Andony Melathopoulos: [00:00:00] Integrated pest management is often held up as a great way to protect pollinators on managed lands. But frequently it's of held out as a bit of an abstract concept. So we have this series that's been supported by the Western I P M center called. What the heck does IPM mean in some very specific cases?
Now we have previous episodes based in Oregon one in commercial, blueberry production and nursery production. And this week we turn our attention to New Mexico, the heart of Albuquerque to be exact. We're gonna be speaking today with Casey Holland, who is the farm manager, a CHISPA farm, which is a four acre urban farm.
They grow 120 varieties of fruits and vegetables, and they also. Flock of milk goats and grazing sheep and hens and ducks and geese. And you're gonna see how all of these parts together create a wonderful systems approach to managing pests and. With all sorts of [00:01:00] opportunities for nectar and pollen not only for pollinators, but the beneficial insects that sort of are the under the motor that drives integrated pest management.
This is a great episode, especially if you're in New Mexico, but even if you're not in New Mexico, just to see how you can bring all the pieces together and really, truly integrate pest management this week on pollination.
I'm so excited to have you on pollination this week. Casey, thank
Casey Holland: you for having me.
Andony Melathopoulos: So tell us a little bit about the farm. It sounds like a really remarkable farm, a really great example of where integrated psh management and pollinator protection come together. Tell us about the farm.
What do you do in
Casey Holland: the farm? Yeah the farm itself is about four acres. We are not certified organic. However we used to be, and there's a whole bunch of political stuff that went into that. But so we really approached the farm from how do we make the soil, the people, and all of the more than human beings that share this space as healthy as possible.
So to do that, we cultivate a little under two [00:02:00] acres and active vegetables and fruits. So that's like tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, all those kinds of things we have about an acre that's utilized in perennial pasture for our livestock. We keep a herd of milk goats, a flock of sheep, over a hundred laying hens and ducks and geese.
And I'd love to talk about how they're also really vital in pest management. Later on. And we we grow for a large CSA program that we run of over 60 families. We go to the largest farmer's market in Albuquerque called the downtown growers market. And we host a number of different like free cooking classes and music times and things on the farm in order to help people.
Be involved in the farm as much as possible in addition to different workshops and stuff that we do. Yeah, we've always got a lot of, a little bit of everything going on at any given time. Wow.
Andony Melathopoulos: I was just thinking that could work in favor of I P M and pollinators because you have, it's very, a very complex.
Operation, but also I imagine at the same time, there's a lot of logistics, you're, I can imagine you're out weeding a row and then the public [00:03:00] shows up and you gotta you gotta do these kind of transitions. Tell us a little bit about the challenges of, having really good really good, sustainable farm that's so public facing.
Casey Holland: Oh yeah. I also live on the farm, which is its own set. Delineation between what is farm and who am I? So that's constantly a line that like is attempted to be blurred. I think one of the things that's really sweet that I've barely been focusing on, not just for myself, but again, for the pollinators is this whole idea of like systems and structures of support and like what actually is sustainable.
And we have a like a pretty decently sized crew this year. That's helping support all of the work that we're doing. And I'm like the, I'm the infield person working with the crew. And I'm also like the logistical manager. So what's fun is that I set the priorities for the week and everything.
We're implementing them as we go harvesting, planting, weeding, whatever that. Calls for. And then I am training a couple of the PE folks who work with me to also be able to engage with the public [00:04:00] and who like, speak really well about the work that we're doing. So sometimes if I'm there, I'll be able to be like, like just literally the other day, we had two community members, one of thems, a mom of one of our CSA members who were taking a walk in the neighborhood and decided they wanted to stop by the farm, and we're in the middle of the harvest.
So I'm able to like peel away and welcome them. Cause I want them, I want everybody to feel welcome when they come. And what's really nice is that we've really clearly delineated kind of paths for folks and stuff. So I was able to give them a brief introduction, say hi, welcome. And then allow them to take like a self-guided tour and chatted with them a little bit.
Cuz they, everyone always asks about all the flowers that we've got growing and what they're about. Give them a little bit of a taste of what's up. And then invite them to come back during one of our more formal open days or when we have the free cooking classes and a more intentional space to engage.
And now more and more members of the crew are feeling empowered that if someone does walk up and they wanna know what's going on, they can stop what they're doing and chat for a little bit and say, Hey, and then go back to it. So it's just nice balance of, we typically do try to always [00:05:00] make time for the.
