Friday, May 18, 2012

What does "Sustainable" Farming Mean?

I am sure you have heard the word “Sustainable” agriculture/farming.  On our farm, we use sustainable farming practices, meaning our concerns and methods allow for the production of crops and livestock in such a way that it does not damage the land or its natural resources, preserving it for future generations.
We conserve irrigation water by the use of a drip system on our vegetables and have installed a timer to keep the watering consistent.  Another sustainable practice is the rotation of crops which helps to keep the soil full of nutrients.  In our winter months, we plant Fava beans which not only are wonderful to eat, but are high in nitrogen.  In the spring, we mulch the plants and plow them back into the soil enriching nitrogen naturally.  We plant potatoes for our CSA customers which when finished, leaves the soil higher in nitrogen.  This year, where I had previously grown the potatoes, we planted green beans, which just LOVE nitrogen.  It is suggested for small vegetable gardeners that there should be 3 sections of planting; each year to completely rotate around each section i.e. When Section 1 is finished, it goes to Section 2; 2 goes to section 3; 3 goes back to section 1 on the 3rd year.  Of course, it is always recommended to compost in your yard and to put your mulch back into your soil when needed or during the winter months. (photo is example of gardening sections)
Around our property lines, we have left the blackberries and trees and brush to help wildlife alive and a natural setting. I am not saying it is wrong, but so many farmers cut down every tree, spray or burn every bush, weed, plant on their irrigation ditches and property lines to maximize planting of crops.   We try and encourage birds to help eat insects so we have put up bluebird boxes; bird feeders and have owl boxes to help with the gopher problems.  I saw recently an idea where people put out yarns in a basket for the birds to use for nesting.  I am a knitter so I have lots of bits and pieces of yarn, I will be doing that next year to encourage nesting in the nearby trees.
I feel that our sustainable practices must be working because our small 5 acre farm has a den of foxes in the back; we have blue birds nesting in our boxes; the trees are filled with every imaginable bird; I have frogs everyplace; so far this year I have seen 4 snakes (good ones); we have owls in our boxes; we have a big family of quail that live in the blackberries and roam around our place; we have our resident pheasant; and loads and loads of bees on anything that is blooming.  All living in harmony with Frank and I as we weed our vegetables, disk our fields; water the orchard.  Now I must say one negative about this friendly relationship.  Those darn birds are getting into my cherry trees before I have had a chance to pick them!!!  I am going to get out my netting today to try and save my cherry crops!!  They are going to have to stay with worms.
Some gardening tips and suggestions for this week:  Don’t forget to water now that the weather is warming up. Check those drip systems and sprinklers so they are working properly.  Trees are best deep soaked well a couple times a week rather than quick sprinkling, it encourages roots to go deeper.  May is traditionally a time to fertilize trees, shrubs, flowers to give them a good start for the summer.
Gardening is fun and so rewarding for yourself and your family.  If you don’t have much area to put in a garden, then have a few pots. Plant a tomato, maybe some herbs or a cucumber plant.  Put some sticks in the pots and have the cukes grow up instead of down.  I saw these mason jars used as hanging lights, thought they would be so cute for summer dinners.

From Windmill Farm-

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