Coastal Agricultural Practices:

How We Grow

With so much information out there today, many questions about growing methods are common. Many opinions exist as well. How is our food grown anyway? A lot of folks think that everything they eat must be organic or it must be bad or not as good. Organic food IS good but not the ONLY good and safe method. Politics are often involved and media/marketing has a constant influence on how we view products we buy or consume.

As a master level horticulturist and agronomist, I have spent many years studying, teaching and practicing agriculture. I meet and come to know all of the farmers that will be selling at the market. The agricultural practices in our area are as diverse as the individuals growing the plant. What I have learned in my many years is that there are many ways to grow food and many methods are right, good and safe. Buy local. Why? Why is local food better? Not just the fact that you are supporting the agricultural community in our area, pumping money back into the local economy and sustaining the food source, but because you will know where it comes from and how it was grown. It will be the freshest, tastiest and healthiest. Again why? Because it was not bred for shipping quality, shelf life, was not handled one hundred times, canned, packaged, shipped for days green or preserved. Local food was harvested today or yesterday, handled minimally, very tasty because it was usually ripened on the plant and was grown from a variety or type that has flavor rather than shipping quality and shelf life.

Here are some short definitions of how some of your food is grown safely in our Local area!

Best Management Practices

This is a practice that covers all Agriculture. These guidelines are for proper land management and doing things right by our environment, especially water quality. It involves proper planning with a multitude of practices such as soil management, control of runoff for water quality, safe use of fertilizer and other preventative and environment conscientious methods. Correct use of pesticides as a last resort applied by a licensed chemical applicator who strictly follows labels for application to food crops. These guidelines apply to animal science and runoff from manure as well. Many of our farms adhere to these guidelines with respect for our natural environment.

Controlled Environment Agriculture

This is where every input is controlled. Light, temperature, plant food, moisture, and humidity are all monitored and controlled so that each plant receives exactly what it needs with little influence from outside weather and environment. It saves space, is highly scientific and has no negative influence on the environment. It can be easily practiced pesticide free but is not always. It depends on the grower and the level of control. Pesticide use is very restricted if utilized at all but would fall under best management practices and should be safely applied with time for the residues to dissipate well before harvest. There are a number of different methods within this area including but not limited to hydroponics. Hydroponics is the use of water, oxygen and the plants basic nutrients which are vital. Most hydroponic operations do not utilize soil.


Ecologically friendly method of designing a farm to take advantage of or rather create a natural ecosystem for sustainable and self-maintained agricultural systems that model a natural ecosystem. Kudos to those who are creating these. A simple example…..suppose you want to grow a food crop in a rotation of fields. First, a cover crop would be planted in a legume that fixes nitrogen in the soil (essential plant nutrient). The crop protects soil from erosion and improves soil quality. Allow livestock to graze and thus fertilize, furthering soil quality and feed the animals. Next, move the cattle and allow free range chickens in the field. The chickens subsequently fertilize more and clean up all of the insects. Lastly your site is ready, fertilized and cleaned up from pests. Till in the rest of the crop for more organic matter and plant your crop with no need for pesticides or fertilizer. This way there is no excess runoff from manure either. It is designing where the natural processes are copied. The output of one element can be an input for another element. This is just a simple example. Any and all elements in the landscape are reciprocated for a special purpose that works within the ecology of the farm. A tree is another function that could provide shelter, building material, raise the water table, create a windbreak, prevent erosion, provide food etc.

Organic/All Natural

Practicing organic growing by using naturally occurring nutrients or compost and without synthetic pesticides. Effective methods of weed control involves tillage, mulching and a large variety of creative methods. Insects are controlled by companion plantings of other plants that repel insects, introducing natural predators and the list goes on. There are many of these farms locally. They do not have official USDA organic certification. These farms often must take a loss of yield due to insect damage and weed competition that cannot be controlled. Most plant with this in mind and will ‘cull’ damaged goods. Most find it worth it. After all, the input cost may be less without the use expensive fertilizers and pesticides. Labor time may be a little higher which varies depending on availability of machinery. For animals, all natural and organic usually involves free range or grazing, no antibiotics or hormones.

Certified organic

These farms are certified by the USDA to be organic by a set of standards created by USDA that involves only approved organic pesticides and organic fertilizers. Organic fertilizers come from compost or other organic materials and organic pesticides are from special bacteria or other plants that have certain insect killing or repelling properties. Highly mechanized farms are more successful with organics. Clear plans and methods are implemented for the highest yields and recorded by USDA for absolutes. Certified organic meat and dairy again involves no use of antibiotics or hormones and requires clear methods of caring for the animals’ health without these potentially harmful inputs.


The care of bee hives. Apiaries are a place where bee hives are kept for the collection of honey, beeswax and pollen. Local honey comes in many different types depending on what flowers are planted in the area where they obtain the nectar. This gives the honey different tastes which are all great! Local honey is known for health benefits such as prevention of allergies and is a much healthier alternative for a sweetener. Some of our apiarist in the area also sell bees. Bees are, of course, vitally important to all of our farms for pollination. So we will all ‘bee’ grateful for these special farmers.


Note: If you are a local farmer with another method we can share please let us know because we are all excited to learn more about our local farms!