I attended a potluck gathering of the Mid-Hudson Growers Network, hosted by the Poughkeepsie Farm Project. (www.farmproject.org) They are a great urban CSA farm, with also an educational & community food-justice focus. We took a long farm tour where lots of questions were asked, and discussions about some of the following exciting topics ensued.
In between fields, they plant rows of herbs that flower at all different times of the year. This attracts beneficial insects that then keep the pest insect population down, and also provides food for honeybees. The plants are perennials and grow for a few years, then they harvest the echinacea & valerian root & till the rest of the bed under (it has become pretty weedy by then). Some flowers just attract butterflies, which don't really have an agricultural purpose, but are great to have around anyway!
Most of the tomatoes are grown in the field (on black plastic mulch) but early ones are grown in a hoophouse--- kind of a greenhouse that rolls up on the sides to let a breeze through. They are planted into a thicker black plastic that is reused for years, which keeps the weeds down & the drip irrigation water underneath.
They also grow strawberries, offered pick-your-own to CSA members. They plant them every year, from bare-root plants, in one row (6 foot beds). The picture below shows they've just cultivated. They plant them in the spring, then mulch over them in the fall to protect them from frost. Peeling back the straw the next spring reveals they've put out runners to fill in the row nicely & have buds of expectant flowers & berries!
And now it's time to harvest! Yum.
They use lots of interesting cover crops, like this sweet clover on the left here. Look at that sandy soil & the distinct lack of rocks. Wow.
They grow early summer squash, started in the greenhouse, under black plastic mulch, then put this Reemay on top, with hoops to give them space to grow. They tuck the cover in completely because they only have to remove it to harvest! (The weeds don't grow through the plastic mulch.) They are experimenting with a few rows of the biodegradable plastic, twice as expensive, but maybe worth it?
Here's an Allis Chalmers "G" Model tractor, from the late 1940s... hooked up with some Planet Jr. seeders for a faster time seeding than our push-seeder probably. The engine is in the back, so you can totally see what you're doing in the row of vegetables you're working.
They use a tine-weeder to cultivate sometimes. It works just like our rakes... tines are dragged through the soil, taking out all the little weeds, while the plants are left in because they're bigger & have established roots to hold them in. Cool.
And here's another Allis G, hooked up with about 6 batteries for a completely electric vehicle.