Monday, June 23, 2008

a visit to Hearty Roots Farm & Awesome Farm

This evening I took an inspiring tour of Hearty Roots farm ( with other local farm apprentices, the theme of the tour being "Becoming a Farmer."  
We got the low-down from Benjamin about how the operation is run, and the 5-year history of the farm, from the first year cultivating less than an acre for 30 CSA members with a borrowed tractor and one full-time farmer-- up to today's 10 acres of crops supporting 330 shares and 5 full-time farmers, two part-time farmers, and three tractors.
The amazing thing was to see how it was started and is still run by young people who had very limited experience farming before-- city kids mostly.   It seems like a successful operation, and their fields looked really great.  (Plus they have a really great sandy soil without any rocks!!!)

A sister farm renting "marginal land" adjacent to the farm ( is host to Icelandic sheep, a guard donkey (protection against coyotes), and several flocks of chickens.
They are working towards a completely grass-based meat operation.  Sheep only need to eat grass, with hay (dried grass) in the winter.  But chickens require grain, which is becoming more and more expensive, especially organic grain.  They are experimenting with feeding some chickens no grain-- only vegetable scraps & compost, like the Vermont Compost Company does apparently ( very interesting idea.  I know from watching our hens here at the farm, chickens do love compost-- they spend most of their days scratching & pecking through it.  
The breed of sheep they chose is Icelandic-- a very sturdy breed that provides excellent wool, meat, and milk if they want to have a dairy component to the business in the future.  The fact that they're adapted to very cold climates means they don't need a barn for the winter-- just a portable hoophouse that provides a windblock and dry cover.  They move the sheep every day or two through pastures with solar-powered electronet fencing, and try to not graze them on the same piece of land within a 2-3 month cycle, to avoid parasites.

Oh, and they had some nice-looking broccoli at Hearty Roots-- the variety is called "Blue Wind"... these heads are side-shoots, a bonus secondary growth after the first big head of broccoli was already cut!  Mmmm.

No comments: