Apart from the dryness that marked the end of summer and into the fall, we can honestly say we just completed an awesome growing season. What a difference a year makes! The exceptional drought of 2018 was erased by the tremendously wet fall and winter of 2018-2019. Water was plentiful this past summer; some of our springs recharged themselves and the grasses grew tall. Needless to say, our own personal stress levels were down considerably. We’re hoping for an upcoming wet winter, since, we’re apprehensive to say, we’re back in drought conditions.
Our affiliation with the Quivira Coaltion (check ’em out here) as official Mentors in the their New Agrarian Program produced two very capable apprentices that spent the summer with us, learning all they could about farming. Cary and Caroline Conwell left the farm in October and have moved on to greener pastures in the Shenandoah Valley, where they hope to start their own operation. Obviously, because of climate change and the uncertainty that goes with it, there’s a sense of urgency among new farmers wanting to start their own farms and get after it. We wish Cary and Caroline all the best.
Economically we were successful, too. Our survivability rate for our pastured chickens was over 97%, meaning from chick to harvest we were able to keep 97% of the birds alive. Same goes for the turkeys. Our dressed weight on the pastured chickens came in at over 4 pounds, which was our goal at the beginning of the season. We also endeavored to produce more value-added products from our poultry, so bone broths and liver pates were flying off the shelves all summer long!
We also focused a lot of energy into enhancing the biodiversity of the farm by helping to create new habitats, improving hydrology, enhancing landscapes and improving soils. We are committed to maintaining our livestock on the farm as the primary means to improve soils. This is the regenerative way! We also want to plant trees and shrubs wherever we can. We are very concerned about some of the potential challenges that await growers down the road: extreme weather events, fewer pollinators; fewer insects (there’s been a 50% decline in the insect population in the USA since the 1970s). We will continue to do our part to sequester carbon through our healthy grass pastures.
We continue to inform and educate ourselves on the importance of eating organic, nutrient-dense foods. Our guide in this quest continues to be the Weston A. Price Foundation, who just celebrated their 20th year of doing amazing scientific research into food, farming and the healing arts, They can be found here. Although currently receiving a lot of hype, plant-based diets will fall woefully short of their promises to improve human and planetary health. In fact, as we’ve written before, faux meats will add to our climate challenges, not lessen them.
Here’s to our health, the planet’s well-being and to delicious, nutritious food. We read recently that “food is the sacred way of connecting to Mother Nature.” How appropriate!
Below are some images of the farm that capture some of the tremendous progress the farm made during the 2019 growing season.
Water was plentiful, as were early-season rain storms.
The farm looked glorious once our pastures started turning green in late spring, fed by runoff from the snow-capped mountains in the background.
A beautiful image of … White Top (hoary cress), which is considered a blight on the landscape and an invasive weed. We find that our bees love the early blossom, that the plant helps reduce erosion and that, once cut, the plant adds lots of biomass. It does need to be managed however as it will out-compete grass on drylands pastures.
Our preferred way to manage White Top is by mowing it once in full-bloom and before the blossoms go to seed. Here our sickle bar mower does the job, an amazing implement.
Anne LeFevre was back for her third season with her two boys, Alias and Jonah. She grows amazing produce in the acre-and-a-half organic garden, and distributes food to Norwood’s Fresh Food Hub, a CSA and to disadvantaged families in the Mountain Village. A group of volunteers descended on the farm every Monday afternoon to help pack CSA boxes.
Not getting enough mention is the fact that the farm is solar-powered. And, did we mention that the grasses grew tall last summer?
July and early August were marked by some very memorable downpours, which created some localized flooding on the farm.
One of the victims of the flooding were some heirloom seeds, shown here drying, which were stored in what we formerly thought was a dry environment: the walk-in cooler. Nevertheless, flood waters crept into the cooler, leaving a wet mess!
As part of a Regenerative Ag initiative, we worked on hydrology, creating new swales and planting shrubs and trees.
Our State-approved poultry processing plant produces lots of “waste” product. Note that the word waste is purposefully in quotation marks, because the feathers, blood, offal and water that the plant produces during a processing session is actually composted for two-three years and then added to the garden as soil amendment.
Apart from diving deeply into everything you ever wanted to know about raising pastured poultry, Caroline got some experience in the garden this summer too.
The turkeys found lots of green grass to forage on this summer in our intensively rotated pasture.
We went back to pasturing pigs again this summer, too. Here the pigs are snout deep in some grasses.
A great demonstration of nitrogen fixation in our soils.
Cary and Anne after the garlic harvest.
It’s not always work with no play on the farm! Here’s Elias out on the surfboard in our swimming pond on a hot summer day.
Our daughter Ali, who was born with Smith-Magenis Syndrome, visited the farm several times and helped out as best she can. She loved pitting apricots, which seemed to be available for weeks on end.
Barclay was able to host some cooking classes on a couple occasions this summer, here showing some CSA members who to cut up a fresh, delicious pastured chicken.
“And the seasons, they go ’round and ’round.” Here we go again. Have a safe winter!