On our farm, we pride ourselves in the ability to take care of the land so that it is bountiful for generations to come. We would like to take a few moments to explain our growing philosophies.
The typical question asked is: Do you spray? The short answer is yes. But, just because we spray does not mean that we are using harmful chemicals. The better question to ask is: What do you spray? This opens the door to discussion regarding the growing practices here at Fleckenstein Farms.
The other common question is: Are you organic? No, we are not 100% organic. We use many organic techniques on our farm, but we do reserve the right to use a conventional chemical if it is necessary to save a crop. We have chosen not to be certified organic, with the major reasons being the cost of certification by agencies, in addition to our firm believe that our biologically sustainable production regiment is better for the environment than just being certified organic.
Do you grow GMO’s? 99% of the products that we grow here at Fleckenstein Farms & Nursery are non-GMO's. Our late sweet corn is our only GMO, but our early sweet corn is not GMO.
To understand our growing practices even further, let's break down the pesticide areas as the following:
Herbicides: Since most of our crops for our CSA's are produced within a "High Tunnel" setting, we use no herbicides. Within the tunnels, our crops are grown on raised soil beds covered with a plastic film mulch which does not allow weed growth. Below this film is our drip irrigation, which waters only a narrow band for root growth, thus keeping weed growth to a minimum as there is no moisture for the weed seeds to germinate and grow.
Our outside production: (ex: Berries, cantaloupe, squash, watermelon and more) uses the same plastic mulch system with drip irrigation below, therefore eliminating the need for herbicides.
The only two crops that receive any herbicides are sweet corn and green beans. These herbicides are applied before the crop emerges and are used at a very low rate to control weeds for a short time until we begin mechanical cultivation, which is our primary weed control. We use no herbicides of the category labeled Restricted Use, by the EPA. For green beans we use Treflan, and sweet corn we use Outlook.
Fungicides are the next class of pesticides we use. We have quite a low "load" because the majority of our CSA products are grown in tunnels where the environment is quite dry due to covers (no rain and dew). We do use Trichoderma and RSSI as our main fungicides. Both are organically approved. We also use elemental sulfur in our tomato production- this is also organically approved and listed as OMRI approved. OMRI stands for The Organic Materials Review Institute, and they are responsible for determining which products are allowed for use in organic production and processing. OMRI listed products are allowed for use in certified organic operations under the USDA National Organic Program.
The last class is insecticides. When addressing our "high tunnel" production, we use beneficial insects to control most insect pests. Among the more common are lady bugs. We keep land reserves for the beneficial insects near all growing areas. This means we plant things such as sunflowers, grasses, and other types of flowers that attract the beneficial insects, therefore enhancing our supply of beneficial insects. If this strategy fails, we may elect to use an organically approved insecticide such as Radiant, Entrust, or Dipel.
As far as sweet corn, we need to spray in the fall to prevent earworm infestation. We use Spintor and Dipel (both organically approved) as well as the conventional called Belt.
Lastly, we would like to add that our philosophy is much like that of a wise medical practitioner who withholds useful and powerful antibiotics until absolutely necessary, thus enhancing the percentages of pathogen defeat. If, by chance, he prescribed these products at every opportunity, the chances of resistance to these medicines or pesticides in our case is greatly increased