Like so many people who live in suburban areas that were once completely rural, the King family is not only surviving, but thriving amidst the growing development in their area. Tim King talks about his sustainable practices and how they help promote their product not only to neighbors, but to the greater Pittsburgh region.
At Freedom Farms, we not only employ sustainable practices, but we share those tips through our magazine articles, our blog and our social media to help the backyard farmer have better soil and crops too. We believe that chemicals and monocrops undermine quality products and the longevity of a farm. We are a third generation farm. We plan to remain in business for a long time, and we want our followers to benefit from our tried and true techniques.
When I was a kid, my parents ran this farm with the chemicals that were available to them at the time. It was a commercialized farm. There wasn’t the sense of awareness that we have now. The funny thing is that the more that we learn about sustainable farming, the more that we return to the ways of my grandfather. He didn’t have access to chemicals, so he had to use his livestock to graze and fertilize the fields. Now we’re learning that the old ways are the best ways. But there is still so much more to learn. Even our best and brightest minds don’t have a full grasp on the microbiology of our soil. It’s a process, and that is what makes it exciting for me. The more that we observe nature’s ways, the better.
One of the sustainable practices here at Freedom Farms is our succession planting. That means we plant multiple times, and with root vegetables such as carrots, we plant those any time a bed is open. You always want to have a root system in the soil. Most people don’t realize that their soil is a living system, and you need food for that system. The root system is that food. I get excited when I find varieties of no-till plants to add to my soil.
I am also very choosy when it comes to my seed. I clean up my beds in the fall and order my seeds in December. My seed source needs to provide the go-to varieties I know and love. I look for high quality, and good pricing. I’m also always looking for new varieties so that I can improve our crops each year.
And when it comes to our crops, I watch my plants develop. Our weather in Pennsylvania is so variable. One day it is 80 degrees and the next it’s 35. Our temperature swings are crazy. We use floating row covers to keep our plants warm and to reduce stress. The wind in the spring especially, can be too stressful for them. You do want the plants to have some stress to make them hardy. However, too much stress is harmful. They’re a bit like people that way.
I am in the fields every day, checking the soil with my hands, and monitoring my plants. That is what many people don’t understand when they are buying from us at our shops or from our many Farmers Market locations. Every one of those plants has many, many hours of my personal attention–from preparing the soil, to choosing the seed, to harvesting. Sharing my love of the process through our many media platforms helps me invite everyone else to do the same. Farming is a relationship with the earth, and we are all better for being an active participant.