2010 Nutrient Density Crop Production Workshop Series
Dan Kittredge Sponsored by Regional Farm & Food Project
Every time we harvest crops from a field, we are strategically mining
minerals from the soils. If we do not replenish the minerals removed up to
the level where everything that we need in our bodies is present in our
crops, we are not fully optimizing our crop production. That’s where
Nutrient Dense Farming becomes a profound yet simple solution, presenting
easy to incorporate practices to enrich our soils, our food and our selves.
Nutrient Dense Farming (NDF) aims to create a highly functioning soil
ecosystem in which the crops that are harvested have a measurably greater
quantity of a broad spectrum of minerals, vitamins, phyto-nutrients, and
antioxidants than either conventional or many certified organic crops. These
nutrient components also need to be in appropriate ratios to each other in
order to maximize absorption and use by the body. This series draws from
cutting edge research and long proven techniques that build the ideal soil
environment for crop growth and production. Highly functional and robust
soils translate into peak nutritive levels, peak yields, and peak pest,
disease and extreme weather resistance.
Second generation organic farmer Dan Kittredge, Founder and Director of the
Real Food Campaign, has made a mission of helping farmers succeed at
producing Nutrient Dense Food all over the world. He is currently farming in
Western Massachusetts and has worked alongside and taught indigenous farmers
in Central America, Siberia, India, as well as throughout the US, including
in the arid Southwest.
Starting on January 10, 2010, RFFP will be offering a year long series of
workshops with Dan Kittredge that will take farmers and gardeners from
ordering inputs, inoculating seeds, starting seedlings, planting,
cultivation and harvest to fall field preparation for the 2012 growing
season. Each daylong workshop will be half lecture, half practical and held
every other month on the beautiful Triform campus/farm. This course is
designed to give the farmer/gardener all the information, techniques, tools,
and support necessary throughout the entire growing year to become a
producer of cutting edge, nutrient dense and maximum quality crops.
The intriguing promise of NDF goes beyond nutrition. Fruits and vegetables
grown with these principles have more complex and intense flavor and a
longer shelf life. “Weeds” prefer different soil life communities than crop
plants do so NDF will reduce the need for field maintenance. These crops
have a higher yield, are more resistant to natural challenges, require less
maintenance and because of their flavor and richness, demand premium
wholesale and retail prices.
This system will soon emerge as the next big advancement in ecological
agriculture and the favorite of health-conscious consumers as well.
Consumers are beginning to understand that they can discern the quality of
the produce by its flavor, aroma, texture and vitality, as well as being
able to measure its brix (a measurement of various sugars and starches
present, indicating the presence of micronutrients) with an easy to use
While nutritionists refer to certain fruits and vegetables as being nutrient
dense, Kittredge points out that the levels of nutrients in blueberries, for
example, can vary tremendously from one field to another. Soil conditions
and complexity largely determine the quality of a harvest (within the
genetic potential of the plant species and variety), and these are
conditions that a farmer or gardener can readily address and adjust for at
different points during the growing cycle.
Some organic proponents would like to believe that organically grown foods
are automatically more nutritious, but this is not necessarily the case.
Although a number of studies show higher levels of nutritional components in
organic crops, other studies have drawn inconclusive results. Implementing
growing practices that do not use pesticides, synthetic or contaminated
fertilizers is obviously healthier, but that does not necessarily guarantee
that these fruits, vegetables and animals will provide the micro-nutrients
necessary for the most basic human physiological micro-mechanics.
Kittredge says the reason is simple. Plants evolved in a symbiotic
relationship to soil life, and they can only achieve their full genetic
potential when the soil microbial community makes available what the plant
wants when it wants and needs it. Soil bacteria and fungi act as a sort of
external digestive system for plants, breaking down minerals and converting
chemical compounds into a form that can be readily absorbed and utilized by
plants – and in turn, available to us through the animals and plants we
eat. If it is not in the soil for plants to get, it is not in the soil for
an animal or for us to get. It is that simple.
Supplementing this soil diversity and complexity then is the first principle
of NDF. In human and grazing animal nutrition, we understand the importance
of establishing a healthy intestinal ecology as a basic function for overall
health. For our crops to thrive and produce the best nutrition for us, it’s
fundamental to create and sustain the same quality of healthy soil ecology
We can shift the makeup of the soil life community by manipulating factors
like the relative amounts of minerals, organic matter, air, and moisture. In
addition to increasing organic matter through cover cropping, and adding
composts and manure, NDF practices include the use of minerals, biological
inoculants, foliage sprays and nutrient drenches. The goal is to enrich the
soil with optimal mineral levels for crop plants and their symbiotic soil
microbes. If these minerals and their working partners are absent or in
short supply, it is difficult for farmers and gardeners to raise high
quality, nutrient dense crops. To enhance the availability of recommended
rock minerals to soil microbes, -to nourish them and thereby the crops –
growers coat them with humates, powdered fish, kelp, sugar or molasses, and
A conventional soil test might assume that a crop can be brought to harvest
through a solution of 12 or 16 minerals. But our bodies require as many as
84 different minerals, most in extremely small amounts, for essential
processes like DNA replication, hormone management, glandular function, and
enzyme activity. A lack of these critical micro-nutrients has been
implicated in the epidemic of many of our chronic, degenerative diseases.
So, while we are notoriously overfed, we are at the same time suffering from
Nutrient Dense Farmers use handheld tools to monitor the health of their
soil and crops in the field. Taking periodic measurements of soil and plant
sap conductivity, brix and other parameters will alert growers to
deficiencies in real time. Before those deficiencies become a problem,
growers can intervene with a nutrient drench or foliar spray.
