Well… according to the US Department of Agriculture National Organic Program, if you meet these standards, you can qualify as Organic:
See the section on Organic crops, in particular mostly dictates what inputs you can’t use. However, a more detailed section on regulations is a bit more detailed: soil fertility and crop management practice standard
The organic standards describe the specific requirements that must be verified by a USDA-accredited certifying agent before products can be labeled USDA organic. Overall, organic operations must demonstrate that they are protecting natural resources, conserving biodiversity, and using only approved substances. A brief summary is provided below.View regulations.
Organic crops. The USDA organic seal verifies that irradiation, sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizers, prohibited pesticides, and genetically modified organisms were not used.
Organic livestock. The USDA organic seal verifies that producers met animal health and welfare standards, did not use antibiotics or growth hormones, used 100% organic feed, and provided animals with access to the outdoors.
Organic multi-ingredient foods. The USDA organic seal verifies that the product has 95% or more certified organic content. If the label claims that it was made with specified organic ingredients, you can be sure that those specific ingredients are certified organic.
A battle is taking place in the onion beds.
If you take a walk out to Boyce and stroll past the front field and the garlic planting, you’ll find yourself staring at a bed of newly transplanted onions with yellowed tops. The Crops team discovered recently that the onions are host to wire worm and root maggot. Wire worms are the larval form of Click Beetles (Elateridae family) and cause damage to vegetables by tunneling through their succulent roots. The damage to the roots results in less vigorous, stunted, and yellowed plants. Additionally, the tunnels are a gateway for bacteria, viruses, and fungi, making the plant more susceptible to disease.
According to CSA manager, Abby, the onions are worth saving as they add considerable value to our winter CSA share. We sell every last onion, every year. To combat the infestation, Crops has applied a biological control in the form of parasitic nematodes. When the nematodes arrived, they were mixed into water and loaded into the backpack sprayers. Once the nematodes hatch, they will enter the host species and parasitize them from within. For more than you ever want to know about these microscopic non-segmented roundworms click here: Nematode info.
Stay tuned for updates on the onions and exciting nematode application videos!
According to Merriam-Webster…
1: to prepare or prepare and use for the raising of crops; also : to loosen or break up the soil about (growing plants)
2a : to foster the growth of <cultivate vegetables> b : culture 2a c : to improve by labor, care, or study : refine <cultivate the mind>
3: further, encourage <cultivate the arts>
4: to seek the society of : make friends with
It is truly fascinating that in farming the way that we do, we manage to encourage all four definitions!
The actual purpose of this post was to discuss a few ways we hand cultivate our land.
Figure 1. The Collinear Hoe
This essential tool was designed by Eliot Coleman, a proponent of organic agriculture and author of The New Organic Grower (1989). It is essentially a long thin razor like piece of steel attached to a long wooden handle. It allows the user to weed without bending over and creating strain on the back. The razor like steel slices through the tiny weed seedlings around the base of the plant.
Figure 2. The Wheel Hoe
Like an extra wide stirrup hoe with wheels that you can push! The wheel hoe is used by a push/pull motion as you walk down a row. It lets us get pretty close to the crop, so long as we seeded/planted in a straight line! Like the collinear, the wheel how reduces strain on your back.
Every spring, the Crops staff plants new strawberry plants and doesn’t harvest from them.
Not unlike laying hens, the productivity of old strawberry plantings go down every year after they reach a certain maturity. Therefore, new ones need to be brought in to replace the old ones! Every spring, a delivery of several thousand dormant strawberry plants are packed bared rooted and sent over from Nourse Farms in Western MA. Once they reach our farm, we put put them in a water bath and get them in the ground as soon as possible.
Then we leave them alone.
Instead of harvesting any berries that might develop, we go around pulling off their tender white flowers. This forces the plant to put more of it’s energy into developing a strong root system for what we hope to be a bountiful year two.