Farmer Dave Massey says that other farmers have told him not to bother with blueberries- that they’re too much trouble and too difficult to get growing. Dave’s farm, though, is full of big, healthy blueberry bushes that are nearly all overloaded with berries. Even better, they’re all entirely organic, grown without the use of any chemicals, pesticides or unnatural fertilizers.
While Farmer Dave grows around a dozen varieties of blueberries, he also grows more than 70 types of heirloom tomatoes, 12 types of basil, four types of squash (all of which can be eaten raw), potatoes, carrots, more herbs, raspberries, peppers, and even Italian dandelions, which are grown for their greens.
The variety at Northwoods Organic Produce is huge, and everything is grown organically.
“There’s more or less a movement for people to really start analyzing what they’re putting in their mouth,” Dave said. Organically grown food is generally more nutrient-dense, which Dave says is in contrast to a lot of the food people eat today.
“You need to know that the soil you’re growing stuff in, and the product you’re producing from the soil, has nutrient density. In other words, it has minerals and vitamins and other types of things that promote health,” Dave said. “So you have, basically, food that is doing something for your body, unlike food that is a lot of calories but no nutrition- and that’s a lot of the food we eat.”
Dave believes that many of today’s health problems can be traced back to the food we eat and a lack of responsibility by both the consumer and the producer. The producer needs to create food that is well-labeled and healthy for his or her consumers, and the consumer needs to be aware of what he or she is eating and how it will affect their body.
“You want to be able to control what you’re eating and what’s been done with it,” Dave said. Specifically, he’s referring to the chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers used in farming and growing food at conventional farms. With organic certification- which Northwoods Organic Produce has- many of those chemicals are prohibited.
While visitors come to Farmer Dave for organic produce, Dave feels they also come to him for information.
“We provide information. People have questions about why their kids are sick, or why there’s so much cancer,” he said. Dave tries to at least point them in the direction of where to look for answers.
Farmer Dave says that while it’s best to know what your food has been through before it gets to you, there are some things that are more important to eat organic than others. Bananas, for example, are probably fine when grown conventionally. Potatoes and berries, on the other hand, are more affected by the pesticides that’s used on them. Dave says that with these foods, the chemicals are in the produce, not on the surface, so they can’t be washed off.
“It’s the amount of chemicals they put on stuff, it gets inside the food,” Dave said.
He believes that food should be more properly labeled. If it were labeled, it would be easier to complete side-by-side studies of people who eat food grown in different ways, and would allow for traceability. Food companies are fighting this, Dave says, because it would create liability and open them up to litigation.
Others who visit Northwoods Organic Produce are looking for advice or guidance on their gardening, such as help with a pest on their crops. Farmer Dave’s been experimenting with different ways to grow organically for years.
One of his recent trials is using cover crops. Dave covers an area with a crop, such as triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye), which grows up tall and thick. The crop is then mowed down and chopped up, creating a thick mulch over the land. Dave plants in the mulch, which keeps weeds from overtaking the plants.
He’s also had great luck with weed block. Weed blocking fabric around his blueberries and other crops has meant that Dave doesn’t need to use chemical weed killers on his plants. The result is, after years of trial and error, quality organic produce- like the enormous blueberries on Farmer Dave’s bushes.
When it comes to organic farming, Farmer Dave sees it as a responsibility. “We have two things in life: our name and our choices,” he said. “With knowledge comes responsibility, with responsibility comes action.”
Visit Northwoods Organic Produce and Farmer Dave at his rural farm for pick-your-own berries, or find him at the Ideal Green Market Cooperative Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Ideal Corners, next to the Old Milwaukee Club. To learn more about the farm or inquire about pick-your-own, visit the Northwoods Organic Facebook page or call the farm at 218-568-5823.