Easy Bean Farm is owned and managed by me, Michael Jacobs, my wife Malena Arner Handeen, our daughter Hazel, and our son Arlo. I began managing this farm in the fall of 1996 after working as a furniture maker in St. Paul. Our first two seasons we sold our produce mainly through farmers’ markets and then moved on to selling our produce to restaurants, food co-ops, and through our C.S.A. I spend most of my time working in the fields, cutting firewood and restoring this old house of ours. Sometimes, if you’re sneaky, you can catch me writing or baking bagels. Malena is an artist, having settled back into her homeland after a traveler’s education. She works in her studio on the farm and is west-central Minnesota’s premier rockin’ cowgirl accordionist.
About Easy Bean Farm
The most important part of a successful organic pest management strategy involves keeping the plants healthy. A healthy plant has many ways of keeping predators at bay and pest problems are always much worse when the plants are struggling. Often this will occur just after transplanting. The foundation of our pest plan involves doing our best to make sure that our plants are put under as little stress as possible. Still, after doing our best to fulfill the plants’ need for water and nutrients, there are still some pest problems. Problems with insects almost always start out small and, if one keeps an eye out for early generations of these hungry critters, it is usually possible to keep their populations under control. Thus, our daily watchful presence in the fields is the second most important factor in averting crop loss.
As we work in the fields we inspect the leaves, stems and fruits of several plants in each row. Chewing on the edges of leaves is often the result or caterpillars, while ragged holes in the center of leaves is generally the work of beetles. Plants cut off at ground level, or chewed around the stem is typically the work or grubs or cutworms. We look for insects laying eggs on the undersides of leaves or sudden swarms of leaf hoppers flying off in every direction as we approach the plants. We look for changes in the turgidity and color of the leaves. Our goal is to identify the problem while it is still small. The first generation of cucumber beetles may number in the hundreds… the second will number in the tens of thousands.
In conventional agriculture we find that farmers are always looking for a “silver bullet” when problems appear. They want to “fix” things quickly with one sudden action. Unfortunately, complex systems (like the ecology of our fields and farmland) do not respond well to sudden changes. Generally speaking, complex systems that are subjected to rapid change begin to destabilize and wind up even less predictable than they started out. Any chemical that will wipe out a pest in one fell swoop will likely also kill myriad of other organisms which are essential to keeping our fields, and the rest of our eco-system, healthy. On our farm we try to make a wide range of subtle changes in the system hoping to gently guide it in the general direction of where we want to go. We push a little from each direction and, if we are careful, we end up with beautiful veggies and healthy ecosystems.