Market Garden-style farming has recently been re-invigorated by celebrated small-scale farms such as Jean-Martin Fortier’s Les Jardins de la Grelinette, Elliot Coleman’s Four Season Farm, and Ben Hartman’s Clay Bottom Farm. This method of farming, also knows as bio-intensive farming, maximizes yields on small parcels whilst prioritizing soil health. Bio-intensive farming focuses on fertility and minimizes extraneous effort and unused space in order to produce high yields without over-taxing the land.
The myth of certification
Certification has become much like the news—stories change rapidly and it’s important to know who is “behind” various certifications and what their priorities are. Although certification, especially during the earlier years of organic movement, had and still espouses important standards—holding farmers to regulation and a promise of exclusion from health-jeopardizing herbicides and pesticides, the result has become a jumble of non-straightforwards claims which can easily “fool” the consumer into purchasing products that disguise themselves as something they are not.
When navigating the often discombobulating world of food certification, my best advice to you is this: know your farmer. And not just the name of the farm—not even the name of the person taking your money at the farmer’s market. Know the owners, know the farmers, find out how many people work for them, how far they’ve driven to bring you their product, what the daily practices of the farm actually are. “We don’t spray” shouldn’t be the beginning and the end of the conversation. There are plenty of massive central valley farms that employ folks who have never set foot on the farm property, have prepared answers to your “is it organic?” questions, but who don’t really know what goes on between the actual producers and the crop. There are also plenty of farmers who spend 50+ hours a week with their hands in the soil, washing and packing your produce, feeding it to themselves and their families, and doing this all in your local community who would be happy to get to know you and feed you themselves. Get to know these people.
No Man’s Farm is a bio-intensive one acre market garden growing a variety of brassicas, lettuces, chicories, alliums, culinary and medicinal herbs, and dye plants (including specialty crop Japanese Indigo). Practices, although uncertified, are organic and “no-spray”—not even organics-approved sprays. No Man’s Farm starts crops from seed, sources compost locally, practices crop rotation and cover cropping, and strives to impact the land minimally. The farm is bordered by native plant hedgerows which provide habitat and food for pollinators and birds. No Man’s Farm affirms that land, even under cultivation, is above ownership, and that an occasion to tend and steward the land is an opportunity for reverence.