According to the theory of NDF, plant diseases and insects attack only when
the crop plant’s function becomes limited (though stressed plants don’t
necessarily look malnourished). Conventional agricultural rejects this idea
For instance, some insects can only digest simple sugars and free amino
acids, rather than complex carbohydrates and proteins. The presence of these
compounds in plant sap and the absence of other compounds is symptomatic of
mineral deficiencies. Likewise, fungal hyphae can readily penetrate weak
cell walls to infect a plant with disease, while a well-nourished plant is
able to defend itself by maintaining strong cell walls. Ideally, the vigor
of the plant should be able to overcome the vigor of the disease or pest,
the same is true of us. Kittredge’ tomato plants got late blight this year
(2009), yet bounced back and produced abundantly, while those around him
We have been cropping, tilling, and generally disturbing and depleting
cultivated soils for a very long time, sometimes even centuries. Through
Nutrient Dense Farming we have a means of returning the soil eco-system to a
level of vitality and functionality that will insure a harvest of high
quality and nutritious crops.
Adapted by Gianni Ortiz with permission from an article by Dan Kittredge.
RFFP Members $250
Per Workshop $50
RFFP Members $45
Nutrient Dense Crop Production Workshop Series With Dan Kittredge and
Regional Farm & Food Project
Outline for 2010
. To create a group of growers, learning and working together, with a
free exchange of information, knowledge and experience throughout the coming
. Every topic will be introduced, revisited, and its application
(related skill) demonstrated in the field.
. To facilitate a cumulative learning process. We introduce material
early in the series that will be revisited later in the course that will
deepen our collective understanding of Nutrient Dense Farming/Gardening.
. Address the ‘overwhelm’ challenge of new information by providing
knowledge in a systematic, year long format and a step-by-step process. All
sessions will include a Q&A of material covered earlier.
Session #1: The Foundation: Soil Mineral Nutrition
Introduction of the Real Food Campaign, Nutrient Dense Farming quality
standard and basic soil agronomic principles of Nutrient Dense Farming.
. Protein synthesis
. Mineralization, biology and energy in the soil
. What is necessary to achieve Nutrient Density?
. Outline the year long course and the topics of each of the six
. Appropriate seed selection and biological inoculation of seeds
(using test weights and exploring open pollinated vs. hybrid).
. Preparing potting soils for best starts.
. Soil tests to address basic mineral deficiencies and the differences
between some soil test approaches.
o Logan Labs for vegetables – much closer to standard UMASS test, but
with more parameters.
o Midwest Labs for grain & forage fields -$150/acre is considered high
fertility investment. Allows you to spend less money on minerals by
understanding what minerals you already have.
o International AgLabs (Reams test) – more relevant after basic
mineral ratios are established, understood and addressed. This is the best
test to know what is happening at the moment, but doesn’t necessarily inform
long term management.
Session #2: Working the Soil
. Tillage, soil aeration, soil dynamics: How to till to facilitate
biological life in soil.
(Why to stay off fields when they are wet).
. Deep vs. shallow tillage
. When to till in different cover crops
. Difference between green and brown plant sources
. Introduction to drip systems and foliar applications (budget
. We will read, discuss and learn to understand various soil tests
results. Farmers/Gardeners will bring in soil tests they have received and
we will explore specific recommendations based on those results.
. Inoculating transplants with biology in the greenhouse, including a
hands on demonstration.
Session #3: Working with plants
. We will introduce the basic tool of Plant Sap Analysis (brix). We
will understand the implications of test results and discuss the
effectiveness of foliar sprays versus nutrient drenches including the
differences between male & female foliars and drenches.
. Why conductivity is important and what it signifies.
. Transplanting and biological inoculant review and seeding into the
field or bed.
. Techniques and timing for weed control, burning and/or stale seed
bedding, creating as little disturbance as possible. Is it best to till soil
deeply, get it all worked up, let the top layer of weed seeds to germinate
then flame them down or to plant into just top layer?
. Biodynamic planting calendar for planting and weeding.
. Take and interpret pH and conductivity readings.
Session #4: Optimize Growth, Health & Quality
. Long-term mineral management and whole farm system building.
. Monitoring, and trouble shooting – disease, insects and weeds.
. Plant physiology: How is it expressing itself? How far apart is each
stem? Leaf color? We will look at plants to understand where they are in
their growing cycle.
. Leaf expansion, fruit set, root growth – reading the plant to
determine what deficiencies exist.
. How to take the right action at the right time – mid-season
correction of nutrient deficiencies and how to get maximum productivity and
. Doubling your fruit set – how to address the increased draw on soil
and how to feed it adequately to support a double yield.
. How to identify weeds and what they tell us about soil condition –
weed walk through fields.
. Introduction to cover crops after crop harvest
Session #5: Complete The Season In Style
. Fall soil test – testing soils while crops are at peak draw on soil
resources. This is the completion of balancing mineral content and
remediation process for current crop and soil content and condition.
. Cover Crop: in-depth discussion to plan for next year.
. Go into winter with fields in something green
. How to impact yields at this critical time to maximize yield
. Keep tomatoes going for one more flower & fruit cycle
. How to double your winter crop
. How to double your pepper crop
Session #6: Putting Land To Rest
. Coordinating biology with cover crops and soil remineralization.
. Farm/Garden Plan for 2012 – rotations, fall mineral applications,
. Goal: For each Farmer/gardener to understand what steps they
specifically need to take to amend their soil for optimum production for
. Skill set: More farmers/gardeners to be able to make appropriate
decisions about local soil conditions and how to strengthen/remediate them.
To register: http://www.eventbrite.com/myevent?eid=446607816.