This article is part of a 4-part feature on Untiedt's Vegetable Farm, one of our local Minnesota Grown farmers. Click here to read from the beginning.
Environmental stewardship is part of Untiedt's farm tour curriculum and is of critical, personal importance at Untiedt's. Several key farm management practices underscore the Untiedt family's beliefs in the area of agricultural sustainability and environmental harmony:
Untiedt's sets aside plots of land to grow only plants that attract bees. Sunflowers, golden rod, clover, alfalfa and sorghum, to name but a few, are constantly blooming all season long. These areas help to draw in native bees, which are used to pollinate field crops and, more importantly, offer a place where the bees can buzz without being bothered.
Bumblebee nest boxes are also used on the farm to help pollinate crops. Farmer Jerry uses them in place of regular honeybees because of their friendly nature (they are less likely to swarm or sting farm workers) and their ability to navigate beneath the plastic coverings of the high tunnels (an environment where honeybees tend to panic, lose orientation and fail to flourish). These bumblebee colonies are especially beneficial within the high tunnels, which yield an early, plant-friendly environment rivaling the best outside growing areas by at least three weeks. Untiedt's also supplementally feeds the bumblebee colonies with cane sugar until the first flower blossoms appear, after which the bees move on toward plant pollen as their major food source.
Erosion and Runoff Minimization
Contour farming is a sustainable farming method used to prevent soil erosion on sloping land. Crops are planted in rows that run around the hill in perpendicular lines instead of running up and down the hill, which creates less runoff. A 60-foot span of wild grassland at the edge of any fields that are near the Crow River also helps filter water runoff before it enters that waterway.
Most of Untiedt's fields also have trees planted 20-feet apart, some as tall as 75 feet, around their entire perimeter to act as natural wind breaks. This keep soils from blowing away and is also a mindful choice, ensuring that trees are not sacrificed in exchange for farming.
Untiedt's devotes whole sections of land for ground-nesting birds to nest in, and predator-resistant wood duck houses have been placed around wetlands on the farm. Houses for other bird species are also posted to encourage their habitation. Their presence is welcomed in hopes that well-protected birds will cut down on the amount of detrimental insects (and because the Untiedts love to view them and hear their songs).
Untiedt's leaves a food patch for the wildlife in the winter and, to the best of their ability, never harvest densely covered areas before native wildlife friends have left the fields with their families.