Slowly and Gently, In Full Accord with Nature
This is exactly how we grow our farm-fresh vegetables, herbs, microgreens, and edible flowers—and so we thought we’d talk more today about what that phrase really means.
If we could magically transport ourselves back to a farm in, say, 1900, it would mean that we were growing our crops in the same way as most of the other farms surrounding us. In 2020, though, it makes us stand out. That’s because much of today’s agriculture now uses large-scale industrial processes, intended for mass production and consumption. This process can be highly mechanized, relying on fertilizers and pesticides with little crop rotation.
The result? Lessening of soil quality, which in turn reduces nutrition in crops grown.
We’re not here to criticize any other farmers. We’ve shared this information so we can contrast our regenerative farming methods where we grow our crops slowly and gently, in full accord with nature.
Slowly and Gently
Let’s start with the soil.
Soil, as Bob Jones, Jr. shares, “needs food, air, and water to enable its productivity—just like people do. Plus, to build soil that’s especially productive, it’s important to also give it some rest.”
Through our regenerative farming practices, that’s exactly what we provide for our soil: food, air, water—and rest.
In other words, we don’t rush into planting yet another round of crops right after harvesting the last one. We give our soil time to rest and rejuvenate, which illuminates what we mean when we say we plant our crops slowly.
Plus, feeding our soil is at the heart of our regenerative farming methodology, and that’s accomplished through the use of cover crops. These are in fact the most important crops we grow, even though we never sell them. We never promote their flavor or their color. And yet, during any growing season, cover crops are planted on two thirds of our 400 farmable acres.
Examples of cover crops we use include oats, rye, alfalfa, and buckwheat. We plant the appropriate diverse mixture of them in our fields, allowing those crops to grow a bit, and then we gently till them back into the soil. Microorganisms in the soil then break down the organic material to feed the soil. We repeat this process as many times as needed.
In Full Accord with Nature
Here’s how Bob, Jr. has explained this process.
“It’s kind of a composting process when you look at cover crops. It’s the flow of energy from the sun to the cover crop, from the cover crop to the soil, and from the soil to the microorganisms, from the organisms to the vegetables. The organisms are feeding off of the root exudates that are a product of photosynthesis, converting soil chemistry to a form that the plant can take back up. We’re putting a diversity of plant organic matter back into the soil to be decomposed by the organisms that are in the soil naturally, as long as you haven’t put something on the soil to kill those.”
That’s another crucial point: by cultivating and nurturing healthy soil, the need for any kind of pesticide is drastically reduced. Plus, in our microbially active soil, we benefit from what’s called “competitive exclusion.” In other words, many of the bad things, such as some e-coli strains, can’t even get a foothold in health soil. Crops grown in this healthy soil have strong immune systems themselves. They are less susceptible to illness, with reduced pressure from insects.
Knowing how to build healthy soil is key and we’ve experimented with combinations of cover crops to introduce the optimal diversity into our soil. Through that process, we’ve found that including four to six different species within a single cover crop planting cycle can maximize impact. This isn’t a one-and-done process, either. Our farm team rotates where cover crops are planted, consistently repeating the process.
More about Health Soil
Through our regenerative farming methods, we are continually giving back to the soil, making it increasingly healthier and productive. In contrast, much of today’s farming can be compared to mining, where resources are continually being stripped from the soil.
Our farm team is always learning, pushing the bar further and further as we enhance best practices. One way we’re doing this is through our agricultural research lab (stay tuned for some pretty amazing results!).
So, by growing slowly and gently in full accord with nature, we’re focused on the following goal: healthy soil, healthy crops, healthy people.
Ordering Farm-Fresh Vegetables
Here’s more about how we’re planting this year and what delicious farm-fresh produce is available. Chefs, we encourage you to contact your product specialist to talk about what you need for your dishes and menus.
Home chefs: choose from a variety of farmer’s market home delivery boxes, filled with that same quality, delicious flavor, and nutrition. Everything in the box is harvested at the peak of freshness and flavor, shipped directly to you!