Our CSA share includes two “farm day” events where we can visit one of the farms that we get our produce from, have a potluck picnic and take a tour of the farm (including picking some produce for ourselves). Saturday’s event was at Natura Farms in Scandia, Minnesota. I have never been so excited to be on a farm. It’s small: only 57 acres. This is TINY by today’s standards. Even my Grandpa Rensenbrink’s dairy farm in the 1950s was over 100 acres. But to see organic vegetable production at this scale totally blew me away, and humbled me (click pictures to enlarge).
All the kids in the group got really excited about picking and eating black and red currants — they have A LOT of currant bushes.
And here’s some kale that could use a bit of weeding. I was a little surprised at how weedy some of the rows were, but honestly, weeds are a fact of organic agriculture — when you’re weeding by hand, and you have this much to do, you’re just not going to hit up every row every day. And weeds can often grow a foot in 2 days.
Onions. Some of their crops have plastic mulches for weed control. Paul, the farm manager, explained how some high-quality plastic mulches can be re-used for several years. Makes sense. My personal methods for weed control, including organic mulches like woodchips and straw, are really a lot harder at a large scale.
We’ve doubled the organic matter in the soil and more than doubled the depth of our topsoil. Earthworms love our rich soil – you can literary smell the life in it instead of petrochemical toxins. We’ve practically eliminated soil erosion by wind or water. Elevated organic matter, a multitude of windbreaks and grass middles between rows of berries, grapes and apple trees all help us achieve healthy soil.
My favorite part was when Paul mentioned that one of his favorite fertilizers is diluted molasses. He mixes molasses, fish emulsion, and other minerals into water to feed his plants. I don’t use liquid fertilizer in my garden, but once again on this scale I can see where it’s necessary. Sounds good to me. I loved this place.