Sustainable Growing Philosophy and Methods
At Grow Dat Youth Farm, we use chemical-free farming methods to build a resilient sustainable agricultural system. To us that means producing food by supporting natural ecological systems and stewarding natural and human resources for the future. We do not use chemical-based pesticides or fertilizers. Instead, we utilize techniques such as cover cropping, composting, companion planting, farmscaping and crop rotation to stimulate micro-biological activity and soil health. Simultaneously, we support the growth of young people to become stewards of resources for future generations. We grow vegetables, fruit, herbs and mushrooms from October to June and cover crop the fields during the hottest summer months.
Fertile, well-drained soil that is rich in micro-biological activity is the fundamental base from which we strive to build an ecological system of farming. Building and maintaining soil tilth and fertility through organic methods is at the center of Grow Dat’s agricultural philosophy. We seek to accomplish this in large part through the use of leguminous cover crops (green manures) that add organic material, fix nitrogen, suppress weeds, aerate soil, hold in moisture and reduce erosion. We believe that in the long term, healthy soil will produce healthy plants with reduced incidence of weeds, pests and disease. The base of our soil is the soil that was here when we began developing the site in 2011 – a mixture of sandy loam and clay, the texture varying from field to field. To this base, we have added compost we’ve made on site and incorporated cover crops. We undersow leguminous cover crops such as hairy vetch and clovers under transplanted crops to accomplish the dual objectives of suppressing weeds and fixing nitrogen. As much as possible, we rotate crop families every season so that over time each field’s soil nutrient levels are not over-burdened. We also employ no/minimum-till strategies to preserve soil structure and promote biological activity.
At Grow Dat we utilize organic pest control methods to disturb pest life cycles and reduce immediate damage to crops. We do not spray any artificial, chemical-based pesticides on our crops. Instead, we strive to build healthy soil and nurture disease-free plants, which will be less likely to succumb to pests. Crop rotation helps to prevent pest infestations while helping to maintain soil fertility. Farmscaping – the planting of plants that attract beneficial insects and pest predators – helps to encourage biological pest control by disturbing pest life cycles.