The goal of the Long Hungry Creek Farm is to grow the highest quality farm products possible, while enjoyably developing an economically viable, aesthetically pleasing and humus-rich farm which remains relatively independent regarding it’s own feed and fertilizer needs. We’d like to continue researching ways to do this and to demonstrate and promote the idea that such a farm is a valuable and beneficial addition to the landscape and atmosphere of the 21st century.
The word ‘goal’ implies a mission statement or the reason we do what we do. It’s a good idea to have a good idea about what you are doing, so we are trying to clarify our goal into a couple of concise sentences. We are farmers, so growing (plants and animals) is our business.
By highest quality we mean that the food produced will have the greatest possible health-giving and beneficial effects on the humans whom eat it. The fruits, vegetables, grains and animal products we grow have maximum flavor, nutrition and vitality. We have we explored organic farming practices and crop varieties with these goals in mind for over 25 years.
We enjoy our work, and gain entertainment from it. Nature fascinates us and instills a sense of wonder and awe. Farming is not natural, so working to bring a farm into a productive but natural state is trying at times. We couldn’t attempt it if we didn’t enjoy it so much.
Many small farms in our neck of the woods are being divided up into housing tracts, largely because farmers can’t make a living. It’s important to us that our farm is economically viable, that it pays its own way, so maybe other farmers can use it as a model to save their farms. We sell shares of our crops directly to consumers who support the farm with part of their income. Their commitment is sufficient to keep the farm financially afloat.
This model, called community supported agriculture, is a widespread movement in America, supplying 100,000 families with farm fresh, organically grown produce. It could replace the tobacco program which is being phased out. By insuring us of an income, we are free to make our farming decisions based on what is best for the health of the farm.
Aesthetics means tasteful or a sense of beauty. Farming is an art and we value flowers, permanent plantings, rock terraces and other landscaping which make a farm more comfortable. Humus in the soil has proven to produce excellent crops, so a main criteria for our farm is humus-rich soils.
A farm needs to have the proper amount of livestock to transform the annual plant growth into animal products and manure. The grass and clover our livestock eat help build soil humus, as does the compost we make from the combination of their manure and plant refuse. When a farm grows its own feeds and makes its own fertilizers, the crops sold are simply carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen (in the form of carbohydrates, starches, fats sugars and protein) derived from the air, rain and sunshine which falls on it. This is an ideal to strive for.
We, too, like to get our own sustenance from the farm as much as possible. Relatively independent means we do use off-farm products in our diet on the farm. Lime and other rock fertilizers re-mineralize the soil and the farm requires them occasionally. Excess neighborhood manure is composted and used on our farm to help build it up to the ideal state where no more than what our own animals produce would be needed. More efficient use of our own pastures, through intensive rotation grazing of a larger herd, could replace importing manure from our neighbors.
Our research has led us into biodynamics, which recommends compost and specific homeopathic preparations to enhance it and the farm as a whole. We feel like we’re on the right track but that more research would be beneficial. Our experiments continue with variety trials, planting times, crop rotations, cover crops, tillage, crushed rock amendments and innovative gardening ideas.
Using our farm as an example, we’d like to demonstrate good farming principles. To promote our ideas, I write a weekly newspaper column, have written a book, Barefoot Farmer, and produce a small public television program on organic gardening tips. We hold field days and conferences on the farm and I speak on the subject whenever possible. The landscape and atmosphere of the 21st century is leaning away from a small farm economy, bucolic scenery, sustainable agriculture and homegrown meals. The health of ourselves and our environment can only be enhanced by a reliance on local small farms for our needs.