Soil & Crop Fertility
In our CSA crop gardens, we are engaged in an important experiment in re-building soil fertility, which is intended to result in measurably more nutritious crops and higher yields, while also reducing pests and disease.
Since 1940, the U.S. food system has been churning out products that are significantly less nutritious. Indeed, USDA data shows up to a 38% decline in levels of protein, calcium, vitamin C, phosphorus, iron and riboflavin in super-market vegetables. This change coincided with the nation’s move to chemical-based agriculture and particularly with over-reliance on nitrogen-based fertilizers, which give instant, short-term gratification in terms so of crop yields but lead to serious long-term ramifications like water quality issues, soil erosion, and pollution.
Because Glynwood’s CSA crops are intensively grown on small acreage, continuous re-building of soil fertility is a must. To accomplish this, we have implemented practices that support the bottom of the food chain, feeding the microorganisms that transfer energy to our plants. In part, we do this via traditional organic farming practices like cover cropping and adding compost, monitoring the process to hone our compositing recipe in order to maximize healthy biology in our soils. Some of our soils also needed fertilizers to bring the nutrient levels into balance. Having completed this phase, our focus is now on mineralizing those nutrients via healthy communities of microorganism, which are the key to transforming minerals into a plant-available form, feeding our crops on a diet that optimizes their growth and nutrition. This process of balancing soil nutrients through biological farm management is resulting in multiple benefits. As farmers we have been excited to observe larger crop yields, more robust plants, and a dramatic reduction in pests. Just as importantly, we are using scientific instruments to obtain basic data, which is then tested by independent labs, to document increased soil fertility and increased nutrients in the plants. To date, the results are strongly positive, with our revitalized soil producing more nutritious and robust crops, and fewer pests.
Soil samples taken from our CSA gardens are independently tested by Cornell, Logan Labs, and International Ag Labs.
Throughout the year our farm staff share these techniques and results with other farmers in the region through the Northeast Organic Farming Association, the Young Farmers Conference, CRAFT (Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training) programs, and as part of specialized workshops and tours at Glynwood.