Wow, what a winter eh? This has been the real deal. It's barely February and I'm already looking forward to mud season!Here's what's ahead in this wordy farm update:
- The farm's efforts towards sustainability
- Help us feed more people
- Haven't signed up?...now is the time.
It Takes Energy to Grow Your Food
In between jumping batteries and thawing various lines, cables and doorways, I've been cranking away in the office on the big picture. Each winter I get some time to pick up my head and gaze towards the long view of the what it is we are doing here. Over the years that view has gained depth and it includes many things Maura and I are proud of. As members and supporters of the farm we hope you will be proud too.
When the website was redone last month I added a page titled "how we farm." After fifteen years working this stretch of ground and feeding so many of you, we confronted big questions and arrived at some solid conclusions about what this farm needs both annually and in the the long term. How do we build our soil quality while taking thousands of pounds of produce off the farm each year? Is it possible to increase our production while maintaining or reducing our energy footprint? Can we do everything we want to do here as farmers and community members and continue to make a living? As anyone who is reflective realizes, it's hard to be thoughtful and get the work done day by day. That said here are a few of the things we have been doing that we would like to share with you.
To grow enough food for the CSA and provide an income for ourselves and crew, we have to plant a lot of acres of vegetables, almost sixteen in 2017. Plowing, planting, and harvesting on this scale requires machinery and most of these machines are diesel powered. In addition to tractors, we also use fuel for heat. To have produce ready to harvest in June we start our transplants in early March, heating the greenhouse to 65 degrees day and night. All of this tractor work and heat is very fuel intensive. As environmentalists we are conscientious about using energy conservatively but we are also thoughtful about our fuel sourcing. Most of the diesel and heating oil available in the U.S. is petroleum-based. The small percentage that is not petroleum based is called biodiesel and most of this is "farmed diesel" - produced from crops grown specifically to be converted to fuel. Farmers growing fuel is controversial and we believe begs the question of sustainability especially in a world with so much hunger. The biodiesel we heat our greenhouse with and run our machinery on is "post-consumer" biodiesel. This is the stuff that comes out of the fryolators from the myriad of fish shacks and donut shops (along with some white table cloth spots) all around Maine. Fryolator biodiesel is a great product that is super sustainable for a few reasons. First, grease as fuel is using a resource in it's second life. Next, it burns cleaner than petrol-diesel. Lastly, it provides better lubrication of our engines, reducing long-term wear on parts saving us maintenance dollars. Reduce, reuse and recycle all in one product! The icing on this donut is that it smells great coming out of the pipe too! Want to know more about local biodiesel or how to heat your house with this great product?...Maine Standard Biofuels..tell them we sent you and we both will get a discount on fuel!
Beyond repurposing grease, we also are the last stop for another popular Maine product - craft brewed beer. For the past four years we have been working with both Allagash Brewing and Maine Beer Co. to recycle waste products from their brews into our soils. Malted barley dust and yeast/hop slurry (know as trub to you beer geeks) both get composted and or spread on the fields at Crystal Spring to provide fertility (surprisingly potent) and keep our soil ecology diverse. Have a glass of Allagash's White or Maine Beer's Peeper tonight and rest assured it's the karmic equivalent of eating vegetables.
As we have grown over the years we have also tried to get better at what we do. To improve the quality of our produce, we need to cool it quickly after harvest, and keep it cool. Our antique cork-lined cooler in the CSA barn is beautiful but it's not the most efficient ice box. We built a brand new walk-in cooler in our wash/pack barn over the winter in 2015. Refrigeration takes a lot of electricity so we teamed up with a group of seven local families who are sustainability enthusiasts and built a solar array here at the farm. The financing of the farm's part of the array came from some very creative thinking and generous help from many local folks. Today 100% of the electric power we use here is produced by our panels and in another eleven or twelve years this power will be free.
We Need Your Help
In recent years our delivered CSA share to the Portland area has become a solid part of the farm's effort to bring good food to more people. Many of these boxed shares are going to new businesses that want to encourage wellness through good-eating for their employees. The most difficult part for us as hard working farmers is making that first connection to these businesses. That's where your help comes in. Do you know anyone who works for a Portland area company that is forward thinking and has fifty or more employees in one location? Please connect us with them and we will reach out this spring and bring our good food to more people. Thank you!
Haven't signed up yet? Now is the time
Having already mentioned karma in this newsletter I am hesitant to suggest anything else on the new-age spectrum. However, now is the time to set a positive intention for spring! Click here for On-farm Shares, or here for Delivered Shares. When it's six degrees and there is ice both under and on top of the snow we all need help to bring spring closer. Laugh away the sleet and slop of February and March knowing you have great produce on the way.