Open a newspaper, turn on the radio or television, or search the net— and the news you’ll hear is about how our food supply is short and how fertilizer prices have gone up two to three times. Take a trip to your local grocery store and you will quickly discover rising prices along with more bare shelf space—and these food shortages are predicted to get even worse over the next twelve to eighteen months. When demand exceeds supply, basic laws of economics tell us that prices will keep increasing.
That’s the bad news. There is, however, also good news, Regenerative farming, like that practiced here on the farm, delivers an entirely different story—one where food is grown naturally with more flavor and nutrients per bite. You can truly taste the difference when you choose our fresh vegetables, microgreens, herbs, edible flowers, and more.
Reasons for Shortages
Plenty of reasons exist, including COVID-related supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, and the war in Ukraine. Ukraine typically supplies between 15-20% of the world’s corn and wheat. They also supply much of the synthetic fertilizer used in conventional agriculture today. You can read and hear about these issues and their impact in the news.
Conventional farming relies upon synthetic petroleum-based fertilizers, and there’s a serious shortage. “Because of the price volatility of chemical fertilizer,” Bob Jones, Jr. says, “many farmers can’t even get a quote right now, much less receive the actual fertilizer.”
Now here’s more good news for Farmer Jones Farm customers: the shortages and price increases of synthetic fertilizers don’t affect us. Why? Because we don’t use them.
The Regenerative Farming Difference
At The Chef’s Garden, we grow our own multi-species cover crop seed and then plant and use them to release the legacy minerals that naturally occur in soil—just as they have been for thousands of years. Through this process, we convert these already-existing minerals to a chemical form that makes them available to plants, creating healthy plants that provide the nutrients that people need for good health.
Regenerative farming is, in fact, the only way to convert these legacy minerals into a form that plants can use for their own health. We have been learning about the advantages of this type of farming for decades and putting them into practice on our farm—although we certainly never would have imagined that it would become so practical for the reasons of today. We just got lucky!
Cover Crop Cycles
Bob and his farm team carefully select a diverse range of cover crop seed to plant in the fall, planting them in fields that will lay fallow, at rest for the following year. As the blades and leaves of the cover crops poke through the soil, they serve as tiny solar panels. Through the process of photosynthesis, they’ll collect light energy through sunlight and then convert it to chemical energy that plants can use.
At the pre-flowering stage of the cover crops, the plants will use about 30 percent of the chemical energy as food and exudate—meaning, secrete—the remainder from their roots into the soil, further increasing the health of the soil.
As each cover crop begins to flower, the plant will keep about half of the chemical energy as sugar to feed itself and secrete the other half into the soil. In the early flowering stage, the farm team gently works the crops into the soil, feeding it even further as decomposition occurs. Because we may use a dozen different species of diverse cover crop plants, what is released as exudates into the soil will also be richly diverse.
“We want to maximize photosynthetic efficiency,” Bob says, “the biomass that gets turned into the soil and then is decomposed by that same biological life, completing that cycle of building soil health. The plants feed the soil and the soil feeds the plant, a true synergistic effect. You can compare soil quality to a three-legged stool—chemical, biological, and structural—and cover crops enhance all three.”
In a typical year, a field that’s resting will have three or four cycles of crop crops planted and worked into the soil. “We’ll plant one round in the fall,” Bob explains. “This has an added benefit of preventing wind and water erosion, thereby preventing the resulting run-off into lakes and streams because the cover crop roots hold onto moisture and minerals that are in the soil.”
During the following April or May, we work this cycle of cover crops into the soil. “For the next two to four weeks,” Bob says, “we’ll just let the microbes decompose the organic matter and then calm down. If we planted the next round of cover crop seed too quickly, the seed would be consumed during the decomposition process.”
Over one calendar year, the last cover crop planting in a particular field takes around mid-September. After our team works those plants into the soil in the subsequent spring, the field is then ready for The Chef’s Garden team to plant the vegetable crops that are offered on Farmer Jones Farm’s website and at the farm stand located at The Chef’s Garden: delicious asparagus, spring peas, and much more.
Returning to our original point, here’s what not involved in the process: the synthetic fertilizers that are increasingly in short supply, becoming increasingly expensive, and contributing to the food shortages and their price increases.
In other words, because we regeneratively farm in harmony with Mother Nature, we already have all we need. We don’t need to get quotes for or buy pricy chemical fertilizer.
We don’t use them.
Regeneratively Farmed Fresh Vegetables
“With regenerative farming,” Bob Jones says, “the soil gets healthier each and every year. The result? Healthy soil and healthy plants that are tastier and more nutritious, the ideal combination for good health in people. Because of the way that regenerative farming prevents wind and water erosion and the resulting run-off into rivers and lakes, it makes for a healthier planet, too.”
In short, Bob adds, life is all about energy—and, at The Chef’s Garden, we capture sunshine in the leaves of our plants and grow real food. Food with more flavor and more nutrients per bite.
Let us be your personal farmer.