SkyRoot Farm is a 20 acre, certified organic farm on the east side of South Whidbey Island. We follow an ecosystems approach to farming and carry regenerative agriculture ideals through all that we do. Our fields consist of a constantly changing patchwork of diversified vegetables. We use no pesticides or herbicides on our crops, and when weeds are present we pull them the old fashioned way. These weeds, as well as vegetable residue and even waste from our chicken and goat pens, end up in piles in our composting facility. We turn these piles regularly to aid in the bacterial digestion of the waste, and end up with a great organic compost. When our compost is ready we spread it back on our field beds and the cycle begins again.
This year we are expanding the No-Till section of our farm! No-till farming is a growing trend in small organic farms across the country, and is an obvious choice for our ecosystems approach! By not tilling we reduce disturbance to soil organisms; these organisms can aid in breaking down dead plant matter, keep pest populations down, and some even provide nutrients directly to plant roots. Tilling causes in-soil fertility to wash away more easily with rain, exposes stored carbon to the atmosphere where it can be released as carbon dioxide, and dredges up rocks and weed seeds that make our job as farmers so much more difficult! By not tilling we’ve seen great benefits so far, and can’t wait to see the changes to come!
Meet your farmers:
When I began my Ph.D. our graduate program adviser, Dr. Toby Bradshaw, asked us all what we’d like to do when we finished. In a mix of foolhardy resolve and sheepishness, I exclaimed that I would like to become a farmer. Now I have a Ph.D and I am a farmer, and I remain very excited about applying the systems thinking that I have learned as an ecologist to our small-scale diversified farm. My hope is that we can work toward a goal of developing a farm that is ecologically, economically and personally sustainable, including setting an example for farms everywhere by increasing the organic content of our soil to grow better vegetables and combat climate change!
One of my early memories is of pulling out a line of weedy plants growing in a suspiciously straight line right where I had sown Shasta daisy seeds. Interestingly, no Shasta daisies ever bloomed there. In middle school, our weekly visits to an organic farm led to my first realization that I could turn playing in the dirt into an actual career. While attending UW, my habit of hanging around the Botany Greenhouse and interests in ecology and sustainability found a single outlet in the student farm. After college, I began my farming education with two internships and then started a small farm in southwest Washington. I appreciate all that I learned during my nomadic farm years, but am glad to settle in and see multiple seasons here on Whidbey.