Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tillin' like Bob Dylan

OK, there was really nothing folk-music-like about pushing this heavy machine through the uneven and grass-laden dirt.  But, it was funnnn!!!

And, it made me realize that I will need a MUCH more heavy-duty piece of machinery to actually till this massive plot of land.  However, if I did continue with the little rototiller, my arms would be in SICK shape!!!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Northeastern Organic Farmers Assoc. 2009 NJ Annual Conference

Oh yes. I was there.  Hosted by the Ag School at Rutgers, which is beautifully set right off Route 1 in Central Jersey, it was a very informative meeting of the very diverse farmers in the Garden State.  WE are quite a motley bunch...and there seem to be a VAST preponderance handle-bar mustaches among NJ farmers, a trend I will continue to study from afar.  
While I was in sessions like "Integrated Systems for Vegetable Production" and "Planning Crop Rotation," I started thinking that with all the white collar laborers in the massive metropolis's surrounding NJ feeling insecure, we who are in the labor of the land should feel pretty damn good.  
Aside from pondering deep thoughts of doomsday food security, I met some very helpful and interesting farmers, like David Earling of Gravity Hill Farm and Hugh Williams of Threshold Farm.  The former is an ex-Wall Streeter who brought his family out to live the farm life, the latter is a gruff, Aussie Paul Newman-clone who runs a Biodynamic orchard - AWESOME! 
I also bought my official soil testing bag...wait there at the edge of your seat until I get the results back from the Rutgers Extension "Soil Testing Laboratory".

Monday, January 26, 2009

Yes, A Youth Revival in Farming

Apparently, I was not the only person who thought the Young Farmer's Conference was really cool!  Read the Washington Post piece written by Barbara Damrosch in her weekly column, A Cook's Garden.  Also helpful to farmers like me, is her more recent piece on finding high-quality and organic seeds!! Barbara is one of the founders of the iconic Four Season Farm in Maine, which is a beautiful example of authentic year-round growing.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Young Farmers Conference

It was AWESOME!  The conference was held on 12/4-5 at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, which is a non-profit educational and operational farm in Tarrytown, NY and there were so many amazing resources for a starter-farmer like me. 
I was pleasantly surprised that I actually KNEW some people friends from Quail Hill Farm in the Hamptons - Farmer Scott Chaskey and Apprentices Katie and Amanda - and my freshman floor-mate Jen, who does Farmer Outreach at Just Food (and was the one who tipped me off about the conference!)  But I also met some new friends and feel warm and fuzzy about that fact that there is truly a community of young people like me who are obsessed with an agrarian ideal.
There is hope for local and well-produced food, America, and it lies in the Young Farmers among us!
I also went to the not-at-all overrated Blue Hill at Stone Barns restaurant. Seriously, eat there. I felt like I was eating the flavor-manifestations of my foodie-organic-Slow Food-Nourishing Traditions-alternative food systems ideals - all in about 15 absurdly good courses. 

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Team FEED on the Farm

Lesson: it's great to have help!!!
Lauren and Colleen, my FEED Teammates, ventured out of the West Village to put in a few hours of manual labor with me.  Yay!  

We arrived at the property to find that a generous benefactor with a tractor had mowed down all of the tall grass!! This left the whole property covered in hay clippings.  I need to find out if this windfall is a perfect cover for the soil in the winter...or if I should now rent a tiller and grind the clippings into the soil.

Our projects for the day were to build on my small compost heap by raking some piles of grass that will be added through the winter.  
We also screwed some cute red hooks into the wall of the stable to hang my growing collection of farm implements (and the requisite FEED bag!!)

I finally found a patch of the ground where I could dig into the soil and investigate if it was good quality for growing.  From my cursory readings of soil books, I seem to have great quality clay-loam soil...a bit rocky, but, in general, excellent.  Watch and learn:

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

First Day in the Fields

Despite a farmer's intent to be up before the dawn, I didnt really make it out of the city until Saturday afternoon.  I went to a "real" Home Depot in NJ (unlike the one in NYC which is clearly for people at the lightbulb and paint level of home-improvement).  I was able to get some nice yard shears and a bow-saw to go along with my gloves, compost bin and overalls.   Ready to go.

My main project for the day was to create a compost pile that would be added to all fall and winter to be used in the spring. We have started collecting compost in a large bin at the FEED World Headquarters and it has yielded a consistent amount of coffee grinds, fruit cores, uneaten potatoes from the bottom of the fridge, and left-over salad.  Beautiful. The good news is that they make veggie oil-based trash bags that are neat but completely biodegradeable, and therefore compostable...ah, the life of the gentle-woman farmer.  This kitchen waste becomes the nitrogen-rich "greens" of composting and to make a balanced mix, one needs to add carbon-rich "browns" of some sort of dry organic matter.  We're in luck...because I have nothing but tall, dry grass on the property to use!!

The catch: cutting it and moving it, when you dont have a tractor.  But, that's what my back and arms are cut and carry bales of dry hay!

It was sweat-inducing but very rewarding and made me so excited to all the fun manual labor I will be doing on the farm.

I carried the grass and kitchen waste to the far end of the property and started a little compost heap that will hopefully grow and rot to become a windrow of usable fertilizer for the soil.

We'll have to wait and see if it works!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Farmer's Day Job

While beginning this new venture in agriculture, I am also living my life as a small-business and non-profit entreprenuer.  I live and work in the West Village and our business spans the genres of fashion and humanitarian work.  Tonight, I went to a fashion event where two friends showed their new (very beautiful!) collections.  I got dressed up, wore heels and had a few glasses of wine.  I got my nails and toes done, to look polished for attending a fashion week event...normal.  This is my life.  

But, I had a very funny epiphany...actually, at the nail salon.  Umm, I am supposed to go out to the farm on Thursday morning to start testing the soil and clearing the grass from the land in front of the stable for work space...

Why, the hell, did I just waste time at the nail place???