Thanks for visiting Tierra Viva Farm, your source of fresh, local, naturally grown vegetables in the Harlingen area.   The health of the soil, the plants, and the people who eat them are my priorities.  I use no synthetic pesticides and apply a variety of organic fertilizers.

That's the short version. The long version is:

I started this little farm because human health begins in healthy, living soil. I saw that if I wanted nutritionally-dense, ripe, fresh food, I was going to have to grow it myself.  The modern, "cheap" industrial food system excels at producing cosmetically pretty food.  But is it really cheap once we consider all the hidden costs: the poison spraying, topsoil erosion, taxpayer subsidies, antibiotic resistence,  animal suffering, oil-dependence,  and lack of flavor? I refuse to contribute to these problems.

It's no secret that fertile soils rich in minerals and organic matter produce healthier plants and livestock and people.  A hundred years of scientific study have revealed this repeatedly, and peoples around the world have know this based on informal observation  for thousands of years.   But today food is sold based only on price - never any mention is made of its quality.

"Industrial agriculture, because it depends on standardization, has bombarded us with the message that all pork is pork, all chicken is chicken, eggs eggs, even though we all know that can’t really be true. But it’s downright un-American to suggest that one egg might be nutritionally superior to another.” Joel recited the slogan of his local supermarket chain: “‘We pile it high and sell it cheap.’ What other business would ever sell its products that way?”  -Joel Salatin

I think nutrition should be the foremost concern of any farmer. But today's system doesn't promote that viewpoint:

"Despite all the apparent advances in industrial agriculture, the nutritional qualities of our basic foodstuffs have been declining during this century. That's largely because most agronomists focus on bulk yield and profitability of the crop, whilst knowing next to nothing about animal/human nutrition. However, there's a little-appreciated "law" about this area: nutritional value usually drops in direct relationship to the increase in bulk production. Or, in agriculture at any rate, "quality" seems the opposite of "quantity."     -Steve Solomon, www.soilandhealth.org

  It's a big problem, and I can only do what I can with what I have where I'm at.  In my little patch of the Earth, soil health is the top priority.  Here's some of what I do to bring you the best food I can:
  • No Pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, or herbicides  -  These things often do serious harm to soil biology (and people) and are unneccesary.  
  • Compost -  everything I can I get my hands on from the farm, and then some. The piles of water hyacinth next to all the canals are a favorite of mine. Got manure or bagged yard waste? Can I have it? ;)
  • Natural Fertilizers - Guano, Gypsum for Ca and S, langbeinite for K, Mg, S, lime for Ca and Mg, Soft Rock Phosphate for P,  cottonseed meal for N, P, and K.  
  • Fish emulsion and seaweed - ocean-grown biomatter is a great source of trace elements. 
  • Green Manures - Bare soil is like a body with no skin.  I always try to have cover crops adding organic matter and recycling nutrients in the soil.  Leguminous cover crops add nitrogen too.
  • Windbreaks - The Valley needs more windbreaks!  Plants grow better and use less water when protected from excess wind.  Next time the wind is blowing topsoil into your face at45 mph, ask the farmers around you why they don't plant windbreaks and cover crops.  I still don't know!  
  • Wide Plant Spacing -  Most of my plants are spaced farther apart than is commonly suggested.  I aim to let each plant have a big root system to forage for soil nutrients. The yield per area might drop a little, but the quality increases.
  • Mix Animal and Vegetable Agriculture - many of the worst problems of industrial ag  stem from the divorce of animal farms from crop farms.  In short, plants need animal wastes and animals need living plants.... and nobody needs a 4 million gallon manure lagoon at a confined-animal-feeding-operation waiting to break.
  • There's more - There's always a better way, and I'm always open to it...