Here at Bill’s Berry Farm we have recently begun using biological farming practices. While that may sound wonderful, you are probably wondering what exactly it means. Since it’s not a term as familiar to you as ‘conventional’ or ‘organic’ may be, this is an explanation we hope you will find helpful.
Biological agriculture practices, or biological farming practices, recognize that the key to plant health and crop nutrition lies in the soil. Farmers who use biological practices strive to understand and respect the natural processes and balance of the ecosystem in order to produce a crop that is both high quality and high nutrition. In contrast to conventional farming and even many certified organic methods which generally treat a problem only when it manifests itself, biological practices seek to have naturally productive and biologically active healthy soil at all times so that the problems do not arise. This results in strong healthy plants that are extremely resistant to disease and pests, which in turn minimizes or eliminates herbicide and pesticide use. Healthy soil and plants also leads to a crop that is nutritionally superior to fruit or produce farmed with other methods.
- Healthy plants start with healthy soil- testing and balance of the soil is key
- Fertilizers, including foliar nutrients, should naturally encourage soil balance and plant health, as well as the nutrition of the final product
- Apply pesticides and herbicides only if absolutely necessary, and then only in a customized and very specific manner for each crop
- If pesticide or herbicide use becomes necessary the farmer will use a product that is low to no toxicity, to ensure soil, plant, and product health is not compromised
- Soils and leaf surfaces are also fed with compost, compost teas, green manures, and crop residues (plant or produce matter) to improve biological activity. This is done both through directly applying to the soil or more often spraying directly onto the plant itself because the leaf surface of the plant is the best and fastest way to absorb these essential nutrients. Although the word 'spray' is often seen as a giant evil in agriculture when referring to pesticide use, 'spray' can also be very, very good in a biological sense!
Biological farming is not a new idea; it has been practiced by farmers for thousands of years around the world! It is seeing a resurgence of interest among farmers today as they seek practical and sustainable alternatives to the current conventional management practices, in particular their increasing reliance on pesticides, herbicides, and artificial fertilizers. Today’s biological methods have the advantage of modern technology as well as scientific principles and methods which allow the farmer to more accurately test and more closely monitor the overall health of their farm while letting the natural systems work. It’s recognized as a cycle and a system as much as a method of farming!
We have been farming here at Bill's Berry Farm for 20 years. Many of those years were spent with conventional farming practices, but we knew that wasn’t really the best or healthiest method to farm. As we began to improve our family’s health we also wanted to improve the way we farmed. For a time we believed the best way to do this was to switch our entire farm to being certified organic. However, as we moved forward with this we found a few flaws. Namely, being organic didn’t necessarily equal being healthier, since the production agriculture organic methods simply substitute an organic product for a conventional one. We still used pesticides; we just used ‘better’ pesticides. We still treated the problem, not the cause; we just used a better treatment. But the end result wasn’t really a healthier plant or a healthier product.
Our search for a healthy soil, healthy plant, and healthy product lead us to biological agriculture practices, and we truly believe that this method of farming offers a product with superior health for you and your family. Biological practices are largely compliant with organic standards, and our blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries will continue to be certified. As the health of our farm improves through the use of these practices and we are able to use less and less product (of any kind) on our fruit, we will consider certifying more of our ground and crops, but at this time we believe that the overall health of the farm is more important than a piece of paper with a certification. This is not just a long term commitment for us, it’s a way of farming and living that is key to our mission to bring you farm fresh produce that is not only tasty, but nutritionally beneficial to you and your family!