I’ve been laid up with a back injury this past week, which has reminded me of the importance of a farmer’s back. Or anyone’s back for that matter! Since we try to limit our use of fossil fuels on the farm, much of the work is done by hand. We use our small garden tractor for mowing, initial tillage of new ground and the occasional transport of heavy items. The weed whacker gets regular use keeping pathways and garden edges under control. But other than those tasks, the rest of our work is done using hand tools -shovels, hoes, rakes, pitchforks and the broadfork. All of these require a strong back!
Fortunately it is fall and markets are done till spring, so it’s a *good* time to be injured. Hopefully recovery is speedy, but it has caused me to reflect on the figurative backbone of our farm – the values that underpin our work. These values are sustainability, quality, community, and family.
Even before moving to the farm, Bones and I have been focused on living as simply as possible and minimizing our footprint on this earth. Living in a big city at the time, we favored public transportation, dropped down to one vehicle, lived in a community that valued eco-consciousness, supported our local farmers and tried to reduce our energy consumption.
Since, moving to the farm we have had to add back a second vehicle and public transportation is practically non-existent out here. However, country life offers many different possibilities for eco-consciousness. Early on, we had a solar array installed to provide 80% of our electricity usage. It doesn’t power our heating and air, but we are slowly replacing the outdated systems with more energy efficient systems that may eventually run on our solar array. Although all our water is provided by a private well, we have rainwater collection systems installed on our house and an outbuilding. This collected rainwater provides irrigation for the market garden for much of the year. As already mentioned, we try to limit the use of fossil fuels in our farm operation.
Our produce is Certified Naturally Grown as a demonstration of our commitment to the best in natural farming practices. We do not use synthetic chemicals our the farm, limit the use of tillage, use mulching and rainwater catchment to reduce irrigation, and provide habitat for beneficial insects and birds. Every year we move closer to producing more on our farm to reduce outside inputs – like composting, seed saving, growing feed for our livestock. Our livestock live in environments that are as close to their natural habitat as possible – pigs in the woods, chickens free ranging. Fencing going in this winter will allow us to move our goats into a rotational system through the woods ahead of the pigs.
No farm can be completely self-sustaining. I’m not sure it is even a realistic/worthy goal. We all need each other and we love to support the other local businesses and farmers in the community. Still, we strive every year to do the best we can in increasing the viability and sustainability of our farm.
When you think of our farm, this is one of the things we want you to think of first. How amazing and juicy the pork chops are you bought from us. The incredible taste of the tomatoes you picked up from us at market. How you can’t wait until we have those crazy little mouse melons again. What good would it be to put all this work and love into this farm if our food didn’t taste good! So, we’re always eager to hear what you think. If your produce or pork was awesome, let us know, we’ll grow more. If something was off, tell us that too and we’ll do whatever we can to make it better. We love our food and we want you to love it too.
Prior to moving to Virginia we lived in a townhouse in a very close-knit community. Moving to the country was a bit of a culture shock. We’ve grown to love that we can’t see our neighbors houses (though they are awesome folks!) from our house. But we’ve also realized how vital community is. We want our farm to be a place that feeds the community and helps foster a sense of community. You’ll see us supporting and helping to promote fellow local farmers. To us, it is not a competition; we’re all in this together. So if another farmer down the road has a great product, we’ll tell you about it and help you connect with them. We also try to donate a portion of each week’s harvest to organizations or individuals in the area who are in need of fresh food.
Our kids and our family are everything to us. It’s why we moved here – to be closer to grandparents and to give our kids a chance to grow up in this amazing environment. When I look through the pictures of our kids over the past three years here on the farm, my heart sings. The connection they have to this land, the freedom they have to roam and play, the skills and responsibility they are learning are all priceless. And, of course, there’s the food I get to feed them. The littlest one refuses vegetables at the moment,which breaks my heart, but at least I know the copious amounts of bacon he eats are as clean as possible.