Where the Redfearn Grows Natural Farms’ Growing Practices

The health of our family, our customers and our environment is of critical importance to us. That is why preserving natural practices in the growing of the produce we provide to our community supported agriculture members is part of who we are.

We aim to protect biodiversity, build organic matter in the soil, prevent pollution, reduce waste, and conserve resources. Where the Redfearn Grows Natural Farms was founded with the belief that natural ecosystems hold within them the keys to growing healthy food.  We’re committed to our “more than organic” standards.

Our commitment to using natural growing practices requires us to emphatically reject the use of all of the following on our farm:

  • We reject all synthetic chemical pesticides (Sevin).
  • We reject all synthetic herbicides (Roundup, Preen, etc.).
  • We reject all synthetic fungicides (Daconil).
  • We reject all petroleum based fertilizers (ammonium nitrate, super phosphates, potassium phosphates, etc.).
  • We reject all Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) seeds.

Instead, we bring ancient agricultural wisdom and modern biological research together to develop growing practices that mimic naturally occurring processes and result in healthier food and a healthier environment.

Plant Nutrients — Feed the Soil and the Soil will Feed the Plant

At Where the Redfearn Grows Natural Farms, feeding the soil is our core business. It may look like dirt to you, but the soil is a vast ecosystem of living organisms and minerals, iron oxides, unicellular bacteria, actinomycete filaments, flagellated protozoans, ciliated protozoans, amoebae, Mycorrhizal Fungi, nematodes, root hairs, earthworms, elongate springtails, and mites. These combine to make nutrients available to plants.

Synthetic fertilizers short-circuit the process, giving a quick jolt to plants, but often starving the soil organisms and reducing long-term productivity of the soil. We make it our aim to improve soil quality and organic matter content with every growing season. We improve the soil through the application of copious amounts of locally sourced organic compost made from recycled Kansas City area food and lawn wastes and tested and guaranteed free from chemical residues as well as compost produced from crop residues on the farm.

We also apply composted manure as well as kelp meal and fish emulsions for added nutrients. We plant cover crops like buckwheat, winter rye, and field peas to add organic matter and fix nitrogen into the soil. The thick organic straw mulches we apply for water conservation and weed control also break down to feed the soil microorganisms. Crop rotations including deep-rooted crops help bring up key minerals locked deep within the Missouri subsoil.

Finally, we limit tillage and compaction of our planting beds for improved soil structure that gives soil microbes, fungi, and earthworms the ability to thrive.

Dealing with Weeds — Cultivation and Organic Mulches

Their Way
Vegetables at the supermarket are grown under plastic mulch and Roundup is sprayed down the tractor wheel aisles to eradicate weed competition.

We reject the use of herbicides, but we do embrace efficient means of reducing weed competition without the use of chemicals.

We utilize drip irrigation wherever possible to place water right where we need it to nourish the crops and not the weeds.  We use organic mulches like compost and locally sourced straw to mulch some crops and for others we use a reusable weed barrier fabric.  The mulch helps to heat the soil and to reduce weed competition.

Our Way
As a result of our rejection of herbicides, weed pressure is a constant battle for us. We hand cultivate around our plants and try to take care of those weeds while they are tiny seedlings.  For beds where we will plant close plantings of seeds like lettuce, arugula or carrots, we till the ground, form the beds, water the area and allow the weed seeds time to germinate and emerge.  We then plant the crop seeds, wait until just prior to crop seed emergence and flame weed the bed, killing the weed seedlings and giving our crop a chance to outgrow the next batch of weeds. We apply thick layers of organic mulch around larger plants to suppress weeds. Drip irrigation puts supplemental water right in the target crop root zone rather than indiscriminately applied to weed and crop alike. We try our best to hand pull weeds before they have a chance to go to seed so that we can prevent more weeds next year. In areas where annual weeds are a particular problem, we plant stands of fast-growing cover crops to choke out the weeds and incorporate into the field for next year.

Pests and Diseases — Working with Nature to Find a balance.

We plant a wide array of crops and rotate them around our fields each year to prevent insect and soil-born pathogen buildup.  We plant bordering areas with nectar-rich native wildflowers to feed the beneficial insects that do our pollinating, eat bad bugs, and supply our honey.  We plant trap crops to lure the majority of the bugs from the vegetables our customers will enjoy. 

Native trees and shrubs in hedgerows provide cover for hungry birds anxious to help us reduce insect populations.  Our bug-hungry guinea fowl are free to roam the fields searching for insects, and our chickens are deployed in strategic instances to clean up after harvest and eliminate bug larvae.

We even hand pick pest insect eggs and larvae when all else fails!

For some crops, when insect pressure is too high, we will apply limited quantities of organic pesticides. We use only compounds derived from natural biological substances and approved for use under the National Organic Standards from the USDA and listed by the Organic Materials Review Institute.

We are especially careful to use this means as a last resort in our Integrated Pest Management Plan. As beekeepers we are especially cautious in the use of even these organically approved substances. We apply these substances only to target crops where pest infestations warrant their use and in such a way as to minimize impact to beneficial insects (including our bees).

Finally, it is not our aim to provide completely hole-free, bug free, picture-perfect produce in our CSA. Ensuring proper plant spacing and healthy soils yields healthier plants that can withstand moderate insect pressure. Bugs are part of nature and we are not trying to eradicate them from the planet. We would rather provide healthy produce with a few superficial insect marks, than beautifully defect-free produce tainted with toxic chemical pesticides.

We hope that the above description of our natural growing practices helps you see that Where the Redfearn Grows Natural Farms is committed to going above and beyond even strict USDA Certified Organic practices in the pursuit of healthy produce for our family and yours.

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