HOW WE FARM
Our Growing Practices
The Taliaferro property has been farmed using organic methods for over 20 years. We will continue to follow the National Organic Program guidelines and the farm will be certified organic by NOFA-NY for the 2020 season. Being certified organic ensures our customers that we are striving to grow vegetables in an ethical, holistic way. This means we do not use any genetically modified seeds or synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. We focus on farm management systems that include crop rotation, cover cropping, and many other techniques that help to increase the amount of organic matter in the soil, which stores nutrients that lead to healthy crops. This, in turn, yields plants that are stronger and more resistant to diseases and pests.
Agriculture is thousands of years old and yet what makes farming so interesting is that researchers and growers are still discovering new insights on the relationship between soil, plants and humans. We strive to keep up with the latest science on soil and plant health. We send soil samples to Kinsey Ag Services in Missouri every year. Their labs provide some of the most informative and comprehensive results, with recommendations that allow us to plan a fertilizer system that gradually builds up the nutrients and organic matter in our soil.
Plant Tissue and Sap Analysis
Another way farmers can monitor plant health is by tissue testing, a process in which plant tissue (often the leaves) are sent in to a lab to be tested for nutrient content. For a quick snapshot of what is happening in a crop at the time the leaf is picked to be sent to the lab, tissue testing is a good way to help determine any major nutrient activity within the plant.
Even more accurate than tissue testing is sap analysis. Analyzing a plant's sap is like getting a blood test; different from tissue testing, which shows what was happening in the plant at the time the leaf was picked, sap analysis shows us macro- and micro-nutrient mobility between old leaves and new leaves, which indicates what the plant's nutrient status will be in the future. This allows the farmer to apply biological amendments to the plant and surrounding soil in anticipation of these potential deficiencies so that their effects are never felt by the plant. We work with Crop Health Labs in Ohio and Nova Crop Control in The Netherlands to get sap analysis results and recommendations from the best and brightest in this budding field.
If you can't already tell, we are total nerds about this cutting-edge agricultural science. Using plant tissue and sap analysis helps teach us about the life cycles and nutrition needs of our crops; the more we know, the better we can farm, and the tastier and more nutrient-dense our produce is for our customers.
We are committed to providing our customers with produce that is healthy and safe to eat. Both Leah and Orlando have a Certificate of Training from the Produce Safety Alliance; we are completely up-to-date on the safety standards and protocols laid out in the FDA Food Safety and Modernization Act that was signed into law in 2011. We strive to incorporate these standards into each aspect of our operation: from the moment a plant sprouts in our greenhouse or field, to the time that plant is harvested, and all the way until it lands in your shopping bag, we take particular care in eradicating all risk of the development of foodborne illnesses in our product. Our customers can rest assured that we make every effort to uphold these food safety standards.
In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, we want to assure our customers that we take Food Safety very seriously in all aspects of farm production. While there is no documented risk that the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted via food/produce, there are still many measures that can be taken on a small farm like ours in order to prevent transmission of the virus. Here are some of the Food Safety procedures that we will emphasize:
Increased accessibility to hand washing and sanitizing for our employees. This means having hand washing sinks available and encouraging our staff to use them very frequently; it also means that we will include proper hand washing techniques in our Food Safety training for our staff. We'll also have cleaners available for employee phones and make phone sanitization mandatory.
Mandatory use of latex or nitrile gloves when handling harvested produce for as long as we are able to buy gloves. This is is standard protocol for us regardless of the current pandemic; however, in light of the current shortage of medical supplies, we can't promise that we will have consistent access to gloves. In that case, we will increase hand washing as much as possible.
Frequent and consistent sanitization of any surfaces that come into contact with produce during harvest and post-harvest processing. This includes harvest and storage bins, sinks, sorting tables, scales, etc. Food grade sanitizers will be used for these surfaces. Single-use barriers will be used for any surfaces that cannot easily be sanitized (for example, wax paper inside of our Farm Store display baskets).
Daily check-ins regarding employee health. We will strongly encourage our employees to be open with us about how they are feeling each day; the slightest hint of an illness will result in the employee being sent home to rest. Ideally we would offer paid sick days to encourage this honest dialogue, and we are reviewing our budget to see if this will be possible.
Establishment of safe Farm Store shopping protocol for our customers. We will limit the number of folks who can enter the Farm Store at one time in order to safely maintain social distances. (If a customer has to wait, luckily we have a picnic table, beautiful farm views and plenty of fresh air to enjoy in the meantime! And Farm Store members can enjoy free U-pick flowers and herbs.) We'll have hand sanitizer available to our customers before and after they shop, and when possible we will offer sanitizable utensils (such as tongs) to choose produce.
Offering an online pre-order system for our customers. For anyone who wants to limit potential exposure as much as possible, we will offer folks a way to pre-order their produce. We'll pack it and have it available for pick-up outside of the Farm Store. More details to come on exactly how this system will work.
Want to know more?
Organic growing practices, soil and plant health, food safety — as farmers, this is the kind of stuff that lights our fire. We could nerd out about this forever. If you want to know more, please contact us!