For a long time the word “sustainability” spoke most directly to environmental conservation efforts. As we increasingly become cognizant of the nodes that connect our physical environment, our economy, human physical and mental health, and social equity, the word can’t quite seem to carry all of that well anymore. Even just focusing on the agricultural sector, we see many different descriptions and certifications to describe the ethos of sustainable agriculture, like organic, regenerative agriculture, agroecological, non-GMO, responsibly sourced, “natural” (the latter has almost completely lost its meaning) that can confuse the average consumer about what is best.
But at Bounty Farm, it’s not so much about finding the right buzz word as it is about challenging ourselves to have ever-continuing, critical discussions about what sustainability looks like for everyone in the community. That’s why the farm is such a key centerpiece of our programs – it not only provides a collaborative gathering space, but also a tactile hub to grow skills, leadership, hope, and promote understanding of sustainable agriculture and its role in a healthy food system. It is part of our unique model that anyone can come out to the farm and apply sustainable practices right alongside us. When we can see, feel, touch and discuss collectively, our understanding can grow ten-fold.
Petaluma Bounty promotes a systems lens of understanding agricultural sustainability that explores the interconnections between farming, the environment and communities affected by them. Through this holistic lens, we are able to broaden and deepen our perspective of sustainability that ranges from the individual farm, the local ecosystem and to the surrounding communities that are affected by the farming system. How we grow our food involves more than just soil health, but also farmers and farmworkers’ wellbeing, affordable pricing, culture and food traditions, and building strong local economies. Everyone within the system – consumers, retailers, food processors, etc – play a role in upholding a sustainable, healthy food system.
Through the Bounty Farm, our farm-based educational urban agriculture space provides a window into sustainable agriculture and tangible practices participants can learn and share at home. Volunteers and students who come to the farm are engaged in discussions, instructed in or directly collaborate with our organization on sustainable farming practices and projects. We survey our community for input on what they like to see us plant. Our customers and program participants have opportunities to eat local, take advantage of our tiered pricing structure and incentives, and talk directly to their farmer about where their food comes from. And our farmer makes a living wage and is afforded healthcare. All these multifaceted moving pieces of our farm food system shines a light on the interconnectedness, complexity and sometimes competing interests of how a community works towards sustainability. If we can say anything with certainty when it comes to defining sustainability, it is above all a collaborative, community effort.
When it comes to on-farm sustainability practices we employ several sustainable agricultural methods to cultivate over 12,000 pounds of vegetables and fruits annually. All of these practices weave together, reinforcing the others to lead to a resilient farm ecosystem.
Below are some of the on-farm practices we incorporate in a typical season:
- Crop diversification
- Crop rotation
- Integrated pest management
- Herbicide and pesticide free
- Healthy soil building
- Reduced bare soils
- Drip irrigation
- Cover crop
- Farm hedgerow
- Bird boxes
- Rice straw mulching
- Cow manure reuse
- Minimal packaging
- Low food miles
- Materials reuse: Irrigation reuse, plastics, row covers, seeding trays, etc
- Intake community-used materials of plastic pots, tools and cardboard for reuse
- Redirected cardboard waste from various local businesses to utilize for farm path mulching
- Tool maintenance and repair
- Sonoma Beekeepers Association donates pollinator friendly plants to increase pollinator forage and habitat
- Groundwater recharge
New Additions from 2020:
- Rainwater catchment system
- Summer Buckwheat cover crop
- Integrated chicken management
- Monarch Butterfly sighting at the farm
- Reclaimed wood from old Pt. Reyes Park benches used for new seating and storage
- Educational Worm Bin
If you’re curious to learn more about any of these items listed above, come on out and join us in the fields! And we are always updating our list of Farming & Gardening Resources. Or perhaps you have some insightful knowledge to share with the community (like how to get rid of crabgrass without harmful sprays – we could use some brainstorming on this!).