GOOD FARMING & SUSTAINABILITY PRACTICES
In the past several years “green” and “sustainable” have been the buzz words that everyone has been working towards. When I sat down to see what we could do to be more sustainable. I realized that we have been doing many of the things all along!
Herald and Elsie Woodworth, Tom’s grandparents, were applying the concepts of “Sustainability” in the 1930’s when they started the Woodworth Farm. Herald was famous for making “farm inventions” like the flat bed truck he rigged up to steer from both the front and back ends so that the truck could be driven from one row of grapes into the very next row. This saved time and fuel by not having to turn the vehicle around at the end of the grape rows. It also allowed a different crop to be planted closer to the grapes as the turn around space was no longer needed. Grandma Elsie tied the grapes in the spring with sisal (twine) because it would decompose over the winter months and not have to be removed from the vines and sent to the landfill. Used Railroad ties were split in the winter and fashioned into grape posts to be used in the spring. Our memories are full of these examples. We were told “Waste not, want not” and we have tried very hard to apply these same principle into our greenhouse and farming operation.
Listed below are some of our long standing practices:
- Our farm consists of 40 acres, five of them we maintain as woods. When we bought our farm in 1989 we noticed that many of the woods Tom hunted in as a kid were disappearing so the acres that had woods on it have remained that way. Our benefit: The trilliums blanket the woods floor in shades of red and white every April followed by the Jack-in-the-Pulpit and the May Apples. A truly spectacular sight.
- When we bought the property we planted 20 sugar maple trees to replace many of the silver maple trees that were too close to the power lines. Although we will not enjoy the sugar bush, our hope is that the next generation will enjoy years of maple syrup. We planted 400 white pines to create a natural wind break on the west side of the property. This has created a wonderful bird habitat as well as protecting us from the harsh west wind in the winter.
- Our benching in the greenhouse is made of used cement blocks and wooden planks. The freestanding houses use wooden slats that are selectively harvested from our woods. All are made from renewable resources.
- Our barns are built with 2×6 walls which allows for added insulation and less need for running heaters in the buildings. And this was done before it was popular to do so.
- Our big greenhouse was our first structure, the smaller greenhouses were constructed and sized to accommodate using the plastic that is removed from the main greenhouse as roofs and side walls. This allows us to use a piece of plastic that is expected to last 4 years and extend it’s life to at least 10 years. Plastic starts out as a roof in the main greenhouse (4 years); The same plastic is then moved to a smaller standing house as a roof (3-4 years depending upon the rigidity); The same piece of plastic is then used for side walls, end walls and vent covers. (2-3 years); The same piece of plastic is then offered up to anyone who wants plastic to cover wood piles, use under cement flooring, and many other home uses.
- Our stand alone greenhouses use roll up side walls to allow for natural cooling. By rolling up the side walls we do not have to use the electric exhaust fans for cooling. Our Benefit: Many of our growing practices are easier because we can reach the plants from the outsides of the greenhouses.
- We practice natural forms of plant growth regulator. Chilling the plants is one method and is accomplished when you cool the plant down by at least 10 degrees for 15 minutes prior to sunrise. As the sun rises if the plant is warm the cells will elongate that day. If you can cool it as the sun rises the plant cells will conserve energy and remain short. We also mechanically manipulate the plant heights by using a broom handle with an old curtain taped to it and running it over the top of the tomato plants. We hand pinch all of our hanging baskets. This means that we do not and will not use chemical growth regulators. Our Benefit: We raise a better end product for the consumer as all of our plants grow when planted by the end user & we do not have to handle something that may have long term bad health effects for us!
- We have a healthy population of North American toads (thought to be down in numbers in many areas), lady bugs, praying mantice, dragon flies and other beneficials. These are used to control insect populations in the greenhouses. Our Benefit: Kids think it is so cool when we can coax a toad into eating an ant while they watch.
- We hand pick the bugs and larvee off of the outdoor produce crops. Every day after picking asparagus, we walk down the potato rows and squish potato bug larvee. Everyone has orange hands after this disgusting but very effective exercise. When we do have to spray, we try to choose sprays that are safe and user friendly as we are in this greenhouse everyday and do not want long term bad health effects. Many of our sprays are based on naturally occurring bacterias and plant extracts such as cinnamon oil and sap from neem trees.
- We have Bee hives on our property to help with polinization of our field grown produce.
The outdoor crops on the farm are irrigated by several well points that are linked into a series of pipes that we buried when we first bought the farm. This allows most of the nursery stock to be watered by drip irrigation. The plants get the water they need without wasting water from the overspray of traditional irrigation. Our Benefit: Plants are watered evenly and not stressed while growing and crops that have traditionally been grown for 5 years prior to harvest are harvested in 4 years.
- We reuse pots and flats. (This practice is a little more expensive than buying new pots and flats but we are committed to reducing landfill waste.) Each year we wash left over pots and flats and use them in the next growing season. Customer’s return many of our flats and pots (and even pots and flats from items that they bought from someone else….) if we can use them in our growing program we wash, disinfect and return them to stock to be used next year. If the flats are an item we do not use, we use them for retail carrying trays.
- At market and at home we box up all potted items so that we can save the flats. We have not had to buy 4” filling/carrier flats in 4 years as we have been able to save enough to meet our needs.
We have not had to buy spacer flats in 8 years as we never let them leave the greenhouse- all 4” material is repackaged into a box or carrying flat prior to leaving the greenhouse.
- We encourage customers to use natural fertilizers and bloom boosters when applicable. Bone Meal is a natural form of phosphorus and helps stubborn plants bloom. Disturbing a plants root system will often shock it into blooming. Rotten Potatoes are recommended to be used in the bottom of shrub and tree holes as they emit great fertilizer and promote earth worm activity which helps to keep the ground porous for good root production. Ivory Dish washing liquid can be used as a wetting agent in mid to late summer for customers who are having trouble keeping baskets and pots moist.
- We utilize plant varieties that are ph neutral and not as dependent upon fertilizers for customers that are trying to be more “Green.”
- We compost plant material and used soil.
- Many of our city customers will bring back their baskets at the end of summer we compost the old plant material, clean the basket and reuse it the next season.
- Left over seasonal plants are composted. Composted soil and plant material is used in perennial production and worked into outdoor fields.
- We use biodegradable products in our premium line of baskets: The 18” fiber baskets are made from wood pulp; The 20” wire baskets are lined with coconut fiber mats; The 20” baskets are lined with newspaper as a moisture barrier.
- Reuse products include: Soil bags are cut up and used as saucers in the 18 and 20” baskets; Soil bags are used as garbage bags; Boxes from the local beverage stores and factories are collected and used as retail packaging. Paper bags are cut and folded into retail packaging (this is a winter activity while watching television). We had wooden pallets custom made for us, we stained them and have reused them for several years for storage and production purposes.
- We collect wood chips from the electric company for composting and later to be used as mulch in the blueberry patch and around the farm.
- Aluminum pop cans are recycled
- We have a dishwasher in the barn so that regular plates can be used- not paper or plastic.
- We have ice and a water filter in the kitchen refrigerator for drinking water so that we do not have to buy filtered water.
Office scrap paper is cut into smaller pieces and used as note pads at the registers and by the telephones.