And then plug them into existing initiatives or times where we do specifically have the farm open for folks to come and chat and talk. And that way we weave in a number of different folks from the community and neighborhood into our work and it happens almost every day. It really does where somebody comes up and wants know what's going on.
I can imagine the other day, even a FedEx worker, who lives in the area, stopped by and dropped off a package and wanted to sit and chat about what was going on, which is just a really fun thing, too. I think about being such an urban farm as.
Andony Melathopoulos: Yeah. And I guess that is a great it in UN unlike a farm that isn't public facing, you're able to introduce people to pollinators and, sustainable issues in a, you're on the front lines of making that bridge.
Casey Holland: Yeah. And I'm like a huge nerd specifically about all of the wasps we have on the farm. I think they're fascinating. I love them. So it's really sweet to like, be able to share that with folks. And oftentimes people just thinks of wast as like this kind of annoyance at a picnic or something.
And I'm like, no, you have no idea how [00:06:00] integral they are to operations here actually. And how cool. They really can be. So it's fun too, to have our own special interests that we can share. Whenever folks,
Andony Melathopoulos: I always think, people always, when it comes to wasps, they think yellow jackets and they really don't understand how much wasp diversity.
Like I always think with bees, it's oh, people think honey bees and they don't know that, but really when it comes to wasps, I think nobody thinks I probably very few people would identify with the small wasps that are going after your aphids or. Yeah, that you
Casey Holland: can only see by their side effects that they leave behind that.
That's right. Yeah.
Andony Melathopoulos: So cool. Yeah. Tell me a little bit about how you are able to attract these beneficial, including bees. You talked about having, ma having specific pollinator habitat. But when we were talking before the episode, you mentioned that also the cropping area is , it's turned into habitat.
Tell us a little bit about.
Casey Holland: Yeah. So it's extremely integrated, which I think is the idea of integrated pest management. And it's [00:07:00] multifaceted in a bunch of different ways. So one of the primary ways is anytime for active cultivation, I plant di or cilantro. I always plan in the crop plan to allow those beds to grow and flower and fully develop.
Primarily because they are such hotspots and beneficial insects love those flowers to death. And because I let that happen, what happens is they go to seed and then they spit seed everywhere. And then every year, since, I think we did our first planting of di and carrots in 2018 in the fields.
And we've never needed to really plant them again for the insect really. So in, in easily, a 30, 40 foot spread where that bed was every year, they. Further and stretch out and spread. So then in following years, like this year, we have a bed of kale that we planted two beds of kale, and it is thick with carrots that have all gone to bloom too.
So it's this big RT of these big carrot flowers [00:08:00] earlier in the spring, we had all the dill coming up. So it's almost I like those better than any other firework, all these still explosions and care explosions. And it's really cool because then we planted the kale there. And I wasn't necessarily thinking of this when I did the crop plan, but kale is one of our crops that gets the most attacked by like cabbage, loopers and other caterpillars and things like that.
So all of these wasps come to hunt. Or to drink nectar on the carrots and everything and on the di. And then they in turn are hunting our caterpillars straight off of the plants and you can watch them carrying them away or having epic aerial battles with each other in the sky as they like pull them to the ground.
And then as they spread, like now we have almost 60 feet away. I've never seen a, I've never planted carrots in this field. and I've never seen them come up before, but thanks to in the wintertime, we allow all of our livestock to graze all the fields. , the chickens are eating all the seeds and pooping mountain places.
So they are now spreading, cosmos the deal, the carrots and fields completely away from where I've ever planted [00:09:00] them. And then I've trained the crew early in the year to intentionally leave them whenever we see them as weeds, as long as they're not super interfering or right up next to a plant, I figure why not have a beautiful Cosmo or why not have a beautiful carrot flour come up?
So in that way they're like really just like in our tomatoes, we've got some in our sweet potatoes. We've got some just all over. And it makes it easier to integrate too, because once we planted them, if we let them flower, we like never need to intentionally plant them again. I can guarantee you hundreds are gonna be eager to come up every year.
And those are just ones that we free let go to seed. We also intentionally plant flower beds every years of Marigold NIAS. Every year I try to plant more perennial cut flowers too. So we've got over a hundred foot bed of gladiolas, EIA, Rebecca, all kinds of different perennial medicinal plants that we plant on the edge space.
It's very similar to a Headrow but smaller strip. That then also bloom for longer periods and just I [00:10:00] find, the more diversity of flowers, the more diversity of insects that we're welcoming onto the farm every single year. I see things that I've never seen before, and this is my 11th season.
