On-Farm Practices

Chemical-free

The Duke Campus Farm uses all organic-approved processes and inputs, though we are not organic-certified. Our primary clients at Duke Dining visit our farm space and regularly discuss our growing methods. We’re fortunate to have a major institutional client willing to support sustainably-raised local produce.

 

Building Healthy Soil Ecology

We employ farming practices rooted in agroecological principles which emphasize diverse cropping systems, minimal tillage, and integrated pest management . We use cover crops - typically a seasonally-dependent mixture of crimson clover, buckwheat, rye grass (shown above being incorporated into compost piles), cowpea, and vetch - to build organic matter and to introduce more nitrogen into our soils. We introduce a small handful of mineral and byproduct amendments - chicken feathermeal, rock phosphate, greensand, and harmony -- into our soil preparation work.

 

Tools and Equipment

Farm staff and students spent DCF’s few first seasons building raised permanent beds with hand tools like hoes, rakes, and the champion of all small-farm tools, the broadfork. In 2015 we expanded our half-acre production to the full acre and upped our bed-prepping game by purchasing a BCS walk-behind tractor (pictured above). This European machine has implements for bedding up soil, incorporating cover crop and amendments with minimal damage to soil structure, and creating smooth seeding surfaces. The BCS suits our scale and operation well: compared to a larger tractor footprint, it minimizes soil compaction and maneuvers with ease (mostly!) around our intensively-planted, tightly-planned space. We still rely heavily on the use of broadforks for compost and amendment incorporation and non-damaging aeration.