Bio-Intensive and Bio-Extensive Practices at North Slope Farm
Attended by Farmers from:
The Seed Farm
Chickadee Creek Farm
Red Hill Farm
By Mike Rassweiler, www.NorthSlopeFarm.com
Jan 30, 2013
NOFA-NJ did us all a favor by bringing Eliot Coleman, Author of The New Organic Grower, to speak as our Keynote. His focus on “Anything is Possible” was inspirational and photos of his operation profound in their simplicity and beauty. Eliot grounds the organic community in the power of principle, that building healthy soil, and minimizing stress to our crops, will yield bounteous crops over the long haul, without expensive off farm inputs or environmental degradation. According to Eliot’s example, small land holdings not only can feed our communities, but they should be our Societies Primary (food) Focus.
I was honored to be a presenter at this Conference, speaking both Sat and Sunday. I was joined in the discussion of Mentoring Apprentices by Judy VonHandorf of Genesis Farm, Eve Minson of NOFA-NJ and Christy Asbee of Law for Food, LLC. Legal issues were laid out for future discussion and review, and North Slope Farm’s and Genesis’s Training programs were presented in detail.
In order of their scheduling, I also attended the following workshops:
I was struck by the awareness of how much Michael was prepared to share of his experience and wisdom, and that the hour was not enough to get but a taste. My take home impression was the importance of building a ‘fungal soil’. Organic farmers as a rule are invested in building the organic matter in the soil, which in turn feeds and sustains the Fungal Life, which in turn serves the health of crops. He recommended liberal, annual applications of small piles of (hardwood) wood chips to the orchard, piles that add fungal vigor to the soil. Likewise the management of diverse species of grass and broadleaf plants below the trees to promote a nutrient replenished soil within the top 10” (monocrop grass leads to nutrient poor surface soil). He recommends scything the undergrowth down, when farms are cutting their first hay, leaving the organic matter on the soil surface as mulch. Michael also recommended cutting prunings into small pieces under the tree to be broken down naturally. Apparently the small branch tips have the most benefit for sustaining fungal properties of the soil due to their high percentage of juicy buds to woody core, and don’t need to be removed unless severely diseased.
David educated me about how the whole Fungi being good for plant growth works. He described the process by which sustaining a healthy, vigorous, fungal soil actually works with plants. The Fungi develop “microscopic tree like structures in the plant root cells (arbuscules)” that grow out into the soil farther than root hairs. These fungal branches (hyphae), into the soil, can hugely increase the potential of plants to take up nutrients and water, especially in adverse conditions. The good news is that standard Organic Management practices are perfect for protecting the Fungal vigor of soils. The one exception is tillage, and repeated tillage, especially “stale seed bed techniques” can kill off the fungi in our cropping areas. To address problem areas (lack of fungal population), David is focused on a simple process any grower can manage – though of course there are details to consider. Once you know what type of AM Fungi is native to your soils, and establish that they are beneficial for the crops you plan to grow, we can foster their growth in controlled settings (grow bags planted with an annual grass), then mix the resulting fungal rich media into our potting soil for transplants. The AM Fungi will quickly reestablish its beneficial effects in the field, growing out from the transplants. These interactions between Fungi and soil foster the development of “glomalins” (glycoproteins), the magic of decomposed organic matter, that holds our soil texture together.
Andrew is clearly a man driven by his awareness of the world around him. Knowledgeable about the harm that humans have done, he is an inspirational speaker about examples and potentials for humankind to do a whole lot better. He had a lot of information to share and ended the talk with some great examples of his main point – We need to design our Development, and redevelopment, to capture the real value of living systems. Biological filtration of waste and ecologically sound utilization of nutrients and energy. The power of compost to regionally manage what otherwise is treated as Waste. The potential for Urban settings to capture and utilize rainwater and waste to sustainable foster human settlement. The take home message – don’t wait for someone else to come up with the solution, put common sense practices to work in your home and communities. Capture rainwater, grow food, compost, use plants to filter air/water, reduce heat and cooling extremes and then separate grey and black water and handle them as resources not waste!
