8 – Farm Practices
NATURE’S ROUTE FARM CULTURAL PRACTICES
While not certified organic, we always consider organic methods in dealing with problems. Keeping up to date with new and old technology, we do our utmost to follow best practices; for the environment, food safety, energy conservation, biodiversity and “people safety”. Our rule of thumb is that we do not apply anything on our vegetables that we would not want our children exposed to. We do not believe that any type of agriculture is a “best practice” template and we feel that we need to consider the pros and cons of all methodologies when selecting “Nature’s Route Farm’s” practices. We believe in being completely transparent in our practices and hope that this explanation provides you with insight into our methods while reassuring you that our practices are truly sustainable.
All crops need ample nutrients to thrive. Without enough to eat our vegetables take more work, more fossil fuels, have more pests and lower yields. We export a lot of vegetables that consist of nutrients from the soil. We have to replace those nutrients somehow.
Green Manures. We use an extensive crop rotation to control weeds, pests and provide green manure fertilizers for our crops. Rotation crops include perennial grasses, buckwheat, fall rye, oats, vetches and field peas.
Manure. Manure (home gown and neighbour grown) is our best fertilizer. It provides nutrients in proportions that our vegetables can use and is a great soil amendment. In the long run we are working towards applying manure as compost. We ensure that there is at least 4 months between spreading of manure and harvesting of vegetables.
Crabmeal. We buy crabmeal from W.E. Acres in Cap Pele and use it to provide nitrogen, phosphorous and calcium. As our flock of sheep grows and we get more manure we hope to significantly reduce our crabmeal applications.
K-Mag. http://www.kmag.com/ We use a commercial look alike to K-Mag, an organic certifiable source of potassium to compensate for our potassium deficiency.
Boron. Our soil is prone to boron deficiency and we grow several crops that are heavy boron users. We use Solubor – 20.5% and also have it added to our K-Mag fertilizer.
Our thorough crop rotations combined with naturally low pest pressure enable us to grow vegetables without an entire arsenal of pest control measures. We know people do not like to get worms in their broccoli (or corn) and we believe that potatoes are an excellent food source; these crops require some intervention on our part to control pests. Considering the effort we put into growing your food and the reliance you have on us to provide your food (and our reliance on the income we derive from the food we sell) we accept the responsibility of managing pests in an environmentally sustainable and safe way. Until 2010 we had never applied pesticides to our crops. We use certified organic products to control insects and cabbage worms.
Treated Seeds. Seeds are often treated with fungicides and may be treated with insecticides. We always specify untreated seed in our seed orders. In the past if there was a “mix-up” and we got treated seeds; we always ensured that we told our clients that their food was grown using treated seeds.
Fungicides. Until 2011 we had never applied fungicides and did experience significant crop failures due to late blight (the same fungus that caused the Irish Potato Famine). Late blight affects potatoes and tomatoes mostly. Organic agriculture uses copper to control fungus. I hesitate to apply copper on my farm because it persists in the soil, is not a selective fungicide and it is not really very effective. As an alternative, starting in 2011 we will apply phosphorous acid (labelled CONFINE) to provide systemic protection (http://www4.agr.gc.ca/abstract-resume/abstract-resume.htm?lang=eng&id=21313000000486). This is a very promising techonolgy that should significantly reduce our environmental impact while being safe for consumers.
Herbicides. We do not use herbicides. We weed by hand, with a hoe and cultivate with the tractors. Our crop rotation plays a significant roll in controlling our worst weed, couch grass.
Insecticides. Insects are the cause of our most challenging pest problems. Corn Ear Worms, European Corn Borer, Colorado Potato Beetle (CPB), and Cabbage Worms are the main culprits. Until 2010 we had never used insecticides on our farm and consider their use a last resort; for you, the environment, and us. Here are the products that we may use:
- Entrust 80W. The Colorado Potato Bug has gotten out of control and for our neighbours’ sake and the sake of all the nightshade related vegetables we grow we will use an organic insecticide to bring our population down. We will be using a certified organic insecticide – entrust 80w - http://www.dowagro.com/ca/prod/entrust.htm We take steps to protect our pollinators.
- Netting. We will use insect netting and row cover to protect some crops from insect damage. Insect netting is effective at controlling insect and “worms” in radish, broccoli and cabbage.
- BT. BT is a certified organic insecticide. We use BT primarly on cole crops (broccoli, cabbage…) when netting has not been effective and while we transition to a more effective netting system. http://www.valent.com/agriculture/products/dipel/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&pageid=19241
We respect Roxbury Farm and their management practices and invite you to see what they have to say on this subject: http://roxburyfarm.blogspot.com/ – check out the 25 August 2009 entry.