I was asked to answer a few questions from one of our interns for her school project. Here are her questions and my responses.
Do you use organic fertilizers? If so explain what benefits you see from them.
Yes, I use organic bio-fertilizers to increase microbial activity in the soil. Microbes help with nutrient release and allow better absorption by plants. As a result, young plants experience vigorous root growth that leads to better growth of foliage, followed by better disease/pest resistance, and increased yields. They also provide a wide array of macro and micro nutrients, beneficial microbes, and feed beneficial microbes already living in the soil.
Why do you grow organic crops instead of synthetically fertilized?
Synthetic chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides are harmful to beneficial insects, wildlife, humans and our environment. Some of the most commonly used synthetic fertilizers have been linked to cancer, autism, attention deficit disorders, and other chronic diseases. The negative environmental/human impact of synthetic fertilizers is why I choose to grow organically.
Do your crops grow as large and as fast as synthetically fertilized crops would?
Yes, yields and days to harvest are the same with organically grown crops. Maintaining good soil health and a organic biodiverse ecosystem is very important for fast growth and large yields in organic farming.
How do you deal with pests on your farm?(insects, rodents, etc)
We maintain a biodiverse ecosystem to create a balanced environment in which no one insect can dominate. We use Floating row covers/insect netting to protect vulnerable crops from pest damage. Crop rotations, cover crops, applications of compost and bio-fertilizers, mechanical cultivation, maintaining good soil health. Attracting and adding beneficial insects. Traps and trap crops, fencing, companion planting and tillage. Disruption of pests lifecycle based on the understanding of pests habits and prefered environmental conditions. All of the above and then some are important in a organic pest management system.
What’s some advise you have for aspiring organic farmers?
Think first, act second. Jot down your plans and goals: What do you want to grow or raise? Who will buy it? How will you market it? A well thought out plan is invaluable. Pay attention to detail and keep a log book and journal, learn from your mistakes, making them is normal repeating them will cost you lots of valuable time and money. Always learn, have fun, pay close attention and become in tune with your environment, your soil, yourself and your plants, they will tell you what they need in order to thrive in an organic setting.