Farming is a Balancing Act

June 11, 2024

This spring was a perfect combination warmth and consistent rain allowing native plants and permaculture crops to thrive. The trees, shrubs and understory (asparagus) plants in our food forest are growing quickly this season. Many blossomed ahead of schedule, and they are already putting on fruit.

The biodiversity on the farm is also thriving. The songbirds sing with plenty of insects in the air and on land to enjoy. We’ve found several baby fawn deer resting in different long grassy areas of the farm. Coyotes seem to be well-occupied with a plentiful rabbit population to chase. Much of our farm ecosystem is in balance!

This season, we’ve struggled to battle non-stop growth of weeds and the damaging, plentiful pests due to a mild winter. This year’s brassicas are taking a beating from the flea beetles, as seen below on the broccolini heads and leaves.

Beetle populations are thriving in the wet, warm soil and come out to harm crops, it seems, no matter the crop rotation that we use to outsmart them. Even with trap crops planted (i.e., sacrificial crops we use to attract and feed pests so they will leave our precious crops alone) , we simply cannot keep up with their pressures. Unfortunately, this means broccolini plants are stressed, causing extremely bitter flavors, early flowering, and sad-looking leaves. Darn! Broccolini will not be in boxes this week as we had hoped.

We are unwilling to spray our brassicas, so as our certified organic growers, we’re pulling other tools in our tool belt. Our team is repeatedly removing weeds that provide pest habitat alongside crops and negatively impact crop growth. We are watering strategically to strengthen crops against pests. We are even spacing out rotations further than we have previously. We strive not to plant the same crop family in the same location for at least three years. In fact, Jeff is moving towards a four-year rotation in hopes that this will help to lessen soil-born diseases and pests.

The final tool in our toolbox is giving ourselves rest. We’re better farmers, smarter problem solvers, and we generally have more fun farming (!) when we take a moment to breathe and regain perspective. Like our ecosystem, we rebalance ourselves and return to begin seeding, planting, tending, and caring for the crops again the next day.

~ Your farmers and the Liberty Prairie team