Daniel taught us a class this week on soil, which probably isn't the most thrilling of subjects to most of you.
|Mounds of compost, adding nutrients to our soil!|
Something he said though, has stayed with me throughout the week and has shifted the way I think about growing food.
In a nutshell, he said that a farmer's primary goal is to create and maintain healthy soil. A never-ending task that has multiple components.
It was really during this conversation/lesson on Monday night, that I realized what a unique opportunity it is for the three of us apprentices to have landed at Frith. Increasingly I'm realizing that not many farmers operate with the same principles and ideals as Daniel does.
Though this makes the level of physically-exhausting work that we do a bit higher, it's also really great to learn that it is feasible to repair the damage done to soil.
Let me give you a few details to make this post a bit more concrete.
When Daniel bought his land on Ash Swamp Road, the soil was largely depleted of nutrients because the land had not been replenished each time hay was grown and harvested.
|Josh, gearing up for another afternoon of shoveling compost!|
That's why Will, Josh and I have been shoveling compost into the hundreds of tiny mounds you see around the new fields we're bringing into cultivation this season.
|Will spreading Tennessee Brown, a rock phosphate.|
In addition to making sure that every inch of our beds has a rich coating of compost, we spread amendments like lime, phosphate, and green sand with the aim of increasing the soil's ability to maintain the most diverse biosphere possible.
|Some beds with lime freshly spread on them.|
It also bears mentioning that though it would be much easier to spread compost, till and seed our beds by tractor-power, you'll only rarely see Daniel sitting atop his John Deere. To avoid soil compaction, the four of us more often than not push wheelbarrows and plant by hand.
When we can we also use the chickens to spread our compost piles for us, which they gladly do, poking around and foraging for bugs and worms.
|Our chickens spreading the compost for us, how considerate!|
Today we covered new beds with plastic to discourage quackgrass from overtaking any other plant from taking root.
|Rolling out plastic for these beds' first year in cultivation.|
Now all that's left is transplanting our leafy kale and spinach plants which have been thriving for weeks in the greenhouse!
Though I promise that there will be more fascinating topics in the future, soil, as the basis of all we do here at Frith, is something that deserves a bit more time and thought than most of us give it in life.