How We Farm
When we looked at areas of Alaska to start our farm, we had very specific criteria to foster the most success. Haines was ultimately chosen as the location for our farm due to its specific microclimate, affordable land, and the historical tradition of agriculture in the first half of the 1900’s. Haines met the three main criteria for the potential of Alaskan seed production:
- A long, frost-free growing season to allow seed crops to come to maturity
- Mild winters for overwintering biennial crops
- A relatively dry climate to allow seeds to cure outdoors
With approximately 50 inches of rainfall annually, Haines is wetter than places like Fairbanks or the Matanuska Valley, but dry and warm in the summer by coastal Alaska standards, with a comparatively longer frost-free season. The often thick snowpack and mild winters mean that crops left in the field have a good chance of surviving the winter, which is key for biennial crops that require a cold spell before producing seed.
The Foundroot Farm is run on an regenerative market garden model. As opposed to needing more chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, market gardening reduces inputs over time, builds strong soil structure, maintains the local ecology, and sequesters carbon rather than releasing it.
Market gardening uses standardized beds allowing most tasks to be accomplished efficiently with hand tools rather gas driven machinery. Only the top 2-3” of soil are ever tilled with far less disturbance to the wealth of animal, fungal, and microbial life that is key to healthy soil, and fewer dormant weed seeds are brought to the surface. Cover crops guard against soil erosion and are then allowed to decompose in place as a “green-manure”, building the soil rather than depleting it and reducing the need for fertilizer. With this model, we aim to build, rather than “mine” soil, not pollute surface water, drastically reduce overall energy consumption, produce higher yields, and for being far less susceptible to crop failure.
The philosophy behind our equipment fits within the framework of appropriate technology: technology that is suitable to the social and economic conditions of the geographic area in which it is to be applied, environmentally sound, and promotes self-sufficiency for those using it. We use one BCS walk behind tractor for our production field and rely on smaller tools such as broad forks, soft tined rakes, silage tarps, and weed burners to complete daily farm maintenance.
Although there is more physical labor needed to run a market garden, it is a sustainable way to ensure that the rich soil we have inherited stays strong for generations to come.