This was a testament to the growing commitment of Government Resources to address the topics that Organic Farmers have been talking about for generations. My thanks and appreciation to the following folks who contributed their time and expertise to the Panel; Karen Kritz – NJDA, Erich Bremer- NJDA, Matthew Pavone-FSA, Jack Rabin-NJAES, Justine Cook-NJDA and Gail Bartok-NRCS. Jack Rabin pointed out that he is frustrated by Organic Farmers not taking advantage of the wealth of accumulated knowledge of conventional agriculture. Two resources he touted were The Rutgers Commercial Vegetable Production Recommendations, and an On-Farm Composting web resource on the Rutgers- NJ Agricultural Experiment Station website. In general, these agencies will respond to the expressed needs of regional Agriculture, breaking down the barriers between serving Conventional Agriculture and Ecological Agriculture will only lead us to a better place. Karen has been working for years, trying to make the recycling of waste agricultural plastic a reality in NJ. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has been a leader in adopting the principles of Organic Management and offers programs designed to incentivize Transition to Organic Practices, Nutrient Management and Cover Cropping. As always, Erich of the NJ Organic Certification Program offered real time understanding of the challenges facing Organic Farmers and serves as our advocate in the NJDA (poor guy, it’s lonely in there). The NJDA has yet to include the Organic Certification Logo on their website home page, embarrassed I guess, to be associated with a bunch of counterculture hippies.
North Slope has invested a lot, recently, in fruit trees, and getting advice about their pruning and management is greatly appreciated. It is always nice to have an expert bring the task to life. These guys brought multiple samples of branch and trunk development on which to demonstrate pruning techniques. It was the end of the weekend yet they still were able to get me excited about going out and getting started on the Pruning!
Another excellent Winter Conference, attended by a great crowd, with many more workshops than I was able to attend.
NOFA’s Twilight meeting about Farming with Interns was hosted at North Slope Farm on Monday, July 22nd. It was a friendly, laid back gathering of experienced farmers, new intern/farm workers and those who have recently discovered their love and interest in sustainable farming. With participants sharing in a tasty potluck the evening was filled with stories of farming experiences, woes and successes. The discussion focused on the need and draw backs of hiring inexperienced interns on the farm as well as fair compensation, including financial, living and learning rewards. The evening was wrapped up with a tour of North Slope at dusk.
An open invitation to women interested in food…farmers, chiefs, friends and anyone who is curious is welcome to join us on February 4th at 6pm for a potluck dinner. This casual gathering is a chance to meet and reunite with other women in the general area. Since it is a potluck, bring your favorite dish, drink, something to share so we can all feast at the end of the week. Network, relax, have fun. Hope you can make it.
Girl’s Night Pot Luck
Location: North Slope Farm Farmhouse
1701 Linvale-Harbourton Road
Lambertville, NJ 08530
Date: February 4th (Friday), 2010
Questions? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with Girl’s Night in the subject line.
New Agricultural Ventures
NOFA – NJ Twilight Meeting
At North Slope Farm
Audio Files and Index
October 26, 2010
Our intention in this presentation is to focus attention on New Agricultural Ventures – partly to honor them, in particular for their investment and commitment to agriculture in NJ, and partly to be sure their voices are part of the discussion about what does agriculture need to get reinvigorated and thrive in NJ.?
The panelists were asked to respond to the following questions –
You can hear their responses by clicking on the Audio Sections below:
Audio section 1: 14:44 minutes
A brief description of their operations.
Brief descriptions of the practical elements of their operations – main crops, scale of operation, and market outlets.
Before preparing the ground, planting area and livestock management areas for production, the panelists describe their vision – how did they picture their operation, or themselves engaged with their venture – what was the original vision?
Audio section 2: 57:06 minutes
The panelists were asked to share a story or their thoughts about challenges they have faced so far.
Additionally, what resources did they identify that have helped, or could help.
Audio section 3: 23:08 minutes
Panelists were asked;
What advice would they offer to someone who might follow in their footsteps,
If their vision had changed, what was the new vision, and
What thoughts about their experience would they share with their community, so the community might seek to invest in and support their efforts, and the new operations to follow?
Audio section 4: 5:01 minutes
Panel discussion beginning introductions, including the audience, and end of the panel announcements – including NOFA-NJ will sponsor any new farmers (ten years or less) who will attend the upcoming NOFA-NJ Winter Conference!!
Mike Rassweiler, of North Slope Farm, facilitated the discussion and shares his perspective below:
My thanks to the many folks who made the evening possible; from the crew at NorthSlope who prepared a unique and pleasing environment in our greenhouse, Steve Tomlinson who provided our audio recording, NOFA-NJ for another season of informative Twilight Meetings, our audience and our panelists for taking the time and risk of speaking publicly about their ventures!!
