Training Wheels

What is the purpose of training wheels? I’d say their role is to keep things stable while you get better at what you’re learning, but not to be the primary source of stability. That definition works for learning to ride a bike, and I’d argue it works for sustainable agriculture as well.

At Petty Ranch we use a variety of techniques that are considered organic practices, most notably beneficial insects and covercrops. We believe these are essential practices for maintaining the stability and health of our soil and managing pest populations. But we are not certified organic because we retain our training wheels. If there is a nutrient deficiency or weed and pest outbreak, we will use conventional materials to restore balance to our system. What we try very hard to do is avoid making the “training wheels” do all the work. We don’t look to chemical means to subvert natural processes; we try to use them to augment and restore balance.

It is the goal of every child learning to ride a bike to out grow their training wheels. Will we get there with our farming techniques? I can’t say. I suspect we may always want to preserve that option, but I’m glad that our balance seems to be getting better with each passing season.

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