How we grow
Chamomile. Dandelion. Willow. We use these, along with a variety of other natural botanicals, in addition to compost teas and ferments, in lieu of chemical pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. What we use to grow the food we produce comes from right here on our farm.
Our Belgian draft mules, Loretta and Emmylou, provide our farm with its primary means of field cultivation. Reducing our need for fossil fuel-powered machines by incorporating equine power, we take many steps forward, beyond carbon neutral, working in sustained harmony with our animal companions.
At Bray Grove Farm, we utilize organic methods, alternative tillage techniques, and ecologically responsible farming practices, which preserve soil fertility through a carefully scheduled rotation of produce and cover crops. Hand labor using simple agricultural tools and a team of gentle and loving draft mules help to provide our farm’s motive power needs, from the planting through cultivation and harvesting.
We see the mules, Loretta and Emmylou, as living, breathing partners in our endeavors. They are to us, family, and they will always be provided with a safe and loving home for their entire natural lives. Their assistance with farming tasks allows us to reduce the use of fossil fuels in the growing of produce and helps in our goal of achieving self-sustaining, environmentally sound agriculture free of chemical fertilizers and genetically modified (GMO) crops.
In addition to growing produce for our CSA members, farmers markets, and restaurant clients, we donate a minimum of 10% of our farm’s agricultural production for sharing with individuals and families in need, through food pantries in the Northern Illinois area.
A Simpler Approach to Agriculture
Small is good. There is beauty and grace in the small family farm that remains mindful of the fact limits are not only inescapable but they are indispensable to achieve true sustainability. We see ourselves as a small piece of a much larger movement of like-minded individuals that share a common mission to offer communities healthy and affordable food with minimal environmental impact.
The methods of farming we choose at Bray Grove Farm, which combine draft mules with hand labor, allow for a closer connection to the land and soil. It is in many ways, inspired by looking back to a time before agriculture became big business and corporations dominated the food production landscape. It is a way of looking forward while using solutions from the past.
Why we are not certified USDA Organic®
Chemicals that harm or kill honeybees. Unpaid or exploited farm labor. Livestock treated inhumanely. These unacceptable farming practices are all allowed under USDA Organic®.
We believe in the direct interaction between consumer and farmer, building a relationship of earned trust and mutual understanding to ensure the highest responsible farming standards are met.
We call our practice holistic farming. It is not a business model or a marketing strategy. It is a way of making a life while farming, mindful of the world in which we live.
What we do:
Treat the farm as a whole living system, integrated and interdependent, including the water, air, soil, plants, and animals, both native and domestic.
Promote a self-sustaining ecosystem by abstaining from the use of imported inputs necessary for farming.
Eliminate the need for any and all synthetic chemical pesticides and utilize methods that allow nature to achieve a balance with pest control.
Encourage biological diversity by reserving over 50% of our tillable land as habitat for beneficial insects, native plant habitat, and shelter for non-domestic creatures.
Utilize farming methods that renew and regenerate the living soil.
Avoid or severely curtail the use of fossil fuel for all farm work by using draft mules and hand tools.
Our goal is this. To offer locally grown and healthy vegetables and fruit, while working to preserve, protect, and restore the natural world through the act of holistic farming.
A Tradition of Gleaning
Thousands of years ago, farmers would leave the edges of their field unharvested, to provide for orphans, widows, and travelers to share in a process known as gleaning. On Bray Grove Farm, we specifically earmark a minimum of 10% of our highest grade crop production for donation to organizations like We Care of Grundy County, which distributes our fresh vegetables to families through their food pantry.
Hunger is a widespread problem in this country; as small farmers we feel we can make a step in addressing this major issue.