Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Wealth of Rain

On Wednesday and Thursday we received more than 2 1/2 inches of much needed rain. This was a nice change from the previous 4 weeks which had brought us less than an inch. The rain will help the crops that were showing a bit of stress during the recent spell of summer heat.

Life has been busy on the farm; lots of different tasks competing for attention, including:
- continued harvests of mid-summer crops (Basil, Beans, Beets, Chard, Cucumbers, Fennel, Kale, Lettuce, Summer Squash, and Zucchini)
- cultivation; a fancy word farmers like to use for weeding. As I work these fields for the first time this season I'm getting a better sense of which weed seeds/roots are in abundance in our soil. Purslane seems to be the weed of the hour. After the recent rains, cultivation will be a high priority for the week ahead.
- direct seeding of fall crops including: beets, carrots, spinach, tunips, etc.
- transplanting some of the last transplant of the season: collards, kale, and scallions.

And then there is the ever important time for observation and contemplation. This morning I took the time to take the camera into the fields and take a few photos of late July. The bees (bumble, ground, and honey) were active in the early morning taking in pollen and nectar from a wide variety of crops. Also, we received a heavy dew which provided some inspiration for a few photos. One of the farm names that didn't win was Over-dew Farm - seemed to not quite instill visions of hope and abundance, although it did focus on the importance of doing good work right here, right now.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Enriched by Our Community

The past two days have offered Katie and I a great chance to engage two very different communities that we are a part of. On Friday, we were in Newburgh, New York attending the annual assembly of the Dominican Sisters of Hope. The land that we are renting is owned by the Dominican Sisters of Hope and is still home to 4 Sisters who work in the Greater New Bedford Area. We were invited to attend their annual assembly to become more familiar with their organization, as well as to meet many of the Sisters who live in places other than Dartmouth.

On Saturday we were back home on the farm, harvesting cucumbers and other produce to display at a table at the 3rd Eye Open. We attended the festival and displayed information about local foods, genetically modified foods (GMO's), and, a campaign working to educate the global community about climate change and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. We passed out free cucumbers (and salt) to many folks who enjoyed the refreshment during the 90 degree heat. We met new neighbors and also listened to some great hip-hop acts. The efforts are a part of our ongoing work to help promote local foods.

We are also active, partially through Katie's work at UMASS Dartmouth's Office of Campus and Community Sustainability, in local conversations about supporting the development of community garden spaces. As fresh produce prices continue to rise in the grocery store, and as we learn about more issues related to food safety (tomatoes and salmonella); I feel the future of healthy eating will be a mix of local farms and gardens. The work that we undertake on Tucker Road will hopefully offer a chance to help provide a resource for the local community as we consider the many methods of sustainable vegetable production.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Grower's Statement

Our mission is to grow the finest quality produce, focusing on flavor, freshness, and nutrition. We’ll use only sustainable farming methods that will enhance the soils natural fertility, and thereby its capacity to produce healthy produce.

We have moved back to southeastern Massachusetts, after farming for 2 seasons at Hawthorne Valley Farm in the Hudson River Valley of New York State. Hawthorne Valley is a diversified farm producing Biodynamic vegetables, milk, yogurt, and other value added products. Before my time in NY, I have farmed on Martha’s Vineyard and in the Boston area. This season as we begin to get the new farm established on Tucker Road, I’ll be managing the Dartmouth YMCA’s Sharing the Harvest Project; a 2-acre community garden that produces vegetables for hunger relief efforts on the Southcoast.

As a vegetable grower, I believe there is a strong relationship between the quality of food and the soil upon which it grows. Over the next few seasons we’ll work to build the soil on Tucker Road, improving its biological activity, chemical balance, and physical structure. This first season we have sown a good portion of our main field with clover, oats, and vetch which will act as cover crops building the soil for the future.

Long term, our focus will be to continue to build the health and quality of the soil, realizing without vibrant soils sustainable agriculture couldn’t exist. In addition to the use of cover crops (or green manures) we’ll be enriching soil fertility using compost, rock minerals, biodynamic preparations (compost teas), and trace mineral fertilizers.

We will not use any “chemical” fungicides, herbicides, or pesticides in the production of our vegetables. Instead we’ll work to create healthy soils, to produce healthy plants that are more resistant to the common ailments and pests affecting crops in the Northeast. We’ll use crop rotation to minimize disease and insect pressure, and also utilize row cover when necessary to prevent insect damage. Cultivation will be done with small scale equipment and with hand tools, instead of chemical pesticides.

We’ll begin monitoring our produce quality using a refractometer, which measures Brix levels. Brix levels reflect the total soluable solid content of a crop and are associated with both sweetness and nutrient density. We believe that our growing methods combined with a short-time between harvest and marketing will allow our crop’s quality and flavor to surpass that of produce typically found in supermarket aisles.

If you have any questions or would like more information about our farm, please don’t hesitate to contact me.


Derek Christianson

858 Tucker Road Farm... June 2008 Post

A new farm is springing forth at 858 Tucker Road. We are renting land from the Dominican Sisters of Hope; taking old hay and silage fields and bringing them into the realm of vegetables. As we get the farm off the ground, we'll add sporadic updates to the blog to share the news.

Our main focus for 2008 will be to begin to rebuild the soil fertility after years of continuous corn silage. We'll rely on green manures, compost, rock mineral fertilizers, fish meal and other natural fertilizers to stimulate the biological activity of the soil. We'll also be taking steps to begin to balance the nutrients in the soil, providing the optimum growing conditions for our crops.

This season, we have seeded a good portion of the land into oats, clover, and vetch to start rebuilding the soil. We'll be growing an assortment of vegetables on a small scale and will look to market our crops locally in Dartmouth and New Bedford.

We are still contemplating farm names for the new venture, waiting until we have spent a bit of time on the land before we rush to give it a formal name.

Check back soon for more news on the farm...