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Vermont farmer Howard Prussack describes his mixed veggie operation, High Meadows Farm, and his love for growing food in the soil. He uses techniques such as cover cropping and landscape fabric to keep the soil covered on his hilly acreage. Organic matter in his soil has increased significantly in the years he has been farming. He touches on the importance of small farms in maintaining the health of rural communities across America. Read the full transcript below.

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Howard Prussack of High Meadows Farm

I love this whole concept because it’s soil-based. Soil, and soil life, and taking care of the earth was the basis of why I started doing what I’m doing. I said, “Well that sounds like a nice way to spend a life.”

I’m Howard Prussack, I started farming here in 1971. We have 65 acres here and we do a dozen acres of vegetables. We’ve got about 30,000 square feet of greenhouse.

We focus on basically six crops, whereas we used to do everything. But over the years, and in a push to be economically stable, we’ve just learned to focus on fewer crops and put our energies into developing those markets. And it’s worked out well. Onions are one of the primary crops, and tomatoes, winter squash, basically nothing too exotic.

We deliver throughout New England, we have our own trucks & we go through one distributor. We sell to almost all the local co-ops and garden centers and we do one farmer’s market that I co-founded in 1976.

My fertility program is based on crop rotation with legumes. They’ll be in legumes and green manure crops for two years and then they’re back into vegetables for two years. And we just keep everything rotating.

I get in manure from a dairy farm that we spread a year before we’re going to use that field for vegetables. We use organic dehydrated chicken manure for when we do planting. It must be good because it smells and the growth we see is good.

This system works. We do soil analysis every couple of years.

Our organic matter is up to 7% on average in the fields, whereas my greenhouse is like 8.9 percent organic matter that we’ve built up. And when I first started here there was moss growing on the land because some of the fields were in corn for so long.

Weeds are not a huge issue. We use black plastic and white plastic mulch and we do a ground fabric between the beds, which helps for erosion control and soil conservation. This is our third year now using it and we’re still using the same material. So, I think it’ll last for at least another three years if we’re careful.

I like soil-based growing because it keeps people working on the land. We have a bunch of employees here and they shop at the local stores and the local co-ops.

And we’re integrated now into the real fabric of the community. And you could replicate me thousands of times all over the country because that’s what small farms do – they weave into the fabric of their local community. And if they go, there’s gonna be holes in this fabric and it’ll just unravel. And what’s left for rural communities?

I support this labeling initiative and I look forward to seeing the Real Organic Project succeed.

Oh, yeah, an interesting side note: I was Vermont’s first certified organic farm in 1976 and I’m proud to be among this emerging group! I think that it’s going to be part of a solid future for us all.