By Marianthe Bickett ’15, student farm crew leader
The tail end of fall here has been unseasonably warm, allowing for more enjoyable farm work and enthusiastic volunteers. We've been lucky to have students from the Environmental Science class working on the farm as a class requirement, as well as other students and community members. Much of our time is spent working steadily on building beds by layering rich composted horse manure and straw over loosened soil. We are excited to be more prepared for spring planting then last year at this time, thanks to our expanded staff.
Volunteers helping manage the farm as winter approaches.
We've also been hard at work cultivating our food forest. A food forest is a permaculture design that works by planting perennial food-producing trees, bushes, and herbs in a layered arrangement so that as they mature it looks like a forest, only everything offers something edible. Over the last year, we've planted many fruit and nut trees, berry bushes, and herbs, but it is a continual process to eliminate invasive species we don't want and allow the useful plants to propagate.
Students harvesting greens in the hoop house.
We've been hard at work digging out poisonous hemlock, which had managed to run rampant all over what is now the farm. We were diligent in chopping it down before it could go to seed during the last growing season; however, it has a biennial life cycle. This will allow it to persist in our garden at least another season, requiring continued attention to eradicate it. We also have a bounty of stinging nettle and catnip growing wildly around the farm, and have been transplanting them into larger patches where we can more easily access them. Stinging nettle has many health benefits and can be used in soup, or dried as a tea.
Black Astralorp chickens roaming the farm.
Our student employees have been working on individual projects in their areas of interest as well. Al Zork ’16 has been making beautiful signs with a wood burner to label all our plants in the food forest, so we can easily locate and harvest them. Kiersten Savage ’16 and Diana Harvey ’16 have started growing sunflower sprouts in Birch Commons for us to eat in the dining hall. Sam Cottle ’16 and Emma Louise Mutrux ’16 traveled with Kat Christen, Antioch Farm manager, to the Acres Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, where they picked up lots of useful information on ecological food production.
A view of the newly created beds.