Tyddyn Teg is a small farm, and for this reason is not currently registered as organic, as this is a massive drain in time we need to spend farming and has a large cost. This means we do not have the ability to call our veg organic – however, we do grow using regenerative principles and with a focus on sustainability. We use the organic guidelines laid out and our practices are practically identical to those that are certified.
As sustainability in farming is very important to us, we wish to lay the groundwork for others to understand our principles and how and why we grow the way we do. To read about why regenerative growing is important, we recommend looking at the soil association’s website. Click here to find out more.
For transparency, below we lay out the small amount of soil amendments we do occasionally use. You can see that all the methods detailed below are approved within a certified organic system.
- Pesticides, Herbicides and Fungicides
In line with standard organic practice, we never use synthetic pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides. We will sometimes use natural pesticides/fungicides that are approved for use in organic systems to combat specific insect or disease outbreaks, usually on very young plants well before harvest. For example:
- Neem oil suspension to treat various fungal diseases, and kill aphids, on young plants in the nursery and some polytunnel crops.
- Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita nematodes (“Nemaslug”) for occasional slug control in polytunnels.
- (Organic) ferric phosphate slug pellets for occasional slug control in polytunnels.
- We take care to promote biodiversity were possible rather than other control methods – such as encouraging frogs as a method of slug control
- Fertilisers and Soil Amendments
Tyddyn Teg uses a combination of fertility building green manure crops, cow manure from a neighbouring (non-organic) farm, green-waste compost from the local-authority composting facility at Penhesgyn recycling centre, wood-chip from local tree surgeons, crushed limestone from Anglesey and small amounts of seaweed meal. All of these fertility sources are permitted under organic standards, subject to certain provisions, which we believe we meet:
- Manures and other amendments are only used in the quantity necessary to meet the needs of crops and are applied in the spring to minimise leaching.
- Manure is composted in covered heaps for a minimum of two years to stabilise nutrients and ensure that any agrochemical or livestock medication residues are broken down before it is applied to our land.
- As much as possible, we aim to feed our soil and develop soil ecology, rather than applying amendments to feed crops per se.
- Seed and Crop Selection
We use a mixture of organically and non-organically produced seeds. In general, we use non-organically produced seed only if we are unable to obtain organically produced seed of the crop varieties we want. We do not use fungicide/pesticide treated seed. (Within certified organic systems, we would need to apply for permission to use the non organic seed, we believe this would be granted as it often is when organic alternatives are not available).
- Fossil Fuel Use and Carbon Management
At present, we are dependent on diesel powered tractors to do much of the heavy work on the farm. However, positively responding to the climate and ecological emergency is a large part of the motivation for all Tyddyn Teg co-op members to do what we do, and we seek to reduce the carbon footprint of our activities through:
- Minimising tillage wherever possible, both to reduce oxidation of soil organic matter, and to minimise tractor use.
- Using hand tools where possible.
- Using a renewable electricity supplier.
- Using relatively small tractors, with an annual fuel consumption of a few hundred litres only.
- Use of Disposable Plastic
There are some situations where we use disposable plastic products, as good alternatives are not yet available. We try to minimise the use of disposable plastic, and to ensure that as far as possible it is recycled or composted. The most significant uses of disposable plastic are as follows:
- Polytunnel Skins. The polythene covering on polytunnels needs to be replaced after about ten years. During its life the plastic (100-250 kg per tunnel) will have allowed us to grow many tonnes of crops, year round, that would otherwise have had to be imported. We take great care to ensure the productivity in the polytunnels to ensure the use of the plastic is worth it. At the end of their life, we send our old polytunnel skins to Gwynedd Skip Hire for recycling.
- Weed Suppressant Membrane: We use two types – long-lasting woven mulch, and single-use membrane. The long-lasting woven mulch is used for covering paths and ground under propagation benches etc. It is not readily recyclable, but seems to have a very long life (when it does wear out, it will need to go to landfill or waste-to-energy, but we haven’t had to throw a significant quantity away yet). The single-use membrane is used to prevent weeds in onions, which are very hard to grow organically on a commercial scale without it. We use a biodegradable petroleum and corn starch based plastic membrane which is incorporated into the soil to rot once the onions are harvested. Typically only a few kilogrammes are needed each year.
- Packaging: We do use some plastic packaging to extend the storage life of our vegetables, and sometimes to allow us to sell pre-weighed portions. Some type of moisture-retentive packaging is essential for soft leafy vegetables, which can become unsalable within a few hours of harvest without it. The plastic bags we use at the moment contain an additive which ensures that they will fully biodegrade in 2-5 years. Whilst this means that they will not persist indefinitely as litter or microplastics if they accidentally end up in the natural environment, the breakdown is too slow for them to really be considered “compostable” in either home or council composting systems. At present we would advise customers to dispose of the bags with their general household waste or with plastic bag recycling where it is available, such as in some supermarkets. We recognise that this is not ideal and are exploring other options (including collecting our bags for recycling ourselves; reuse by us is not possible for food hygiene reasons). We have tried several different plant-based, more biodegradable packaging types and generally found that they performed much less well (leading to higher levels of food waste) or were considerably more expensive, and have have so far stuck with our current packaging as the best compromise, trying to use it only where really necessary.