As part of his commitment to the environment and sustainable organic farming, Farmer Al of Frog Hollow Farm embraces composting. And it’s paying off big time.
On March 25, 2014, Farmer Al sent his organic fruit customers this message: “We dodged the Bullet! The ‘Brown Rot Blossom Blight’ bullet, that is! It was the classic convergence of rain on the blossoms combined with warm temperatures. The same weather conditions occurred in 2010 and 2011, causing total crop failures in our apricots for both of those years. This year we have a full crop of ‘cots’ in all varieties. The reason for this good outcome … compost!”
“Over the past two years we’ve been applying about 10 tons per acre per year to the apricots,” said Farmer Al. “This has changed the biology of the soil ecosphere, and improved the structure of the soil as well, enabling the trees’ immune systems to resist infection.”
Composting is a critical part of organic and sustainable farming practices. It builds up the soil instead of letting it become increasingly depleted. It creates a healthy balance of beneficial microbes, preventing many of the problems that conventional farmers use chemicals to treat.
A soil specialist who reviewed Farmer Al’s presentation of his composting methods to a recent sustainability conference in Chico, California, summarized it this way, “Frog Hollow Farm applies advanced composting in a specialized way to the fruit business. They put a great deal of effort and time into cultivating biological health within their orchard in order to produce the highest quality fruit available. Customers should be pleased with the final product.” – Brian Hoogland, Soil Rejuvenation, Longmont, Colorado.
Says Farmer Al, “Maintaining an on-site compost project can take its toll on our resources, but we are committed to go beyond the call of duty to make sure we produce only the best-tasting, tree-ripened fruits for you and your loved ones.”
The first benefit to composting is the elimination of the need for chemical fertilizers (a basic tenet of organic farming.) Application of compost also reduces the need for pest deterrents (organic farming doesn’t use chemical pesticides) because proper composting creates organic material rich in beneficial microbes.
Other advantages of composting include the return of carbon to the soil (not something that happens with chemical fertilizers), nitrogen enrichment of the soil, return of important minerals to the soil, no build up of “garbage” vegetation from weeding and pruning, and less trash going out from the kitchen to a landfill.
At Frog Hollow Farm, the composting process gets a lot of close attention to make sure all the elements come together to create the ideal product for Farmer Al to apply to his trees.
First, all the materials that go into the compost are carefully chosen to make sure they break down just right for what Frog Hollow Farm needs. The compost made on the farm consists of coffee grounds and kitchen residues from their cafe and bakery; tree clippings and cover crops from the farm; and any fruit that doesn’t get used or sold, as well as other organic materials available to them.
Then the temperature is carefully monitored. If the compost gets too hot, then some of the little critters will die resulting in compost that is less rich in nutrients. If it’s not hot enough, weed seeds and harmful pathogens are not entirely eliminated from the compost. Finding the right balance is crucial.
The moisture levels in the compost rows are also closely watched. The microbes and fungi responsible for a healthy compost are extremely dependent on a nice moist environment. They quickly die without enough water.
Another thing Farmer Al keeps an eye on is the overall mix of bacteria, fungi, protozoa and beneficial nematodes in his compost. Fruit trees prefer soil that’s rich in fungi, so it’s important that he encourages the right balance.
Just this year, that balance of microbes are helping Farmer Al offer Frog Hollow Farm customers beautiful, bountiful golden apricots in six shipments of “the best sampling of my favorite apricot varieties throughout our harvest season.”
All together, the composting that goes on at Frog Hollow Farm enriches the land, benefits the trees, and helps the farm turn out the highest quality fruit … sweet and juicy, organic and healthy … to its customers. It’s an all around win.
Visit http://froghollow.com/ for more information.
Name: Pearl Driver, Director of Marketing
Organization: Frog Hollow Farm
Phone: (925) 634-2845 Ext: 203
Address: P.O. Box 2110, Brentwood, CA 94513