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…]

William Hale derives added value by growing organic grain for seed and for sale to local markets

CM-MR-3-William Hale 4aby Karl H. Kazaks

LOUISA, VA — At the recent Virginia Farm to Table Conference, Dr. Elizabeth Dyck suggested that there are opportunities for farmers in the mid-Atlantic to develop markets for locally grown grain.

The vision she illustrated was one in which entrepreneurial farmers realize higher prices for their crops than those found in the commodity grain markets. The premium would offset the production drags and higher costs associated with growing grain in areas outside of the nation’s traditional breadbasket regions. Dr. Dyck also suggested growing heirloom varieties as a way to bolster the possibility of success for such a strategy. [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…]

Cultivating forest land for non-timber products

CEW-MR-3-Cultivating forest3by Tamara Scully

Forest plants, native to the eastern United States, are in demand both domestically and internationally. While often wild-harvested, these medicinal plants can be readily cultivated in their natural environment. Whether it’s black cohash, goldenseal, or American ginseng, the potential for increasing forest cultivation of these crops is enormous.

“We’re talking about crops that have very exacting locations where they will grow,” Eric Burkhart, Program Director, Plant Science, at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center, Penn State University, said. “The way to approach it is to get to know your forest land. Don’t fight it. Work with that ecosystem.” [Read more…]