Contrarian Agrarians

CONTRARIAN AGRARIANS

Who We Are

lentil flower
©Jen Landry, lentil flower

Jen and Larry are avid gardeners who have grown all the vegetables we consume for the last 18 years. For most of those years our garden was in a small valley outside of Fairbanks, where the already painfully short summers

were cruelly truncated by cold air settling in the valley bottom on still days. Some years we experienced frost every month of the year. We were forced to considerable lengths to keep our garden vibrant.

Having moved to the far more convivial climes of Gustavus four years ago, we’ve been pleased with the longer growing season and permafrost free soils. Jen’s zeal at new growing opportunities quickly swelled our garden to the point that we began selling produce in 2015.

Jen studied Sustainable Agriculture as Sterling College , currently recognized as the top college in the nation for serving food that’s local, sustainable, humane, and fair-trade. From there she worked on organic and biodynamic farms across the country until settling in Alaska where she has continued to keep her hands in the soil, working for years with John & Jo Papp at Papps’ Produce where potato varieties abounded, and whose legacy now is continued by their daughter at Bender Mountain Farm .

Our Growing Practices

elecampane flower
©Jen Landry, elecampane flower

Thanks to the small farm friendly folks at the USDA, we are not allowed to use the most common and obvious adjective to describe our growing practices without paying through the nose, so we shall describe them instead and let you fill in the blanks. We employ many of the standard practices of the aforementioned unmentionable word to keep our soils healthy and productive, to-wit:

swiss chard
©Jen Landry, swiss chard
  • Living near the bountiful waters of Icy Strait makes it much easier to build soilfertility without exogenous inputs. We mix a couple tons of seaweed/ leaf mixture into the beds in the spring, and add more as a top dressing in the summer.
  • We build a couple sizable compost piles each year. Last year, we experimented with mixing modest amounts of fish waste in the center of the pile, where cooking at 140 degrees and absorption by the organics in the pile quickly eliminated bear attracting odors.
  • We use ash from the wood stove to sweeten the soil.
  • The beds are covered with leaves in the fall
  • Jen is working to perfect her year round outdoor vermi-bins. Temps in the worm bin have stayed between 40F (great) to 100 degrees F (yikes too warm) during this past winter, even during the long cold spells.

 

We spray an active aerated compost tea on the soil and plants. Agronomic research in recent years has revealed the critical role that microorganisms play in making soil nutrients available to plants. Although our sample size is small;one year—last summer’s results seemed to be a resounding endorsement of this approach. We highly recommend the book Teaming with Microbes by Jef Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis, which does a good job of explaining the science for the lay person and describing the simple steps that can bring the magic to your garden.

seaweed and leaf compost
©Jen Landry, seaweed and leaf compost

Our lone foray into inorganic chemicals: with perhaps undue relish, Larry sprays a dilute ammonia solution directly on each of Satan’s minions, THE SLUG!

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