Exploring new ideas for the farm

December 2011

With just thirteen months to complete phase 1 of the business grant, we had no time to waste. Four of us, attended the New England Small Fruit and Vegetable Conference in Manchester NH. There were so many options to explore, but mainly we focused on hoop house production; root cellar crops; berries, brambles and fruit trees; and cut flowers.

The blackberry is a bramble

With lots of new information, decisions need to be made as to what direction to go in and what to experiment with. Out of the seven siblings involved with the business grant, three of us have working ideas for improving the farm’s crop production. This is not to say that the other four siblings are not involved. Two sisters have accounting and banking backgrounds and are helping out with the financial side of things, one sister is researching marketing ideas and the benefits of fertilizing with seaweed, and our brother is working on a building plan for a future farm stand.

Our sister, Linda, is currently enrolled in a bee keeping course, offered by the University of Maine, York County Extension Service, and will be taking care of two hives this summer. They may be located at Rivard Farm or at the sister site, Stuart Hill, here in Acton. She will also plant corn, beans and squash together in a plot, called Three Sisters Garden.

The Three Sisters all work together. Critters will find it harder to invade your garden by interplanting your corn, beans and squash. The corn stalk serves as a pole for the beans, the beans help to add the nitrogen to the soil that the corn needs, and the squash provides a ground cover of shade that helps the soil retain moisture.

strawberries grown on black plastic

This summer, several plots at the farm, that are currently in hay production, will be plowed in and prepared for future vegetable, herbs, fruit trees and cut flower crops. Additional raspberry plants will be planted this spring along with a variety of ever-bearing strawberries for fall production. Our sister, Annette, will be tending to the strawberry plants, growing them under black plastic, irrigating with a drip system, and picking the early blossoms to encourage plant growth and strong berry production in the fall.

12 x 20 hoop house

My (Diane) project, is experimenting with various crops that can extending the growing seasons with a hoop house. It is my intention to grow year round with very little or no additional heat. Eliot Coleman’s books, The New Organic Grower, Four Season Harvest, and The Winter Harvest Handbook, have been an excellent resource on the subject of four season gardening.

We have a lot ahead of us, but I feel confident that the energy given to this business grant will help pave the way for future productive years at the farm.

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