Watch as Farmers Grow
June 21st, 2018 | Posted by Musings from the Field - (Comments Off on Ecology and Farming is a constant Balance)
Ecology and Farming is a constant balance.
Notes from the Field:
Task: Maintain low production hay field, by mowing.
Objective; to control against invasive species, encourage “cut and regrow” species ( like clover ), and avoid rank, overgrown conditions that require heavier equipment than we have.
First step is to mow at least two passes around the field, defining the edges clearly, and exposing any hazards that may have fallen from hedgerows, or been left from previous activities in neighboring fields. In the Veg D Field, there is a Ground Hog warren, hazard, that I mow with the brush hog, before cutting hay with the Haybine. This time I planned on dividing the field in two equal parts, while mowing with the brush hog, to simplify the next process of haying..
Observations that caused me to question my Farming Objectives..
The Canada Thistle patches in the field are supporting vigorous populations.. Barn Swallows, Goldfinches and Bees and Wasps of all kinds.. So the Balance of Responsibility begins to cause doubt in my Plan.. Perhaps the Habitat provided by the wild Thistle flowers outweighs the non productive goal of controlling invasive s… By not mowing, the families of Red Wing Black birds will have a chance to finish raising their babies..
SO, I decided to take a nuanced approach, Mow out the perimeter, divide the field for future mowing, but leave the Thistle bounty for the Goldfinches, maintaining a plan to mow prior to allowing the seed heads to blow into neighboring fields, as possible.. THEN I hit the brakes, because RIGHT in the middle of the field is a large stand of Milk Weed, a wild flower critical to sustaining specialized wild species, like Monarch Butterflies. I’ve made an effort to protect flowering MilkWeed when possible, so ended up circling the patch with the mower, leaving a big block of Wild Flowers, mixed with all kinds of other flowering invasive s, clovers and grasses to do their own chaotic things..
Farming is an effort to shape our relationship with Nature, ideally to produce consumable products. Ecology is the study of Life, with the intent to learn more about our place in…. Life. Opportunity is the chance to try to balance Productivity with the Right Choices. I’m grateful for the freedom to choose, in my path, and Ill endeavor to consider the farmers around, and to follow me, and mostly I hope to be a supporter of dynamic and diverse systems and communities..
MikeR June 2018
Agua 2012 – 2017
Farmcat, trainer of Pups and a true friend..
Fall Observations; October 4, 2016
As the season changes from Summer to Fall, the Farm Manager takes stock of how it went and what can be accomplished before winter sets in.
We had a busy season, having to put aside our High Tunnel Project in order to get through the other Priority Lists. We were joined by two excellent workers, Sam and Christine, who brought interest and enthusiasm along with hard work and positive focus! Markets went well, matching previous years, despite increasing competition from other new markets and the increasing availability of organic produce from mainstream distributors and therefor, most supermarkets. Production this year seemed to start well, and a number of new items were added to the crop list. Flowers seemed more abundant, but records show production may have been lower than last year. We went into the season knowing increased labor costs would scour any profits, and to date that seems to be borne out, not gonna be a profitable year. The flip side of that reality, is the production utilizing reduced tillage techniques in the field shows real promise and is exemplary of how North Slope Farm is still a leader in applying Stewardship Principles to modern practice. We have maintained production, while reducing overall tillage by a significant amount and are developing a comfort level, with the steps to take, as we move forward. Tree Fruit and Blackberry production was non-existent, though strawberries produced well. Labor costs of managing and picking the berries make me skeptical of their value to us though.
Moving forward – Its all about maintaining income at the markets to try to keep from drowning in uncovered costs. I have encouraged my crew to take advantage of off farm opportunities, as they are available, (for their personal advancement and experience), so the reduced labor time requires increased efficiency in management and production – no time to slack off, even if our natural cycle tells us to get up later, stop work earlier and eat lots of rich foods! We pushed to get a last barrage of outdoor seeding done, to last us through the first hard frosts. Now we need to (kinda late) finish establishing crops in our High Tunnels for Winter Production. Also to generate cash, we need to increase our production of micro greens and are going to attempt regular plantings on Basil in pots to sell at the markets as fresh herbs. This means turning on systems in our Seedling Greenhouse, which will add late season cost we usually avoid. To make it worth it, we need to get the seeding done, maintain moisture, temperature and generally stay on top of successions of production! Likewise we need to push market sales, our service must be excellent, products must be beautifully presented, harvesting and handling must be efficient so we have time to get other improvements and additions attended to! Cover cropping will be reduced this year, in relation to reduced tillage practices. Our Favorable Furrow method provides for the establishment of clover covers during cultivation, which ideally, survive the fallow/pasture season and all fields go into the Winter with established cover. So far this has been working, and I only anticipate chisel plowing and having to cover crop 1 acre of the 8 acres involved in active production and fallow rotation. Additionally, I hope to “tune up” poorly cover cropped areas by broadcasting seed and covering with a compost layer. This may be unrealistic with our reduced labor situation, but as harvest times decrease with the die off of tomatoes and flowers, extra time may open up, just gotta manage workers, tasks and equipment effectively.