Sustainability may be the newest buzzword, but it’s a credo the agriculture industry has lived by for generations because we know it is critical to our survival. Sustainable agriculture integrates many principles.
At Hitchcock Farms, we make every effort to minimize our impact on the environment so that we may continue to provide our customers fresh produce for generations to come. Following are some of our standard operating practices that support that commitment.
Many American farmers, including those associated with our company, have been farming their land for generations. Land is our biggest asset and it only makes sense that we do everything in our power to protect it.
- Crops are regularly rotated to keep insect and disease infestations to a minimum and to avoid stripping the soil of important nutrients.
- To further enrich the soil, nutrients are added, as appropriate, and any trim or product that is not harvested, is tilled back into the soil.
- Most of our farmland is relatively flat, so erosion is not a big problem, but our tillage methods are designed to improve the ability of soil to absorb and retain water.
- We grow cover crops in many fields for added soil tilth and organic matter. Also, we plant cover crops on dirt roads for erosion control and dust abatement.
- Grasses are planted along ditch banks for erosion control and as a filter, absorbing some of the chemicals and nutrients in runoff water.
Irrigation is necessary for any farming operation, but at Hitchcock Farms, we don’t irrigate needlessly.
- Daily irrigation decisions consider current temperature, wind and the needs of the crop.
- We use drip irrigation, wherever feasible, to further minimize water usage.
- Cleaning and packing harvested produce is done in the fields so that any water used during that operation goes back into the soil rather than into the sewage system.
Some believe that organic growing practices are more sustainable than conventional farming. At Hitchcock Farms, after much research and thought, we believe both farming methods can be equally sustainable and offer these facts for your consideration.
- Organic doesn’t mean “chemical-free.” Organic crops are treated with chemical pesticides, fungicides and insecticides just like conventionally grown crops. While organic chemicals are derived from nature, that does not mean they are less toxic.
- Two of those organic chemicals, sulfur and copper, have much more persistent environmental toxicity than their synthetic counterparts.1
- Because they are less effective than their synthetic counterparts, more organic chemicals are used per acre than synthetic chemicals, placing a heavier burden on the eco-system.
- Because organic methods result in 30% less yield than conventional cultivation, 40% more acreage is required to grow an equal amount of fresh produce. That means the use of more organic fungicides (sulfur and copper), pesticide (oil), and biocontrol agents (predatory insects). These factors, as well as greatly increased water usage, all place an increased burden on our ecological systems.
- Like organic agriculture, conventional agriculture, as practiced by Hitchcock Farms, does use some synthetic chemicals to treat pests and fungus and to provide fertilization. Importantly, the State of California monitors and regulates the use of all chemicals, whether natural or synthetic, to ensure safety. California, arguably, has the strictest agricultural regulation in the nation and produces some of the safest fresh produce available in the world.
Hitchcock Farms packages its fresh produce in recyclable cartons wherever possible. We have increased our use of recyclable cartons by 30% over the last several years and are committed to continuing our progress on that front.
The owners of Hitchcock Farms have been farming and living in the California’s Salinas Valley for four generations. As a respected and responsible corporate citizen, we are committed to our employees and our community. All employees and field crews are paid a living wage that is consistent with labor practices in the area and we provide safe and sanitary working conditions. We see continuity in the field crews from year to year which attests to that fact. We also support local food banks and donate excess product to them on a regular basis.
J. Kovach, C. Petzwoldt, J. Degni, and J. Tette, “A Method to Measure the Environmental Impact of Pesticides,” New York’s Food and Life Sciences Bulletin Number 139, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, Cornel University, Ithaca, New York (1992).