Championing soil health on Modern Heritage Farm
John and Jessica Hodges at Modern Heritage Farm are passionate about creating a model that is replicable for small, sustainable farms everywhere. Their farming philosophy is to mimic nature as much as possible in order to create a farming system that minimizes off-farm inputs and eliminates the need for large farm equipment.
They specialize in growing diversified vegetables on 1.5 acres and raising pasture-raised chickens (layers and broilers) on 6.5 acres in Glendale, KY. Their emphasis is on soil biology and soil health in order to produce the most nutrient-dense food for their customers. John explained they have three main soil building principles, “Keep the soil covered, keep living roots in the soil, and disturb the soil the least amount possible.”
To implement this on Modern Heritage Farm, they have created a permanent raised-bed system for their vegetable production that is only tilled once and does not get plowed again. Each time when they are clearing a bed they will flail mow and keep the organic matter and debris from the previous crop there to incorporate back into the soil. A big part of their system is to also use natural mulches like wood chips and leaves to prevent bare soil.
By choosing not to till each time a new crop goes in they have maintained a much better soil structure and fungal network to transport nutrients to the plants. This decreases soil compaction and increases water infiltration in their beds. Jessica says, “We’ve noticed such a big difference in our soil. We no longer need any hand tools to transplant a crop. The soil remains as loose as the day we shaped the beds.”
These types of organic practices have always been at the heart of Modern Heritage Farm. As their farming business was growing in 2020 they felt like it was an ideal time to start the process to become a certified organic farm. They began working with one of OAK’s Organic Transition Trainers, Tony Silvernail, who provided on-farm technical assistance and helped them prepare the organic certification application. They view having the USDA organic seal as one additional tool to communicate their farming practices and assure consumer confidence with new customers. It is a rigorous certification process, but at the end of the day John and Jessica feel like it is well worth it. They often hear from their customers that they “are so glad you’re there offering organic produce”.
John and Jessica sell their products through a 75 member CSA and at the Hardin County Farmers Market. Learn more about Modern Heritage Farm on their OAK Find-A-Farm Directory profile here.