Tierra Verde Farm is focused exclusively on Controlled Environment Agriculture – that means we do everything we can to provide the optimum environment in terms of sun, nutrients, temperature, humidity and human care for the plants. This allows us to provide a higher quality product more consistently (e.g. year-round). It also allows us to minimize our footprint on mother earth, to an extent that we’d like to think we are not only competitive with but actually have a lower footprint than organic field methods.
Our Greenhouse structure is at the core of our model of production and we rely on it to provide the best conditions possible. The building helps us maintain our “weather”, the temperature, humidity, amount of sunlight etc. Some of the things you might not think about in a traditional greenhouse include special covering materials that allow the wavelength of light the plants need in but not the infrared heat-carrying waves, which helps us save on energy cooling. Additionally, we have an automatic shade system and a cooling pad for managing the infamous dog-days-of-summer in the Savannah area.
Pest & Disease Management
We strictly use only organic pest and disease management protocols. We are 100% committed to avoiding the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fungicides inside our operation. First and foremost, we try to prevent the introduction of pests (and disease) into the greenhouse. We have an extensive insect filtration system where all of the air comes into the greenhouse. We also vigilantly keep vegetation outside the greenhouse away from the greenhouse. In additional, everything that comes into the greenhouse is at a minimum washed if not sterilized, and certainly anything that comes into direct contact with the plants is sterilized at least prior to the growing cycle beginning.
For pest identification, we use yellow sticky cards to trap insects and we monitor them several times a week.
Thus far we have been very lucky. We have been able to manually control the few pests we have encountered (caterpillars, primarily). However, we remain at the ready with the following methods:
With some pests, in a small outbreak, we can manually control them because we have such a concentrated foot print.
Things like neem oil and the mineral form of sulfur are approved organic, completely safe, and can be used preventatively or during an ourbreak. We will leverage these as appropriate.
Finally, Organic farming has produced a strong industry of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and there are “beneficials”, from lady bugs, to parasitic wasps that only prey on whiteflies, to bacteria and nematodes that interrupt the cycle of gnats and fungi that are harmful to the plants. We leverage these as appropriate.
Hydroponics literally means “water works.” We put the food the plants need, in the form of elemental salts (like Epsom salt for magnesium and sulfur), into the water that we irrigate them with. We are able to precisely control plant nutrition in this way giving them what they need when they need it. The biggest ecological benefit we have with our system is we recirculate the nutrients, adding back only what was taken up in terms of nutrients and water. Field methods, even organic, will use 10-100X the water and fertilizer that the plant actually needs. Also using this system, we can irrigate up to twenty times a day during very high solar energy days to keep the plants healthy under circumstances they simply could not survive in terra firma. This system also affords us the ability to prevent diseases from spreading by using filters and ultra-violet sterilization, which in turns allows us to provide a higher quality and more consistently available vegetable.