Welcome to the Prescott's Patch blog, and thank you for your interest in our farm!
Let me introduce myself...I'm Lynn Malinak and I've had the pleasure of living, breathing, and eating (of course!) sustainable farming at Prescott's Patch since 2010. My partner, Steve Prescott, has operated his namesake CSA farm for 16 years, growing berries and veggies on fertile, fourth-generation family land in Bainbridge since 2001.
Our CSA serves families in Lancaster, York, Dauphin, and Cumberland Counties.
So what does "Eco-Organic" mean? That's how we describe our farming practices. Choosing to forgo USDA Organic certification for a number of philosophical reasons, we have our own strict standards for the inputs and methods that we use to grow food, while making sure we meet (and sometimes exceed) USDA Organic guidelines.
For example, we don't use any black plastic mulch (a very common practice not only in conventional, but also, surprisingly, in organic farming) that creates enormous petroleum-product waste in landfills and also (we believe) may leach chemicals into the soil during periods of UV bombardment on hot, sunny days. On our farm, weeds are controlled with the use of non-toxic, biodegradable planters' paper for our vining crops and a lot of elbow grease for everything else. We also have a pretty high tolerance level for unwanted vegetation...absolutely NO herbicides here!
Other inputs include, literally, tons of compost from a local dairy farm in Landisville (manure from the cows and local leaf litter) and organic fertilizers from Fertrell in Bainbridge.
Many people assume the word "organic" is synonymous with "absolutely no chemicals/sprays of any kind for any reason." You may be surprised to learn that the ubiquitous USDA Organic symbol is much less restrictive than one would think. Certified Organic farmers are allowed to employ an arsenal of potent pesticides, many of which are broad spectrum. What makes these products permissible for use in organic agriculture is not their strength, but their composition. Conventional pesticides are petroleum-based, which helps them to stay on the crops in both sunny and rainy conditions, therefore prolonging their effectiveness. Pesticides approved for organic farming are not petroleum-based, and break down quickly in the sun/wash off quickly with rain.
What makes us "Eco-Organic" is our approach to pest control. The farmer who is truly looking out for the best interest of the environment and ecology in which he/she works will carefully pick and choose which of these products is least detrimental, applying only when necessary.
Many Certified Organic produce farmers simply believe that all pesticides on the "approved" list are equal and that liberal, indiscriminate use is acceptable.
For pest control, we use three products that are approved for use in USDA Organic farming:
- Bt - a natural bacteria product that specifically targets and controls cabbage worms
- Pyganic - an extract from the chrysanthemum plant that combats flea beetles and harlequin bugs
- Diatomaceus earth - the fossilized remains of diatoms (single-celled aquatic critters) that, when ground into a fine dust, causes insects like onion maggots to dry out and die
We prefer to employ the most natural method of pest control possible, including introducing parasitic wasps to dine on our Mexican bean beetle population! Pediobius wasps are gnat-sized predators of bean beetles, implanting their eggs in the beetle larva to incubate, effectively killing the larva and propagating more fertile wasps. This cycle decimates the bean beetle population without the aid of any chemicals. The wasps are supplied to us from the New Jersey Department of Agriculture and cannot become an invasive species since they can't survive our winters.
Another helpful wasp is the brachonid, which lives naturally in our climate and uses the tomato horn worm as a host for its babies. Thus, tomato horn worms are never a problem for us because we keep our brachonid population healthy with earth-friendly farming practices.
Sometimes we just have to take matters into our own hands. When the Colorado potato beetles move into our tater patch, a few weeks of almost-daily walks through the rows squishing every beetle and larva we see takes care of the problem without a single drop of spray!
For fungal problems (blights, mildews), we won't use anything that's copper-based (another very common practice allowed by USDA Organic) as we feel it can cause an unhealthy buildup of heavy metals in the soil. So we turn to a product called Procidic, a vitamin-C solution that, when sprayed on, lowers the pH of susceptible plant foliage (ie. squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes), creating conditions at which mold cannot colonize.
At Prescott's Patch, our passion for growing good food with integrity is both our motivation and our guide. We pledge to always use the most eco-friendly, sustainable methods available to grow food for our community.