And it's just it's almost a challenge at this point to see what more we can grow. And like I was telling you before the show how else we can integrate longer bloom periods onto the farm, because really it's only ever benefited us. In all these really wonderful ways and the beauty, oh, I can't even tell you like this time of year when everything's in bloom and we were prepping some fields today, rotating flail mowing and power harrowing, some beds to, from onions to get into it.
And you could see all these dragon flies. Like dozens of them flying above where we were working because of all the little bugs, I think that were coming up from the work that we were doing. And then sometimes there's these like swallow tails and things that will come and swoop in a part on a particular moist morning.
And I'm always the kind of person that's just yo, we gotta stop and just watch this for a second. Isn't this so cool. Like how amazing that, like the work that we're doing is actually supporting all of these other [00:11:00] beautiful being. And we just happened to be doing the work that we were gonna do anyway on a regular Thursday.
But then you can see everyone just having a party in the sky feling off of everything that's grown. It's really sweet. Yeah.
Andony Melathopoulos: I really, it really does give a, a fuller meaning to the idea of integrated and integrated pest management and that you really have, the row, you've got plants growing together.
There's a lot of companion. Interactions happening almost intentionally, but in some cases just happening. Yeah. And
Casey Holland: oh, BWE is another one that I didn't even mention. We planted BWE once, two years ago and now we have BWE that comes up readily in almost every field. And that's another like incredible soil builder, but the beneficial insects just love those little.
Those little cup flowers, those little white cup flowers. Ah, that's so cool. and where does it stop? I don't know. More and more. Every year. I'm in
Andony Melathopoulos: you were mentioning as well the livestock, you mentioned that they're moving plants around and that's been, they've been helping you establish.
Casey Holland: are on the farm. Yeah. Patches of different beneficial plants all over the farm. Yeah. And I would say [00:12:00] the first year we integrated chickens into the farm. So once everything dies for the frost, we just let the chickens have complete free reign and they're able to go once we actually started letting them out and eat bugs all winter long, it was incredible to see the amount of pest pressure that was reduced just from the chickens alone.
. And we also Plant have all these sunflowers and different like amaranth and big stemmed items. And when we let the goats and sheep graze, they go and they clean all the stems and the stalk, and they're eating a lot of the ground and they're fertilizing for us and everything. And one thing that I realized, which I hadn't even thought of before, they never eat the big, tough stems.
But my partner was gathering them to make a fence. And you could literally watch all of these overwintering bent like native bees and things emerging from the stems that were left all winter. Since we leave that cover, as it was getting warm enough. To be able to come out. So we're getting fertilizer, we're feeding they're almost like cleaning the [00:13:00] stems, leaving them for the beneficial insects and the chickens are around hunting, squash, bugs and things all winter.
Andony Melathopoulos: nice elegant thing that you discover there is that the, what the stems that are too big for. The livestock graze down become, nesting bees and, stem nesting bees and was, will start to move in and see. Yeah. Yeah. That's
Casey Holland: really wonderful. Yeah. And I hadn't even anticipated that component of leaving all the field debris on the farm for the livestock graze.
Is that also we're leaving habitat all winter. That is
Andony Melathopoulos: fantastic. Tell us a little bit a as well about you were mentioning that one of your goals is to try and fill some of the flowering gaps, where are the gaps? And what's been the challenge there.
Casey Holland: Yeah. I'd say the flowering gaps are like our coldest months.
So December, January, end of November, beginning of February are definitely the hardest time to keep blooms going. How we're trying to address that actually is looking at the house space and other edge spaces around the [00:14:00] farm that aren't an active cultivation with annuals mostly, and trying to figure out what kind of native perennials can we plant like winter fat, I think is something around here that like blooms really heavily.
in the winter. Like how do we integrate that into the literal landscaping in order to provide more areas of habitat, or we have these hedgerows that we've planted along the road fences and along our SECI fence, how do we do more research and figure out, because really it's just We have such a broad bloom window that so much is already going on, that you really need a really tough adapted plant to be able to survive.
When sometimes we can get in the negative zeros as cold as or as hot in December. Sometimes it'll be an 80 degree day. So it's something that's gotta be really adapted to our high desert reason region that can handle the extremes. So utilizing those kind of empty edge spaces. And immediately around the house to try to build that habitat is one of the things we're doing to [00:15:00] try to address them.
