Sattin Hill Market Farming Course Module 15: Pest Management (FSFS253)

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Episode Summary

This episode of Farm Small Farm Smart features the fifteenth module of the Sattin Hill Market Farming Course, where Josh Sattin talks about his personal strategies to overcome pests on his farm, as well as some general principles and mindsets on pest management.

Today’s Guest: Josh Sattin

Josh Sattin is a farmer at Sattin Hill Farm in Raleigh, North North Carolina. As an educator and professional videographer, Josh has published hundreds of educational farming videos on his YouTube to help make a difference in the local farming and foodscape.

            Josh Sattin – YouTube | Instagram | Website

In this episode of Farm Small, Farm Smart

  • An overview of the Sattin Hill Farm Course Module 15 (00:48)
  • General, holistic approach to pest management (01:07)
  • Should we or should we not use pesticides on our crops? (02:20)
    • Don’t be dogmatic about your farming style (03:14)
  • How Josh manages pests without using pesticides (04:16)
    • Timing which crops to grow when (05:08)
    • A challenge for the business (05:46)
  • Leveraging soil health to fight off pests (07:10)
  • Creating living diversity in the soil (08:21)
    • Crop rotations, interplanting, and bed diversity (08:44)
  • Promoting biodiversity on your farm (10:50)
    • Providing housing for beneficial insects and pollinators (12:02)
    • Installing birdboxes on the farm (14:50)
    • Birdies beds (15:35)
  • Strategies on using insect netting (16:50)
  • Managing animal pests (18:41)
  • Holistic, proactive approach to pest management (20:19)

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FSFS253 (SHFC #15)

[00:00:00] Diego Footer: Welcome to farm small farm smart. I'm your host Diego, DIEGO. Today, it's module 15 of the Sattin hill farm course and module 15 covers pest management. If you want to watch Josh's presentation of this module, you can do so on his YouTube channel, which we've linked to below. And if you want additional resources related to this module and all the other modules, visit Now, let�s jump right into it, pest management with Josh Sattin.

[00:00:36] Josh Sattin: Welcome to module 15 of the Sattin Hill farm course. This module is all about pest management. And before we get into it, I just had to have a huge thanks to our sponsor Paperpod Co. Without the help of Diego and Paperpot Co., this entire course wouldn't be possible. And more and them later.

[00:00:48] In this module, I'll talk about an overall approach and mindset to pest management, whether or not you should be using pesticides growing crops at the right time, my personal pest management strategies that I implement on my farm, soil practices, and its approaches with other pests.

[00:01:07] Before we get into the details of pest management, I want to first talk about the overall approach to pest management and always keep in mind with all this stuff is that I'm trying to teach you ways that you can learn how to take some of these ideas and apply them to your context because everyone's context is different, where you are the pests, you have the types of crops you're growing your weather, all that kind of stuff.

[00:01:28] And I often get asked over the last few years. You know, Josh, I have this pest problem right now. What do I do? And that is not�I usually don't have an answer for that because that's not really the way I approach the problem. For me, I'm always looking for a long-term solution. I'm not looking for that band-aid approach.

[00:01:47] And often, when you are doing that, you are just treating the symptoms. You're not going back to the cause of the problem. And I think one of the big themes throughout this course is that idea that we're planning ahead, we're designing systems to save ourselves time and get better yields and make more money on our farm.

[00:02:03] And pest management is definitely one of those strategies. It is not a short-term solution. It is a general approach or a holistic approach that we have for our farm and managing the farm to reduce. pest damage on our crops

[00:02:20] Now that we realize we need to have an overall approach to pest management, let's talk about pesticides. So there's no right answer to this. Like anything in farming. for me personally, I decided very early on that I am not going to use any pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, any of the sides. I'm not using any that stuff.

[00:02:37] Even the ones that are labeled organic, I'm not using them. And this has been hard for me. it is something. Has caused a lot of problems. I do lose crops from time to time. And I'll talk about some of my strategies, of course, in this module that I use to minimize that risk. But as I said earlier in this module, people definitely want a simple solution when they have a pest problem.

[00:02:59] And pesticides are obviously the thing that you'd think of first, when you have an issue with the past, what can I put on that plant to kill that pest to stop it from eating my crops? And that's the easy answer. We're again, we're treating the symptom. We're not going back to the cause and that a holistic approach.

