About Piccalilli Farms

Nat & Alison Bjerke-Harvey

Growing high-quality vegetables and happy animals through sustainable practices that preserve the health of our land and the world around us are certainly guiding principles.  We are both very interested in helping to build and foster a localized food community that minimizes the impact of consumption while also allowing the people around us to consume remarkably delicious things.

Location of Piccalilli Farms

Manhattan, KS (15 miles from People's Grocery)

Are you open to hosting visits or tours?  Possibly. 

How long has your farm been in existence? We purchased our property in fall of 2013. 

 Please share a brief synopsis of the history of your farm. Our farmhouse was built in the early 1900's as well as its accompanying limestone barn.  Throughout the 20th century much of the property was cultivated for row crops.  We purchased the property from the Tyson’s who used the house and barn as a pottery studio called Wildcat Village Pottery.  The majority of the rest of the property was used for cattle grazing during that time.

In our first season of 2014 we cultivated approximately 1/3 of an acre for annual diversified vegetable production.  It was marketed almost exclusively through the Downtown Farmers Market.  We raised a small number of pigs on pasture, we keep a flock of 75 laying hens on pasture as well that are rotated in a chicken tractor to new grass weekly.  Alison and I are both cheesemakers by trade and would like to eventually use this property for a dairy and creamery, focusing predominantly on goat production.  To that end we keep a small but rapidly expanding herd of goats as well.  

 What crops and products do you produce? In what season do they grow? In terms of vegetables we cultivate based on seasonality.  Spring means radishes, turnips, lettuce, arugula, peas, spinach, cilantro, kale, beets and strawberries.  Summer means tomatoes, potatoes, summer squash, melons, cucumbers, and basil.  Fall brings the replanting of many of the same things as done in spring.  We grow a small number of microgreens year round.  This list is not set in stone by any means, nor does it include everything we produce.  If your customers are interested in getting to know our vegetable list (and us!), our booth is set up at the famer’s market every Saturday morning.   

What farm management/operational practices do you use? We are not a big enough operation to justify the cost of Organic Certification, though by most measures we abide by the regulations of that certification.  Our animals are all rotationally grazed.           

Which, if any, organic certification does your farm have? If none, do you use organic or             conventional practices? As I said, we are not organically certified but we do grow our vegetables under those guidelines as it produces better tasting crops that are better for the consumer and the environment.  We source organic seeds (openly pollinated and heirloom as often as possible), we use no herbicides, any pesticides that we do use are organically approved, though we really try to use them as little as possible.  We have a 4 to 8 year crop rotation plan depending on the plant family.  We use cover crops intensely to build biomass, fertility and preserve our topsoil.  Over 90% of the “fertilizer” that we use is compost, though some organically based kelp fertilizers are used on a very limited basis.  

Which sprays do you use on which crops, and how often do you use them? All of our “sprays” are organically certified.  We have used BT on squash in the past, we have used Diatamecous Earth on brassicas, we have used insecticidal soap for aphid control and have used pyganic for cucumber control.  

 What are your tillage practices? We have a small walk-behind tractor, a BCS.  We use it to till most of our beds once a year to incorporate cover crops and prepare for planting.  In terms of frequency, we really try to avoid tillage as much as possible. 

 Tell us a little about your crop rotation. Do you use cover crops? Yes, we use cover crops very frequently.  Our rotation is 4 to 8 years depending on the plant family. 

What is your fertilizer source and type? Compost is our major fertilizer.  It is supplied by Master Landscape and also by the compost we make here on farm.  

What are your soil conservation practices? I am not exactly sure what to say here that I have not already said, but bare soil washes away so we try not to allow much of that on our property.  We either mulch finished beds or we plant cover crops into them. Our objective is to grow our vegetable organically and sustainably, so our soil is our best asset.  We don’t use inputs to balance out soil chemistry.

 What would you like People’s Grocery Co-Op shoppers to know about your products? What sets you apart? Well, my wife and I are a declining breed.  We are young, first generation farmers.  If supporting farmers who try to grow vegetables organically and sustainably and raise animals reliant on pasture is your goal, I believe we are a good place for you to support.   

 What vision do you have for the future of your farm and/or the future of food? We would like to continue to nuture our land as best we can and work towards a situation where we could both produce enough income on farm to sustain us.  As it is we both maintain “off farm” jobs currently. 

The future of food?  Well, I think there are very vibrant localized food communities all around this country, but that community as it exists in this part of Kansas has a lot of room for growth.  Hopefully by building sustainable communities that reduce their footprint with the foods they consume both by buying locally and seasonally, we can work towards supporting a community of food producers that help achieve those goals.