By Kiersten Savage ’16, Antioch Farm manager
Despite the winter chill, the farm and its employees are cranking up the heat. Diana Harvey ’16, Sam Cottle ’16, Avigail Najjar ’16 and I have been busy. Thanks to the classic Ohio style of indecisive weather pattern—the flip-flops in temperatures—has given us a wide range of projects to work on from building crop beds and woodchip pathways to compiling harvest data and caring for our beautiful chickens and ducks.
On the warmer, no-snow-cover days, we’ve been building beds with our homegrown compost, which has been rapidly accumulating and decomposing to make beautifully dark and nutrient-rich fertilizer. The compost has visible avocado peels to add some texture to its visual and nutritional appeal. Sam Cottle ’16, our compassionate compost caretaker, has been making sure people don’t put napkins in the compost (our piles are too small to safely decompose chemicals and such things involved in napkin-making), collecting composts from buckets across the campus, and turning our piles that have so far yielded several bins of usable compost (just in the past two months).
On colder, more wintery days, we plant and care for sprouts and seedlings inside. The sprouts currently being cultivated for Antioch Kitchens are sunflower and pea sprouts. We have them thriving under growing-tables in our newly renovated Science Building’s environmental science lab (thanks to Dr. Fuselier for sharing the space). Our first round of sprouts was sunflower sprouts last December, but now we’re leafing out into baby pea sprout production!
Along with the sprouts, different varieties of spinach, peas, and scallions have been planted in trays, of which many are happily developing under the grow lights, some too happily as they are trying to flower. The lettuce and spinach are to be planted in the hoop house in March, and the peas are intended for our long pea bed that is strategically aligned with the fence; we’ll have a lovely pea-thatched fence once the pea plants start climbing. Also, near our pea bed, our garlic beds have short green shoots visible already; in June we’ll be gorging ourselves on scapes (the curly edible stalks of the garlic plant) and in July, highly potent organic garlic!
One of the few things that could eclipse the excitement of impending organic garlic is the prospect of lambs! Diana Harvey has been researching lamb care and practice to prepare us for the arrival of seven lambs in April of this year. They are to be raised until this fall when they will be available to eat in Antioch Kitchens.
In addition to all the excitement of our individual everyday projects mentioned above, seven students and staff traveled to the Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association (OEFFA) conference February 16 and 17. All expenses were paid for by a grant from the Ohio Board of Regents. OEFFA is held in Granville, Ohio, and involved workshops, lectures, exhibits (cheese and maple-syrup samples!) from different farming movements, chefs, feed companies, small farm businesses—basically all things “food and farm” related.
Diana Harvey and I attended this weekend-long conference along with students Noella Nishimwe ’16 (participant of Antioch Farm Experience, September 2012), Anya Gandy ’15, professors Linda Fuselier and Kevin McGruder, and co-op education specialist Nathaniel Freeman.
Diana Harvey a biomedical science major, made a point to go to several herbal medicine workshops. She particularly enjoyed a lecture on sustainable living presented by Annie and Jay Warmke; they live every January without energy or money for a whole month and described “how they’ve learned to reuse, repurpose, and recycle” with their farm and business. Other workshops students and staff attended included “Native Plants and Wild Edibles as Food and Income,” and “Writing a Grant Proposal for On-Farm Research,’ and “Improving Protein Quality for Bread Making and Suppressing Weeds in Organic Spelt.” There was quite a variety of fields and crops to be educated about.
We were also fed at the conference, almost entirely with ingredients from local farms and food production businesses. We were able to meet the people and experience ideas within Ohio’s organic farming community, while acquiring more farming knowledge and skills. The overall experience was educational and fun, I would definitely enjoy attending again!