The native peoples of the Americas would say that plants are the older brothers and sisters of the people and animals. It’s true, plants have been at this ecology thing for much longer than any of us and our goal is to make the best of their experience. When we plant, we follow a few simple rules: disturb the soil as little as possible, plant as much diversity as possible, and keep the soil covered and filled with plants and their roots all year long.
Whether planting corn or pumpkins, lettuce or tomatoes, we strive to disturb the soil only enough to plant a seed or cover the roots of a seedling. By practicing minimal soil disturbance, we conserve moisture, build natural fertility, and keep the soil ecosystem intact to do what it does best – grow plants.
To compete against pests that would like to eat our crops before our friends and customers do, we practice a diverse planting schedule. This means that we practice crop rotation – never planting the same species back to back – and companion planting, which means that we plant plants together that make good neighbors. We plant sunflowers with our pumpkins to attract pollinators, squash with our corn to keep the raccoons out, and carrots with our tomatoes to keep the hornworms at bay. When it’s too cold to plant lettuce, we plant kale, when it’s too hot for radish, we cover that ground with peppers and tomatoes. By keeping roots in the ground and living plants growing all year, we are preserving habitat for everything from beneficial insects and deer, to our own livestock.
Plants are the “engine” that runs our farm, running off of the sun’s energy and acting as the driving force behind every enterprise on our farm. By keeping habitat intact, and the engine running, we are supporting our farm as a living ecosystem which in turn supports us.