Down River Farm's Philosophy
Simply to grow food with integrity; food that is healthy for your body, the environment, and the community.
Your Body: Nutrition = Flavor
When you cut a head of lettuce, that plant begins the dying process. Using all of its nutrients and resources to maintain life in a compromised state. When you buy vegetables in the supermarket, 9/10 times it was grown in California and harvested 2 or more weeks prior. It sits in the store sustained only by water and refrigeration making for a very water-y taste and virtually no nutrients. That's why many people don't feel full after eating a dish compromised of mostly veggies from the supermarket. They taste like nothing and don't provide your body with the necessary nutrients.
Not to mention the quality of soils supermarket produce is grown in. These farms often follow a very simple principle: grow the product as fast as possible, cheaply as possible, and it must transport long distances. These goals create a need to feed the plant, not the soil in order to get the plant to grow as quickly as possible. There are now studies suggesting that the quality of soil in terms of quantity and variety of soil microbes affects the microbiome of the gut that is consuming them. Meaning, the healthier the soil is, the healthier the veggie is, the more nutrients the consumer receives. They also force the farm into growing varieties not bred for flavor but bred for speed and shell life. What results is a tasteless vegetable grown in conditions not conducive to plant or human nutrition.
That being said, every vegetable you buy from my farm will have been harvested within the past 24-48 hours. This is part of the effort to get the freshest produce to you so that you can get the full flavor and therefore the most amount of nutrients. I also carefully select my seeds for flavorful varietals and ones that will thrive within my particular climate.
The Environment: Feed the Soil and it will Feed You
Farming is essentially human intervention in nature. Rather than destroying nature in order grow human food, Down River Farm believes you can both grow food for humans and be an asset to all living things with some smart ecological practices and a little more hand labor.
Soil is the MOST IMPORTANT substance that allows every single life form to exist. Without it, the entire chain of microbes, bacteria, fungi, plants, rodents, mammals, predators, and eventually humans would collapse. Therefore, it is my principle goal to protect, preserve, and rebuild the soil. Period.
So what does all this jargon translate to?
1. No synthetic fertilizers or chemical -cides
We believe in treating the whole, not the symptom. Every chemical -cide is just an excuse for not doing your homework.
2. Smart Management
By planting a diverse range of crops, pests find it much more difficult to locate food from a distance.
By carefully crafting my crop offerings I can mitigate certain necessities. For example, most farmers use shade cloth in order to grow profitable crops (arugula, radishes, turnips) in the summer that normally go to seed before being able to harvest in the hot sun. Shade cloth is just another petroleum-based product that we use to make us more money. Rather, I could choose not to have lettuce in the hot summer OR plant it in the shade since I have shaded areas available.
By utilizing straw mulch from local farmers to keep weeds down and retain soil moisture on long season crops, we keep our money local and opt out of using black plastic (as most farms do) as a "more convenient and quick" solution.
3. Soil Building Techniques
Soil needs life to produce life. Therefore, we use massive compost amendments in order to build organic matter that will allow for a healthy soil for years following.
Cover crops are utilized to prevent soil erosion when the soil is bare and through the winter. Additionally, these act as fertilizers by fixing nitrogen into the soil in a form the plant can uptake.
Lastly, we use mindful, shallow tillage with a small two-wheeled tractor. The deeper tillage is done by hand with a tool called a broadfork which allows you to aerate the soil without turning over the soil and bringing up weed seeds to the surface.
The Community: Getting your Dose of Nature's Medicine
Without community, the world seems pretty empty. Sharing ideas, empowering individuals, being informed about local happenings, putting money into small businesses and knowing your neighbors is what has sustained societies for thousands of years.
The farm aims to follow this model as well. By purchasing compost from a local company in Peoria, cover crops and other supplies from local seed companies (Kelly Seed) we put our money where our mouth is.
We want our farm to be a hub for the community. We will be hosting a weekly farmstand, yoga, and a CSA pickup location on our farm on Wednesdays from 5 PM - 8 PM. Come hang out, buy stuff, do yoga, talk about community happenings, etc.