Vol. 18 Issue 1, Spring 2013
by Mike Snow, Director of Farm Operations, Willowsford Farm
Butterfly-friendly foods, what the heck are you talking about? Yes, there is such thing! Eating, as they say, is an agricultural act. And, there are different acts of agriculture. Many local farms, whether certified organic or not, embrace wild spaces, avoid using pesticides and invite all sorts of critters to the farm. In fact, many of these critters keep farm pests in check; some also provide pollination services that ultimately put food on your table. You can be a part of these efforts by getting to know your local farms and by supporting what we do for our community with your food dollars.
We take different approaches to managing our farms. There’s the Lazy Fair approach, where we set aside parts of the farm to be what they want to be. That is, we stop mowing. At other times, or in other places, we use an Old Man With A Bag of Seed strategy, where we sow or plant native (and, yes, some non-native!) species in designated areas. These “insectary species” provide food, pollen, or shelter for insects, especially beneficial kinds. You might think more insects would mean more pests, but just the opposite. We want invertebrates in the field! Spiders, bees, true bugs, lacewings, beetles, parasitic wasps… We find the more we have the more we get – meaning, the more and more different kinds of plants and habitat niches we provide, the more in balance our farm seems to be. Yes, we see pests here and there, but by inviting ecological diversity, there are more natural predators that keep those pests in check.
There are lots of things we can do as farmers to support ecological diversity. And there are many things you can do, too, starting with choosing to eat food from farmers who farm with this philosophy. Get to know some of your local farmers and get your veggies, fruit, meat, dairy, and breads from them. Foods from local farms will taste better and be fresher and healthier than what you get at a grocery store. Shop at a farmers market, farm stand, or an organic Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.
While we hope you’ll visit us at our Farm Stand in Ashburn or join our CSA, there are many great farmers in Loudoun County. Learn about how they steward their land and share your concerns to live responsibly and take care of the land. You can learn more at www. willowsford.com, www.loudounfarms.org, www.buylocalvirginia.org.
By joining a CSA or visiting a farm stand, you:
- Eat seasonal, fresh, and clean food
- Learn to be a better, more creative cook
- Support local farmers who keep land in our community open, productive, and biologically diverse
- Bring your family to the farm to learn or play
- Know your farmer and know your food
- Provide safe haven for the bugs and other critters we need to support ecological diversity