The time went by quickly, without the opportunity to ask for more detail from the panelists, which is why we will use this post to provide an index for the discussion; names and links for mentors the panelists mentioned, definition for terms and any other details that might help.
As New Jersey remembers how to grow its own food and necessities right here in the Garden State, we will need to pay attention to the words of our farmers – new and old. We need to support farmers by buying their products, supporting their efforts and asking for their perspectives!!
Please share what you learn in the Audio Recording above and email us if you have questions – we will update the index in an effort to illuminate!
(Draft) INDEX, Glossary and Links
Farmer Mentors and Farms mentioned:
Glossary of Terms:
NOFA Twilight Meeting October 26, 2010
New Agricultural Ventures – Investing in New Jersey Agriculture !
NOFA Twilight Meeting at North Slope Farm – Tuesday 5 pm to 7 pm,
followed by Potluck dinner!!
Four New Ventures speak out for New Jersey Agriculture!
Human Nature Farms
Brian Hulme and partner John Applegate
Brianhulme1@aol.com or Bhulme@HumanNatureFarms.com
We are in our third year of operation. My business partner John Applegate and I are research assistants at the Rutgers Cooperative Extension on Monmouth County where we learned about Organic/Sustainable Agriculture. When greenhouse space became available at the Rutgers EcoComplex we decided to start a business. We received our Org Cert and began growing herbs and leafy greens and began selling to local grocery stores such as Wholefoods and other small misc grocery stores as well as distributors. We are currently in the process of moving into the produce distributing/brokering/packing side of things and would like to expand into other non-produce items as well.
In other words, our business is at a crossroads and are open to many various endeavors. This makes even more excited to meet and talk with other like-minded growers/entrepreneurs. You can feel free to call/email for any other questions or to discuss the specifics of the program in more detail at any time.
JAH’S CREATION Organic Farm
Matthew Bruckler III
email@example.com or telephone 609 272-9538
2009 was my first year farming full time. We sold 64 Summer CSA shares and 34 Winter CSA shares. This was done on 3 acres of ground and the greenhouses.
This year (2010) our CSA grew to 113 Summer CSA members and 60 Winter CSA members. This is being done on 3.5 acres of ground and the greenhouses. We are currently in the process of adding another 2 to 3 acres to our certification for next year and look to break the 200 CSA member mark.
Through the past 3 summers we also did some farmers markets, restaurant sales and a little wholesale as well. We are growing rather fast, but I am keeping everything well under control. We have grown transplants for another farm for the past 2 seasons and blended soil for another farm. We also sold our fertilizer (which we developed) to a landscape company for the past 2 years.
The land that we farm is split in 2 locations right now. We will be adding another location for next year. We own no land, but rent it all. We travel 20 miles between farms right now. Some days I have been between the two location up to 3 times.
The goal of our operation is to make a good living from the land. By that, I mean to say that I wish to live a financially comfortable life and be free to travel from time to time. I am very happy to be away from the stress of the construction business. Farming has its own stress, but I am more than prepared for it! Currently, besides myself, I have a part time driver, one full time employee and then 2 others who help out part time.
In 2011 I expect to have about 6 to 7 acres in very intense production. I anticipate that it will take myself, 3 full timers, and another 1 or 2 part timers to do the work for the season. I look to gross over $200,000.00 in 2011 by growing our CSA to over 200 members. We will also do restaurant sales, wholesales and a farmers market or two. We are currently installing low tunnels to extend our seasons and will also be adding high tunnels for next year, if finances allow us to.
I am confident that we will grow this farm into something really big within the next 3 years, but I will have to spend a fortune to prime the pump! I expect that we will be one of the most well respected Certified Organic Farms in the state of New Jersey well before the year 2015. I will have to think about how far I want to go after that. I just might settle down and enjoy the comforts of farming, or maybe I will go all the way and make an empire out of this thing!
Run for cover! Run for cover! Rasta Taking Over!
Chickadee Creek Farm
First production season began with spring harvests – March 2010.
Chickadee Creek Farm currently is producing produce and flowers on two acres.
Market outlets include two Farmers Markets, a ‘market share’ allowing customers to utilize prepaid credit to stock up at markets, including a sliding scale discount… And Restaurant Specialty Sales to The Brothers Moon, in Hopewell and Busters Café, in NYC.
