Sunday, March 29, 2009

Feeling Good-Beginning Again

"Birds flyin' high you know how I feel. Sun in the sky, you know how I feel. Breeze driftin' on by, you know how I feel. It's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life for me yeah. It's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life for me, And I'm Feeling Good."

Thus begins Farmer David's third year at Gravity Hill Farm. The months since the end of last farm season have passed and once again it is time to gear up and get going. Do maintenance on the tractors and equipment. Clean out the barn. Get things organized in the green house. Arrange for an intern and hourly workers. Plan for what you are going to grow. Order the seeds. Organize where things are going to get planted. And start seeding. And keep seeding. And keep seeding. Oh, and keep seeding. On Wednesday, March 4 the seeding began and has continued with regularity. To date other seeders have included Maria and Marilyn (a member of the extended Earling/Nicolo) family. Seeding is a time consuming process, as is so much of farming. Yet there is a certain meditative, soothing groove that a person can reach while seeding; something that is present in many of the other aspects of farming. Yes, farming is hard work but there is an intrinsic reward to the time and labor that is part of the process. And, if the weather cooperates, and the pests aren't too destructive, you achieve success and have a crop of local, sustainable, and in this case, organic produce to offer at market and to local restaurants. In addition to this reward Farmer David and Gravity Hill Farm have been recognized by the general public for their efforts.

There is a magazine entitled "Edible Jersey". To quote from its website it is "a new quarterly magazine that celebrates the local, seasonal, food of the Garden State. Edible Jersey tells the story of food, from source to table, spotlighting the growers, producers, fishermen, retailers, chefs, home cooks, and others who energize our culinary community." Last fall readers of the magazine were asked "to vote for the farm, restaurant, food artisan, beverage artisan, and nonprofit organization who, they felt, are making a major contribution to the Garden State's food community." Gravity Hill Farm was voted the Local Hero Farm. (Thanks to Farmer David's friend Mary Jo for nominating him and the farm.) To read the article you can find a copy of Edible Jersey or go to the website, When you get to the website click on the current issue, and then where it says Features on the right side of the page, click on 2009 Local Hero Awards. Congrats to Farmer David and David E. and Maria. Also, congrats to all those who worked and volunteered their time to help make Gravity Hill Farm a 'Local Hero'. Success like this requires teamwork and commitment.

In the March 22, 2009 NY Times there was an article entitled "Eating Food That's Better for You Organic or Not". For those of you interested in the ongoing discussion about the foods you are eating, this article is suggested. (If this doesn't work simply go to the NY Times front page and enter the title of the article in their search engine.)

This is a new 'road'. It will make it easier to drive the tractors down to the lower fields.

At the end of last season, there were three bee hives. As this season got started it seemed as if all three had survived. Sadly, shortly after the hives had awakened, one of them died off. Of the remaining two, one is going strong while the other appears weak. We will hope for the best.

A new addition to the farm this year will be two long greenhouses. One will be used to grow tomatoes, the other, flowers. Once these tunnel greenhouses are completed they will be covered with plastic and the tomatoes and flowers will be planted directly into the ground. The advantage of this is that the length of the growing season can be extended and the conditions in which the plants are grown (how much water they receive) can be better controlled.

At the end of the season the plastic 'tape' and tubes that were used for irrigation were pulled out of the fields. Some of this will be able to be recycled. Some of it, sadly, will end up being thrown away.

Most of these trays that were used for seeding last season will be able to be reused. They will be cleaned and while not as good as new, will still be able to be used.

Garlic was planted last fall and has been quietly biding its time throughout the winter patiently waiting for the spring.

Here's Farmer David getting ready to begin seeding. Hip! Hip! Hooray! for seeding.

This picture was taken on March 4, the first day that seeding was done. While it might not look as if much was accomplished, these are trays of onions and scallions. Depending on the variety of onion, each cell of the tray, and there are 128 cells in each tray, has 4-6 seeds. These 14 trays represents a lot of time and patience.

Within two weeks seeds are germinating and starting to grow. The emergence of the first sprouts is truly an awesome experience. Once the seeds are planted there is a sense of uncertainty about whether or not the seeds will in fact germinate, even if in past seasons there were no problems with germination. And this sense of the unknown and then wonderment when germination has been achieved continues throughout the entire season. Farming is not for the faint of heart.

A few days before the above picture was taken, below was the scene at the farm. What a beautiful sight.

Farmer David giving a big thumbs up for a good days work.

If you have a chance, thank a farmer. Peace and happy and healthy eating to all.

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