[00:03:14] Now, with this in mind, I personally don't use pesticides as I just said, but I have to say that don't always be super dogmatic with your approach with farming and pesticides are one of those things where if you. Put it all the time and energy into. Planting growing irrigating, cultivating like all this stuff that you need to do to get that crop to market and you�re close, and you need that crop for income for your family.

[00:03:40] Then of course, like don't let the crop die and not feed your family. Like there's reason and balance with all this stuff. But I think eventually you can get to the point where you set up your systems so that you won't have to use pesticides. And for me, The thing, the main reason that I'm not using pesticides is thighs a pesticide and I'm trying to kill something.

[00:03:59] It's probably killing something else in my soil or the plants or anything or bugs or whatever. And for me, I'm trying to find a balanced, holistic approach to pest management. So for me, I just avoid using pesticides.

[00:04:16] So you probably be wondering how I managed past if I don't use pesticides. The first thing that I want to talk about is timing. And for me, this is growing the right crop at the right time of the year. And let's take a step back and try to understand this a little bit. So agriculture is not natural.

[00:04:35] You don't find rows and rows of one plant out nature. Nature is diverse. It's, interplanted, it's mixed. There's a lot of things going on at the same time and pests do exist in nature. And what I mean by that is it's funny to call it pass because in nature they're just insects, eating whatever they want.

[00:04:51] But for us, we call them a pest because we have a line or a row or a whole area of one crop and the bugs come in and the ones that want to eat that crop, they're going to be like, oh wow, there's a whole bunch of it here. Right. Cause that's not how it is in nature.

[00:05:05] And so we'll get onto diversity a little bit later. But what I want to say is that you grow the right crop at the right time of year, and I'll give you a couple examples. So first of all, I don't grow brassicas in the summer, so I just don't do it anymore. I've just had so much bad luck with it because for me here, flea beetles come in and wipe out my brassicas and I just don't deal with it.

[00:05:25] The other one is squash. So right now, I do have some squash growing, and I grow it as early as I can in the spring, because by late June, the squash bugs roll in and I fight them for a little while and then I give up because they destroy the plants.

[00:05:39] So for me, I have a very short season. I grow a lot of it very intensively, and I communicate that with my customers and it is a seasonal crop. So one thing that's hard about growing certain crops at certain times a year and not having them available more often is that it�s tough from the business side of it as a business strategy, it's much easier.

[00:05:56] If you have a longer season, you can set up those relationships with those customers. So for example, with me, with restaurants, if I can have a crop for four or five months, that's a lot easier for me to sell that crop to that restaurant than a family habit for a month or six weeks or whatever. So it's a little bit harder, but you want to make sure that your sales outlets are flexible.

[00:06:13] Again, if you're going to a farmer's market, you can kind of bring whatever you want. So that's fine. Make sure you estimate sorry. Educate your customers. On the seasonality of crops. When you're working with customers that understand local food, they're going to know when it's hot outside, they're gonna know when it's cold outside, or when you have a storm.

[00:06:29] Those things are kind of obvious, but when you start working with them more and they're interested in working with local farmer, not just weather. There's also a seasonality to the pests that happened as well. So if I, if they want, you know, kale or arugula in July, I'll say, well, I don't grow that in the summer because of pests and I don't use pesticides.

[00:06:47] And when you start talking to them about that, they start to really appreciate it more, not just you as a farmer in your products, but they start to learn more about the way food is grown. And that can go a long way.

[00:06:57] So again, the biggest strategy that I found to work is just to not grow the crops at the time of year where the pests are there to eat them. And I said like brassicas in the summer is a great example.

[00:07:10] Soil health definitely plays a role in pest management and the idea here is that if you have healthy soil, you have healthy plants. And if you have healthy plants, they can fight off pests that are trying to attack that. Now, there's some experts out there that say, if you have a healthy enough plant, it will defend itself against all pests.

[00:07:28] Now, I don't believe that's true because that's not the way I found it in my system here, but I think generally speaking, if the plant is healthier, it does have a better chance of fighting things off. Now, an example that I had recently was I had a whole bunch of lettuce. I had some white flies that came in and pretty much covered all the lettuce and I was afraid I was gonna lose the crop, but within a week, they were gone, the white fly was gone.

