The simple truth is that it all starts with the soil. Without good soil, crops don’t get enough of the nutrients they need to survive and when plants are stressed, they are more prone to disease and pest problems. That’s why we grow our own compost and vermicompost – 10 million tons of it a year. That compost goes onto every growing bed we raise crops on. Because we know what goes in to the compost, we aren’t worried that the soil is contaminated with lead or other chemicals that humans just shouldn’t eat.
At Growing Power, we raise all of our crops sustainably, which is a term that means we grow produce at or above current organic standards but we have not been certified organic by the U.S. government. Currently, it just is not a priority of ours. We would all much rather be in the fields than filling out lots of paper work for the government. We are third-party certified by a group called Certified Naturally Grown, which means an extension agent comes to the farm annually to look at our records and growing practices to insure we are growing in the most sustainable way possible. We are also Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Certified which means that we handle our products in the safest manner possible and have methods of traceability in place to insure food safety.
To grow sustainably means that we do not use any synthetic chemicals – fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides – on any of our crops. We prefer to do things the old fashioned way; we hand pick weeds, we control pests with beneficial insects such as ladybugs, and we use foliar compost tea to help control pest and bacteria problems. As a very last resort, we use only certified organic pesticides like Neem oil and Pyrethrum, a pesticide made from Chrysanthemum leaves.
In addition, we buy all of our seed from reputable seed companies who do not treat their seeds with pesticides or other chemicals. Seed companies that we often use are Johnny’s Seed and Seed Savers. These are seed companies that we trust and who are committed to helping their communities.