Monday, July 2, 2007

And Not A Drop To Spare

"We need water, we need water, Wow yeah good water, wow yeah good water"

To state the obvious, water is the lifeblood of a farm. Too much isn't good. Too little isn't good. The rain needs to be just right. Since mother nature can't be controlled (though it has been clearly injured, by man) the manner in which growing plants receive water requires assistance from the farmer. The pictures that follow will show the irrigation system in place at Gravity Hill.

Bits and pieces - The fourth week of market has come and gone. Much gratitude and appreciation to those that are getting their fresh vegetables from Gravity Hill Farm. Though obtaining organic certification is a work in progress, everything is being done in accordance with USDA code as it pertains to organic farming. David is making headway in catching up to where he would like to be with the range of available produce and the quantity of the produce that he does have. Considering that this is the farm's first year of operation, and that David got a slow start with the whole process of seeding and planting, he is doing a great job.

"In 1970, Americans spent about $6 billion on fast food; in 2001, they spent more than $110 billion. Americans now spend more money on fast food than on higher education, personal computers, computer software, or new cars. They spend more on fast food than on movies, books, magazines, newspapers, videos, and recorded music - combined." (Eric Schlosser - Fast Food Nation) Eating locally grown, organic produce has the following advantages: you eat food that is healthier for you; you support the local economy, you learn to slow down and not move too fast while you make the morning last; you support a form of agriculture that is good for the land as well as for you; you help preserve the traditions upon which our civilization was founded, in this country and around the world. Creating a healthier world starts at the local level.

At Gravity Hill Farm there is an irrigation system that is designed to provide water and organic fertilization to the thirsty and hungry plants. Here it is, with a brief description of how it all works.

Underneath the property is a well. Connected to the well is this apparatus. When the handle on the right side (as you look at the picture) is turned on, water flows through the pipes that run beneath the ground and goes to the field. Also, on the left side of the picture is a barrel. It is holding organic fertilizer. (More on that later.) As you can see, the fertilizer is hooked into the irrigation system. This allows David to water and fertilize at the same time. A valuable time saver.

This is a spigot that comes out of the ground. The water that is being sent through the system by the pump comes up through a series of these spigots along the side of the field. As you can see, there is a blue handle on top of the spigot that allows David to control which part of the field will be watered at any particular time.

This blue hose/plastic tubing is connected to the spigot. This blue hose/tubing will run along the side of the field. Two hoses run from the spigot and, depending on David's needs, they can run together or separately. Each has its own handle to control whether it is on or off.

The blue hose/plastic tubing by itself isn't the whole story. What you see here is the connecting piece of 'drip' tubing. The connector is punched into the hose coming from the spigot and each piece of drip tubing has its own valve (the red piece in the picture). This allows David to have control over which beds gets watered on any given day. As you will see, the drip tubing runs the length of the bed (no, not a bed to sleep on) of plants.

This is the role of drip tape/tubing. As you peer off down the plant bed you will see that the tubing runs the entire length of the bed. By placing the role of drip tape on the saw horse David is able to walk the drip tape down the length of the bed with a minimal amount of effort.
The tubing has slits that allows the water to slowly drip out into the ground and thus water the plants. This allows the water to be absorbed into the ground with a minimum amount of evaporation. It is a far more efficient means of watering than any type of sprinkler system that you might use at home.

The drip tape in action. You can see the water coming out of the tubing and seeping into the soil. The frequency and the amount of time that David will water is dependent upon weather conditions. The hotter and drier the weather, the more the plants need watering. Think about how farming was done in the past when such sophisticated methods of watering were not available.

This gives a clear picture of how the drip tubing is placed to ensure maximum coverage of the watering of the plants.

This is a gauge that shows the water pressure that is flowing through the tubing. It allows David to determine whether or not enough water is coming through the system to the plants.

And finally: these are barrels of the organic fertilizer that David uses. It is a combination of fish and seaweed and is 100% organic. For more information than you are probably really interested in you can go to the following two web addresses. ( ('s-Information.html)

It is hoped that this provides you with additional information about the process of local farming that is done organically. Small, local farms are labor intensive and very time consuming. Buying local, and buying organic, is good for you and good for the environment. While it is nice to have certain fruits and vegetables year round, this type of produce is not environmentally friendly even if it is grown organically. The impact of having to fly produce thousands of miles contradicts any desire to be more earth friendly. This is not a political issue. It is a matter of farming food in a manner that is friendly and healthy.

Hope to see you at the Lawrenceville Farmers Market on Sundays from 9-1. Happy and healthy eating to one and all.

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