Bryan and Lisa Falkimmer’s Eden farm is now USDA-certified for organic vegetables. The couple lives and farms in Eden.
EDEN — Bryan and Lisa Falkimmer never set out to be the first organic vegetable farm in the Hamburg and Eden area. The couple bought their Eden home and started farming to grow the best food for themselves and their families “using a more ecological approach,” according to Falkimmer. “And it just went from there.
“We wanted to replicate nature. At [non-organic] farms, when there are bugs, their first instinct is to throw chemicals on it. We use trap crops, that attract the bugs away from the vegetables, rather than using chemicals. That way, nature stays in balance.”
The Falkimmers started the three-year process to becoming United States Department of Agriculture-certified by working with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, the local third party that helps certify that the farm is working within USDA-set standards. The first step, Falkimmer said, was letting the land heal from past abuse.
“The first year, the Earth was all out of sync,” he said. “Corn had been grown here for so long, that the land was just stripped of minerals other crops would need. The ground was compacted; you could hardly get a shovel into it and when you did, you’d come up with these big chunks of clay. There was poor drainage. In order to be certified organic, it has to be three, documented years since the last date chemicals were used.
“You have to save everything,” Lisa Falkimmer added. “Receipts from seed packets, everything you buy has to be written down, approved and documented. It’s a lot of paperwork.”
A grant from the National Resource Conservation Service helped the Falkimmers with some of that paperwork, including the complex process of reviewing and inspecting it, to make sure all i’s were dotted and t’s were crossed.
“Organic farming follows the crop from the seed to the consumer,” Bryan Falkimmer explained. “They want to know that you’re not contaminating it from the way you’re harvesting, to storage, to distributing, even down to how your refrigeration is cleaned or how the crops are cleaned, if they’re cleaned.”
The couple keeps sheep as part of their fertilization plan, since sheep manure is high in nitrogen. They also have chickens for their eggs. Although the eggs are not certified organic, the chicken do have free range and often catch a ride on one of the sheep’s backs.
As for the farm itself, Falkimmer called it “a perpetual learning process. We started from scratch. This was our side project.” Falkimmer, a computer programmer, works from home, so he can run outside and weed on his lunch break. His wife, a former teacher, said she loves to get out into the field to “escape for a little while. We can forget about time, out there.
“When we started, we had nothing. No tools, no tractor. We bought one tractor, got it out here and realized nope, it was too small, so we got another one. We’ve had to get tools, build up our infrastructure. Everything is by hand and everything that comes out of the farm goes back into it. We’re constantly reinvesting.”
The couple said that they chose organic farming because it is a “more nutritious way of growing food.”
Lisa Falkimmer said that, after she began getting involved with organic farming, she began to notice a difference in the food she and her family were eating. She had always looked askance at withered, less vibrant-looking organic vegetables at the supermarket, and said she still buys non-organic produce that looks or tastes better from the mainstream aisles, but can taste the difference in the farm’s own products.
“You really can’t go halfway,” Lisa Falkimmer said. “You’ve got to be true to your mission, to what you want to do. We do limit the amount we do eat of [non-organic] food, and try to use mostly non-contaminated food. I wish everybody felt [the way we do] about it.”