A little more than necessary but good stuff if you are INTERESTED
Lets start with a few basic assumptions:
- ~Healthy soil provides for healthy plants with above average nutrition.
- ~Eating vegetables is primarily for nutrition, there just aren't that many calories, so maximimizing and preserving nutrition is a basic function of quality farming.
- ~Local and well grown vegetables high in vitamins and minerals taste better and store better then the well travelled mass produced version.
- ~Intentional agricultural practices are better for the environment by reducing runoff, using less water, and cycling carbon out of the atmosphere and back into the soil.
Take care of the soil
Its not just dirt, healthy soil is teeming with entire communities of organisms. Tiny and fragile strands of fungi and single celled bacteria all the way up to earthworms plowing tunnels through the soil and every size in between. All plants have co-evolved with the soil communities to support each other. Plants feed the soil microbiology and the microbiology feeds the plants enhancing nutrition and plant health.
- No Spray!!! With such a fragile community of micro-organisms synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides can disrupt the symbiotic balance or worse kill off critical parts of the soil food web. Residues persist on the soil and vegetables, do more harm than benefit, and negatively affect the soil over the long term. At Tierra Vida Farm using any sort of synthetically derived amendments is never done, there are better ways of managing weeds, pests, and fertility.
- No Tilling!! Although there are many conveniences of using heavy equipment, some times trade-offs are not worth the problems. The fragile soil community is critical to the maximum health and nutrition of the plants. Tilling and exposing that soil community to the sun is destructive and un-necessary. At Tierra Vida Farm permanent raised beds are used along with transplanting nearly everything, preserving the soil and protecting it from excess sun exposure.
- Giving Back! There is truth to farming soils being depleted of minerals and the food being deficient of minerals as well: calcium, magnesium, iron, boron, zinc, copper and more are all needed in the right proportions. Sometimes the minerals were harvested away, other times the parent soil never had the right proportions to begin with. In either case, proper soil tests and intentional amending can re-establish the mineral content of the soil at the ideal proportions to support both soil biology and the vegetables grown. At Tierra Vida Farm all re-mineralizing amendments are certified organic and natural mineral based products as a minimum standard.
- Compost: Adding in not just minerals and nutrients, compost can also provide a boost to the soil microbiology. Made in batches and aged over six months, Compost at Tierra Vida Farm is made specifically to cultivate the ideal balance of fungi and bacteria in the soil.
Plants, insects, and Diversity
Careful management of the plant community improves nutrition while reducing labor without the use of pesticides and herbicides.
- Interplanting: Plants enjoy diversity and so does the soil community. Planting peas and kale together, beans and radishes, cabbage and cilantro, and marigolds with collards provide many benefits. Intercropping improves soil biology, attracts pollinators and discourages pests like moths and aphids. At Tierra Vida Farm intercropping strategies are used instead of sprays, working with biology not against it.
- Pollinator Rows: Native pollinators and domestic honey bees provide so many benefits, its worth dedicating some space to feeding them. Pollinator strips provide flowers throughout the year, harbor beneficial insect predators, and add beauty. Tierra Vida Farm uses native flower species to encourage beneficial insects to take up residence in the garden.
- Transplanting: It's more work but there are benefits too; no tilling is needed to prepare the bed for seeds and the complex interplanting is only feasible with transplants. Additionally, by using raised beds and not tilling, weeds are minimized. At Tierra Vida Farm nearly everything is transplanted except a few root crops like radish and carrots.
- Rinsed and Chilled: Produce is dipped in cold, clean well water right after harvesting to lock in vitamins and ensure freshness. A few hours in the sun - or not - can make all the difference in quality. Although rinsed in potable water, consumers should always wash produce at home. At Tierra Vida Farm the shaded washing area is a quick 200 foot trip from field.
- Refrigeration: Nearly all vegetables quickly lose freshness and vitamins if not refridgerated quickly after harvest. Refrigeration extends storability, maintains freshness, and maximizes vitamin content. Tierra Vida Farm uses a mobile refrigerator maintaining temperatures below 40 degrees until delivery to preserve freshness.
- Travel Time: How long does it take to get a case of conventional lettuce out of the field on to a truck, wharehoused, on another truck, driven 1,500 miles, then shelved before purchase at a grocery store? 1-4 weeks for lettuce, and significantly longer for just about everything else. At Tierra Vida Farm produce is harvested 36-6 hours (roots vs greens) before delivery and refrigerated until you pick it up.