Sustainable, Small-Scale, Beyond Organic Farming
One of our main objectives as land stewards is to leave the land in better shape than how it was when we began farming it. We are committed to ecologically sound, sustainable agriculture. We feel there is always room for improvement, but we have taken measures in the following ways:
PERMACULTURE. We recognize that agriculture is a human-made system, but we believe that agriculture is most sustainable when we do our best to mimic the systems that work so well in nature. Biodiversity means decreased pest and disease pressure, and in turn allows us to farm spray-free. We use whey, a byproduct of cheese making, as a natural barrier in our mixed crop orchard in lieu of conventional, harmful chemicals that are typically used in monocrop orchards. We have honey beehives, birdhouses, bat houses, and other pollinator homes dispersed throughout the orchard to maximize pollination. We acknowledge that wildlife is a natural piece of our farm's ecosystem and accept that the wild animals will share in our harvests just as they do in nature.
LOW-to-NO TILL. We realize that a farm's size determines the degree to which they disturb the top soil. Many farms are large enough to require tractors and some degree of tillage. However, we choose to utilize low and no till systems on our farm in order to limit the degree to which we disrupt the natural microbiome in the topsoil layer. Instead, we use a combination of well-chopped cover crops, compost, and our human-powered Meadow Creature steel broadfork. Low and no till farms also have the added bonus of an emission-free system.
SILVOPASTURE SYSTEMS. We believe that our bodies run best on a mostly plant-based diet, but we also recognize that no ecosystem in nature exists without animals. We maximize the aisles in the orchard by raising pastured animals. We benefit from the way the sheep and goats clean the lower branches from the fruit trees to allow more airflow, the way the birds consume pests and spread the sheep's manure, and the way the animals keep the aisles mowed for us (no need for a tractor means less labor and no emissions). The animals benefit from eating their natural diet for their entire lives, plus all sorts of orchard fruits, berries, and herbs. We're proud that our animals lead happy lives.
SPRAY-FREE FLOWERS. Conventionally grown cut flower farms are one of the largest users of harmful chemical pesticides, which impact pollinator insects. Simply put, food crops can't grow without pollinators. Locally grown organic flowers build crucial pollinator habitat while filling a niche market for the freshest and safest specialty blooms. We offer many blooms that don't typically ship well and spotlight seasonal flower design with local blooms.
COMPOSTING. Simply put, nothing goes to waste at Ley Creek Farm. Coop litter from our egg layers gets broken down for 18-24 months before being repurposed into fertilizer for flowers. Decaying flower and vegetable plants, food scraps, and spoiled crops that are not fit for human consumption get added to the heap as well. We believe organic matter should be returned to the topsoil layer, not put into a landfill.
BIODEGRADABLE PACKAGING and PACKAGING MADE FROM RECYCLED MATERIALS. We admit that there are some places where plastic packaging makes a great difference in the storage life of a product, like salad mix and delicate edible flowers. But there are many places we have made the effort to use reusable and biodegradable products: glass jars for soup beans, grains, and assorted fruit preserves that can be returned and refilled; compostable clamshells; natural wax-alternative produce boxes that can be reused but, unlike traditional waxed boxes, can also be recycled; recycled paper bags; recycled and reused egg cartons. Annual members of our farm will always receive one canvas reusable shopping bag as part of their membership fees as well.
NO SYNTHETIC FERTILIZERS OR CHEMICAL PESTICIDES. Especially because we are home to small children and animals, we feel it is imperative that we only use products that are completely safe to them. We opt for natural and organic fertilizers such as granulated kelp, alfalfa meal, and rock dust; well-aged animal manure; compost; fish emulsion; and cover crops. In lieu of harmful pesticide sprays we utilize food-grade diatomaceous earth, neem oil, whey (a byproduct of cheese-making), insect removal by hand, intercropping, and crop rotation to manage pest and disease pressure.
NYS DEC FOREST STEWARDSHIP PROGRAM. In 2017 we worked with the Dept. of Environmental Conservation to hone in our goals for our property, tag trees, and learn forest management strategies. Our full-canopy forest has the perfect conditions for forest-raised mushroom production. We are also putting this information about forest biodiversity to use in our orchard.
RECLAIMED MATERIALS. Wherever it is possible, we utilize reclaimed, recyclable, and reusable materials to build new outbuildings and animal housing structures.