[00:07:54] They were able to fight off the pest. And what happened, where lady bugs came in, ate all those, the white flies. So, you know, if the plants weren't super healthy, I don't know if they would have been able to survive that time for the balance to come in.

[00:08:04] Now, it doesn't always work out that way, but having healthier soil, which I've talked about throughout this Mo this, this whole course about creating living soil is when you do that, you have healthier plants and they can have a better chance of fighting off pests and diseases.

[00:08:21] In addition to the health of the soil. Another thing we have to think about is the diversity in our soil. And this definitely is part of the living soil. If you haven't seen that module, please go check out the no till practices and living soil module because diversity is part of that. And so we get that diversity from.

[00:08:37] You know, feeding our soil all the time, by leaving roots in the ground, by rotating crops, so we are not just planting lettuce after lettuce, after lettuce. So what I do there is I always plant a crop. That's in a different family from the crop prior. So if I'm planting carrots, I'll plant lettuce. If I plant lettuce, I'll plant a brassica and then, you know, whatever, whatever it is, I just don't play the same family.

[00:08:59] Back-to-back so I make sure that I'm rotating the beds. Now I don't have a strict crop rotation plan on the farm here because my farm really isn't that big. And so I talked about this in the crop planning model. So go check that out to enjoy planting is another way to create diversity in the soil, which I talked about in the transplanting and inter planting module.

[00:09:15] And another thing that I found to be really helpful, which I don't always stick to. And it always bites me in the butt when I do it is diversity bed to bed. So if you're going to plant three beds of lettuce, try not to plant them right next to each other. So. Carrots beets, something like that.

[00:09:29] So that if you have something that happens, like you have white fly that comes in and attacks a bed of lettuce, it won't have the ability to necessarily jump next to the beds next to it and attack those beds, too.

[00:09:40] So if you have a pest issue, it becomes a little bit more isolated, and again, this goes back to the diversity that happens in nature because agriculture is not natural. For us to have rows and rows of the same crop, that's not the way it works. So if you can. Break up your, your bed block, your field blocks with crops, not being right next to her.

[00:09:57] So that's super helpful. And as I said, if you can also interplant beds, that's helpful too. Let me jump in here real quick and take a minute to talk about our sponsor paver pot co, as I mentioned at the beginning of this module and every module that this entire course is sponsored by I could not do this without.

[00:10:13] Generosity and support of Diego and paper, pot co it's been absolutely incredible. I asked you to go over to and show them some love. Go check out the half for sale in terms of tools, equipment, and supplies. They are a reliable place to buy things from. They have a great selection and they have awesome customer service.

[00:10:27] In addition to all that, they're a very important resource for the farming community. And they're very generous with information as well. So go check out Diego's podcasts like farm, small farm smart and carrot cashflow. In addition to all that there are extra resources for this course over at paper,, back to the module.

[00:10:50] I've been talking about diversity in your soil and between your beds. But another thing is the biological diversity on your farm. And this hedgerow here is an example of that. And I'll talk about this and some other just general ideas that you want to think about now. So for me personally, you know, I'm in the suburbs here and this whole area was cleared.

[00:11:08] I think about 50 or 60 years ago to build homes. So most of the woods. Are really not diverse biologically speaking. And that can be a problem for attracting beneficial insects. And so what are beneficial insects? Beneficial insects are insects that attack the bugs. We don't want they're the good guys.

[00:11:26] The bad guys are eating our kale and our lettuce and all that stuff. And the good guys are the beneficial insects that eat those bugs. And so you want to create habitat for those bugs to live around here. So. The bad guys come in, the good guys can go in there and get them. Now, if you have a good response from beneficial insects in a bed, right.

[00:11:45] Like I was talking about with the white fly and the lady bugs. Well, if I, if they come in and do their job, and then I take out that crop, where do they live? Right. So if they were living in that crop area where, where they were eating the bag, You remove their house, they need a house.

[00:12:02] So what I like to do is to try to incorporate as many areas around the farm that, that increase the biological diversity that attract beneficial insects. And of course, pollinators is another benefit because in this area, as I said, this was all clear cut. So that the woods here are not very old. There's not a ton of biological diversity.

