Here at Bill’s Berry Farm we use biological farming practices. While that may sound wonderful, you are probably wondering what exactly biological 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
- Rarely apply pesticides and herbicides and 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 before there were modern day chemicals available! 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 23 years. Many of those years were spent with conventional farming practices, but we knew that wasn’t really the best or healthiest method to grow food. 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, as recent studies have shown, because the production agriculture organic methods simply substitute an organic product for a conventional one. We still used pesticides; we just used ‘better’ or 'safer' or 'naturally occurring' 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.
Think of it this way. Say you have a chronic skin ailment. You could treat this ailment with a conventional chemical ointment, or better yet you could choose to treat it with an organic salve and you might find relief for a time, but since you did not treat the cause of the chronic skin problem, it will most likely return and you have not truly achieved long term healthy skin. But if someone told you that you could eliminate the skin problem from ever coming back with a change in your diet, wouldn't that be the BEST choice?
That is what Biological Farming accomplishes. With the simple addition of certain natural fertilizers or micro nutrients like manganese, magnesium or boron and the elimination of harmful chemicals you can stop the plant from having a health deficiency that opens the door to pests or disease and decreases the health of the fruit. That is why 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 certified organic standards, and our blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries will continue to be certified organic and be farmed biologically. The rest of our fields/crops are already transitioned to Biological methods or are in transition to fully biological methods. As the health of our farm improves and the soil becomes balanced through the use of biological practices and our fields need less and less product (of any kind), we believe our customers will be able to tell, from the improved taste, size and nutritional content. Since we deal directly with our customers and they can see and taste for themselves what we are doing here, we will not pursue getting any more of our ground certified organic. We believe that the overall health of the farm is more important than a piece of paper with a certification, which is only necessary when you are purchasing your food from a great distance and you do not know the farmer. This is not just a long term commitment for us, it’s a way of farming and living that is key to our family mission to bring you farm fresh produce that is not only tasty, but nutritionally beneficial to you and your family!