The program that surrounds the student farm is called Sustainable Agriculture and its main focus throughout the course studies is “sustainability”. Our farm practices are all about these practices by growing everything organically, as not to poison the environment and the people who consume our vegetables that are grown there. Everything is done with sustainability in mind.
Exactly what is “sustainability”? It has been defined in a couple of ways.
Definition No.1: Sustainability is the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
This is the definition of sustainability as created by the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development. While it is not universally accepted, the UN’s definition is pretty standard and has been expanded over the years to include perspectives on human needs and well-being
Definition, No.2: Sustainability is the capacity to improve the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of the Earth’s supporting eco-systems.
This definition has been provided by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the work of which is driven by the fact that global production and consumption patterns are destroying nature at persistent and dangerously high rates. https://www.thebalance.com/what-is-sustainability-3157876
We have a new way down on the farm to keep our farm sustaining itself with a new choice in our soil mix. Our old mix worked really well but a lot of the components were not really sustainable products, such as the peat moss and the perlite we used. James Frye, who manages the farm, made a discovery by talking to a friend. He heard about a product called leafmold that could be a sustainable way to make our mix and still grow great plants for the farm. This mix also calls for more worm castings, which we produce right there on the farm already. It completely cuts out the perlite that was necessary for the old mix for drainage.
You are probably wondering what leafmold is all about. Leaf mold is the result of letting leaves sit and decompose over time. It is dark brown to black, has a pleasant earthy aroma and a crumbly texture, much like compost. In fact, leaf mold is just that: composted leaves. Instead of adding a bunch of organic matter to a pile, you just use leaves.
Benefits of Leaf Mold
You may be wondering why you shouldn’t just make compost. Why bother making a separate pile just for leaves? The answer is that while compost is wonderful for improving soil texture and fertility, leaf mold is far superior as a soil amendment. It doesn’t provide much in the way of nutrition, so you will still need to add compost or other organic fertilizers to increase fertility. Leaf mold is essentially a soil conditioner. It increases the water retention of soils. According to some university studies, the addition of leaf mold increased water retention in soils by over 50%. Leaf mold also improves soil structure and provides a fantastic habitat for soil life, including earthworms and beneficial bacteria. https://www.thespruce.com/making-and-using-leaf-mold-2539475
These are all the reasons we use this in our seed starter mix because seedlings need to retain as much moisture as possible and we just add the extra worm casting for the nitrogen they will need to get started. The better start our plants have, the better they will do in the field once they are transplanted.
Hope you enjoyed this information, do some research on your own to find out how to start your own leafmold pile, I already did!