[00:12:18] Now, this is one example of it. And this is a hedgerow that we only planted a few months ago. And if you don't know what a hedgerow is, there's a lot of different versions of them. It's actually a very old school idea on farms, especially in Europe, where they'll build like a much more of a hedge, right?

[00:12:33] Like a raised bed that will help be as a windbreak as well, because on large farms, you want to slow down the wind as it rips across the field. And so there's hedge rows and they have plantings of�it doesn't have to just be flowers and stuff like that. You can have edibles in there, too. There's a lot of great people using this approach all over the place.

[00:12:51] At Raleigh city farm, we put in a bunch inter intermit in between all of our field blocks. So every eight beds you put in a field block, and that was really cool. We were, we were able to grow a lot of flowers and stuff. It also makes the farm really pretty. But for me personally, this is awesome because it increases that diversity and creates that home for beneficial insects and pollinators. Now I am not an expert in choosing plants for this.

[00:13:13] I had a friend of mine helped me with this. They picked out native species to plant in here. This headgerow was built super cheaply. We built this with leaves that we had with some homemade compost and a little bit of commercial compost, we, and then we put wood chips on top. And we wet it down and we covered it with a tarp wildest to kill everything.

[00:13:30] And after a few months, it all broke down and turned into soil. There was a nice layer which shifts on top we planted and then molted again. And the plants had been doing really, really well. but I recommend that you try to find a resource for where you are in terms of what's native and what grows well.

[00:13:45] Because I don't want to be out here managing this in terms of watering and stuff like that. Like the stuff here should do pretty well now. So this is a very formal Headrow here, which should look really cool once everything's. Getting bigger and filling in, but there's a couple other ones I have on the farm.

[00:14:00] So let me show you what those look like too. So this is another area where I can call a hedgerow. It's not really a hedgerow, but it's an area that I'm having plants. Like I talked about before that house beneficial insects and pollinators, and this is down by the end of my beds. And as you can see, as I'm trying to wrap as much of this diversity around.

[00:14:16] The tunnels as possible. And I think ideally, I'd even like to have put one of these sort of rows in between each channel to really bring the diversity in there, but I didn't have enough room to do that. So that's another option, too, is you could spaces holds out a little bit more and put rows in between your tunnels.

[00:14:31] If you have a lot of tunnels, that would be great. This area was built out similar to the other one with leaves and compost and we covered it and killed most of the things are grown here. I don't manage this at time. I come through and read it every once in a while, add some wood chips, but most of the things have been thriving and doing okay.

[00:14:46] Things to see, to kind of fill in a little bit as this whole system's a little bit young. And the other thing I want to point out, which I really like is having bird boxes on your farm. And the reason for this is that when you have these bird boxes, it brings birds around your beds and the birds are great, especially when they're feeding their babies.

[00:15:04] They're diving into your beds and pulling out insects and stuff like that to feed them. So again, bringing that biological and ecological diversity into you where you're growing vegetables, I think is what creates that balance. And I also really like watching the birds in there too. We have a lot of Bluebirds, especially in the springtime nesting in these boxes.

[00:15:21] So another cool thing, you can add these all around your farm. It's just really cool to have bird boxes, but as you can see, there's no right way to do this. There's no right. Plants to grow in here. It's kind of what grows well in your area. And there's some things that'll do better than others, but just want to show you this.

[00:15:35] Let me show you another way that, that. Over here. I'm over here above my tunnels. And I just want to show you here that there's even another way to do this and that there's no set way to plant these kinds of things to house beneficial, insects and pollinators. What you're looking at here is I have three of these birdies beds, my buddy, Kevin, over at epic gardening Southeast over to me a while ago to check out and they're great.

[00:15:56] And so I built the soil in here very similarly to the other beds using. And compost and wood chips and stuff. And w the reason why I'd show you this is that there's not one approach to any of this, and you just use what you got, but the idea is creating habitat too, for those beneficial insects. So having those plants there for them to live and hang out and getting them as close to the beds as possible.

[00:16:17] And so this again is sort of, you can get the sense that I'm just trying to wrap the whole farm around all this. And if you don't have. The means to set up large beds or some other restriction there's a lots of different ways to think about it. So these three here have been cool. We've been planting different things, new, even playing some sunflowers in here, just to kind of mix it up a little bit and make the place look pretty as well.

