This week at Arden farm was the hardest so far. I learned that it is one thing is to plant tiny seeds, being filled with hope that they will become an amazing bounty of fresh food, then harvest the fruit of your labor, feeling the excitement and satisfaction of looking at a crate full of fresh produce you just picked, and quite a different thing to actually do the “in between labor” that is involved in any farm, especially an organic and sustainable farm. These activities include but are not limited to: weeding, mulching, mowing, pruning, etc. All are essential to the successful management of a farm and none of them very exciting, rewarding, or fun. The past 3 days were a combination of these activities. We started out by weeding green onions. This we were able to do by hand and it didn’t seem very hard, except for the fact that the sun was beating down on us with full force. Myself, being the tanning freak that I am, didn’t use anything for protection so that I would get “little bit of color”. I know, bad idea. You don’t have to tell me; I know now. The first day wasn’t so bad. The green onions hadn’t been invaded by weeds so much and it seemed like a pretty “relaxing” job actually. But then, this morning it was time to move into the rainbow chard. Sara, one of my farmer partners and the one with the most experience, handed me and Melissa - a newbie like myself- a hoe. And off we went into the field. The weeds were so many that we had to pick them out by hand first to be able to find the little chard plants hidden by a mini forest of weedy green.
After the had picking came the actual hoeing. Can you picture a scene in one of those movies where they show prisoners doing road side labor in the sweltering sun a la “Cool Hand Luke” and you think
“Wow, that looks tough” Well, that was us. We were on a mission to lift those weeds out of the ground and away form the precious chard.
One hour later, sweating and with blistery hands (even though we wore gloves) we were done. But wait! Now we have to mulch the cucumbers, over there… on that long field.
A picture speaks louder than word, so here are two pictures of the size of the cucumber fields we mulched. The actual mulching part wasn’t as tough (besides the inclement sun, again) but the carrying of the hay bales was the hard part. I’m serious when I tell you that I am canceling my gym membership because I am going to get all the workout I need here.
As usual, Dan is a great mentor and he wasn’t going to let the week go by without a reward. Our reward this week was the opportunity to be a part of a “Pasture Walk” with a member of the Erie County Soil and Water Conservation District and a Tomato plant walkthrough with an expert of Tomato growing from Cornell University who drove all the way from Ithaca. These people are extremely knowledgeable and came to help Dan improve the production and profitability of how farm and provide valuable knowledge in organic and sustainable practices so Dan not only can continue to grow his vegetables in an organic way but also start a “Managed Intensive Rotational Grazing” system for his animals that will be extremely beneficial for both the animals, the soil and Dan and the key to successful pasture raised animals.
Here is an article about Rotational Grazing
I am looking forward to the coming week and what other great things I can learn.