The goal of every farmer is for their farm to be productive not only for their lifetime, but also for the next generation. Some refer to this as sustainability. Here at Shenot Farm, we do not spend much time thinking about terms such as 'sustainable', 'conventional', and 'organic' or what category we fit under. Instead, we keep our minds focused on the BEST management practices based on whatever challenges we face. Many of our practices could be considered organic or conventional farming. Whatever category they fall under, long term sustainability is always the main goal.
the dirty work
Our soil is, by far, our single most important asset. The manner in which we manipulate or till the soil has long term effects on its structure and health. We have adopted some of the latest methods that minimize the amount of disturbance we create, thus maintaining our structure while preventing erosion and runoff.
We begin each season by testing the soil of each field for fertility levels and PH. This information is critical in making precise adjustments based on a crop's needs. The use of cover crops has a profound effect on our soil's health. Cover crops are used as keepers of the soil while the soil is not being used. Meaning, while a piece of land lays fallow, a cover crop ties up nutrients and prevents leaching. It also competes with weeds and prevents erosion. After completing its cycle, the organic material is incorporated back into the soil where it is broken down by worms and beneficial microbes and made available to the next crop.
Unfortunately, we live in a world full of pests that come in all forms. They may be weeds, insects, fungi, bacteria, viruses or maybe they are the four-legged type. Regardless, when a problem arises it must be managed. The methods we choose are custom tailored to a specific crop, the past and conditions surrounding the situation.
It is critical that we are vigilant in our scouting to monitor the presence of beneficial insects. In many cases we are able to tolerate a small population of insect pests when natural predators, such as lady bugs, are present and keeping the problem in check. In some of our crops we are able to release populations of parasitic wasps that specifically seek out the eggs of problem insects. Pretty cool, right?
you do what?!
Mating Disruption is an exciting method that we have been employing for several years in our orchards. The process begins with the placement of pheromone dispensers throughout the orchard. The result is an overwhelming sex attractant that confuses the male moths thus preventing them from locating a receptive female. Therefore, the next generation of feeding larvae is never conceived. We have been very happy with the results of this method since it has drastically reduced and sometimes eliminated the need for insecticides.
what about gmo's?
Let us start by saying that the fruits and vegetables grown at Shenot's Farm are NOT genetically engineered. All of the crops that we grow are either open pollinated or hybrids. The topic of GMO's has attracted quite a lot of attention in the last few years even though the technology has existed for decades. It is difficult to wade through all of the information on this topic and even harder to distinguish fact from fiction, especially on the internet. The creators of the technology would have us believe that we have nothing to worry about and the "activists", on the other hand, want us to be scared of everything. As complicated as this becomes, one has to step back and consider the bigger picture.
Less than 2% of our population are farmers who feed the other 98%. So increasing the productivity while simplifying the lives of farmers is something that cannot be dismissed.
All GMO's are not created equal. While some gene insertions can eliminate the need for some pesticides, others can encourage over use. Also, others can enhance nutritional value or fend off disease.
It comes down to a very specific combination of crops, conditions, pest pressure and cultural need.
where we stand
Any time a new or progressive farming practice comes along it is important to keep an open mind and enter cautiously. Fifty years ago, who would have ever thought we could control insect populations without chemicals but instead with sex attractants? That being said, we believe that there are some GMO's that have proven to be very beneficial and sometimes essential to an industry. On the other hand there are certain GMO's that have the potential to be harmful. At the present time we are not growing GMO's partially because they do not fit into our current pest management plan. Most of the crops that we grow are not even available with inserted genes.
Shenot farm & market 3754 WEXFORD RUN RD wexford Pa 15090 724-935-2542