Sustainable Practices at The Urban Farm

Grow It Green Morristown adds new sustainable systems each year, continuously innovating to minimize environmental impact to protect and preserve our local community.

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Solar Energy: Each of our season extension tunnels is outfitted with solar panels to control exhaust fans to help regulate the temperature.

 

Solar Composter: Solar panels on the roof of our chicken coop power the forced air composting system. The panels power a blower fan that forces air through a series of PVC pipes to help heat up the pile to make usable compost in 6 months. A series of four 100 watt panels charge the battery that is fed to a converter to power our blower fan.

 

Electric tiller: With the EV tiller, we can maintain the pathways between our beds while also reducing the amount of weeding. That extra time is spent planting and harvesting the abundance of produce grown each year. 

Silage tarps: The silage tarps are used as a key part of our crop rotation system to build up soil nutrition and reduce the amount of manual labor and machinery needed.  The tarps will be put on top of the soil and will kill any germinated weeds and crop residue. This reduces the need to disturb the beneficial nutrients in the soil and will help expedite its ability to break down into the soil. Like the shade cloths, the tarps reduces our carbon footprint by not having to use gas powered machinery.

Efficient Technologies 

CoolBot:  Proper storage of fresh vegetable crops is essential to slowing down the rate of respiration and reducing food waster. Ultimately it allows us to provide more healthy meals at home. Our outdoor walk-in cooler functions with a standard home A/C window unit. The coolbot device helps run the A/C at a crisp 38 degrees or colder. This improved storage space funded by individual donors has allowed us to increase our yields by 50% and more. 

Tunnel upgrades: Two of the five season extending tunnels at the farm have been upgraded to improve insulation. Adding an extra layer of greenhouse plastic over the existing one and installing a fan that creates a gap between the two layers has increased the R value of the insulation while also helping to support the tunnel during wind events and snow storms. These steps will bring cut greens to those in need more often in the winter.

New Tunnel: The new 50 foot movable tunnel will add to soil health and increase winter production by an estimated 30%. The addition of this tunnel will become a key factor in our crop rotation and soil health. Moving the tunnel over late season crops like spinach or lettuce increases year round availability while also allowing us to add new varieties of tomatoes during the summer. This year, we will be trellising all of our tomatoes in tunnels allowing us to plant earlier so we can share tomatoes in donations earlier in the season and prevent wind damage.

Soil Sensor:  Soil sensors track moisture and give our farmers a little break. These sensors are designed to work remotely from a phone app. Even on days off, we water make sure our crops have the right amount of water. In addition, the units help conserve water.

 

Reduced tillage and crop rotations: Over the years soil health has played a big factor on how much produce we grow. Crop rotations, composting and cover cropping help improve the soil's organic matter content and feed the lifeforms that live in the soil, helping our plants thrive.  Reduced tillage implies that we are only minimally disturbing the top 3 inches of soil creating a health seed bed for our transplants and root crops without disturbing the soil food web below. This year, we started a test of the use of silage tarps and it has been completely transformative for us in preparing soil, and reducing labor intensity of weeding.

Intensive growing Our planting schedules integrate the importance of companion planting with food production. In our 30 inch bed system, no amount of the space is wasted. In many cases we have 2 or 3 crops growing at the same time that all have different harvest schedules. Our 2021 trial was planting tomatoes, carrots and radishes all at the same time and resulted in an increase in carrot and radish production of 10%.