Guidelines and Policies

Bumble bee in a pollinator strip at Headwaters Farm

EMSWCD has specific land use guidelines that are necessary to improve the overall quality of the farm—building soil, reducing the weed seed bank, and controlling pests—for current and future incubator farmers. This section provides basic details on these guidelines and policies. You can also download the full Headwaters Incubator Program 2019 Farmer’s Manual for more detailed information.

Headwaters Farm Incubator Program Land Use Practices

Organic Practices — Incubator farmers will work within the standards set by the National Organic Program (NOP) meaning: no synthetic fertilizers, no Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO), and only OMRI-listed pesticides. The one deviation from NOP is that there is no requirement for farmers to buy organic seed. Only GMO and treated seed options are restricted. It will be up to incubator farmers to decide if they would like to seek certification.

Weeds — Headwaters Farm has several problem weeds, notably Canada Thistle and Yellow nutsedge. It is the responsibility of the Headwaters Farm Program Manager to control weeds around the farm, but individual incubator participants must also diligently control weeds in their plot. Many tools are available for farmers, and there are financial incentives in place to encourage proper management. Zero noxious weeds will be allowed to set.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) — This is a series of evaluations, decisions, and controls that are used in conjunction to suppress or eliminate pest problems. It’s based on the premise that least-impactful pest management solutions (e.g., prevention, monitoring, physical barriers) should be used before more broad approaches (biological or chemical controls). In accordance with IPM strategies, even OMRI-listed pesticides should be a last resort, not the first line of defense. All incubator farmers are expected to have, and follow, a written IPM strategy. District staff or program partners can assist in the development of an IPM plan.

Fertilizers and Compost — EMSWCD will provide a soil pH of 6.0 or above, but it will be the responsibility of incubator farmers to apply macronutrients and trace minerals. The amount of Nitrogen and other nutrients applied should be based on soil sample results and be part of a larger Nutrient Management Plan. District staff and program partners can assist in the development of a Nutrient Management Plan. Remember, synthetic fertilizers are not allowed.

Spring Tillage — EMSWCD will provide spring tillage on areas of at least a quarter-acre in size, but, like any farm operation, it will be weather dependent. Breaking the ground in spring will not happen until the soil is sufficiently dried down.

Cover Crop — The use of both summer and winter covers will be a primary tool for suppressing weeds and building soil throughout the farm. Incubator farmers are expected to leave their plot with a winter cover of legumes and cereal grains by October 1st. Exceptions can be made for areas of the farm that are in active production.

Crop Rotations — Incubator farmers and the Headwaters Farm Program Manager will consider two levels of rotations — fertility and pest. Fertility rotations involve not growing plants with similar edible parts (leaf, root, flower, and fruit) in the same place consecutive years. Pest rotations involve avoiding successions of plants within the same family. The Farm Incubator Manager will work with participants to facilitate proper rotations.

Soil Testing — Incubator farmers will be responsible for taking at least one soil sample and having it analyzed at the end of each growing season. This will be to help farmers monitor their usage of fertilizer and aid future rotations.