The Outer Cape Agriculture Challenge

As anyone who has tried to grow anything on Cape Cod will tell you the soil is particularly poor. As the Europeans settled on the Cape they cleared land and consumed the forests for fuel and for home and ship building. This deforestation caused erosion and the loss of most of the topsoil. This is particularly true on the outer cape.

In addition, the cape suffered from over 100 years of acid rain. This has left the soil and water sources very acidic. See http://www.epa.gov/region1/eco/acidrain/history.html

As a result the soil on the outer cape is extremely sandy and very acidic and lacks nutrients. Some of those who are trying to farm here say that the soil is only good for propping up the plants.

Everyone has his or her own methods of dealing with this challenge. We follow the organic philosophy of feeding the soil so it can feed the plants. In order to raise the level of beneficial bacteria and micro rhizomes, we have been importing, from off cape dairy farms, massive amounts of Cow manure and mixing it with sea hay mulch. But you quickly discover that your soil amendments wash through the sand and dissipate quickly.

To solve this problem, in addition to applying massive amounts of cow manure and mulch, we have been a using a technique developed by the Amazonian Indians 2000 years ago-Biochar! For the past three years we have been making and mixing with our soil Biochar. We have had good results. Listen to the “Local Food Report” under Press on our website.

While Biochar provides many benefits, we believe that it is acting as a repository for the beneficial bacteria and micro rhizomes, thus preventing them from washing away. To learn more about Biochar go to: International Biochar Initiative

See Biochar production on Longnook Meadows Farm (imbed link to slide show here)

Before you start to amend your soil, we recommend that you have it tested. Go to http://extension.umass.edu/vegetable/services/soil-testing.

This has been our strategy for dealing with The Outer Cape Agriculture Challenge.