Soil is everything. The texture, diversity of organisms, smell, feel, makeup and human care of soil determine the health and wellbeing of any farm or garden. Soils around the world are being depleted, eroded, degraded, poisoned with chemicals and beaten down by irresponsible farming practices. As sustainable, holistic farmers, our main goal is not only to preserve but to rebuild topsoil.
When we initially tested the soil in 2015 we found levels of lead up to 225 parts per million (ppm). Lead inherited not only from the use of lead paint but the previous heavy use of lead gasoline around the city. It’s commonly agreed that it’s safe to grow most crops at less than 22 ppm.
Everywhere we grow food, we have an impermeable barrier and fresh soil on top to ensure all our crops are grown in the healthiest soil possible. To some people’s surprise, our work at the farm starts by shifting our focus away from the plants. Because really our job as land stewards is to take care of the soil. In every corner of the globe, there’s some saying to the effect of “a good grower grows good plants; a real grower grows good soil.”
Plants are just a manifestation of what’s happening underground.
If we start with depleted toxic soil, the plants literally take that up, express that, and then we ingest that toxicity. If we raise nutrient-dense, dark, rich soil, the plants express health and abundance and we take in that goodness! Our job is to create an environment that’s stable, safe and healthy. The rest will flourish.
Each year we grow dozens of varieties of nutrient dense, colorful, delicious and diverse crops. Food is distributed and lovingly used in in-house Haley House and community partner programs : Take Back the Kitchen (TBK) classes, Soup Kitchen (SK), the kitchen at Paige Academy, participants from We Are Better Together and other hyper local partners. Most days, produce is harvested, washed, packed, delivered, prepped, cooked and nourishes our guests and students within 24 hours! We also send food home with hundreds of neighbors and visitors of the farm and hear of food traveling less than a mile – sometimes just steps – home and being enjoyed that night!