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Growing method, are we organic?

A note taken from our 2017 summer e-newsletter about our growing style.

If you noticed in your salad mixes last week you may have gotten a dried blade of grass or occasional weed. As the season goes on you may even find a bug here or there, please consider them perks or freebies! I was speaking with someone about our practices the other day, and I really do have a hard time finding the right “label” for us. I am not certified organic therefore, I cannot use that word, however, we do use a lot of the same practices. We are working on transitioning the main focus of our practices toward permaculture but do not follow all of those practices either.

Our family has decided, we are practicing “homestead culture”, if a name must be chosen. I really don’t buy into all the labels, they once actually meant and stood for something but now are simply a marketing tool. I decided to look at all the different practices of production and sift through them, keeping this and that from most all of them. Really it’s much like parenting because each person and little parcel of earth is a bit different.

When Dan and I first starting ranching we were heavily influenced by our surroundings and those we worked closely with (mainly the ranch my husband worked at for almost 15 years). When I started selling at the local farmers’ market, however, we did a bunch of research on the type of food our consumers wanted, and that influenced our practices as well. It actually caused us to expand our own horizons. In the past 15 years since we first started down this path of finding both ourselves, as we grew into adulthood, and discovering and learning what kinds of food production we wanted for ourselves. I realized it’s like everything else in life, you learn as you live. We are entering our 7th year (as of 2017) here in the valley where I had to throw out, everything I ever knew about gardening and found myself growing and learning again. Our little patch of earth needed to heal in order to produce for us and it needed to be worked with, not on.

So what does all this have to do with annoying grass and bugs in your salad? It means that our farming practices are basically as follows; we are caretakers of our amazing animals (& insects) that are gracious enough to share themselves and what they make, with us everyday, not just milk and eggs, meat & honey but...poo. Yep I said poo, we use the poo as an amazing fertilizer. In the fall and spring we top-dress the beds so they can be ready for seeds we plant. I also make poo tea, it’s brewing in the big blue barrels you will be seeing pop up all over. Of course I follow best practices when using this most natural of fertilizers so no one is actually eating or consuming poo. We compost, and you are helping us with that now too! When we first started the garden here we had a low to average worm count and size... but now we have lovely big healthy worms that because I care for them, they are working for me under the ground...making poo and tending to all the roots.

You will notice I have an entire row in the middle of the garden dedicated to flowers and some “weeds”, this row is not just for our visual eye candy, but for our pollinators who I very much want to keep happy so my garden is bountiful. It is also a safe haven for good bugs that come out at night to hunt. I also have little patches of flowers planted all over the garden for the same reasons, even though it really would be easier not to. The goal is to attract more of the “good” bugs so they hunt the bad ones, leaving me with less to damage my veggies. We are constantly moving the sheep to help us manage our forest that is very overgrown, by using them one day we will be able to plant even more native grass where now only brush lives. It really would be easier and faster to bring in heavy equipment to get the same job done, but all of this is a much more natural process that is better for the land and my soul. In all, here’s to grass and bugs in our salad.

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