Last year was my first year as a farmer. We grew things and they tasted better than what you get at the store… at least I think they did. I’m really more of a quantity person than a quality person. I just like to have a lot, I don’t do well at identifying tastes and differences. I’ll eat just about anything.
Last year we had some issues with growing some things because we were lacking some nutrients (nitrogen was the big one I think). We also have very acidic soil which makes it hard for plants to absorb nutrients (like nitrogen, among others). While we had some plants that looked pretty good, we had a lot of plants that just weren’t striving.
This year, I wanted to do better, so we got the compost fired up (but it’s not really done yet, so next year will be better yet), we put some organic nitrogen sources in our field and a lot of lime to help neutralize the soil. My hope was to have better vigor in my plants so they would produce more and I would have more to sell.
The other day, I tasted one of my spinach plants (a crop that was a complete failure last year). It was sweet. It was a very desirable taste that I really liked. That was new to me. I’ve always known spinach as the bagged stuff which doesn’t have any taste or the frozen stuff that just kind of adds nutrition to other foodstuff.
It then dawned on me, I’m not a farmer. A farmer is like a chemical engineer, adding chemicals to soils in the right proportions to maximize yield. I’ve tasted good spinach and I don’t want to be a farmer anymore. I want to be an artisan. I’m a craftsman. I’m adding a variety of organic materials to my land in order to grow amazing soil. With amazing soil, I will be able to grow food with real taste.
I don’t think there is a recipe for what the soil needs. This isn’t chemistry. This is art. The soil needs a variety. Don’t get me wrong, the soil needs certain elements in order to grow food (nitrogen, for example), but I don’t think that adding nitrogen is the solution. The solution is adding organic materials that contain or promote the production of nitrogen.
I’ve never been the crafty type, but I’m excited to craft good food. I need to go get back to doing that right now.