This visit will be an overview of the major areas of business management that we rely on to make our farm economically functional. We will cover planning (including budgeting), bookkeeping & accounting, marketing, insurance & administration, communication (website, email, database). We will consider this a “survey” and give lots of information on all of these topics, but not dwell too long on any one of them. We will give out written materials to be used as reference for the meeting and for later reference.
If you want to make a living farming, systems are what it is all about. Very few of us become farmers because we are psyched about developing systems. But if we don't address this issue we quickly become overwhelmed by the sheer weight of the workload and the daily decisions. If we don't take the time to develop good systems, all farm work goes slower, we make less money, work more hours, or both. I got into farming to work with my hands, be outside, and do something positive; but what I discovered along the way was that I was fascinated by systems. On my farm tour I will show you the tools and infrastructure that I have designed and created that make the daily work of running a farm manageable, pleasant, fun, and efficient. I'm a firm believer that a farm should be something that serves your life, you don't want to be a slave to it; life's just too short! By developing good systems, you take control.
Our farm tour will focus primarily on two systems; mechanical cultivation and infrastructure. When discussing weed control I’ll show you how we mark out a grid on our beds with a belly mounted marker, how we plant precisely to those beds by hand, and how we cultivate them with a Buddingh Basket Weeder. With regard to infrastructure you'll see our loading dock and produce washing station, including our root washer and our pressure washer based set-up for cleaning harvest bins and bunched roots. I’ll also demonstrate how we use our mini and regular pallet system, electronic pallet scale, ergonomic height adjustable wash tank, and our cooler. To give you a sense of our size and scale; we grow strictly for CSA, I train three full season apprentices, and we grow about 250 full weekly shares on 5 acres with no double cropping. Most years we harvest around 90,000 pounds of veggies for our members
Since 1972, Hawthorne Valley has been producing high quality, Biodynamic and organic foods in upstate New York. Our Biodynamic farm includes dairy cows, vegetables, a creamery, organic bakery, sauerkraut cellar, and more. Our Farm Store is a full-line natural foods store open 7 days a week. Our farm spans 400 acres of woodlands and rolling hills, open fields and meadows, and flowing creeks and streams. We lease an additional 300 acres in the area. At the heart of the farm is the closed herd of cows which, to a large degree, provides the pulse for and rhythm of the adjunct operations. The cows furnish the milk for our Creamery operation; prescribe, to some extent, the cover and feed crops grown to nourish them and the horses, pigs, and laying hens; and provide, along with the other farm animals, the basis of our compost, which is essential for building soil fertility to ensure a continuous, regenerative cycle. The farm includes:
• A 55-cow dairy herd which supplies milk to the Creamery
• 12 acres of vegetables which support a 300-member CSA, weekly farmers markets and wholesale accounts.
• The 2.5 acre Corner Garden which provides produce for Farm Store and departments and programs across campus
• 60 acres of food and feed-grade small grain production
• 20 pigs who eat the "waste" whey from the Creamery
This visit will include an overview of how Hawthorne Valley incorporates Biodynamic farming techniques (which HVF has been following for over 40 years). We will also explain and tour our compost operation from which we annually produce 400 tons of high-quality fertilizer to be spread onto our vegetable, grain, hay, and grazing fields (pastures). We are further implementing a hot control fermentation process using the bedded pack from our manure shed, front-end loader created and turned windrows, biodynamic preparations, and fabric windrow covers.
Your visit to Laughing Earth will include a tour and history of the historical house and barns. This farm is not a picture-perfect farm with the most beautiful of river bottom soils. Instead, you can expect to see how we have made the most of our rolling hills, rocky soil, and two generations of farmers working together.
We will discuss a comparison of marketing venues, and the importance of integrating animals and poultry into vegetable production. Livestock production includes pasture raised chickens, turkeys, and pigs and helps to support our CSA and cut-flower businesses. We will also tour our poultry processing area and equipment, and discuss our assembly line processing style and packaging.
Red Shirt Farm (RSF) is a small diversified farm in Lanesboro, MA producing about 2 acres of low-till, ecologically-grown vegetables for a 50-member CSA, pastured heritage chickens for eggs and meat, pastured heritage turkeys and pigs, and several naturally managed bee hives for honey and pollination. A 50-tree multi-species orchard was planted three years ago.
We will tour the farm to see the various enterprises but focus on the pastured poultry operation. RSF is a member of the Sustainable Poultry Network whose mission is to restore heritage breeds to their original standards of production to maintain genetic diversity, improve animal welfare, provide an alternative in the local food market and enhance regional food security. We breed, incubate, hatch, brood, rear and process our birds right here on the farm. Planning, logistics, infrastructure, record-keeping and marketing will be discussed as well as a frank comparison with the commercial, industrial model. We will also show our mobile processing equipment and review our on-farm processing procedure. The layers, meat-birds and turkeys will all be discussed.
Cricket Creek is a grass-based dairy farm managed by a small team of collaborators. The entire farm is comprised of about 500 acres, about 150 of which is hay fields, just over 100 is pasture, and the rest is wooded. We are one of the oldest dairy farms in the region, but infused with new life and energy. Our primary activity is raising dairy cows for their good milk. Our milking herd ranges between 25 and 30 lactating animals, depending on the time of year and the entire dairy herd is about 60 animals including the dry cows and young stock. We sell raw milk from our farm and the rest of our milk we make into artisanal cheese in our farmstead creamery; in 2012 we made about 25,000 lbs of cheese. We also have a bakery on site, which supplies fresh baked goods to our farm store. We raise grass-fed beef and whey-fed pork and have a small flock of laying hens. We sell our goods through our farm store, our diversified whole-farm year-round CSA, at local farmers markets, and through various regional cheese shops, food co-ops, restaurants, and other establishments. Our mission is to produce nourishing food that honors our animals, respects the land and feeds our community, and to exemplify a sustainable model for small-farm viability.
