Who Are We?
At Petra Farm we see farming and agriculture as a great environmental responsibility. We strive to be stewards of the land and practice sustainable agricultural principles inspired by agro-ecology. We see our land as a complex and productive ecosystem that requires fine-tuned and creative management to ensure the best possible outcome for both the environment and our crop quality.
At Petra, we focus on the production of perennial Mediterranean crops. The crops we focus our production on are very well-suited to the micro-climate of the island. This allows for minimal interventions as far as irrigation and pest control is concerned. Our crops are generally all drought tolerant, and as a result, we use very small amounts of water to sustain our crops. Our vineyards, capers and herbs receive no water at all. In fact, the lack of irrigation is a key factor in the increased intensity, intricate flavour and aroma of our products.
How We Fertilize Our Crops
We never use any chemical fertilizers to fertilize our crops. Organic fertilization of the soil is not just about providing a quick dosage of nutrients to a plant’s roots; actually, it is about building the overall health of the soil. A healthy soil, rich in organic matter and soil microorganisms is essential for the health of our crops. We fertilize our crops using compost that we make on our farm, local animal manure, as well as manure from our chickens.
In addition to applying compost and manure to our crops, we have a rotational grazing system for our chickens. The chickens are strategically allowed to roam in specific parts of the farm during certain parts of the year for a controlled amount of days. While grazing they eat the weed seeds and weeds that grow and deposit their manure throughout the farm. This is great for us as we don’t have to expend time and energy weeding and carrying manure!
How We Control For Pests
“Pests” is a farmers term for insects that also enjoy our delicious crops! Pests are one of the biggest set-backs a farmer can have not just for the yield of their crop, but also for its quality. Thankfully our crops are not threatened by many different pests, but nonetheless, we have some pests that we must tackle. For our olives it is the well-known olive fly that lays its eggs in olives, which the hatched fly larva then eats from the inside. Olives affected by the olive fly oxidize quickly and result in oils with a higher acidity. To tackle the olive fly we use pheromone traps that are certified organic.
Our capers are affected by the Mediterranean Fruit Fly, a ubiquitous pest in the Mediterranean region that affect a very large variety of crops including figs and pomegranates. The Mediterranean fruit fly attacks the caper buds in a similar way to how the olive fly attacks the olive. We also tackle the fruit fly using certified organic pheromone traps.
Thankfully our herb crops have no pests, due in part to the protective qualities of their essential oils!
The Seasons On The Farm
One of the beauties of working with nature is bearing witness to, and participating in the different seasons and their transformation. Each season has its own unique character, as well as its accompanying duties on the farm.
Winter is a time of year that many crops get to rest. Our olives have been harvested, and the capers and vines have lost their leaves. We are in constant hope for the winter rains that are essential for replenishing the island’s water table, and for turning the crispy brown landscape into a lush green paradise. On the farm, winter is the time for pruning and fertilizing our crops. We apply manure to the olive grove, the vineyard and the capers and the winter rains do the rest. The rain carries the nutrients in the manure into the soil in order for the crop roots to be able to access them. In January and February, we prune our crops to keep them healthy and productive. We don’t burn any of the materials that we prune from our crops. We value all the rich carbon and nitrogen that they contain, and instead, we chip the pruning and turn them into nutrient-rich compost!
Spring is probably the most beautiful time of the year on the farm. Everything is sprouting to life: flowers, birds, butterflies, ladybirds to name just a few! In March we till-in our vineyards and start to monitor the crops for pests: after-all some of the insects that come to life are also after our tasty plants! Come April we begin harvesting our first capers and caper leaves. By the middle of May, as the green fields of barley have started to turn to gold, it is time to harvest the oregano and the lavender.
More to come.....