Building Soil Health
Our farming practices focus on building and maintaining soil health in order to produce the most nutritious, healthy fresh vegetables and berries. Building healthy soils in the 40 acres of rolling fields, that range from light sands to heavy clays, presents a real challenge!
We use biological and sustainable farming practices to build soil health.
These practices include:
Crop rotation: Each field grows a different crop each year. A key practice for sustainable production.
Crop diversity: We grow many different vegetable and berry crops, and a huge number of different varieties within each type. For example, we grow more than 30 varieties of potatoes and 15 varieties of sweet corn.This diversity not only gives our customers exciting new produce, but reduces levels of pests and diseases.
Green manure and cover crops; As soon as harvest is over, we plant a fast-growing crop like rye, clover or oilseed radish that prevents erosion, holds nutrients in the crop biomass, suppresses weeds and diseases, and returns nutrients and organic matter to the soil. Cover crops are grown either over winter, or for a full year before the soil is cultivated again.
Composted horse and cow manure is obtained from a neighbouring farm and generously applied to the berry and vegetable fields each spring.
Start up fertilizer: As our Muskoka soils are inherently low in fertility we may use limited amounts of environmentally–friendly (low salt content) fertilizers to promote a good stand establishment and a vigorous growth of the green manure crop.
Restricted pesticide use: We are able to greatly reduce, or in many cases, eliminate use of pesticides through the above practices. We practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM) which further reduces the use of pesticides. However when needed, we chose products that have less environmental impact. We insure that there is absolutely no residue left on the plant to be harvested.
(A good text on biological farming methods is The Biological Farmer: A Complete Guide to the Sustainable & Profitable Biological System of Farming by Gary F. Zimmer. Acres USA)
Soil testing and liming: We regularly test our soils and monitor soil health to identify what nutrients the soil requires. We are pleased to report that organic matter – the best measure of soil health - has been rising over the years, and now averages about 5% on our fields. In contrast, organic matter in most mineral soils (including organic farms ) averages about 3%. Because Muskoka soils are naturally acidic, we apply agricultural limestone every 5 to 10 years.
Farming Organisations we belong to: Ontario Federation Of Agriculture (OFA) Ontario Soil & Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) Ontario Berry Growers Association (OBGA) Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association (OMSPA)