This morning Tierra Miguel shone bright and clear. After our day of glory in San Diego we were back on our normal work schedule here at the Farm and we were ready for it. This morning Jonathan, the main farmer here, gave us a lesson on “companion planting.” We learned about which plants that look like weeds are actually helpful and useful to the plants placed intentionally by the farmers. We got to taste the wild mustard greens, some edible wildflowers, and a bit of the bok choy and red choy that were planted with other plants in the same bed (because of their symbiotic relationships). One of the best things about organic farming is that the worst thing we worry about is soil or maybe a little tiny bug on something you pick up from the field and put to your mouth – there is no worry of herbicides and pesticides and chemicals that can harm you.
After the short run-down we hit the weeds surrounding some dandelion greens with a vengeance, making sure to avoid the mustard greens, wildflowers, clovers and other things we’d been advised created a better – not worse – growing environment for the plants. We took a break for an incredible lunch of teriyaki tofu, hand-picked arugula salad, and some roasted sweet potatoes. The real excitement came after lunch when we headed back out for a few more lessons, some seeding, and some building. We stood in front of Farmer Jonathan as he explained the details of crop rotation at Tierra Miguel. Each plant has a list of plants that grow well, or even better with it, and a list of plants it “doesn’t get along with.” (Plants, we have found, are much like small children who just need to be raised properly – with sunlight, not too many bad influences, and friends who they like…) Each time a crop is planted it is planted with both the past and future crops in mind when it comes to things like nutrient retention, water absorption, or nitrogen fixation. We also learned a bit about what goes into the economic side of an organic operation. After the lesson (incredibly informative) we broke up into two groups, one of which got some seeds together and made a mixture of compost, peat moss, and water, lightly packed it in small trays and lovingly placed 2 seeds in each compartment before covering them with a bit more of the mixture and stashing the whole thing in the green house. We made upwards of 20 of these beds. Some day in late August many will enjoy a delicious “Stripped German” heritage variety tomato and will have us to thank. The other group got to handle power tools and build worm beds – compost bins for the farm. A fun time was had by all.