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Tips for growing organic produce

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Home > Education & Events > January 2021 > Tips for growing organic produce
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There are many different ways to farm in the Midwest. For some, farming is their entire career and livelihood; feeding, fueling and providing resources for others is embedded in their DNA. On the other end of the spectrum are those who farm as a side hobby to pass the time or make some extra money.

One trend that’s become popular among rural residents and hobby farmers is organic farming. These farmers tend to value locally grown produce, sustainable farming practices and strong community engagement.

If you’re interested in organic farming, now is a great time to invest and get started. However, there are some things you should consider before putting your shovel to the dirt.

Related: Moving to the Country? What to Expect

Getting started

Every new venture comes with some challenges. However, with a little grit and determination, you’ll get the hang of it. For example, organic farmers typically limit or completely avoid the chemicals on their crops. Instead, they rely more on water, sunlight and organic compuounds1 to keep their plants healthy and productive.

Invest in healthy soil and mulch

You may be lucky enough to have great soil on your land. Or, you may have to put in some extra work to make it great. While every plot of land is a little different, most farmers only need a little bit of air, water and organic matter to improve the soil. Start by using well-rotted manure2 or some finished compost and placing mulch around crops. Adding a couple inches of mulch every year can help cool the soil and maintain its moisture.

Putting the right crops in the right spot

You can grow better crops by having a solid understanding of the land and geographic location you’re in. Are there any shaded or hilly areas? Is the land particularly wet or dry? Based on these circumstances, you’ll want to plant crops that will do well in the weather and climate conditions your farm resides in. Don’t worry, you’ll gain a wealth of experience from practice and improve on your planting strategy each year.

Learn to tolerate a few insects

Bugs can get a bad reputation, especially when they hang out in and around your crops. However, some can be beneficial for crops. If you kill all the bugs in your field, you may eliminate insects that help enhance your produce3, like pollinators, or fend off unwanted predators. If you find that your pest issues are severe there are many resources online and in community gardening groups where you can seek advice.

Be mindful

It’s important to keep your crops hydrated, but overwatering can be problematic4. It tends to occur when crops get watered, but the water doesn’t hit the roots. To prevent this, you must make sure the water you use gets where it needs to go.

Sometimes, you can’t forgo pesticides altogether. If that’s the case, try using them conservatively, only spraying in trouble areas instead of across your entire field.

Related: Growing Basics for the Novice Gardener

Growing crops for a healthy and sustainable future

The way the world grows and consumes food is changing. Fortunately, those interested in organic farming can do so with a helping hand. For more advice on organic farming and other topics related to living life in the country, subscribe to our Rural Living Newsletter5 for monthly tips and guides on making the most of your rural lifestyle.

Footnotes
  1. BBC Good Food: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/organic
  2. Gardeners.com: https://www.gardeners.com/how-to/building-healthy-soil/5060.html#:~:text=Work%20in%203%20to%204,of%20organic%20matter%20each%20year.
  3. Cedar Circle Farm: https://cedarcirclefarm.org/tips/entry/beneficial-insects
  4. GrowSmartGrowSafe.com: https://www.growsmartgrowsafe.org/NaturalYardCare/GardenWithoutPesticide
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