Fertilizer and soil amendments
We use a few different fertilizers at Fat Chance, all of which are approved for certified organic farming. Our main fertilizer is a product out of Quebec called Acti-Sol, which consists of pelletized dehydrated chicken manure. This is applied before planting for most crops and throughout the season on plants with a long growing season (garlic, onions) or plants we continuously pick from (tomatoes, peppers, summer squash). We also apply fish hydrolysate (Organic Gem, Big Blue) a liquid fertilizer made from bottom-feeding fish that are high in trace minerals. We apply this (mixed with plenty of water) to our seedlings during transplant and occasionally spray our plants or through drip irrigation. It is a very potent fertilizer that helps our plants to thrive.
Pest and Disease management
Our pest and disease control is managed through biodiversity at the farm; by having many different varieties of plants growing together we are less vulnerable to pest and disease problems. If and when a certain insect population gets out of control, we go into the affected area and remove the insects by hand, sometimes spending several hours over several consecutive days squashing and picking bugs until the population is small enough that it no longer affects the plants.
Irrigation and weeds
We keep a tank with 1600 gallons of water on site with a drip and spray irrigation system plumbed in. Drip irrigation is very efficient and inexpensive as it uses very little water, applying water directly to the base of the plants, and requires minimal pressure to operate to a satisfactory level. When our plants are in the early stages of growth, in the absence of rain, we use small spray emitters to keep the soil and seeds/seedlings moist.
We have four types of weed control at Fat Chance Farmstead. The first two are mulches: organic straw from Sonset Farm, and ground cover (see photo on the left). Both are laid directly on the soil, acting as a barrier to weeds with the added benefits of warming the soil to promote growth, and retaining moisture underneath. Our third and most popular form of weed management is manual removal, either by hand or with one of our many weeding tools. Anytime you’d like to see how this is done you are welcome to come out and help! Our fourth method is a much more laid back approach in which we accept some of the weeds that are there. You’ll never get them all, and there will always be more.
All of our seeds are purchased from High Mowing, Johnnys, William Dam, and Seed Savers Exchange. 95% of seeds we purchase are certified organic. Any seed we buy that isn’t organic is because the varieties that we need to grow are simply not available as organic.
We are currently developing our seed saving repertoire, and each year we rely more and more on seeds that we have saved ourselves. We currently save seed for tomatoes, potatoes and garlic. This allows us to be more self-sufficient while beginning to adapt the varieties that we grow to our region.