Caring for the Land
Our Land Ethic
At Big River Farms we strive to work with our land in a symbiotic relationship, where we are able to produce delicious nourishing foods and our soils and wildlife remain healthy and thriving. We have the great privilege to work on land surrounded by one thousand acres of woods and lakes. While working in our vegetable fields we have seen deer, coyote, black bear, hawks, and eagles. In the fall of 2010 a pair of Sandhill cranes spent many weeks living, dancing, and raising their young with us. I have enjoyed few things more deeply than seeing the Sandhills, in the mists of an early morning, rise out of the field into flight.
We take our role in the ecology of this land seriously. As an Organically Certified Farm we can be fairly certain that we are doing little to no harm to all these wonderful creatures around us. We do not spray any synthetic chemicals of any kind.
Of course, making sure that the animals we live with are not being harmed is the easy part. What is much harder is nurturing the health of the soil we are using to grow food. At Big River Farms we view the farm and land as one living organism. Whatever we do in one place will certainly have an effect on the whole. We currently have 60 fenced-in acres that are our primary vegetable ground. In any one year we have 10 – 15 acres in Organic Vegetable production. The basis for our fertility program is providing aged compost to all acres in production, using an extensive system of covercrops, crop rotation, and mineralization of our soils. Vegetable growing land that is not in production will always be covered with a covercrop and we strive to have very little soil uncovered on our farm at any one time.
Anyone who has visited the farm will have noticed that we have much more land than we actually use. We are still a relatively young farm operation and we are trying our best to grow slowly and with great intention. It does not do us or our land any good if we grow so quickly as to do things poorly or without proper thought. That said, we do have intentions of using all the land we can in the most appropriate way possible. We have recently signed an agreement with NRCS (the National Resource and Conservation Services) to make many improvements on how we use the land. First, we are turning much of our unused ground into perennial hayfields. Secondly, we are working to create perennial borders to help attract beneficial insects to our farm. Lastly, we are looking at ways to create windbreaks to help with the erosion problems that may occur when winds reach high speeds on the farm.
Organic and Sustainable Farming is a practice in the same way that medicine is a practice. We cannot know that every action we take on the land is going to be a good one. In farming we deal with life and life is an incredibly dynamic and complex set of associations and interactions. At Big River Farms we devout ourselves to the practice of good farming and pledge to delight in the learning that comes from the land and our relationship with it.