Why "The Hard Way"?

Why "The Hard Way"?

One of the more frequent questions I get is “Jared, why are you shoveling trailer loads of cow poo?” or “Why are you doing this whole ‘organic’ thing?”

In short, I simply think that it is the most ideal way to grow the most nutritionally dense and flavor rich produce. All in all, it’s a reflection of my vision for Helms Hill Homestead.

I’ve tossed around the idea of pursuing agriculture (as I’ve always known it) as a career but have often faced the reality that it’s next to impossible for new farmers. Land is becoming scarce as it’s being developed for commercial use and residential subdivisions. The amount of debt to start a farming operation is intimidating when you look at equipment costs, fuel costs, fertilizer costs, etc. I have the utmost respect for those that have made that work. It seemed that the days of cultivating the family farm and simply making a decent living are a thing of the past. So, I began to brainstorm a way to make that a plausible reality again. A way that I can maximize growing potential on small acreage, yet still produce enough to feed my family and the community.

While that may be a pipe dream for a monocrop operation, the answer was to tend a high-density, high-rotation plot that’s able to produce a diverse array of vegetables year-round. To focus on efficiently utilizing every bit of space available to produce SOMETHING so that there is no wasted space. This mindset lends itself perfectly to the no-till practice in our garden, where I utilize beds rather than rows. I’m planting 30” of crop with 18” of space between rather than an 18” wide row with 30”-36” middles.

As I looked into, and learned more about, no-till practices, it went hand in hand with my love for nature and our native ecosystems! It was a focus on soil health to promote living things in that soil like bacteria and fungi that HELP the plants thrive. It’s a perspective of working WITH nature rather than against nature. It’s allowing beneficial insects to aid in controlling pests. About plant density and mulches to suppress weeds rather than turning directly to an herbicide. About interplanting crops that work together. It’s a practice of using sustainable methods to boost crop production as well as increase nutritional value in the crops. It’s about keeping the soil covered and intact to prevent erosion and run-off.

This way of farming isn’t new, or revolutionary; rather, it’s the way things were done for so long. Since the beginning of time even. And, while a lot of what I do may look a bit crazy to many, it is effective. It is effective at protecting our local ecosystems. It is effective at providing the highest quality food for the consumer.  It requires a lot of upfront labor to get established, but in the long run it is a much more sustainable practice that is rewarding beyond measure. It’s a labor of love. A love for nature, a love for growing, a love for my family, and a love for my community!