Community Farm & Educational Centre
Our Approach to Growing:
We like to think we are beyond organic. I say that realizing people might think its a gimmick. We are certified by Eco Cert Canada. The difference we have is that we are making serious efforts to get as much nutrients as we can into our veggies. We employ crop rotation, cover cropping, compost, mineral rocks, compost teas and using what I call our beneficial “weeds”. (weed: a plant in the wrong place or who's positive virtues have not yet been realized or discovered.)
We often individually compost all our transplants so we know they have nutrition on hand. To make that nutrition available we use compost teas to promote a healthy and living soil food web. All vegetables have a carrying capacity for the 88 minerals available to a plant. For example tomatoes are 56 (I believe). If those minerals are present in the soil, we only need to get the biology working to make things readily available for the plant to uptake to maintain optimum health. This helps them combat weather stress, disease and pest problems.
We have a weekly routine of watering with compost teas to help feed the biology in the soil get it alive and working. (the soil food web) The more life we can get into the soil the more nutrient recycling happens. Compost teas are different blends of teas from a big tea bag of compost or plant matter or dissolvable minerals (liquid seaweed or micronized often volcanic rock dust) and sometime molasses. We generally use a shovel of forest soil, a shovel of compost and some seaweed or comfrey or stinging nettle or other “weeds” in a bag and bubble it with an air stone (same as an aquarium) for 18-24 hours. We then water the soil with it in the wee morning hours. The air keeps things in the tea aerobic and oxygenated. That way the microbes (arthropods, fungi, beneficial bacteria, nematodes) from the compost and forest soil can multiply and live in the oxygenated water where it will then gently soak into our fields. The nutrient recyclers in the compost and forest soil will inoculate the field soil and help the plants break down the fertility in the soil. Quite simply magic. Or basic biology!
We are also doing weekly foliar sprays to keep plants healthy and disease free. Foliar sprays are good for two reasons:
You can add fertility directly to your plant. (we spray just before dawn when the stomas on the plants are open and we spray over and more importantly underneath the plants foliage. There are more stomas on the underside of plants. (in the armpits!) That way it is like pouring a mineral drink into an open mouth)
It also acts as a bio film to protect the plants. Like a band aid. If a bug bites the plant and leaves an open wound, soil born and airborne disease will use that vector to get into and affect the plant. When we spray at the crack of dawn, we are replacing the morning dew with our mineral or botanical sprays and they in turn dry on the plant and protect the wound. Providing it doesn't rain!
All this provides your soil food web, the biology it needs, the minerals it needs and gets calcium and boron in the soil and available. Those two minerals I fuss over. These micronutrients are all important!
We do not plant the same family of plant in the same field for 3-5 years unless mother nature forces our hand! This is to ensure we don't take too much of one nutrient from the soil and to also move our crops away from pests that over winter in the soil.
What Certified Organic Means:
Here on the farm we are certified organic which means we have a yearly visit from an organic inspector sent by Eco Cert Canada. They check our logs, harvest records, sales sheets and they tour the fields to see we are not cheating and our crops are accounted for. We have to have receipts and records of all fertilizers and other amendments we have used and their certificates of organic certification. We also need the dates we put them in the soil and the amount. Having up to date records really helps us with our planning from year to year. We also see our inefficiencies from year to year and even week to week. Certification makes you a great record keeper once it becomes routine.
How we grow