At Wine Creek Farm we believe in creating human systems that work with nature in symbiosis. This means focusing on the overall health of the ecosystems across the farm and beyond, as well as utilizing Bio-Intensive and sustainable growing practices in our areas of production. This also means having a devotion to increasing soil health in and around our fields, as well as building beneficial Insect populations. We are utilizing Permaculture design principles which include hugelkultur berms along keyline contours. The contours slow water movement down and spread it across the field. Water is eventually collected in a pond at the low end of the field, and pumped back up to the top. In combination with the water holding capacity of the highly organic berms this process makes the most efficient use of rainwater for irrigation.
We are currently building up the pond and keyline that form the basis of our polycultures. The polycultures will contain numerous layers of canopy that provide favorable environments for the lower layers. Plant health care in this system is holistic, thus reducing maintenance. This system is very diverse and includes trees, shrubs, annual and perennial crops, insects, and even sheep at times. There are no weeds here, every plant has its purpose. We bank on diversity, because diverse ecosystems are more resilient and productive overall. That is to say that invasive and temporary pioneering species still have their use by holding soil in and provides fodder for livestock.
We use organic naturally derived soil amendments including: bone meal, blood meal, poultry feather meal, lime, green sand and rock phosphate, kelp meal, bat and seabird guano & fish emulsions. In addition to these we also use composted manure from animals raised on our farm including; sheep, & chicken.
Our nitrogen comes from natural biological processes designed to recycle organic matter, as opposed to the unsustainable and rather energy intensive Haber-Bosch process of pulling nitrogen out of the air, which creates a very volatile and highly reactive form of nitrogen that plants can’t even use right away, and its widespread misuse which causes it to run off into surface water (causing massive hypoxia across aquatic systems).
Our potassium and phosphorous inputs mostly come from animal byproducts from both our own operations, as well as commercial producers that would otherwise have to pay to dispose of properly.
Most importantly, the biological interactions and minerals that make up a healthy soil matrix for our crops are already in the soil, or come from composted food/animal waste and forest litter.
We do add plenty of organic matter from our various compost piles and plant matter is mostly returned to the soil. This of course is done with care to maintain proper nutrient levels in our soils via testing and calculated applications. We just add a larger volume of carbon compounds that act as slow release fertilizer and shelter for soil micro-organisms, and in turn have soils that are constantly building.
Approach to Pest and Disease
We don’t use synthetic pesticides based upon chemicals originally developed for war. We do use natural and biological pest control by use of companion plantings to ward off potential infestations, trap crops to lure them away, and others to bring in beneficial insects/predatory insects. We also periodically release these beneficial insects as well. Then we turn to the use of live micro-organisms such as Baccillis thuringensis, B. subtilis, and Tricoderma hazarium, to actively prevent pests and disease, as well as symbiotic mycorrhizae (Fungus extending plants reach for water and nutrients) which bolster plant health and vigor. Holding an integrated pest management regiment of: neem oil, Azatrol (from NEEM), diatomaceous earth, insecticidal soap, sulfur, copper, and Pyritherins in reserve for severe infestations. These are all organically certifiable methods for which to grow our crops yet we remain uncertified, having listed our practices here you know how we grow!
We start by using clean and disinfected receptacles and tools before each harvest. Typically we harvest the day of or evening before a market. After collection we hand rinse all of the produce in a outdoor sink (this isnt a commerical growing operation and we do everything by hand, so there may still be some soil/amendments clinging to your produce). We try to make sure we are not appling any pest control/amendment applications directly before a harvest, but as always make sure you give your produce a final rinse at home. After the harvest is rinsed & sorted we bundle, box or bag it, and it is immediately refrigerated or stored as necessary to keep it fresh.