Our growing method is based on a belief that a resilient and balanced ecosystem produces the most nutritious and flavorful food. Our farm management is always directed towards this goal. It is what we mean when we say sustainably grown and biologically managed.
Taking care of our soil is the key to our farm. Healthy plants naturally have their own defenses against disease and pests. In order to thrive, plants need a broad spectrum of nutrition from the soil. The natural way a plant obtains needed nutrition is through a root system utilizing the fungal networks and bacteria that thrive in a rich soil. This sub-terranean ecosystem is unbelievably complex. There are literally billions of types of organisms interacting with each other and the plant forms above. Fortunately, if we treat soil with respect and knowledge of these natural processes, plants use this ecosystem automatically. Our soil has ample organic material from additions of farm compost and mulches added to the surface. But mostly the healthy ecosystem is left to function without interruptions caused by fertilizers, pesticides, or physical disturbance. Our avoidance of machine rotor tilling, cultivating or plowing preserves the network of life below the soil. Rather than adding fertilizers, which disturb the nutrient balance, we rely on the soil life to keep a balanced nutrition for the plants.
Our first line of defense against pests is healthy plants. Long multi-year crop rotations reduce pests and disease transfer between crops. But we also rely heavily on resident populations of beneficial insects and organisms from birds to ladybugs to praying mantises, wasps, and a multitude of others. We do not use insecticides, even those organically approved, as this practice interrupts the natural balance of predator insects. Our farm emphasizes creating a year round desirable environment for every life stage of our beneficial insects. For example, every bed has aromatic herbs and flowers to provide pollen for a wide variety of predator and pollinating insects.
Plant stress creates unhealthy plants that attract damaging insects so we try to minimize sources of stress to our plants. We reduce weed competition by heavy mulching. Mulch also adds organic matter to the soil and evens out temperature swings and moisture levels in the soil. We reduce low water stress by having a drip irrigation system on all of our beds. This system minimizes ground water use by limiting evaporation losses and promotes moisture deep into the root system.
At the Copper Cricket Farm we expend our efforts on naturally growing the healthiest plants possible because we know that healthy plants create healthy food!