As we get closer to the farm tour, I like to talk a little about some of the production methods we’ll come across. Kind of a “summer reading” for the farm tour.
One of the organic production methods is called “biodiversity.” Biodiversity can be applied to both produce production and animal production, or a mixture. It’s a rather broad term that essential means that a healthy ecosystem is created using complimentary plants, animals, and processes that help build fertile, organic soils, reduce or eliminate the need for pesticides, and produce nutrient dense foods.
In the case of organic produce farmers, they are usually looking for the right mix of crops that will grow well in their soils and environment and provide adequate pest protection. A good organic produce production will incorporate certain plants to help attract predatory insects. These insects aren’t harmful to the plants; instead, they eat the insects that are harmful to the plants.
Other organic methods include the use of cover crops and crop rotation. Some fields will lay fallow for a year or two while the soil is built up. The farmer will plant different cover crops, such as barley, hairy vetch, or rye grass. The hairy vetch is a particularly popular one. The seed is cheap and the crop grows well. When the farm “plows it under,” he is adding lots of nitrogen to the soil, which plants need to grow.
The cover crops also tend to loosen up the soil. The root structure can break up clumps of dirt and rock to make a better drained, more loose soil.
When it comes to animal production, biodiversity takes on a different meaning. It is the ability to raise various types of livestock in harmony so that their processes are complimentary.
In the case of New Creation Farm in Chardon, farmer Scott Boehnline has taken advantage of the natural biodiversity on his property.
Scott’s farm looks like a piece of property in central Pennsylvania. There isn’t a flat piece of ground on his property. Most farmers would be discouraged; however, Scott saw it as an opportunity to imitate Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm in Virginia.
Scott has used his hilly terrain and forests as the perfect forage grounds for Berkshire hogs. Scott lets his heritage hogs roam freely up and down the hillsides, eating acorns, berries and nuts. Amongst the hogs he has free range chickens. The chickens take advantage of the hogs’ work. When the hogs break the ground looking for buried food, it allows the chickens more easy access to insects.
At the end of the season, Scott takes the manure pile and spreads it over his garden. Before he does that, he spreads corn and other grains around the garden. Once the garden is buried, the hogs start digging for the rotting vegetables and grains below the manure. In the process, they stir the manure, organic matter (leaves, plants, etc), and soil together. This creates a rich layer of compost that will be the base of Scott’s garden for next year.