Zero Waste Initiatives
Before we started farming, Chris and I seriously considered the environmental impact of the amount of plastic that is used in small-scale agriculture these days. From convenient packaging, to tunnel covers, to ground cover tarps, to seed trays, plastic is everywhere in farming. While some plastic (such as greenhouse or tunnel plastic that can be used for several years) is important, and especially necessary in our Canadian climate, we felt there were many areas where we could cut out single use plastics while we came up with more sustainable solutions for the long lasting plastics.
Some of the more sustainable options we have adopted include:
1. We do not use plastic bags for our baby salad greens. Instead we sell them in bulk and ask that our customers bring their own cloth bags or reusable containers. Check out our Produce section for storage tips.
2. For any of our produce that is bundled or bunched together, we use natural jute twine, which is compostable, instead of using elastic bands.
3. We package our flower bouquets in plastic-free kraft paper, a by-product of the lumber industry. It is fully compostable, but can also be used several more times after your flowers go in a vase, e.g. gift wrapping, etc.
4. Many customers coming to us for the first time are unaware of our no plastic initiatives so instead of turning them away we offer recycled paper bags and explain how and why we have chosen package our produce and encourage them to come back with their own packaging. All of our paper bags, as well as our promotional materials (business cards, pamphlets, etc.) are printed on recycled paper, using soy-based inks, and are fully compostable.
5. We start our seedlings in freestanding soil blocks made using a metal block maker. This eliminates all plastic seed trays and encourages healthy root growth. To learn more about soil blocks check out this link. We have also built wooden trays to hold our soil blocks, completely eliminating all plastic from our seed starting process.
Farming without the use of chemical pesticides can be a challenge and managing pests is be a big deal. Many insect infestations can be controlled using synthetic sprays, but we choose to use other means to control them.
We take several approaches in order to minimize pest disturbance on our farm:
1. Companion planting: Intercropping certain varieties of plants that have been shown to help deter pests from one another.
2. Row covers: We use floating row covers for many of our crops, especially ones in the brassica family. These protect the crops from pests but let sunlight and wind through for air circulation.
3. Hand pick: There’s nothing better (I mean annoying.) than picking off some big, disgusting potato beetles, but it works so we’ll keep on with this tried and true method.
4. Increase local wildlife: Creating a farmland full of diverse vegetation increases our animal and insect biodiversity. Along with decorative flowers, we also plant flower varieties with the sole purpose of attracting beneficial insects and native pollinators and our no-till methods preserve the habitat for the larvae of these insects in the soil. In the future we plan to create permanent hedgerows around our farm to provide homes for other beneficial creatures such as birds and snakes.
At Catena Farm we believe that the health of the soil is the key to growing great produce. As our name suggests (Catena, meaning chain in Latin), the link between the sun, water, air, plants, animals, and microbiology of the soil come together to allow us to grow beautiful, nutritious produce. As farmers, we try to ensure that all of these factors play their part to the best of their ability.
Our produce is always grown without the use of any kind of chemical fertilizer, pesticide or herbicide. We try to grow our food the way nature intended and never use any kind of sprays on our crops, organically certified or not. We don’t believe there is a spray out there that can differentiate between a pest and a beneficial insect and for that reason avoid them altogether. As frustrating as some pests may be, they still play a role in nature, oftentimes as a food source for beneficial larvae or native birds.
We are not organically certified, but perhaps may be in the future. For now, our customers know that we go over and above organic regulations because we truly believe in the health of the soil, our plants, and ultimately, ourselves. After all, you are what you eat.