I think I’ll do a few posts (not necessarily consecutively) on the subject of what our farm is, and why. We are a diversified, sustainable, family farm. We encourage and participate in local economies and seasonal eating. We enjoy work, rather than avoid it. We grow our food without poisons or chemicals. We consider ourselves stewards of our little slice of creation. Our mission is to produce the healthiest best-tasting food possible and to be a part of reversing the national health crisis we are experiencing as a result of poor food choices. I’ll try to elaborate on each of these things over the next few days and weeks.
I’ll kick it off with this: we are a diversified farm.
I often get asked what we grow on our farm. Most people expect an answer like “corn” or “broccoli.” My preferred answer is “food.”
Unfortunately the standard model farm in America now is a monoculture–something like a few hundred acres of wheat, potatoes or lettuce. Traditional diversified family farms are extremely rare. Traditionally, family farms didn’t operate on monocultures and neither do we. We grow food to eat, not to mass-market. So we grow lots of different kinds of fruits and vegetables. Every type of plant feeds differently on the soil, so monocultures deplete and ruin it quickly, requiring heavy doses of chemical fertilizers. Monocultures also destroy biological diversity, as they attract only the bugs that feed on them, again necessitating chemicals–in this case lots of pesticides.
All farms used to be diversified. Farms were typically nearly self-sufficient. Traditionally farm families raised crops to eat and fertilized them with the manure from their livestock. Farmers essentially harvested sunlight. The sun and rain grew the grass which fed the animals, which produced the manure, which fertilized the gardens, which provided food for the people, who tended the animals. In such a self-contained system, no chemicals, poisons and synthetic fertilizers were necessary.
We don’t limit ourselves to a single crop or farming activity. We do lots of different things and we do it without imported labor.
Here’s what we have growing on our farm right now: purple hull peas, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, summer and winter squash, sweet corn, okra, zuchinni, 9 varieties of tomatoes, cantaloupes, watermelons, 2 varieties of eggplant, 3 varieties of green beans, lima beans, october beans, swiss chard, 2 varieties of eggplant, carrots, beets and several varities of sweet and hot peppers. In the spring we grew broccoli, kale, collards, english peas, radishes, turnip greens, spinach, mustard greens, cabbage, several varieties of lettuce, asparagus, onions, garlic, and 3 varieties of potatoes. While we’re still harvesting our summer gardens, we’re already preparing to plant our fall gardens, which will include cauliflower and brussels sprouts, as well as spinach, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, collard greens, and broccoli. We also grow strawberries and grapes and have lots of apple and pear trees. We pick and eat lots of wild blackberries. We get fresh eggs from our chickens every day and when we have unwanted young roosters they become part of what we eat. We raise goats to sell and pigs to eat. I kill a couple of the many deer that live here, and an ocassional rabbit, for meat. We get fish from our pond. We’re also growing shiitake mushrooms. We have hayfields and bale hay every year to feed our animals in the winter. We keep bees for honey. We heat our home with wood from fallen trees on our farm. I’m sure I left some things out.
Of all those things, none of them are done on a large scale. But with that kind of variety we are able to provide lots of healthy delicious food to ourselves and others, while maintaining the beauty and natural harmony of a diversified farm.
We wouldn’t have it any other way.