Organic Production and Pesticides
The Cullipher family utilizes both USDA organic and conventional production processes. We currently have 11.5 acres and counting of USDA certified organic land, certified by Quality Certification Services (QCS) (#1212G). While our main farm is conventional, we use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) which emphasizes sustainable and ecological growing practices. IPM means the use of multiple methods, including biological, cultural, genetic and chemicals to control pests. We use many of the same organic products on our conventional crops. Crop rotation is a key component in our pest management. We do not use any genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) on our farm. Modern plant breeding has improved tremendously in the area of disease resistance which reduces our pesticide usage. We also plant host crops for beneficial or predator insects throughout the farm.
Soil and Water Conservation
Aside from family, our natural resources are our most valuable asset. Clean water and soil are keys to the sustainability for us and future generations. We have a Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation approved nutrient management plan (NMP). What that means is each year we take soil samples from every field to establish the existing nutrient levels. With that information, we determine how much fertilizer to use on each crop. We also split our fertilizer applications to match the crops’ needs as opposed to applying all of it at the beginning of the year. By doing this, very few nutrients have a chance to leach into the groundwater.
We have also been able to reduce our fertilizer use by planting cover crops that produce nitrogen and improve organic matter. Composted chicken litter and chicken feather meal are our main organic sources of fertilizer.
The vast majority of the land that we farm is enrolled in the City’s Agricultural Reserve Program which is designed to help keep farms viable and prevent development. The City purchases development rights of the land over the span of 25 years. This benefits the community and the owners by minimizing the need for additional city services and a safety net to weather the tough years. We felt like this is a very important step to take to ensure the land base is secure for future generations. We are also partners with the USDA, Va Dare Soil and Water Conservation District, and Va Dept. of Game And Inland Fisheries in several programs to enhance water quality and wildlife habitat.