How We Grow at Parlee Farms
Since Parlee Farms began planting in 1987, we have always strived to produce the best locally grown fruit, vegetables, and flowers while being environmentally responsible. As Farmer Mark is a graduate of University of Massachusetts Lowell in Chemical Engineering, he has been able to use his knowledge of chemistry and biology in choosing the best methods for growing and protecting our crops, our customers, and the environment.
INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT:
We have practiced Integrated Pest Management (IPM) methods for more than 30 years. The objective of IPM is not to eliminate all pests but to prevent pest populations from reaching damaging levels.
- Inspection and monitoring are the backbone of an IPM program, where the goal is to detect and correct conditions that can lead to pest problems before they occur. We have an IPM consultant scout our fields weekly for pests and diseases, using traps set in all our fruit and corn fields.
- As a first line of defense against damaging insects, predator insects are released into the field. Often, this release is effective in keeping damaging insects in check. Spraying is only done when a pest or disease reaches a level that could seriously harm the crop.
SOIL & TISSUE HEALTH:
- Other ways we monitor the health of our crops is through annual soil and tissue analyses. Fertilizers and nutrients are created specifically for each crop based on these yearly analyses.
- Cover crops, such as winter rye, are planted once a field has been harvested. By using cover crops, organic matter is added back into the field to maintain healthy soils and prevent erosion.
- Also, have you noticed that our strawberry, corn, pumpkin, and flower fields are moved around from season to season? Crop rotation is an effective way of keep our soils healthier so we can produce better crops.
- We were one of the first farms in New England to implement zone tillage when planting strawberries, corn, and pumpkins. Zone tillage is a form of deep tillage where only the soil in the narrow crop row is disturbed. This system, along with cover crops, improves organic matter and drainage in the soil, increases soil water and nutrient holding capacity, and reduces soil erosion.
PARLEE FARMS WEATHER STATION:
- In conjunction with our IPM methods, Parlee Farms has a NEWA WEATHER STATION on the farm. The weather data from our farm is electronically transmitted to the NEWA (Network for Environment and Weather Applications) site at Cornell University and the data is used, according to the site, “…for more precise IPM and crop production practices. Weather information and pest forecast models enhance decision-making in IPM, especially for plant diseases and insects.” Feel free to visit the NEWA site to see weather conditions and history at Parlee Farms.
“ARE YOU ORGANIC?” “DO YOU SPRAY?”:
- These are questions that we are asked frequently. It is extremely difficult to grow commercially saleable fruit in New England organically due to the pest and moisture pressures. While we follow many organic practices, such as biological pest management, crop rotation, and soil management, we believe that in following IPM practices, we can make educated decisions on pest and disease control using the safest methods possible to successfully produce our crops.
- Farmers following either IPM methods or organic methods need to spray to control pests and disease. ‘Organic’ does not mean ‘pesticide-free’. In many instances, organic farmers need to spray their crops more frequently to protect them from pests and disease. Organic methods dictate that pesticides used must come from natural sources. IPM methods include organic based products and synthetic products.
COMMONWEALTH QUALITY GROWER:
- In 2011, Parlee Farms was certified as a COMMONWEALTH QUALITY GROWER. According to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, Commonwealth Quality “…serves to identify locally sourced products that are grown, harvested and processed right here in Massachusetts using practices that are safe, sustainable and don’t harm the environment. That’s why Commonwealth Quality-certified growers, producers, harvesters and processors not only meet stringent federal, state and local regulatory requirements, but also employ best management practices and production standards that ensure consumers receive the safest, most wholesome products available.” We are very proud to be among the first group of farmers to receive this designation.
All these practices are more expensive and more labor intensive to maintain, but at Parlee Farms we have not lost what our primary objective is – to raise the highest quality fruits, vegetables, and flowers in the most environmentally friendly way for our customers, ourselves, and our environment.