Monday, November 24, 2008
To register for "A Tale of Two Farms," send an email to email@example.com.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
The Local Food Project at Airlie demonstrates the ins and outs of a small-scale food system. An important cog in that system is the compost we develop with garden waste and food scraps from the Airlie Center kitchen. We received almost 20,000 pounds of scraps last year—a valuable supply of nitrogen that, when combined with carbon-rich plant stalks and other brown matter from the garden, cooks down into moist, black, crumbly compost dense with nutrients that vegetables need to thrive. For more information on soil and compost, visit ATTRA, the National Sustainable Agricuture Information Service’s Sustainable Soil Management section.
We designed this four-square compost bin to effectively handle daily additions of food scraps from Airlie’s kitchen, provide a convenient place to store brown matter, and allow for a smooth transition between active and completed piles. From our view up on the ladder, this style of compost bin will do a lot to enhance our system, helping it become more sustainable and complete.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
On November 6, the Local Food Project at Airlie hosted its first session of a unique decision-making course for potential farmers. “Exploring the Small Farm Dream: Is Starting an Agricultural Business Right for You?” was developed by the New England Small Farm Institute to bridge the gap between ideas and action.
We welcomed a diverse group of 26 small farm dreamers and launched right into a series of exercises assessing skills, knowledge, financial considerations, resources, and risks. Course participants were excited to share their ideas for farm businesses. Most have plans to market a varied product line including items like vegetables, berries, orchard fruits, grass-fed meats, dairy, and even mushrooms and nuts. The coming sessions will feature several local farmers who will provide a peek into their own farm business journeys. We hope to spend the next four weeks helping members of the class explore their dreams and come one step closer to launching their farms!
Monday, November 3, 2008
This summer, my co-intern Lauren and I read two books with some contradictory messages about the best way to run a sustainable garden—How to Grow More Vegetables, by John Jeavons, and Gardening When It Counts, by Steve Solomon.
We created a skit about two warring disciples of these master gardeners and performed it at our July “Small Space, High Yield” workshop. “The Voice of Compromise” (played by Pablo) saved the day by descending from a sixteen foot ladder and explaining that we shouldn’t let sticking to one certain method get in the way of growing food and building community.
Since then, we’ve realized that climbing up on that sixteen foot ladder allows us to get a refreshing perspective on all of the tasks and chores and projects we’re working on. From sixteen feet up we get a sense of the whole system working as one. And it’s exhilarating to stand high above the ground, a little shaky as the breeze sweeps in from the fields, feeling both proud and ridiculous on such a bold set piece in a little garden full of food.
Here’s what we’re growing:
Red lettuce—Red Cross, Yugoslavian, and Sweet Valentine
Kale—Laci Nato, Vates
Bok Choy—Mei Ping
Basil—Lettuce Leaf, Lemon, Red Rubin, Italian Large Leaf
Once we get the hoophouse completely sealed up, I’m thinking it’s going to be our favorite place to escape the winter cold. And I can’t wait for next spring when it will help launch our spring and summer garden.
To begin preparing the soil for next spring, we made one pass with the tiller about four weeks ago. Last week, we tilled again, then direct sowed field peas and oats by scooping them out in handfuls and letting them scatter over the freshly turned soil. These cover crops, also known as "green manures," do great things for the soil. According to Eliot Coleman's The New Organic Grower, "Green manure crops help protect against erosion, retain nutrients that might otherwise be leached from the soil, suppress the germination and growth of weeds, cycle nutrients from the lower to the upper layers of the soil, and--in the case of legumes--leave to the following crop a considerable quantity of nitrogen."
The little seeds that ran through our fingers will bring enormous benefits to our garden! To keep them protected, we fought high winds and covered each section with a light layer of straw. When we’re ready to put seedlings in the ground next season, we’ll plant directly through the cover crops, then watch as the plants thrive in the enriched soil.