Sunday, February 27, 2011

Winter 2011

I spent last season at North Slope Farm and it was a great learning experience. As I continue there this year I will take on some more responsibility. I will be starting my own enterprise, Blackbird Meadows, on North Slope's land to sell to a local restaurant. I have the crop plan done and look forward to start some transplants next week.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tractors and Tomatoes

My first farm season was amazing. I feel very healthy because of the fresh food and physical activity. I am going to continue farming. We harvested enough food to feed around 800 people a week! The CSA model (community supported agriculture) is a great way to start a farm and be a part of your local community.


Where to farm? Land in Eastern Pennsylvania is expensive. Being only a couple hours to three major cities prices out most peoples ability to purchase a couple acres of land. There are ways around purchasing land and that is renting or setting up an agreement with borrowing land. Below are some pictures of land we might be able to farm. It is located in North East PA. This is the area I want to stay in because it is close to Philly and NYC, my family, and where I grew up. I would like to give back to the local community in a sustainable way. There is hope for a broke aspiring farmer through grants, loans from the USDA, and friends and family with extra land.

The Begining...

I have decided to become a farmer (or maybe a market gardener). My first step at attaining this goal has been an internship at an organic farm in Bucks County, PA. This is where I grew up and I am very excited to return to my roots with my fiance, Robin. I have meandered through jobs after graduating from art school in Brooklyn, NY. All of these experiences are slowly proving useful as the farm season rolls on.

The First two weeks of farming was exciting and exhausting. The reality of working six days in a row and clocking sixty plus hours a week under the sun starts to strain the body. I thought I knew what physical labor was, but I was wrong! The days were passed by riding on the back of a trans planter. This implement has three seats, storage for flats, and wheels that poke holes in the ground while watering the holes at the same time. In short it allows us to take small plants and put them into the soil at an even pace and distant. The propagation greenhouse has been a highlight for my experience too. We spent days seeding onions, lettuce, peppers, cabbage, and tomatoes. The list goes on because the farm I work on grows almost everything. It feeds 220 people a week and also does two farmers markets. By the end of my first two weeks I could barely touch my toes. My body was locking up and I was falling asleep by 10pm.

After I visited a chiropractor for the first time in 15 years I felt great. My body was getting used to the physical labor. After surpassing numerous thresholds of endurance I have fallen in love with working in the dirt. The next projects we worked on included setting up hoop houses for tomato production. That includes using a rototiller to incorporate compost, chicken doodle, and lime into the soil. Next we set up black mulch with drip tape into orderly rows and hang strings from tensile wire to trellis the plants. To be the first to market with tomatoes takes a lot of care. We planted ours about a month early and covered and uncovered them with agrifab, a cloth like fabric, to protect them from frost. At the threat of a late frost in late May we almost covered the entire farm!

Settling into my role as an intern farmer has been a blessing. Most people do not understand the low pay but hard work model. I am lucky to have the support of my friends and family, but most of all my wife. I have never been so happy and so poor at the same time. Recently I have been able to get some time on the tractor. I chisel plowed for the first time and it was exhilarating. I also got to lay some plastic mulch, transplant, and cultivate. Here is a list of things I have done over the past couple months:

-seed plants
-weed for hours on end by hand
-thin beets and carrots
-set up irrigation for the field and greenhouses
-plant by hand
-wash and bunch vegetables for market
-plant living mulch
-trellis peas, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers
-use the "Florida Weave" method for trellising
-drive a tractor
-work at a farmer's market
-hung garlic to dry

The list will go on and on. I am closing in on my fourth month on the farm. Most days I come home, cook dinner (usually fresh from the farm) and go to sleep. This has changed my social lifestyle and allowed me to value my personal time. Some advantages have been:

-working outside
-great food
-low tech and attainable methods
-physical workout
-important role in the community
-developing self-efficient skills

My dream is to have my own farm with Robin and Marc Gardens. With the time I have to think during some monotonous work I am slowly building a plan as to what to grow, where to grow, and to who I would sell to. I am almost certain the farming life is for me, but stay tuned as the season goes on...