Our farming philosophy
Sustained family farming is our priority for great produce, and that includes health of the soil AND our family, as well as habitat development and maintenance for native wildlife. Most soil test recommendations are for attaining and maintaining 2% organic matter. We have achieved between 6-10% organic matter in all our fields. Why is this important? For every 1% organic matter the soil yields about 20 pounds of nitrogen available for plants during the growing season. At 6-10% level, that is between 120-200 pounds of nitrogen/acre – which cuts our fertilizer use considerably!!! This is a $$ savings and, more importantly, better for the environment.
We are honored to have Dean and Laurie of Golden Rule Honey, LLC keep many honey bee hives on our farm as well! Check out their website for loads of information about treatment-free beekeeping and info about buying their book: ”The Complete Idiots Guide to Beekeeping”.
Wildlife benefits from our practice of leaving heavy plant residues on the field and knocking the corn down in the fall, but not plowing it under until the spring. We see the turkeys and migrating birds feeding in the fields all the time. When hedgerows are cut back to the walls, it is not only aesthetically pleasing, but provides wood to heat our house and gives our vegetable crops more room and sunlight to grow. A visit to the farm will reveal many food-bearing trees and shrubs spared to feed and shelter wildlife.
There is a lot of concern over genetically modified organisms (GMO) or genetically modified foods (GMF). Frankly, we don’t know how we feel about GMO because there is so much varying information out there (just try Googling GMO sometime). The negatives seem to dominate the pages, but you can be more specific and try “benefits of GMO” if you want to add balance to the discussion. For us, as small scale, diversified farmers, we do not see a need for GMOs on our farm and do not buy any GM seed. We are just as concerned with taste as with production and we love to experiment with heirloom varieties. None of the produce or vegetable plants you buy from Stillman’s have been genetically modified.
We have won best tasting tomatoes in both the regular and heirloom categories on several occasions. It is not uncommon for folks to remark that our produce simply tastes better. Glenn gives the credit to all the wonderful minerals in our New Braintree soils, and the freshness of everything we offer for sale. I know variety has something to do with it…and perhaps a green thumb helps. Did you know there is a strong link between the available nutrients in the soils and nutritional value? And all those minerals must make the food taste better too. Glenn strives to keep our soils optimum not only for the best management of the farm, but to ensure that our food tastes as good as it looks.
Part of great soils and bountiful wildlife is selecting the right pesticides. Many people ask if we are an organic farm and many people confuse the term organic with chemical free. They are NOT the same. Organic does not mean chemical free – you can use all the chemicals you want, as long as they are approved and on the OMRI list and be “Organic”. Check out the OMRI list for more about approved chemicals for organic farms. Unfortunately, the chemical list is one you have to order for $30! Having said that, there are times when a synthetic chemical is actually safer than the “organic chemical”. Glenn determines this from studying the LD_50, health effects, photo degradation rate, and aquatic impacts. The health of our family is the number one determining factor in farm decisions. MOST of the greens and beans on this farm are grown without the use of any chemicals, some crops benefit from chemicals on the OMRI list, and others, such as the apples and peaches, require synthetic pesticides. Organophosphates are avoided!
We have also made MANY Bluebird and Wood Duck boxes and placed them all over the farm. Last year we fledged over 30 Bluebirds, plus even more Tree Swallows and a few Titmice from our nesting boxes.
Our pastures are carefully rotated to provide habitat for the Bobalinks… every year we have at least three nesting pair! Read more about sustainable farming at the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service website.
The combination of organic and traditional practices allows us to offer the widest possible selection of fruit and vegetable varieties. We have developed our own label to convey our commitment to the safety of our environment, family and customers.
Stillman’s Farm is a diverse operation comprised of our Lunenburg farm stand and nursery, begun in 1980 and our New Braintree farm, purchased in 1990. As a small farm we have always fostered a commitment to the land and the environment by using a combination of traditional and organic practices. We were dissatisfied with the “organic” and “traditional” labels as they allowed the use of some sprays we view as unsafe for wildlife and ourselves. We have long believed in our obligation to our customers, our families, the land and its wildlife. For this reason we have created our own label, under which we market our farm goods, highlighting our beliefs, concerns and commitment to agriculture and open space. In 2004 we started labeling our produce as “Conscientiously Grown” to represent our more holistic approach. We believe strongly in our methods and our products and believe them to be of the safest and freshest nature available for all of us. Our new label responds to your concerns and our growing needs. Please join us to spread awareness and support for the label. Our farm has been conscientiously growing since 1980!
We offer the same vegetable varieties for sale as transplants every spring. Tried and true plants should give you the same success they have given us. Find our plants at the farm, market or online.