Sustainability & Transparency Report 2023

Sustainability & Transparency Report 2023

Thursday, November 23, 2023

TPS Farms LLC has two properties under cultivation: a residential backyard garden in North Little Rock (NLR), and the main farm property in Jacksonville (JV).  NLR is used as a testbed, and has 2 polytunnel greenhouses for overwintering of sensitive plants.  JV is still under development, but should be our primary production location by the end of 2024.  This is our first Sustainability and Transparency Report.  We will release these annually.

NLR: We had a small garden at NLR before starting TPS Farms.  During covid we expanded the garden to include ~2000 square feet of thicket. This required clearing dense stands of privet, photinia, nandina, english ivy, and bamboo. We applied 2 gallons of Roundup (1-2% glyphosate) directly to the foliage and stumps of persistent invasive plants in the summer of 2021 and spring of 2022.  No other non-OMRI herbicide has been used on this property during our tenure.  

Small quantities of non-OMRI pesticides have been used at NLR in areas not associated with food growing over the past several years; this included 1 pound of Amdro(0.73% hydramethylnon), and minimal amounts of common home pesticides (eg. Raid Wasp & Hornet Killer), pet treatments, etc.  We are uncertain when or if a prophylactic termite treatment has occurred during the annual inspection of the house. The house is downslope of the primary growing area, and therefore should not contaminate the garden; we will research further and release results when they are available.

Our inputs for NLR consist primarily of our own compost, leaves collected by neighbors, and hardwood mulch supplied by Good Earth of Little Rock.  For specific nutrients and pH balance we add OMRI approved fertilizers and lime.  

Our one departure from OMRI inputs is the use of Groundwork 13-13-13 fertilizer.  We have used ~15 lbs at NLR.  The primary reason that such fertilizers are banned under organic practice is the energy usage and CO2 released in the production of ammonium nitrate. The CO2 release in the production of the fertilizer used at NLR is about the same as that produced by burning a half-gallon of gasoline.  We will use some commercial/non-OMRI fertilizers for the next few years as we initially build the soil and establish trusted supply chains for more natural alternatives.

JV: About half of the farm in Jacksonville was clear cut and possibly under cultivation in the 1950-60s. Additionally, approximately 6000 sq ft were under bermuda grass until we purchased the property, maintained by the local school district. We cannot be certain what chemicals were used on it during that era, but they are unlikely to have persisted in the soil as it is very permeable and washed with 50+ inches of rain per year.  

We have used no non-OMRI herbicides or pesticides on the JV property.  We anticipate that next year we will use several ounces of Stump Stop (13.6% triclopyr) directly applied to the cambium of resurgent trees, primarily invasives. We have used ~15 lbs of the Groundworks fertilizer at JV, and will continue to use it in limited amounts for the foreseeable future.

Other impacts and considerations: 

  • Plant starts – We start plants both for our own use and for sale.  We reuse plug flats and pots which otherwise would have been discarded.  Our usual potting medium is supplied by Good Earth, with no added local soil, mulch, or compost to prevent the spread of disease between locations.  Our plants for sale are packaged in CowPots, made of compressed cow manure.  Neither the medium nor the the CowPots are OMRI listed.
  • Mulching and cover – We are using chopped leaves from on-site as our primary cover mulch. Unused beds will be cover cropped.  We tried using paper mulch on one NLR bed in 2022; given the cost and questions raised regarding the sourcing of the paper, we will probably not repeat this experiment.  There are bio-oil based “compostable” plastic covers approved for use by OMRI.  We strongly disagree with this practice and will not use plastic ‘burn-through’ cover mulch of any kind.  We are using an 8-mil black visqueen for solarization of beds as we establish them.  This was given to us and will be replaced with longer lasting tarps when it begins to fail.
  • Soil health – Establishing beds is a multi-year process.  We are deep tilling (~6 in. depth) as we establish beds and incorporate organic material.  In the areas under forest canopy, care is being taken to minimally disturb the mycorrhizae.  We use no heavy equipment to minimize soil compaction.  As we establish healthy, living beds, tilling will be reduced to a minimum.
  • Forest health – Most of the JV property is currently under mature oak trees.  We intend to keep as much of the canopy as possible, while clearing smaller trees to allow for succession by younger trees.  We are working with our local USDA Forestry agent and local arborists to maintain the current ecosystem, while adding in thoughtful, sustainable woodland management and space for growing food.
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