Our workshop will be an overview of running a small diversified dairy farm. We will discuss rotational grazing, dairy cow health issues, our nurse cow system, milking schedules, farmstead cheese production, raw milk and cheese marketing and sales including farmers markets, a diversified year-round CSA, and wholesale accounts. We will give a brief overview of how to get setup with a dairy operation, and what some of the basic regulations are surrounding dairy production and testing. We will talk about our systems for integrating other enterprises on the dairy farm. We will share the challenges and successes financially turning around an old dairy farm and what it means to run a sustainable dairy operation. Our current iteration of Cricket Creek is fairly new and we are relatively young farmers; we can give the perspective of a start-up business including the intricacies of getting well established and grounded with careful planning and record keeping.
We will discuss our use of five workhorses as the exclusive source of draft power on our farm. We will cover equipment and techniques for everything from primary tillage to bed forming, transplanting, cultivating, foliar feeding, mowing, crop harvesting, and more in the vegetable operation. We'll also touch on our process of harvesting loose hay to fuel the working herd. This visit will feature demonstrations of horse power on a few different implements in the field. We will also discuss the use of cover crops to target a variety of goals such as improving soil structure, maintaining organic matter, controlling weeds, and creating beneficial habitat as well as our approach to managing soil fertility and plant health. Technical considerations will be shared in the context of the philosophy which shapes and guides our approach to stewarding the farm ecosystem.
Natural Roots is a horse-powered family farm in Conway, MA, operating since 1997. We raise 3 1/2 acres of produce for about 200 CSA shareholders, plus our farm store and wholesale customers, and another 3 1/2 acres of soil-building crops. Many of the farm’s systems have been modeled on the work of Anne and Eric Nordell and we have a strong focus on weed control, biological fertility, and intensive cover cropping. A flock of about 200 pastured laying hens are integrated into the crop rotation. We rely on our breeding boar and sow to turn our compost and to raise a couple of litters of hogs to butcher each year. We also manage about 15 acres of hay and pasture land to feed our five workhorses and practice low-impact logging in the winter months.
Many Forks Farm started in the 2012 season on 2 acres of leased land with ¾ acre in cultivation and selling at one farmers’ market. In 2015, the farm purchased the property of .5 acres and also leases an adjacent parcel of land, predominantly wooded. There are currently 2 acres in cultivation of vegetables, a small mushroom yard, raspberries, a propagation greenhouse, a caterpillar, and two moveable high tunnels. The farm’s produce is distributed through a 50-member CSA, farmers markets, and an heirloom tomato seedling sale. The strategy for financial sustainability is to develop a number of different enterprises, perhaps small in and of themselves, which combine to create viability as a whole – all while committing to a hyper-local customer base. The farm does not plan to expand greatly beyond its current land base in cultivation, but to increase production through improving soil fertility, efficiencies, practices and infrastructure.
Come see how we started and where we are, how the constraints and attributes of our land base have affected our planning and our hopes for creating a long-term community resource. We’ll also cover some of the practical choices and options to consider for starting up your own farm operation.
Body Mechanics - Farming is not this farmer’s first career (though perhaps her first love). Sharon spent 30 years teaching movement and dance to actors and dancers - while gardening and thinking about farming. Understanding how to approach the everyday physical demands of a career in dance has likely made it physically possible for her to start farming later in ife. She will share some basic principles in using the body in the physical stresses of farming to promote freedom from injury and a long farming life.
What is soil? What defines the quality of soil? How do you determine the quality of your soil? How do you try to preserve and improve your soil? During the visit to Caretaker Farm we will discuss the importance of soil health for the sustainability of your farm. We will also tour the land and observe how our soil health fits into the environmental sustainability of the farm.
Caretaker Farm is a 34 acre diversified farm that includes a 270 family vegetable CSA, a bakery, bees, chickens, pigs, ponds, pastures, hills, forest, and a stream.
Simple Gifts Farm grows approximately 18 acres of organic vegetables for CSA and farmer’s market sales on 35 acres of community-preserved land in North Amherst, MA. We currently harvest and sell produce every week throughout the year, and have experimented with a number of different season-extension techniques and structures. We are continually expanding our capacity for season extension with both full-size greenhouses and with lower-cost and smaller structures. The tour will include a basic introduction to the farm, and show a variety of structures and talk about how we tailor different structures and crops to continue to expand the quantities of off-season produce that we produce. We will also be touring our new farm store (hopefully it will be freshly opened by this date), and talk about the implications of the store for our farm’s development and how it interacts with our season extension efforts.
Meet near the long barn that is parallel to the road and that has a map of the fields on it. (DO NOT GO TO THE RED FIRE FARM GRANBY LOCATION!)
(4 – 5:15) Packing Shed Tour
The meeting will open with a tour of the Red Fire farm yard area with a focus on looking at and discussing some of the perennial food crops that are situated on the home farm fields. We have patches of blueberries, asparagus, raspberries & strawberries that we have established over the last few years and are now coming into full production. We will also tour the packing barn that is used for washing & packing 100 acres of crops, and if time we may also have a look at the shitake mushroom area that is in our hemlock forest.
(5:30- approx. 7 P.M.) Opening Meeting and Potluck
Get an overview of the CRAFT program, along with a chance to meet your fellow farmers and apprentices from other farms. Potluck & meeting will be held in our head house building which is part of our large seedling greenhouse. Bring food!