We can have "crunch" nearly all the time - if we practice eating what's in season and learn to enjoy some new foods. It's fun, affordable, and delicious. Asian greens grow like crazy in the hoophouse in the fall. This is inside on November 28! Looks yummy, doesn't it?
Here's a handful of seeds that we planted last year for a "cover crop." Cover crops feed the soil food web, reduce soil erosion, improve water infiltration, manage weeds, make plant nutrients available, and sequester carbon. What's not to love?
Our water, our energy, and our food can all be cleaner. You can support agriculture that tends toward sustainable, renewable, and healthy. All we have to do is DO IT!
Eating locally teaches you the seasonal nature of food and diversifies your diet. If we do all our shopping at a grocery store and all our eating at a chain restaurant, we might never notice that all food production is seasonal. Different seasons - different foods!
Learning to enjoy produce when it tastes the best, has the highest nutritional value, and is the most abundant also helps us eat more environmentally responsibly. By eating in season and locally, we reduce the amount of energy needed for greenhouses, irrigation, plastic, and hauling of our food outside of its optimal season and most rational environment.
To produce the vegetables, field crops, and poultry grown on Abbe Hills Farm, we use mostly "biological" practices like those used on organic farms, although the farm is not certified organic.
To claim to be organic, farms must be inspected and certified by third-party organizations, and will have a certificate that allows them to use the “organic” label legally. It’s a lot of work and expense to be certified organic, and it’s only fair that we respect the work of truly organic farmers and use the word carefully.
So, you won’t hear us say that Abbe Hills is an “organic” farm; we’ll say that we use biology to farm - using practices and products that generally build soil health, improve biodiversity, and avoid the use of synthetics.
We manage the fields, gardens, and natural areas of our landscape at Abbe Hills Farm to promote the welfare of all kinds of animals. Ebert Honey, from Lynville, Iowa, keeps about twenty beehives here. Big help with pollination. But honeybees aren't the only helpful insects. We also work hard to keep the zillions of native pollinators that thrive in our diverse landscape happy and safe.
Plus, we manage to encourage the huge diversity of beneficial insects who are the natural enemies to many of the garden's worst insect pests. Eager helpers, always hungry, and free! And don't forget the birds, amphibians, fish, reptiles, and mammals who are native to our prairie ecosystem. What do the animals need to be happy? What we all need - food, clean water, and a safe and pesticide-free place to live.
The primary pollutant of Iowa's surface water is soil. Small upland wetlands like the one near the road at Abbe Hills Farm catch soil that might otherwise wash away by forcing runoff water to stand still for a while, allowing soil particles to settle out. Plant nutrients dissolved in the water are removed by the plants, like cattails, that live along the edge of the shallow wetland and by the roots of the native plants in the restored prairie that surrounds the wetland. Small upland wetlands like ours will one day be used all over Iowa to improve the quality and manage the quantity of the water that leaves our farms. Slowing water down and allowing it to soak into the soil also recharges our underground water at the same time that it significantly reduces the probability of damaging downstream flooding.
The most basic component of a sustainable and healthy farm is healthy, rich soil with a living soil food web. Creating and maintaining healthy soil is our daily task.
To hold the soil in place, all of the crop ground on Abbe Hills Farm is farmed using soil conserving practices like contour farming. Cover crops grown in rotation with the primary crops also minimize soil erosion, and keep plant nutrients in the topsoil where they can be available to feed the soil food web. Insect pests and crop diseases on the farm are managed with resistant varieties, crop rotation, and biological diversity throughout the farm. Manure, compost, and some purchased fertilizer are used to supply plant nutrients for the gardens and the crops.
Clean, economical, zero-carbon, and just plain cool. We LOVE solar energy!
We live with the consequences of climate change every day at Abbe Hills Farm - seeing it in erratic and weird weather, unpredictable growing seasons, and the sudden appearance of insects, weeds, and diseases that used to only be found south of here.
Solar helps us do our part to limit our carbon output. Living soil also serves as a carbon "sink" - locking atmospheric carbon into the bodies of the gazillions of organisms in the food webs. Healthy agricultural soils, rich in organic matter, appear to be one our very best tools to manage carbon and climate.
At Abbe Hills Farm, we're committed to farming sustainably and practicing transparency. We want you to get to know us, your farmers, and to ask us questions. Here's a short video that compares the value of local to organic, and leans toward knowing your farmer and your farm.