I recently caught up with Glynwood’s CSA program manager, farmer Dave Llewellyn, to get the scoop on veggie growing practices here at the farm. His scientific approach to farming focuses on feeding the soil, which feeds the plants, which feed us. The health of a farm rests on the health of its soil, and understanding and improving soil fertility and micronutrient content is another focus of practices here on the farm.
Dave believes that feeding the microorganisms in the soil helps transfer energy to the plants. In addition to practicing sustainable farming techniques like cover cropping, crop rotation, and composting, he carefully tests the soil for 16 basic nutrients that are essential to plant health. Dave told me that in the years since he has been farming with a focus on soil fertility management, he has produced noticeably healthier crops with improved pest resistance, higher yield, and better flavor.
In order to better understand how to address deficiencies in micronutrient levels in the soil, Dave sends soil samples to three different labs in the spring and the fall. For each field’s sample, he takes four bits from different spots in that field, to gain a comprehensive understanding of its soil composition. Two independent labs and Cornell’s agricultural lab, AgroOne, test the soil using both strong and weak acid tests. Dave explained that the weak acid test subjects the soil to an acid that is only slightly stronger than water, and determines what nutrients are actually being made available to the plants in the short term. The strong acid tests what nutrients the soil potentially holds that are not immediately plant-available, but that might become so in the long term. Conducting both types of tests gives a broader picture of the nutrient content of the soil, and helps Dave determine how to address whatever deficiencies might be found.
Dave is a master brewer of nutrient-dense liquid plant foods, and he can often be found in the greenhouse mixing up appetizing brews like the one pictured above, which he then pumps through the drip irrigation system in a particular field, somewhat like feeding the plants through an IV system. This one’s fulvic acid, liquid fish, and molasses; a regular in the drip line IV system. Dave has also been known to brew micronized Calcium in stockings, and to inoculate his potting soil with mycorrhizal fungi.
Now that it’s officially summer, the 2011 season is in full swing on the farm here at Glynwood! Stay tuned for updates about what’s been going on around the farm- information about the day-to-day operations of the farm as they change throughout the season, as well as insight into the unique mechanics that contribute to the success of our unique farm.