Part of the appeal of eating local food is the knowledge that it’s been grown responsibly and with extra care. The philosophy that guides how we farm across all our crops is a commitment to ecological farming. This means balancing the needs of our crops with the health of the entire farm ecosystem, and always working to promote a balance between the two. It’s an approach that’s close to organic and combines the best of modern farming and traditional techniques.
To ensure the food we produce is as healthful as possible, we practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM). It allows us to protect our plants from pests using very gentle methods. IPM means thinking outside the mainstream of pest management. While it may be simpler to follow a standard pesticide routine, we believe our hard work pays off in the flavor and purity of our crops. To us, that’s worth every ounce of effort.
Pests and Disease
Despite our best efforts, weather and mother nature sometimes have different ideas in mind. At Swans Trail Farms we follow an Integrated Pest Management Plan as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This means we use a combination of pest control methods so that we limit our impact on the environment. We deal with disease and pests on a case-by-case basis and only spray when it is absolutely necessary to save our crop. We only use products that are approved by the FDA for food and produce. Therefore, all our produce is safe to eat right out of the field. Sprays are also diluted in water prior to application. For example, a pesticide is applied at a rate of 4 oz. per acre. This is equivalent to 1/3 can of soda of chemical per one football field. You can read more about Integrated Pest Management here.
The IPM strategy of farming considers life cycles of insects and diseases plus the ability of the crops to tolerate some damage. There are many insects and mites that are beneficial because they naturally consume other pests that harm the crops. We take steps to not harm these beneficial insects and monitor their populations.
Pest Detection, Trapping & Monitoring
We spend many hours scouting our farms and orchards to follow pest populations. This knowledge allows us to make informed decisions about specific insects that are of concern. Not only detection, but also understanding the life cycle of pests makes them easier to control.
Pest Pheromone Disruption
Using mating disruption techniques like hanging pheromone works to confuse damaging insects and reduce populations, which significantly reduces the need for applications.
We rotate many of our fields on an annual or biannual basis so the soil can receive nutrients naturally. For example, after we harvest a strawberry field for two years, we remove it and plant clover, pumpkins, squash, oats, or other crops - many of which add nitrogen back into the soil. This crop rotation method allows us to suppress weeds, fungus, and bug pests naturally. Crop rotation also adds more organic material to our soil each year. We test the PH of our soil regularly so we know if we need to add more natural elements (such as lime) to help maintain our soil's health.
We intensively research and select varieties that are uniquely suited to the climate, soil, and topography of the Snohomish Valley. Varieties directly suited to our microclimate on the Snohomish valley naturally grow stronger, more vigorous, and better withstand frost, disease & pest pressure, while producing some of the highest quality fruit in the Pacific Northwest.