Andony Melathopoulos: Speaking about extremes, I imagine right now it under drought conditions being really hot, is there, are there any pollinator plants that really perform well in New Mexico at this time of year? In the depth of the summer.
Casey Holland: Oh, everything. . Margold are going, the Zilla are off the charts.
The early cosmos that seated themselves around the farm. They're in full bloom. The carrots right now are just like living their best freaking lives. Honestly, the heat makes a lot of things. Bolt. So that's when we start getting, all of our spring crops, we left for a little longer when all the radishes were blooming and the turn ups had started to go.
It's oh, we'll leave those for a little while and let them go. The heat encourages things to flower. I think as long as we give them enough water for them to make it through. They just thrive. Like the EIA is like easily. Some of it's five feet tall now with like dozens and dozens of those bright purple cone flowers.
And the Rebecca is like the biggest one I've ever seen. It's four feet wide by four feet tall. That's just like a hundreds of blooms [00:16:00] all over it. They thrive in the heat. I think really it's the alternating between hot and cold, sometimes a 40 degree difference in one. On those edge seasons when the cold start setting in, or when the warm is just setting in, that is the hardest for something to really adapt.
And that's where I'm looking more at native plants because they are regionally adapted and are like, cool, can be all those extremes degrees and then get all the way to 70 degrees in the following day. Those are the ones that are like resilient and fill those edge spaces more than like my delicate little food babes.
We're planting every.
Andony Melathopoulos: I guess the last question I have is we, you talked about the challenges with the pollinators and filling in some gaps and approaches to it, but are there any pest problems that in spite of the system working become a problem? How have you dealt with them?
Casey Holland: Yeah, I'd say there's one that any farmer in this region will tell you right away is just like the bane of all of our existences. And that's a squash bug and I've heard rumors of [00:17:00] a hover. That will parasitize the eggs and I don't know what I got a plant to invite that friend here, but Ooh, I would love to do that.
I'm like every year I'm just like crawling around, hoping that I see a parasitized squash bug egg, but really a lot of people try to like plant marigolds or plant late. And really I'm just like, they're gonna be there no matter what. So I, with those more pervasive pests, my strategy is the classic pick and squish.
Because I like to call it. So we religiously three times a week go through with our human hands and take, remove the eggs and squish, whatever bugs we can find. And most of the time we can win the battle. And then now with a changing climate, it's been interesting. We're getting waves of insects and bugs that we've never had in this area before.
So the latest one is like the Berata. And also the Harlequin beetle. They're really big fans of of bras and they don't there hasn't been time for any predator here to really figure out how to eat them. [00:18:00] And I would not advise anyone just introduce where a predator from wherever they're naturally from cuz who knows what that could do to the ecosystem.
So that's another. They don't really respond to organic intervention as far as like Nemo or Pyre from even because they're just like tough try to avoid that as much as possible. Anyway, it's just extra expense on the farm. So we really do, even for those just the classic pick and squish
Andony Melathopoulos: yeah, I suppose that is always been a problem.
You have a nicely balanced system and then either through climate change or an. Pester disease comes in and then it throws things outta whack that can be challenging to, adapt to those.
Casey Holland: Yeah. And there's some physical interventions, things like crop rotation, right? Like I'm not gonna let the squash bugs and the Harla bugs and all of that have the same crop planted in the same.
Space every year, then I'm just planting them above a, . So we do try our best to plant in as many different locations as possible in order to help at least make the plants harder to find that they're trying to target to eat. And then [00:19:00] there's also, I've recently invested in some insect netting.
So that way, when the plants are small, we can cover them and to help them get to the size where then they can handle. Some pest pressure when they get a little larger and always trying to get the reusable thing.
Integrated pest management (IPM) is a key dimension of pollinator protection. This week we head to Chispas Farm in Albuquerque, New Mexico on how they use an integrated method to protect their plants from pests and encourage pollinators.
Casey Holland was born and raised in New Mexico and is currently the Farm Manager at Chispas Farm, a 4 acre urban farm located in the heart of Albuquerque, NM on occupied Tiwa land. We grow over 120 varieties of fruits and vegetables, have a flock of milk goats, grazing sheep, 100 laying hens and geese and ducks. We seasonal CSA programs, host numerous community events, and strive each year to have opportunities to eat on the farm for free.
Casey’s book recommendation:
Fukuoka, M., 2013. Sowing seeds in the desert: natural farming, global restoration, and ultimate food security. Chelsea Green Publishing.
Casey’s go-to-tool for working with pollinators:
Casey’s favorite pollinator: