We operated our farm not certified organic from 2007 until 2015 and always considered organic methods in dealing with farming. Keeping up to date with new and old technology, we do our utmost to follow best practices; for the environment, food safety, energy conservation, biodiversity and “people safety”. Our rule of thumb is that we do not apply anything on our vegetables that we would not want our children exposed to. In general we do not believe that any type of agriculture is a “best practice” template and we feel that we need to consider the pros and cons of all methodologies when selecting “Nature’s Route Farm’s” practices. We believe in being completely transparent in our practices and hope that this explanation provides you with insight into our methods while reassuring you that our practices are truly sustainable. In 2015 we decided that organic production most closely reflected our values and decided to start the certification process.
All crops need ample nutrients to thrive. Without enough to eat our vegetables take more work, more fossil fuels, have more pests and lower yields. We export a lot of vegetables that consist of nutrients from the soil. We have to replace those nutrients somehow.
Green Manures. We use an extensive crop rotation to control weeds, pests and provide green manure fertilizers for our crops. Rotation crops include perennial grasses, buckwheat, fall rye, oats, vetches and field peas.
Manure. 2014 was the last year that we had livestock on our farm and as a result, animal manure is no longer a significant component of our farm practices. Manure (home grown and neighbour grown) is a great fertilizer. It provides nutrients in proportions that our vegetables can use and is a great soil amendment.
Crab meal. We buy crab meal from W.E. Acres in Cap Pele and use it to provide nitrogen, phosphorous and calcium. As our flock of sheep grows and we get more manure we hope to significantly reduce our crab meal applications.
K-Mag. A certified organic source of potassium to compensate for our potassium deficiency.
Boron. Our soil is prone to boron deficiency and we grow several crops that are heavy boron users. We use Solubor – 20.5% and also have it added to our K-Mag fertilizer.
Our thorough crop rotations try to minimize pest pressure. We know people do not like to get worms in their broccoli and we believe that potatoes are an excellent food source; these crops require some intervention on our part to control pests. Considering the effort we put into growing your food and the reliance you have on us to provide your food (and our reliance on the income we derive from the food we sell) we accept the responsibility of managing pests in an environmentally sustainable and safe way. Until 2010 we had never applied pesticides to our crops.
Treated Seeds. Seeds are often treated with fungicides and may be treated with insecticides. We have always specify untreated seed in our seed orders and do not plant treated seeds. Over the years we have purchased more and more certified organic seed; starting in 2015 we source as much of our seed as possible as certified organic seed.
Fungicides. Starting in 2015 we will use only certified organic products to reduce crop losses due to fungus. Until 2011 we had never applied fungicides and did experience significant crop failures due to late blight (the same fungus that caused the Irish Potato Famine). Late blight affects potatoes and tomatoes mostly. As an alternative to certified organic copper, from 2011 until 2014 we used phosphorous acid (labelled CONFINE) to provide systemic protection. This is a very promising technology that should significantly reduce our environmental impact while being safe for consumers.
Herbicides. We do not use herbicides. We weed by hand, with a hoe and cultivate with the tractors. Our crop rotation plays a significant roll in controlling our worst weed, couch grass.
Insecticides. Insects are the cause of our most challenging pest problems. Corn Ear Worms, European Corn Borer, Colorado Potato Beetle (CPB), and Cabbage Worms are the main culprits. Until 2010 we had never used insecticides on our farm and consider their use a last resort; for you, the environment, and us. Here are the products that we may use:
- Entrust 80W. The Colorado Potato Bug is a major pest in potatoes that must be controlled. We rotate crops between two farms 5km apart to help reduce pest pressure and sometimes use a certified organic insecticide – entrust 80w. We take steps to protect our pollinators.
- Netting. We will use insect netting and row cover to protect some crops from insect damage. Insect netting is effective at controlling insect and “worms” in radish, broccoli and cabbage.
- BT. BT is a certified organic insecticide. We use BT primarily on cole crops (broccoli, cabbage…) when netting has not been effective and while we transition to a more effective netting system.