Goals for Chickadee Creek operator are best heard in person! Not least of which are making great food accessible to all and real farm income to support the reality of owning land in NJ.
Z Food Farm
First production season began with spring harvests – 2010.
Renting land in Lawrenceville, Z Food Farm is a “diverse vegetable farm” with market outlets including Farmers Markets, a roadside stand and Specialty Restaurant Sales.
Another reason to listen to the driving force behind New Agricultural Ventures, a “simple” goal for Z Food Farm is to provide great food and great food variety to its surrounding community.
Piping Goat Creamery
First production is expected in June of 2011, but to achieve that, breeding goats were purchased and have been managed since 2009.
Establishing herself on family land in Lawrenceville, the Piping Goat Creamery is intended to augment existing farmstand sales and wholesale accounts.
NOFA-NJ Twilight meeting at North Slope Farm .
Tuesday, October 26th at 5 pm.
At ‘The Farmhouse’ at North Slope Farm, 1701 Route 579, 08530
located on corner of Route 579 (b/w Routes 518 and 31) and Rock Road East.
Twilight Meeting to focus on a few of New Jerseys ‘New Agricultural Enterprises, featuring their operators, discussing the season with North Slope Farm’s owner/operator, Mike Rassweiler.
Also see www.nofanj.org for more events – and become a member!!
The NOFAsummer conference in Amherst, MA was inspiring. We started the journey with a three hour field salad harvest at 6am with our friend Ryan, who used to work at Cherry Grove Organic Farm. After the harvest we began the drive up to the summer conference. We arrived just in time to make a two mile bike ride to U Mass and hear Bill MacKently, from St. Lawerence Nurseries, talk about alternative energy on the farm. He was enthusiastically spreading do-it-yourself construction of renewable energy sources. Saturday morning started off with Robert Fuqua describing how a 4 cycle engine works, repair techniques, and where to get parts. Next stop was Agroforestry in the Northeast taught by Conor Steadman and Mia Frank. This was a great introduction to permaculture. Small fruit on a organic farm, by Julie Rawson and Jack Kittredge, went into production techniques for blueberries, blackberries, gooseberries, grapes, currants, and elderberries. After the workshop we got an amazing tour of Hampshire College CSA. They didn’t have a weed in sight! Saturday night consisted of finding a guitar case for Sam in a dumpster, riding a moped around a corn field, and meeting more friendly people that are into sustainable ways to approach life. Sunday morning started off with Potato Culture, by Bryan O’Hara of Farms at Tobacco Road Farm in Lebanon, CT. This peaked my intrest in potato growing. I stayed for his next lecture on winter production techniques. He explained cost effective ways of extending your season in the field, and how to direct seed crops in December for an early harvest in spring. After the conference we drove to Battleboro, Vermont. We stayed at Harvest Hill Farm where we fed their four pigs and took a walk through their vegetable and herb garden. It was an a amazing time. Sam and I left Ryan at his home, a converted chicken shack, and headed back to NJ with a culture for Kumbucha while listening to Tilth.
Tomato Fight – words have so many meanings…
Our intent is Fun, Celebration and Sharing – space, time…
Our 4th annual, the Tomato Fight began many thousands of years ago, September 12, 2010 will be one more in the history of tomato pickers, family and friends, around the world.
Party starting at 6 pm – Tomato fight begins before Dusk.
Nomad Pizza will be there serving their specialities – Pizza, More Fun, Serious Perspective and Playful Insight…
There will be T-Shirts ($12 each), and a contribution box.
Bring a change of clothes, swimsuits optional, BYOBeverage.
If you want your farm recognized “officially” please bring a few buckets (at least) of Soft Tomatoes. Ultimately, the vision of farms, sponsoring teams (with tomatoes) has been shaping. To date, the rules are:
Soft Tomatoes Only – with stems removed.
Tomatoes are not intended to Hurt – but YES to SPLAT!
Stay in the Tomato Fight Area, as designated by “Hey You, get back to where the other crazy people are!”
Don’t go into the Fight Area unless you are prepared to be Splatted by Tomatoes. Wear Shoes and Assume You Will Get Hurt !
If new to the event, please introduce yourself, the t-shirt Table near the Pizza Truck will be a good place.
Questions? Please email NorthSlopeFarm@comcast.net with TF2010 in the Subject line.