Re-thinking Sustainable Agriculture

  Pelleted onion seed in our soil blocks - ready for covering and germinating.

  Pelleted onion seed in our soil blocks - ready for covering and germinating.

            If nothing else, the frigid weather and snow over the last 2 weeks has provided ample time for reading and reflection as the farm approaches its 8th season. This week I was busy answering questions about conscientious food production from students at Bridgewater State University, and the questions that kept coming up were, “what made you start farming?,” “why grow organically?,” and “what is your relationship to the environment?” As I answered these questions, it became clear that it had been far too long since I had revisited the farm’s mission statement, and far too long since I looked at our farm objectively.

            As I reviewed the first and major tenant of our farm’s mission, ‘to produce food in a sustainable manner,’ the words sounded foreign and vague. Did I really write this and what did I mean? If we can agree that something is sustainable when it can be maintained indefinitely at its current level, what did I mean by farming sustainably?

            Organic or not, I consume nonrenewable resources when I drive our tractor around the farm or our box trucks to and from market. I consume nonrenewable resources when I buy mined minerals to replenish the soil after nutrients are removed in the form of vegetables. And I consume nonrenewable resources when I purchase the hundreds of miscellaneous products that the farm requires to function each year. How can I, or any farm, claim to be sustainable?

            The point of this is not to berate my farm or any other for its lack of sustainability; if a farm only did something that was 100% sustainable, the result would be paralysis, not food production. Yet just because true sustainability cannot be achieved doesn’t mean that it’s not a goal worth working towards: the impossibility of a goal cannot be used as an excuse to never try.

            It’s become quite clear that our farm must immediately seek to reduce its environmental footprint, and I’ve decided upon a 2-prong approach for 2017. The first is to offer recycling bins at our farmers market and CSA pick-ups so that you can return plastic bags to us which we will then recycle at local facilities. And when you check out this year, you’ll have the option for us to put your vegetables in a new, biodegradable bag, or a re-used bag that previous customers have brought in.

            Secondly, we’ve been in touch with the Braintree and Hingham markets to explore the option of a compost program, through which you would be able to exchange a 5-gallon bucket you’ve filled with food scraps for a clean one. We’ll do the composting on-farm, and in doing so, capture and recycle nutrients that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill.

2017 VEGETABLE AND CSA UPDATE

            Though our onions, scallions, and parsley will be hibernating in our seedling house today, the crops all germinated well and are off to a great start! Next week marks our big spring seeding: tomatoes, beets, head lettuce, broccoli, and kale!
            We have about 15 spots remaining in each of this year’s CSA programs – you can read about the details of our programs as well as sign up on our newly-designed website: secondnaturefarm.com.

             Thank you for your support and engagement - I look forward to growing your food more responsibly in 2017!

            Best,
            Adam

  Our pepper seedlings,: warm and cozy on a cold March night

  Our pepper seedlings,: warm and cozy on a cold March night