Farm Practices

At Little Hat Creek Farm, we use ecological farming practices to strike a balance between our needs today and the needs of future generations. Today, in this country, most food is plentiful and cheap because “big agriculture” uses industrial practices like chemical pesticides, artificial fertilizers and herbicides to produce it. Such practices deplete the soil, pollute freshwater, and exacerbate climate change. They also are often removed from the view of the community, and they create an underclass of migrant labor. Our goal is to build soil, not deplete it, by using cover crops and hay mulch to cultivate our soil microbiota. When fertilizer is needed, we use only organic-approved fertilizers and mineral supplements. We manage pests by rotating crops, and by encouraging bird and predatory insect diversity in wild and weedy areas close to the fields. On rare occasions, we have to use an organic-approved insecticide in our greenhouses, but we avoid the use in our fields to protect our insect diversity. Instead, we do things like disrupt the life cycle of the pest by removing its egg-laying sites or use pheromones to disrupt mating. We are doing our best to leave our land and our community better than we found it.

Greenhouse and vegetable field crops

Q & A with Farmer Ben Stowe

How did you become interested in farming?

I’d had some farming experience in different places around the country, traveling around through the Willing Workers on Organic Farms program. That was how I got introduced to it, just working hard outside, eating well and sleeping well. In 2011, I got a full-time job farming in Rappahannock County and I worked this particular farm, Waterpenny Farm, for two seasons. That was what really inspired me to start my own business. 


What specifically do you grow on your farm?

It’s all about diversity for small farming. We have squash, cucumbers, lettuce and different greens. As the summer goes on, there’s eggplants, peppers, cherry tomatoes—you name it. We always try one or two new things a year. 


Your crops are free of pesticides and other harmful chemicals. Why is that important to you?

There’s a lot of reasons, such as the ecology of the farm. We don’t want to disrupt the natural pollinators and all the good insects. There are good insects and bad insects but if you have a healthy ecology there are predatory insects that help out on your farm and pollinators that are essential to producing food. Then there is the aspect of health, both our health and the health of our customers. You don’t want to work around those chemicals so we don’t use chemical pesticides or fertilizers on the farm.


If you had to describe farming in a few words, which words would you choose and why?

No one’s ever asked me that before! It’s a career that I’m proud of. You work hard and you eat well. It’s just a good lifestyle. We’re learning all the time.