What makes a farmher?
It all started in 2008. Looking for healthier food options, Lisa became fed up with the state of American agriculture and the quality of produce at the local big box store.
For years, we grew veggies and herbs just for us and gave the bounty away to family and friends. When we got more serious about growing, the first big purchase was a rototiller. Hey, everyone bought a rototiller, right? We marked off a chunk of ground in the field and began to carve out a modest garden. Year one, things were great. We enjoyed eating fresh tomatoes, green beans, squash, potatoes, and much more. . .and the flavors were amazing! The next spring, we doubled the size of the garden. You could even call us “farmers” by then. By using the trusty rototiller, we got the dirt so fluffy, you could easily stick your arm into it nearly up to your elbow.
By the third year, I noticed things in the garden were going south and we couldn't figure out why. My now-famous “green thumb” was turning brown. First-year tomato plants grew to seven feet tall! Three years later, the average was five feet. During the fourth year, I knew things needed to change when I spent more time battling pests and weeds than harvesting vegetables. That's when we began a mission of organic discovery. Mysterious techniques called "no-till" and terms like "regenerative agriculture" became a part of our vocabulary. We read, researched and studied innovative organic methods of farming. Our “aha” moment came when we learned that the “fluffy” soil we worked so hard to get was actually “dying” soil… soil structure was being destroyed and the microorganisms and especially earthworms needed to grow healthy plants were suffering.
The next season, I demanded the rototiller remain parked in the shed and we purchased a broadfork. . .an amazing tool perfected by Eliot Coleman and used by the pioneer farmers before him. That season changed things forever. We learned to respect the gift called "soil" and the natural processes that are a part of it. We added copious amounts of compost and organic materials to amend and repair the soil structure our rototiller had destroyed. We incorporated cover crops to the plan and protected the real workhorses on the farm...earthworms!
Our soil was alive again and the positive turnaround in the subsequent years was dramatic. Crop yields increased and the veggies tasted even better than before. As a bonus, the never-ending battle with weeds started to turn in my favor and the weed pressure eased with each year that passed, though they are still my nemesis. We quickly discovered that working with God’s "grand design" was the real key to farming success! So positive was the change that I began to believe I could quit my desk job and make a living as a small-scale farmer.
Fast-forward to today: Spade and Table Farm utilizes innovative no-till organic techniques to grow some of the finest produce in the area. Our 30-inch permanent bed system ensures the soil is well-cared-for and actually becomes MORE productive year after year. Weeds are in retreat and earthworms are on the march. Our philosophy is simple: no till, no tractor (except to move stuff around) and absolutely no chemicals! Healthy soil makes for healthy produce. And healthy produce makes for healthy people.
And the journey continues. . .we hope you’ll join us!
THE SUNFLOWERS, CIRCA 2009