, large scale organic agriculture still used tremendous amounts of fossil fuel to power machines to till, plant, weed, spray (organic sprays), and harvest. One huge benefit to farms like ours is that we use very little machinery to grow our plants. We don’t till at all in some fields of ours, and in all fields we use very minimal tillage of only the top two inches of soil. This is better for the soil and also minimizes our use of fossil fuels. We even have a couple of small battery powered tools which are charged in our barn that is equipped with solar panels.  We do not use any machines to weed – we either mulch or remove weeds with hand tools (and in worse case scenarios we use our actual hands!). We spray organic sprays (some are soaps that kill bugs, others are nutrient sprays of organic plant food) with a backpack, hand-pumped sprayer. We harvest everything by hand.


And then after our food is harvested, 10% of it we don’t transport any distance at all! The eaters of the food pick it up right here where it was grown. Sure, these folks have to then drive the food back to their house, but that holds true for when eaters shop at the grocery store. The food has zero miles driven off of the farm to reach the end consumer. The other 90% of our food travels a max distance of 29 miles to meet the customer.

Comparatively, our impact is a very small fraction of that of big, chemical farms. Even with our use of plastic bags. We also know farms like ours aren’t tasked with feeding the billions of people on our planet. However, farms like ours are tasked with feeding the very best food we can grow to about 200 nearby households. Imagine how different things can be if there are more farms like ours in the future. And in conjunction with that imagining, remember that a future like that depends upon having the additional customers needed to support more farms like ours. It’s not an easy prospect. But it’s a beneficial one.

We know fossil fuel consumption (in the form of fertilizer, tractor fuel, or plastic bags) isn’t sustainable because fossil fuels are finite on this earthship. Thus, by definition, an alternative needs to exist in the future. Legislation usually drives the change in manufacturing that is needed to support the sort of change we envision. We may lose some newsletter subscribers by voicing this, but we know of no other truth. Specific to plastic bags, local governments are starting to require this sort of change. Some farmers’ markets lead the way by setting “plastic-free market” rules. We are part of various farmer groups that discuss relevant topics, and this subject is certainly in the dialogue. There are no good leads on plastic bag alternatives right now that effectively hold tender greens. But we use many things today that weren’t imaginable 50 years ago, so we will remain optimistic for the future. And we’ll keep growing this food with as little negative environmental impact as we can muster.


Sometimes the bumper stickers that we get from our organic farm supply company get used to patch a rip in the plastic on our greenhouse. 🙂 

Thank you for being on this journey with us. We think it’s healthy to keep critically thinking and striving for better. See you at market (or Farm Share pick up) tomorrow!

Ready to join our Farm Share for 2019?
Farm Shares are available for our main season which runs May through November. Read details here and please sign up to join our farm! We are offering a new  *customizable* Farm Share through the new software called Harvie. Choose what you prefer from our harvest for weekly or bi-weekly shares!

Our harvest this week includes: 
Cabbage, Carrots, Dill, a wee bit of Lettuce, Microgreens, Salad…and our Organic Hearth Baked Bread (Baguettes, Herb, Whole Rye, Raisin, & Seed loaves for this weekend).

{Our farmstand is open with most of the above items…see here for updated inventory}

Everything remaining after member shares are filled and our farm stand is shopped (plus the bread we bake Saturday morning)… we’ll bring on Saturday to the Farmer’s Market @ St. Stephen’s. Also keep an eye on what we have available via Richmond’s only online farmers’ market: FallLineFarms.com.

Enjoy ~

Janet, Dan, & the whole Broadfork crew
Want to follow along during the week, including Farm Stand updates? Visit us on Facebook or Instagram 

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