(Before I get into this, I want to say that this is a watered down, straight to the point email, even given its length. I could talk about this topic for hours! If you have questions, or want to know more, please don't hesitate to reach out!)
This week's highlight is our farming practices!
We are a small farm growing our food on about 1/4 acre, looking to expand to just under 1/2 acre this year.
All of what we do is by hand - no sprays, no tractors, just delicious food!
And no, we haven't just lost our minds and decided to make everything harder for no reason! 😂 It turns out, that this approach is excellent for the soil.
This approach is called, "no till," or, "low till," farming. Depending on who you ask (like with everything!) they will have a different opinion on what no till actually is. Some say that you can't grow root crops in a no till system because harvesting them disturbs the soil. That's not our opinion.
For us, no till means we disturb the soil as little as possible. And in particular, avoid turning the soil over. This allows for all of the microscopic living things to thrive and support the soil. With conventional tillage, the soil gets mixed around and exposes those organisms to the air/sun which kills them.
Life in the soil is essential to a healthy crop. That life is responsible for breaking things down and feeding our crops with their waste. This helps eliminate the need for adding supplemental food for the plants in the form of pelletized fertilizers. We do add amendments to the soil, but it's stuff like kelp meal, alfalfa meal, fish fertilizer… things that you can understand the name of!
Once your soil has been restored (we are working on it by adding lots of compost, getting our soil tested, adding nutrients and minerals needed, and disturbing the soil as little as possible) this practice allows you to grow more intensely, creating a larger yield in a smaller space.
This is why we were able to support 30 CSAs and 2 farmers markets on 1/4 acre, when many farms running the same number of CSAs
need quadruple that space! We are also able to reduce the size of our walking paths and beds since we don't need to leave space for a tractor, which also helps maximize the use of space.
We also don't have the overhead, or environmental impact of a tractor. Yes, it's a lot more work to do it by hand, but it's better for our soil, the environment, our wallets, and our time. We waste no time or money on equipment repairs, which has helped our bottom line significantly.
We often get funny looks from old school farmers because this isn't "how it's been done." When in reality, agriculture has been around a lot longer than tractors have, and major tillage wasn't used until tractors became popular. So, we are actually getting back to our roots 😉 by going to till.
Again, I could talk about this for hours! I feel like I've left so much out haha so if you have an interest in this topic, there are a lot of excellent YouTube videos out there, and I would be happy to answer your questions as well!
Stay warm out there ❄️ ❤️
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Night Owl Farm · 49 Prospect Street · Franklin, MA 02038 · USA