Growing Practices

The short story is that we mostly use organic compost and many different kinds of mulch to build up the soil and build healthy plants. We use physical barriers such as a thin fabric cloth (row cover) to deter insects, as necessary. We do not use chemicals and we mostly use organic and/or open-pollinated seeds (no GMO's).

General Philosophy

We strive to grow as much as possible on our third of an acre. Is it a farm or a garden? To the USDA, Yellow House Farm isn't even a blip on the radar. But it is enough space to grow quite a bit of produce--more than we could possibly eat. We focus on crops that do not require a huge amount of square footage and we try to be creative in maximizing space: growing vertically when possible, interplanting, and transplanting from the greenhouse.

Underlying all of the individual decisions about how to grow things is the idea that the soil is the most important element in the equation. We are constantly trying to increase soil health--that means minimal disturbance (absolutely no-till) and the constant addition of organic matter in the form of mulch (woodchips, straw), green manure/mulch (low-lying living ground cover to shade out weeds), and compost. Soil health not only improves plant vitality, but reduces issues with weeds and insects over time.

Urban Soils & Soil Testing

The native soil on the property was tested prior to growing so we know it is safe from lead and other heavy metals. We are also part of an ongoing Johns Hopkins soil study relating to the safety of growing food in urban spaces. We should have detailed results about our space within a year or so, and general results of the study within 2 years.

Prior to starting Yellow House Farm, Emma was involved with the Farm Alliance of Baltimore City as an Americorps member, where she learned a great deal about soil issues in urban farming. Not all sites are created equal--it is important to know site history to determine possible risk factors. For example, some sites have known previous use that involves heavy metals--i.e. former garages, driveways, or areas where people worked on cars. YHF has been a residential property for over 100 years with no demolition or construction on or adjacent to the site.

Any soil or compost we import to the site is thoroughly tested from a reliable source and we have detailed records. In 2017 we had a delivery of mushroom compost which we have used to build permanent raised beds. In 2018 we are using potting soil from Vermont Compost.

Composting on the Farm

For the most part, we compost our own kitchen waste to keep food scraps out of the landfill. At present, we do not generate enough of our own compost to meet our needs. When possible, we feed food scraps to chickens to cut down on the amount of grain-based feed they eat.

If you are willing to save kitchen scraps for use on the farm, we are happy to supply a sturdy bucket with lid. If you pick up your CSA share on-farm, you can bring the compost then, or we can pick up compost from you when we make a CSA delivery.

If you are not in the CSA but would like to give us compost, get in touch! Compost can include: vegetable and fruit scraps, tea bags, coffee grinds and paper filters, non-oily paper bags, and eggshells. We cannot accept meat, bones, oils, or dairy.

We currently do not maintain compost logs with recorded internal temperatures of our pile because of our low volume for this, so for food safety reasons we use our home compost only for trees & bushes (no direct contact with plant parts that get eaten).

Insect Control

We do not use any chemical herbicides or pesticides. For the most part we use row cover, which is a very thin woven fabric, to prevent insect damage on crops we know to be susceptible. We also maintain flowers and other plantings throughout the site to give insects other food besides what we want to harvest, and to provide habitat for beneficial species. Finally, we assume that some of what we plant will get eaten by our pest neighbors--so we plant extra seeds.


There is raging debate about GMO's. We're staying out of it for now--we do not use GMO seeds. We do occasionally use some hybrid varieties of plants if there is a particular reason to do so or if no non-hybridized varieties are not available, but we prioritize purchasing non-hybrid varieties so we can practice seed saving. Most of our seeds are organic-certified and open-pollinated.

Harvest & Waste

We harvest to order so you can count on receiving fresh produce. (And we can count on less waste.)

We sell some "seconds" (produce that doesn't look great, but is still perfectly edible) to home canners interested in a bargain on their preserved goods.

We avoid plastic as much as possible along every stage of production, although we admit it has its uses, such as helping maintain product quality and freshness. Whenever possible, we will choose a compostable or recyclable packaging option instead.


There are a lot of different certifications and food-related terms floating around these days. "Organic" is a big one, of course. Others include: naturally grown (or "Certified Naturally Grown"), chemical-free, GAP-certified (GAP stands for "Good Agricultural Practices"), all-natural. It's confusing.

Due to our scale and timeline (first year in production), we do not have any certifications in 2018. We are keeping records, however, and can tell you exactly where everything comes from and how everything works. Also, Emma's background includes experience in commercial kitchens where she became very well-versed in safe food handling.

In the future, we may decide to become certified organic or GAP-certified. Until then, we will follow beyond-organic best practices and will answer any questions you may have!