Sustainable Farming at Dogpatch Urban Gardens
A note about the author, Jenny Quiner is the owner and operator of Dogpatch Urban Gardens located in Des Moines Iowa.
Before starting the farm, I was a science teacher at Dowling Catholic High School. I specialized in Biology and also taught Environmental Science. While teaching I gained a strong desire to become a more sustainable steward of our land and that is one (of many) of the factors that influenced me to leave teaching and transition into farming. I wanted to take a little time to explain what sustainable farming means to me. We have one Earth and it's important that we work to take care of it and make it a better place for our future generations. Do I think that my style of urban farming can feed the world.....no. BUT, do I think that my style of urban farming can enhance a community, spark conversation about use of resources, inspire others, and enhance soil....YES! One of our most precious resources is soil. Soil is the backbone to all our agricultural crops and it's critical we don't take our soil for granted. To me, fertile soil is the foundation to being a sustainable farmer. There are lots of statistics about land degradation and loss of top soil, and the big takeaway is we are depleting our top soil at a much faster rate than we are replenishing this precious resource. An emerging term in farming is regenerative agriculture and I LOVE this idea. Sustainably farming essentially is maintaining the current state, while regenerating is making something better. I use farming techniques that aim to make our soil better. I do not routinely use tillage practices. Tilling can have adverse effects on the soil and is not the best practice to soil quality. I also try not to have bare soil, because when soil is exposed to the elements it can severely impact its quality and health. Whether that's the use of intensive plantings, silage tarps, or cover crops you will hardly find bare soil on my land. The roots in the ground provide food for microorganisms in the soil, improve water retention, and decreasing the amount of soil erosion. Synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides are also causing negative impacts on the environment. I grow all my crops using organic methods which essentially means I do not use any synthetic products in my growing practices. I can feel confident that I am not contributing to contaminated soil, water, and air due to harmful chemicals in agricultural practices. Another key focal point towards my farming practices is the idea of limiting dependence on fossil fuels. Yes, I still use them, but I'm very aware of our usage and make choices to be as sustainable as possible. We do not use a tractor or heavily rely on tools that run on gasoline. All our tools are either hand tools or run on the power of hand held drill batteries. The majority of our produce is sold on site at the DUG FarmStand, so our food miles are very limited. The food that is sold off site is distributed to Des Moines metro restaurants, or the Iowa Food Coop, and are all located within 10 miles of the farm. According to Michigan State University's Center for Regional Food Systems the average conventionally-grown food travels 1,494 miles to get to market. The process of transporting food across the US relies heavily on fossil fuels for transport trucks, refrigeration, electricity, and more! The choices you make as a consumer also play a great role in sustainability. The way you spend your money supports your values and can directly impact farmers. Choosing to support your local farmers is key in the sustainability of their business. The term sustainability is real common when discussing the environment, yet farmers need to be sustainable in their business as well. If I'm not making enough money to pay the bills than my business can not continue. Passion alone is not enough, farmers need to be able to support themselves, their families, and their employees. Keep this in mind the next time you are purchasing food.