September 11, 2007

Cycle, Re-cycle

What’s in Upic?……
Herbs            Flowers
Snap Beans        Cherry Tomatoes

This week, as we dive into signing you all up again for next year’s shares, I have also been talking to lots of new folks interested in joining the farm. As you would expect they have a lot of questions about vegetable varieties, amounts, harvest days, “how does the whole thing work?” etc. and at some point most will ask about our animals. Generally they want to know what kinds of animals we have, if they are kid friendly, and if they can see them on pick-up days. Some want to know if they can buy meat or eggs from us but that is for the most part where the questions stop. I’m always tempted to go into a big explanation of the larger role that our livestock plays on the farm, but stop myself short, knowing this is almost always more info than a perspective CSA member may want to hear.  I realized the other day that most of you reading these newsletters probably haven’t heard this big explanation and being as you are already members of the CSA I don’t need to spare you any boring details of how this farm works.
After farming organically for over ten years I can say definitively that livestock are vital to the health of any sustainable farm. Animals, and especially ruminants (the sheep in our case), have the unique ability of being able to digest the complex energy found in plants and convert it into protein and carbohydrates. This obviously supports the growth of the animal, but because up to 70% of the plant matter also comes out the back end of the animal, there is a great benefit for our vegetables. The digestion process breaks the plant matter down into “simple” elements that can be easily absorbed again by the plants and the soil they grow in. On a farm scale this process is so important because vegetables take so much out of the soil to grow. On this farm we have applied over 1000 cubic yards of animal manure (mostly as compost) to the fields in the past four seasons. The majority of this manure has come from sources off of the farm and has made it possible for us to expect good yields for all of your shares. As we learn more about our livestock and further explore crop rotations that include our animals we hope to be able to reach a point where we can minimize or eliminate the need for off farm sources of manure. We envision being able to run sheep and or chickens through vegetable crops after harvest, allowing the animals to graze off the leftover plants while leaving behind manure. The nutrients in the manure is then absorbed by cover crops we plant after the animals leave. Once the cover crop is put down and worked into the soil it releases the nutrients it absorbed from the manure, making them available to the next vegetable crop. I’ll write more on this subject next week, including  some of the hurdles small organic farms are facing in the marketplace as they try to maintain these systems of sustainability.
2008 CSA sign-up begins this week. We will be taking deposits ($100) for your 2008 shares starting this week. This is a great time to sign up as you can space your payments out over the winter. These deposits also help the farm budget through the winter months as well. We will begin opening up shares to our waiting list starting art the end of the month so if you would like a share for next year please don’t delay.
Pork Pre-orders this week. Talk to Spencer at pick-up about pre-ordering pork cuts from the pigs he and Jill raised at the farm this year.
Apples this week. We’ll have apples from Willow Pond Farm in Sabattus this week for sale at Friday pick-up. Paula Reds will be the first variety followed by Macs and Galas in the weeks to follow. Some of their great cider will be coming soon too.