Crop Rotation: Three Seasons in the Stone Barns Vegetable Field
As Jack Algiere, our head vegetable farmer, says, “The rotation of crops is designed to nourish, exercise and rest the soil.”
Crops are moved throughout the field beds based on plant family and season. Our crop rotation is on a seven-year cycle. Jack walks us through a typical rotation:
Let’s say tomatoes, which are in the nightshade family, were planted in bed #1 this season. They will grow in bed #1 until they stop producing in early fall and will be pulled out. Next year, tomatoes will be planted in, say, bed #2, and something else, like peas, which are in the legume family, will be planted in bed #1. And the next year, both crops will be moved again. Bed #1 will not be planted with another nightshade plant, like tomatoes, peppers or eggplants, for seven years after the tomato crop was pulled. Same goes for the legumes, and every other plant family. It is seven years between plant families being grown in the same bed.
This kind of crop rotation helps balance the biological health of the soil, for different plants and families give and take different nutrients from the soil. Even over the winter, when not all of the beds are growing crops we think of as harvestable, the beds are planted with cover crops to perpetuate the nutrient exchange and to protect the soil from erosion.
With balanced, nutrient-rich soil, we are building the foundation of a healthy farm and food system—one that is sustainable, flourishing with seasonal and regional crops, and does not rely on chemical inputs.
Here is the map of how our field was planted this past winter, what spring and summer will bring, and what lies ahead in the fall.
Walk the rotation on your next visit to the Center!