[00:16:37] I know I've said that a lot, but flowers and things like that are on the farm. Even if you're not growing them for harvesting is a, is a great way to just make the place nicer. And of course, increase the diversity.

[00:16:50] And it just it's the other approaches with pest management I talked about like diversity and all the biological stuff. Insect netting is a very effective tool to limit the amount of pest damage and to manage the pests on your, on your farm. And this is a way of keeping the pests away from your plants. So to do this, you'll need a bunch of these.

[00:17:08] Wire hoops, which I've talked about four row cover in other modules. And then the insect netting that I recommend is this stuff here. This stuff is called protect net, and it is very pricey. I bought this some Johnny�s. It is a very professional tool. It is very durable and will last several seasons. If you take care of it on like row cover.

[00:17:26] And the idea here is that you apply this over the beds, right when you plant the crops and this will keep the pests from getting there. Now, if there's already past. On your crops and you cover it while you're just keeping the pests in there. So again, this is a very proactive approach, right? So if you already have pets, this isn't going to help you.

[00:17:42] So if you know that you're going to have a pest issue with a certain crop at a certain time of year, and you want to push through that, do the planting, put the, the insect netting over top. Make sure you wait down properly. So it's nice and tight. So the bugs can't get in this stuff's great light gets through really easily.

[00:17:57] moisture gets through really easily. It'll stay nice and dry in there. If you're worried about humidity and stuff like that. Now I've tried the ag 15, which is the like extra light row cover Agra bond. Just rips, like insane amount and doesn't it doesn't do the same thing. I think it trapped too much heat.

[00:18:15] And especially in the summertime is often when you are using insect netting, because that's when most of the bugs are around that. You want to make sure that it breeds really well. And the protect net definitely does that. So if you're looking to Plants do crops at times a year where the pests are there.

[00:18:32] The protect that is great. But again, remember you have to put it on before the pester there. Otherwise, it's not effective.

[00:18:41] I mean, past, I've been talking about throughout this module have been insects, but animals can also be serious pests to your farm. The biggest one, I think for most people is going to be. So if you have deer in your area, the only real way to keep them out is to have a legitimate deer fence, and fence off the area around where you're growing vegetables.

[00:18:58] Now this is expensive, but again, this goes back to the holistic approach with putting in the time and energy upfront to have the system so you're successful down the road. If you don't do this and deer come in, they will wipe out tens of thousands of dollars� worth of crops overnight. Like it's insane how much damage they can do.

[00:19:15] Super, super quickly for me here on my farm. I haven't had too much of a deer problem. There are a lot of deer in the area. but one thing is we have smaller animals that have wreak havoc in my bed. So squirrels are my number one pest around here. They ate all my tomatoes one year and kept me from growing tomatoes in future years.

[00:19:33] Rabbits come in groundhogs, those kinds of things. And so for me personally what I've done in the past is I'll put up some of my chicken netting, which I can electrify and put around the openings of my tunnels. Anything you can do to protect smaller plants, too. They tend to want to eat the more delicate sort of smaller plants.

[00:19:53] So we can use ow cover insect netting on top of the beds, if you don't have a way to close it off, so that can work as well. And now your pest will vary depending on where you are. There's different animals that around, for example, in California, I know gophers are a huge problem. And part of their, some of the farm strategies, they have gofer traps and it's just part of their SOP to just go around and check the gopher traps daily or weekly, and they just have to stay on top of it.

[00:20:19] So again, as it keeps saying, The holistic approach or the, the, the general idea of pest management is that you need to be proactive about it. You need to be ahead of it because if you're just reacting to pest problems, that's when they're going to come back and they're going to cause a lot of damage, and you're gonna lose your crops and not make a lot of money.

[00:20:38] Hope you enjoyed this module again, there'll be live Q and A's every Monday at 3:00 PM. Eastern about the previous module. And so the next module module 16 will be about weed management. Hope to see you there,

[00:20:52] Diego Footer: there you have it. Farmer Josh satin. And that was module 15. Of the sat and hill farm course on pest management.

[00:20:59] If you want to watch Josh's presentation of this module, you can do so on his YouTube channel, which we've linked to below. And if you're looking for additional resources related to this module and all the other modules in the course, visit paper, That's all for this one. Thanks for listening until next time.

[00:21:19] Be nice. Be thankful and do the work.


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