Time is flying. We’re nearly halfway through October and harvesting our first carrots plus planting the last spinach beds, which are the very last crops we’ll plant on this land. We have just 6 weeks left of our CSA season and 10 weeks before we move our farm.
Now that planting has slowed down, we’re turning our attention to the new land. There’s much to do to get it ready to farm next year. This past weekend, we loaded our small two-wheel walk-behind tractor into the pickup truck and took it up to the land. We measured out where we want our vegetable field to be and where our first hoophouse will go. We even marked out where we hope a barn and vegetable processing area might go—and, where we might, someday, build a small house to live in.
The first task is to get beds prepared for planting garlic next month. We mowed the grass in this section and attempted to break ground with the walk-behind tractor. Sadly, it was too much for the little walk-behind. The soil is compacted and hard, and the small tiller merely scraped the surface. Though we generally farm without a tractor, we’re going to have to hire a big tractor to help us break up this hard, red clay. And we’re going to have to start putting some love into this soil.
Small-scale organic growers like us have no choice but to nurture and care for our land. We know our livelihood is in the health of our soil, and since we don’t have much acreage, we need every square foot to be fertile and productive. This small-farm approach is very different from the industrial agriculture model that requires vast swaths of land and heavy chemical inputs. Putting our soil first is what allows Gordon and I to grow vegetables for 70 families on less than half an acre of land. And this is why small farmers, caring for their land, will feed the world.
Over the next few months, Gordon and I will invest heavily in minerals, nutrients, and organic matter to begin the process of bringing our new land back to life. We feel impatient to do everything at once. It’s tempting to use that money to build a barn or a house, but we know the land must come first. We won’t be able to afford the barn or house if we can’t grow loads of vegetables. If we take good care of the soil, the soil will take good care of us. And we know that we can’t fix the soil overnight. It’s the work of a lifetime.
When you choose to buy food from a local, sustainable farmer, you’re not only getting food that’s more delicious and healthy. You’re also supporting a caretaker of the land. And if we want to have food to eat in years to come, we must learn to care for our land.