MIND THE GAP
A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT
ON AN ISLAND IN THE SUN
STAND BY ME
It was so brutally hot today, we left the farm around 3pm and went swimming. At Little Falls, we jumped off the rocks and plunged our bodies into cool clean water. It was so badly needed.
Something that is questionably needed is plastic. Juniper Hill Farm has, under the majority of their crops, black plastic. The plastic is laid over entire rows, directly after tilling and fertilizing with manure and compost. Immediately after tilling the soil and adding compost and fertilizer, weed seeds germinate. Normally at this time they grow out of control and begin to take over, but the plastic wrap blocks the sunlight and suppresses their growth. After a two week period, all the weeds die back and the soil underneath the plastic is warm, nutrient rich, and ready to receive transplants. Melody and Adam transplant their starters in holes they dig through the plastic. If you tried putting the plastic down over the transplant, it would be a nightmare situation. By transplanting through the plastic, you create a weed free environment that retains moisture and heat, both beneficial to encouraging the crops you transplant to thrive.
The only problem with utilizing plastic in your field, aside from the cost spent on the material and the time spent laying it down, is what to do at the end of the season. The plastic must be changed each year to be fully effective. In Lewis County, there is a free plastic recycling program, where county workers come and pick up the plastic for free and recycle it. It is a system that works very well here, but other farmers in this area frown upon the practice. We've seen plastic used on other farms, and there's no doubt, it does wonders for stopping weeds, and in our opinion, melons, tomatoes, and okra could never grow so well in this north country climate without the plastic. The black plastic makes the soil warmer, attracts sunlight, and creates a micro-climate well suited for growing heat loving crops. We're learning that "organic" doesn't always mean old school. State of the art techniques are used on organic farms throughout the country to meet the demand and match the output of conventional farms. Progress should be celebrated. But for some reason, it's just hard to ignore all the environmental implications of all the plastic use.