Second-Generation Organic Farmer
The best and most sustainable farms and food systems are the ones that focus on the right blend of economic and environmental sustainability – these are the food systems that will nurture the unborn generations from whom we are borrowing these resources.
Our beloved, late mother, Kathleen Barsotti, asked me a question that I love to repeat:
“Thaddeus, what is the most sustainable part of this farm?”
It was a trick question. She watched me think it over and respond with the obvious answers as I was eager to show that I understood farming.
I asked: “The land? The water? The seeds? The air? The employees? The customers?”
After enough guessing she answered “No, The bottom line is the most sustainable part of this farm. Without a profit, this farm would cease to exist, and we would no longer be able to influence any of those things.”
It was a big lesson for a young teenager, one that is still settling in almost 20 years later. Sustainable agriculture is the management of a food system that will produce the same volume and quality of food with the same amount of resources in perpetuity.
It is tempting to only address the environmental part of sustainability, focusing on eliminating the use of fossil fuels, not transporting products extreme distances, minimizing soil tillage, not adding any external fertilizers, using only heirloom seed varieties and water crops just enough to keep them alive. The reality is that farming systems that focus solely on the environmental aspect, unless backed a deep-pocketed investor, may go out of business and unfortunately, their land may be picked up by other farming systems that while adept at being economically sustainable, may not even care about environmental sustainability.
Cover crops are the most sustainable fertilizer— period. They are the cornerstone of our fertilization program. After a healthy cover crop, the most local, organic fertilizers should be considered next, which depend entirely on a farm’s location. For some farms, they are green waste compost; for others, it is a composted chicken or steer manure. Behind these are very specific fertilizers that are produced regionally (feather meal, fish and seaweed products). The most un-sustainable, but organic fertilizers are bat guano and sodium bicarbonate mined from unique spots on earth and shipped from different hemispheres (our farm does not use these products). more +
In order to maximize the use of fertilizers, land, and equipment use, a plant must have as much water as it wants. This is
most sustainably done by using irrigation systems that have excellent distribution uniformity (drip, micro-sprinklers and hand move sprinklers). Additionally, these systems must be operated on an irrigation schedule that matches plant water-use requirements while taking into account factors like weather and development stage of the crop.
Applying too much water to a crop not only wastes water, but washes valuable nutrients out of the plant’s root zone, while applying too little water cripples a plant’s ability to make the best use of the natural resources it has been given. more +
Farm employees are an essential and often overlooked component of a sustainable food system. These men
and women are the backbone of the farming industry who work extremely hard and earn surprisingly small wages.
It is essential that this group of people have year-round work so they can sustain their families and their communities. Many farms manage only one crop which requires a large influx of labor for a concentrated period of time and then an expectation that the labor force will figure something out for the rest of the season.
By managing many different crops and focusing on creating year-round work, our farm is able to provide sustainable jobs to most of our farm team. more +
The most sustainable form of preventing plant disease is to rotate different types of crops through the same field. Soil that receives the same crops year-after-year can breed diseases that harm that crop by building up levels in soil that may permanently eliminate the soil’s ability to grow certain crops without toxic chemicals (which are not organic nor healthy for anything). Crop rotation also helps promote biodiversity on farms and maintain year-round employment for the farm team. more +
Without customers making our produce a routine part of their lives, every week of the year, our farm economically
will not survive. With each of our customers we enter into a partnership by which the customer trusts us to provide them the best, seasonal selection of the most local produce available.
There are times in the year when this can be done from one or two farms extremely close to our customers. There are also times when a good selection cannot be made for our customers without sourcing product from like-minded farm partners in different geographic regions. Our produce is always domestic ensuring farm workers are treated in accordance with United States Labor Laws (as a minimum) and the more local product always trumps the less local product. more +
Without customers, our farm would not have a place to sell produce. Educating consumers about what to expect from organic produce, the seasonality and challenges of growing it is important. more +
Farms manage land and resources that used to be the home to an untold variety and amount of wildlife. As
stewards of both the land and the natural resources that go along with the land, I believe that sustainability includes promoting an ecosystem in which healthy crops, flora and fauna exist in a balanced eco-system.
On our farm, we set aside areas as wild and cultivated to California natives. We also preserve space between fields to create habitat for beneficial insects. Our farm’s systems and operating procedures are customized to meet rigorous third-party Food Safety standards, but also protect the habitat that so many creatures depend upon. more +
There currently is no standard, no certification that monitors or assures that a comprehensive approach to perpetual sustainability reaches the consumer. At this point, the only method that enables a consumer the confidence in knowing that they participating in a genuinely sustainable food system is the transparency and trust forged between a customer and farmer.
Thank you for getting to know and become part of our farm family.
What does certified organic mean?
From certification and field admendments to farm workers and you...