We are in the process of transitioning 30 acres, previously a decorative tree nursery in Helvetia to an Organic vegetable farm. We hope to begin the certification process in late 2016 or early 2017 as it takes 3 years to transition land from conventional farming practices, and the nursery was operational until late 2013. We use all the same healthy, old time-y practices as we did when we were leasing a piece of organic land in 2014 and adhering to the National Organic Practices. We use mostly trap cropping and predator attractant planting to deter bad bugs from gobbling up our plants. We make natural sprays from garlic and other herbal ingredients to deter pests. Our long term strategy involves many perennial plantings to serve as beetle banks and natural predator habitat and regular cover cropping as our main strategy to maintain soil nutrition.
Many crops are direct seeded and others are grown in flats in our greenhouse and then transplanted into the field. Later in the season, when we need less space in the greenhouse for propagation, we remove the tables and get in there with the tractor and the horses to loosen up the soil and plant straight into the ground. As the seasons progress, we'll be adding more greenhouses and growing some great crops like ginger and hibiscus on a larger scale.
In 2015, before crazy crop production season, we converted the interior of our main barn into a produce washing station which meets restaurant code and standards of cleanliness and we built a walk in cooler which brings cold-loving veggies down to temp rapidly. This is a crucial aspect to producing good vegetables that we noticed is often overlooked by small-scale producers. But we think it's well worth the time and investment.
We use horses mainly because we love them, but they also cause less soil compaction than tractors and are actually equally or more efficient for certain tasks.
- When a field has been in cover crop and needs to be turned over before tillage, we use an old fashioned horse drawn plow.
- Weeding between the rows with a single horse cultivator has proven to be an excellent way to keep weeds at bay.
- Our culti-mulcher, a big iron secondary tillage tool made for us by Marvin Brisk in Halfway, Oregon creates great fluffy soil when it follows our Italian primary tillage tractor implement, the spader.
- We spread cover crops and fertilizers with an Italian ground driven cone spreader originally designed to be drawn by an ATV which we converted to horse drawn.
- We plant potatoes in furrows made by a horse drawn middle buster (trench digger) and we harvest them with a horse drawn potato plow.
- We spread manure and compost with an old rickety horse drawn manure spreader.
- For the 2016 season we plan to purchase a horse drawn water wheel transplanter which pulls two ground level chairs with planting trays for flats of transplants where two of us will sit and drop plants in the ground while another person drives the horses.
- For 2016 we also plan to build a harvest cart that will carry some tubs of cool water to harvest directly into, as the quicker picked veggies get cooled, the longer they last and the fresher they taste. We also want to get the horses involved year round.
Last year, 2014, we raised 40 all heritage breed turkeys: broad breasted bronzes, bourbon reds, slates and spanish blacks. This 2015 season, we'll be raising heritage breed crosses and also some broad breasted whites. Once we actually get them, we'll update this section with their actual breeds and characteristics. We do all the processing here on the farm with our own plucker and scalder. It's a lot of work, but we enjoy knowing exactly what our turkey's lives involved so we can guarantee their quality and that they lived the best life a turkey can. They eat lots of pasture and bugs and pricey, local non GMO turkey feed from Buxton Feed. This year we may experiment with supplementing a bit of their feed with spent grain from a local brewery.