“…no other human occupation opens so wide a field for the profitable and agreeable combination of labor with cultivated thought, as agriculture.”
Farming is hard. Farming under the organic protocol is even harder. When it comes to defending my crops against pest and weed pressure, my resources are limited in that regard. Through my obsessive study on this vocation of my choice, I have learned that the best route to having a weed-and-pest-free system is to develop the healthiest soils possible to grow my vegetables in (pests prefer plants that are nutritionally deficient, and weeds grow best in unbalanced soils…) those conditions take years to develop, and though I’ve spent three years growing at the Lomax Incubator Farm, I am transitioning my operations to this property out here on Highway 601, and am essentially starting with a blank slate. I am nerdily excited at the prospect of building the health of the soils out here, but through this journey of farming, patience is the virtue that I have been tested with ad nauseum. That said, I’ve had a problem this fall. An aphid problem. I acquired this problem when my transplants, transplants that were growing so beautifully in the greenhouse prior to going out to the field, got a little too big before I set them out. I though, “Well, I’ve got aphids, but once I get these suckers out in the field, that problem will go away because the plants will have more air to breathe and more beneficial insects to eat them up!” Well, I’ve realized that was wishful thinking. The aphids killed my entire first succession of cauliflower, my whole crop of cabbage, and about 50% of my broccoli and Brussel sprouts, as well as doing a number on my kale and collards. So what did I do? Well, last week, I had to resort to an organically approved pesticide, neem oil, to kill off these buggers and give my surviving crops the chance to bounce back, that I may be able to redeem myself this fall from a poor showing in the summer!
I always find it a bit funny how many folks think that organic agriculture is synonymous with pesticide-free agriculture, no offense to you all, when in fact many organic farms, especially the realm of industrial organic farms (think Earthbound), rely heavily on organically approved pesticides, some spraying more than our conventional counterparts, primarily because the organically approved chemicals are less effective than the synthetic products used in non-organic systems. I hate spraying, and in full disclosure, this is the first time I’ve sprayed anything all season. Neem oil is a relatively toxic compound derived from the neem tree that grows in India, and is a broad-spectrum pesticide, meaning that it does not discriminate the insect it will harm. This means that in addition to killing the aphids that were sucking the life-force out of my brassicas, it was also harming the lady bugs that were trying to lend me a hand by eating those aphids. This is why I hate spraying, as it disrupts the natural environment in a very invasive way, even though the product is naturally derived. I suppose the upside to these organic chemicals is that their potency is very short lived, as the availability of the neem oil is almost 100% diminished from the environment after 24 hours, especially after the rain we got on Monday washed it away, but still, while I only use these chemical means as a very last resort, my aim is to foster the health of my system and utilize mechanical means of pest-prevention to a point that I am 100% pesticide free. When it came to the manner at hand, however, it was a business decision: succumb to more loss and lose out on the income of these crops going into the lean months of winter, or salvage what I can through this less-than-ideal solution. Vilify my if you will, but my plants are looking much, much better, especially after spending the past two days pruning off the withered, aphid infested leaves from the crops.
In other news, PLEASE REMEMBER TO BRING ME YOUR LEAVES! A special shout out to Kristina for bringing me some of her leaves the other day, my compost pile is growing and growing! I’ll take your leaves AND your kitchen scraps, just bring them to me at the market! Your help with this is greatly appreciated, and you will receive a shout out right here in the newsletter for your help in this matter.
I wanted to also give a special shout out to John, whom I affectionately refer to as my “benefactor” (I’m not sure he knows that!). John is the owner of the property I am living on and am currently transferring my operations to, and where my flock of laying hens reside. I cannot be more grateful to this wonderful individual for his taking a chance on me and for his unwavering dedication to sustainability through his support of me as well as his efforts with the National Wildlife Federation. I am so, so, SO excited to be working full-time on this beautiful piece of property that is so wonderfully located close to Concord and Charlotte, and really take my business to the next level here! This has been a trying season, and I honestly thought about giving this whole thing up on more than one occasion, but I am keeping in mind the saying that when you feel like giving up, that’s when you need to keep going, and right now, I am so excited with my vision of the future of my farm, coupled with John’s belief in me, that I know I can’t do anything but succeed! Thank you John!
For those of you coming out to the Winecoff Market tomorrow, I can’t wait to see you! Tomorrow I’ll have Lettuce Mix, Collard Greens, Lacinato Kale, Arugula, Pea Shoots, Radish Shoots, Sunflower Shoots, Arugula Shoots, and Pasture-Raised, Non-GMO Eggs! I can’t wait to see y’all!
Finally, I have a 29.5′ 2008 KZ Sportsmen Bunkhouse Camper for sale! It’s in good condition, I bought it for $15k four years ago. It leaks a bit in the slide-out when it rains, and somewhere along the line I crumpled up the ladder on the back of the camper and punched a bit of a hole there… but other than that, it’s a great camper! I lived in it for a year, which really taught me the value of organization and tidiness. I’m listing it for $7500, but honestly just want to get rid of it and get whatever I can out of it to put towards my costs going into next season. Additionally, I have a 2002 Mazda MPV Minivan with 180,000 miles on it. It’s not in that great of shape. The check engine light comes on, which they tell me is due to a faulty o2 sensor, which I replaced, but the light won’t go off, and it definitely runs a little rough. Listing that for $1000, would be happy to get anything for it really! All this money is going towards building the infrastructure and buying seed, potting soil and compost for next season! Let me know if you’re interested!
Have a wonderful day! Do me a favor, do yourself a favor and step outside. It’s absolutely gorgeous today!