We are halfway through the year and are enjoying all the green on the farm this season. Our farm team is hard at work ensuring that our plants grow on schedule and are harvested at the perfect time. Learn more in this farm update from Gaia Herbs’ team members Zachary West and Laura Collins below.
Summer 2023 Farm Update
Here’s an update about the farm from Farm Operations Assistant Manager, Zachary West:
Well, we’re somehow already halfway through the season! Most of our crops are in the ground and growing happily. The farm team has made a huge effort to stay on top of the weeds and other pests before they become uncontrollable, and their hard work and dedication show in the cleanliness of fields.
Our biggest step forward is the completion of a new greenhouse on-site and our ability to use that space for this year's last 6,000 flats of seedlings (that’s about 1m seedlings left to go, after we have already planted 1.5 million this year so far!). The new greenhouse is incredibly important for us because it allows us to start a larger number of transplants earlier in the season. The transplants will then have plenty of time to get established in the fields and put down solid roots to survive the Winter. Most of our crops are herbaceous perennials, which means that they grow the first season then will die back partially in the Winter. For the second season, those same plants that seemed dead all Winter will burst forward in the early Spring with fresh growth.
New Biological Plant and Soil Health Helpers
We have also been working with two biological products this season to improve soil and plant health. We are using a bacterial inoculant called EM-1, which is applied directly to the crop at transplanting and two additional foliar applications during the initial growing period. Another product we are using is an endomycorrhizal fungal inoculant applied once directly to the transplants. These bacterial and fungal microbes function in a symbiotic relationship with plants by providing nutrients, mineralizing organic matter, and suppressing pests and disease populations.
Being a certified regenerative organic farm means that we do not use harmful pesticides or fertilizers and instead look toward more natural solutions. The bacterial and fungal inoculants are an example of this strategy. We are striving to work with nature and build healthy soil eco-systems by adding microbes that will help suppress disease, improve nutrient availability, and in turn, make our herbs the best they can be.
One of the most interesting ways that the microbes interact with the plants involves a very special symbiotic relationship. The bacterial and fungal microbes are like you and I: they cannot create their own sugars, and therefore, must consume from a separate source. However, they do have the ability to move and search for nutrients needed for growth. Plants are immobile and have a limited range to send out their roots and search for nutrients.
Plants do have the special ability to photosynthesize and create sugars. These sugars are used partially for plant growth but are also exchanged with microbes in the root zone for nutrients. Bacteria and fungi actively search for nutrients to bring to the roots, and the plant roots exude sugars for the symbiotic transaction. Research has even shown that plants can communicate with microbes the specific nutrient needs via the type of exudate that comes from the roots…amazing!!! If this research interests you, check out Dr. James White for an in-depth look at the rhizophagy cycle.
Gaia Herbs Vegetable Program Update
Here’s an update on what our working farm has been producing for our employees this quarter from Vegetable Program Lead, Laura Collins:
The vegetable program has kicked off with a bang this year at Gaia. We supply fresh organic veggies to our employees via a free farmer’s market twice weekly. We also grow for our on-farm Chef, who cooks delicious, healthy meals for us twice weekly, in season. The rest is donated to local food banks.
Last year this totaled over 8,000 pounds of organic vegetable goodness to our neighbors surrounding Brevard and Asheville. Right now, we are harvesting bok choy, greens, radishes, and more. We look forward to summer’s bounty of squashes, potatoes, tomatoes, and much more.
Want to Learn More About Life at Gaia Herbs?
Does the idea of a free seasonal and organic farmer’s market appeal to you, or do you want to learn more about working at Gaia Herbs? Check out our careers page to see what open positions we have available and our mission to connect people, plants, and our planet.