Archives for posts with tag: organic farming

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There is something really incredible about the way animals and plants work together in nature.  They are completely dependent on one another to survive.  Animals require the nutrients within the plants and plants require the digested nutrients dispelled by the animals.  If either end stopped producing, both would die.  And yet, when they work in conjunction it creates a circle of life…if I may quote The Lion King.

As a farmer you act as a link in that circle.  You connect the animals and plants in appropriate proportions and times to keep each end happy and producing.

This week I have been adorned composting champ since I am supposedly a very fast composter… So what composting is composed of (wordplay lol) is first shoveling the deep dark under layers of the manure pile from out side the barn into a wheel barrow.  The reason you want to the deep dark layer from the bottom of the pile is because this manure has had worms galore further breaking up the manure into a rich soil for the plants and also the under layers have been compressed by the top new layers forcing it to become dense.  This creates the perfect material for hungry plants.

The second step in composting requires you to wheel the wheelbarrow down to the fields and distribute it among the rows.  What you are doing here is taking heaping handfuls of the rich dark compost and spreading it around the base of the plant.  Wether it is squash, cucumbers, beets, pumpkins, they all need and love it.

And it is really amazing to see how the plants react to the compost.  I swear the day after I composted the beets they must have grown at least two inches.  Nature, ah…gets me every time.

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These are oat cover crops. Soon the pigs will be released into this section and begin loosening up this soil.

Another amazing example of the circle of life is evident in the pigs and their role in the circle of farm life.  Each year one of the fields on the farm gets a rest.  Cover plants (peas and oats here) are planted to protect the soil and restore the nitrogen in it.  This is also where the pigs are.  So the pigs have an interesting way of finding food.  Other than eating all of our leftovers, the pigs use their snouts to dig under the soil to reach yummy bugs and grubs.  In doing so the pigs are loosening up the soil creating a perfect consistency for the next season’s crop.  Also their (to be blunt) poop and pee is enriching the soil with a firm layer of compost and moisture.  This creates the ideal space for vegetables to grow in the coming year.

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Lastly, the sheep act as a natural mower (although the farm still needs to be mowed time to time).  The sheep are moved from one section of the yard to the next ripping the top off all the grass as they go.  It is really incredible to see, when the fence is moved how you can see the exact orb which it previously inhabited by the difference in grass height.  It basically looks like someone mowed inside that orb.

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And I guess all this information is obvious to most farmers, yet when I have been removed from the land, animals and plants, and the ways in which they are connected for my whole life, seeing them work in perfect harmony continually impresses me.  So here’s to nature, you’re amazing.

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Hello everyone again!  After a long hiatus (yet again) I am back with what I can assure you will be an exciting summer.  And by exciting I mean completely different, sometimes smelly but always beautiful.

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This summer I pulled a Michael Pollan and decided to work on organic farm.  I have been talking about how important it is to support small organic farms so I felt that this summer, when I had three months of nothing, why not actually see and understand how small organic farms are run and how we as a country can support these farms now and make them a bigger resource in the future.

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I have been at the farm for 5 days now.  It is awesome, amazing experience, however, it is hard!  My body is not used to shoveling dirt, bending over to plant for hours and wheeling what feels like pounds and pounds of compost up and down hills.  After the first day I wasn’t sure I would be able to make it the whole summer, but five days in, here I am still kicking (we shall see how my attitude changes over the next couple of months…).

And on top of the pure physical difficulty of farming, there is without a doubt a mental challenge.  You must always be mindful when you are planting to water, compost, dig deep enough, handle the plant carefully, cover with remay, water, water, water.  I think after a while I will have more of a handle on the whole ordeal, but for right now I am always thinking, trying to remember the exact instructions, follow the movements demonstrated.  The more I think about it the more it reminds me of ballet, or simply a dance.  There is this repetition in farming, that follows a beat.  The more precise the movements, the less effort needed creating a more beautiful product.  And as with ballet, to reach that point much practice is needed and the more corrections the better.

So yes, maybe I am romanticizing farming by comparing it to ballet, but ballet is extremely romanticized so maybe I am not…

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Enough of poetics, let me introduce you to the farm!

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Gorgeous down rolling hills this farm is complete with a flower, herb and two main gardens growing everything from broccoli, potatoes, spinach, peas, dried beans, pumpkins, tomatillos and much more.  They use black plastic (which I laid yesterday) to cover their rows, killing weeds and protecting the soil and often cover their rows with remay, a light white netting used to keep away plant eating bugs.  We use compost from the pile outside the barn, or a turkey farm down the road, to nourish the plants. Nothing like sticking your bare hand into a bucket full of fermented poop.

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Compost pile out behind the barn.

In addition to all the vegetables the farm grows they have a barn with chickens, pigs, turkey, rooster, oxen, sheep, a duck, horse rabbits and a cat.  Feeding all the animals and cleaning the barn is a much more fun and much harder than it sounds.  Sometimes the sheep won’t cooperate when you are trying to take them out, the horns on the ox get a little too close for comfort or the duck starts chasing you biting your leg for seemingly no reason (other than maybe he wants attention…).  But at the same time then you get to know these animals.  You get to pet them and get a sense for their personalities.

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Tom or Jerry…I am not sure.

For example there is Jerry, the turkey.  He will follow you and just kinda walk around (most of the time walking right on top of the flowers you just planted) supervising the whole situation.  He would never (as far as I know) hurt you, just a funny, friendly, attention needy turkey.  And then there is Tom, another turkey, but Tom is not as gentle (from what I hear).  

But all of the animals, as crazy as they are make the whole experience so much more interesting and fun.

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I got this guy to thank for waking up on time every morning!

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This is the steer. All I do with the steer is clean up their poop, which is quite a task…

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This is Lady Bug. She is very old, but still kicking! She can’t eat hay anymore so we feed her alfalfa cubes.