Growing winter storage crops at Skinny Dip Farm

??????????????????????by Sanne Kure-Jensen

Ben and Hannah Wolbach of Skinny Dip Farm in Westport, MA shared their experience growing and selling winter storage crops at a Twilight Event for the Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership (SEMAP). In a recent workshop, Hannah and Ben Wolbach explained their fertility practices. Farm soils receive mineral supplements as recommended by soil tests. Hannah and Ben plant winter rye and vetch cover crops after harvest for winter cover to improve soil fertility and organic matter. Fields that will be planted in summer for fall harvest will have spring planted cover crop blends of either oats or barley with peas, clover and vetch. Oats and peas will cover fields destined for early spring plantings because oats are generally winterkilled in Westport making spring bed preparation easy. [Read more…]

Succeeding with grass fed beef production

CN-GL-1-Grass Fed_beeferby George Looby

The farm of Heifer International in Rutland, MA was the site for a presentation by Ridgway Shinn on establishing a grass fed beef operation under New England conditions. The Massachusetts Chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) sponsored the seminar. The speaker of the day, Ridgway F. Shinn III, has a long and varied career encompassing a wide variety of areas, all related in some way to animal agriculture. He was a founding director of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy recently renamed The Livestock Conservancy. [Read more…]

The revival of green fields at Hettie Belle Farm

hettie belle farm december 2014 088by Laura Rodley

In the middle of the village of Warwick, MA, beef cattle and sheep graze on green fields while geese peck the ground around them. The grazing occurs from April until it snows, which this year was early December. Framed by the town’s historic houses, its like stepping back in time. The livestock belong to Jennifer and Olivier Flagollet of Hettie Belle Farm, they raise grass-fed organic livestock, selling meat orders to Community in Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) members as far away as Boston and as close as three doors down. The Flagollets are restoring depleted land, with the added benefit of assisting, “a multitude of village farms with little fields going back to forest and reclaiming them. It very much speaks to our community’s value of keeping the land open.” [Read more…]

Get your goose

CN-TS-GOZZARD GOOSE_1320by Tamara Scully

While many folks think “turkey” when planning a holiday feast, roast goose is a tradition for others. At Gozzard City, Wesley Bascom and Suzanne Podhaizer raise several hundred geese on pastures in the rolling hills of Cabot, VT.

Geese are larger, more curious and need more bedding and water than chickens. Processing the birds, as well as marketing them, is more complex and the initial investment in day-old goslings costs quite a bit more.

Day-old goslings are purchased from Metzer Farms. Birds arrive in May and are about $10 per bird, which is 10 times the cost of chicken poults. Gozzard City has successful raised 300 pastured geese this season and moving 300 geese at a time is not a chore for just one person. The geese are divided into four flocks, ranging from 65-100 birds each. “Geese go through so much more bedding due to their ability to drink so much and their desire to play with water,” Bascom says. “Geese are also much more curious and willing to experiment — or tinker — with things. They’ll go after any stray bits of electrical wire. If the fence is off, they’ll find out within the day and wreck havoc on the netting.” [Read more…]

Farm energy efficiency

by Sanne Kure-Jensen

Farm inputs can include energy in the form of fuels, electricity and fertilizers. Crop and livestock production uses energy in many forms. Energy heats water for washing equipment and harvested crops, and powers lighting for production and handling areas. Livestock and produce producers use energy for heating, ventilation and refrigeration. Transportation uses more energy to move inputs to farms as well as moving produce and livestock from farms to processors, markets and consumers. Sustainable, viable farms maximize energy efficiency and minimize costs for all aspects of production.

The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) oversees programs that help farmers and producers conserve energy through a variety of on-farm energy upgrades for existing buildings. Kip Pheil, C.E.M., Acting Leader of the USDA NRCS National Energy Technology Development Team and Stephen Henry, P.E., NRCS South Carolina Assistant State Conservation Engineer described NRCS programs and shared their expertise in a webinar called “Key NRCS Energy Practices: Farmstead Energy, Lighting, and Building Envelope.” [Read more…]