Springtime on the Farm
The leaves are just starting to unfurl to reveal that bright green new growth (my favorite color), you can almost taste the promise of asparagus and strawberry rhubarb pie, and Pasture Day is on the calendar for May 7! The bakery board is PACKED with orders for Mother’s Day and early grad parties – be sure to get your cake, pie, dessert, and picnic salad orders in by 5/4 for Mother’s Day on Sunday, May 8. Barstow’s porch and picnic table seating is available and we’ve lined our porch with stunning blooms from Four Rex Farm. Pick up a hanging plant for Mom or for your own terrace.
The end of the academic year means we bid farewell to some of our students for the summer. One of our outstanding Shift Supervisors, Kenzie, will be graduating from UMass this month with a degree in Psychology and Sociology! Congrats Kenzie! This exciting news also means that we are HIRING for a part-time shift supervisor and several food prep and customer service associates. Apply to join our team and please, spread the word!
The farm has been busy spreading digestate, a chemical-free fertilizer of cow manure and food waste that’s gone through our anaerobic digester system. This nutrient rich cocktail helps us improve soil health, increase crop yields, and save money on fertilizer. A recent Smith College senior project helped us to find that since the use of the digestate, we’ve decreased our chemical fertilizer usage by 90%! Good for our wallets and for our environment.
Spring also brings spring planting. This week our plan is to get seeds in the ground! Barstow’s Longview Farm grows 100% of our own animal forage (cow food) for our herd. So our girls eat local and we keep 450 acres of Massachusetts farmland undeveloped which is good for water quality, wildlife habitat, food security in New England, and climate resilience in our community.
Since 2019, Barstow’s Longview Farm has used no-till practices. We transitioned to no-till over the course of four years and moved away from tillage, a strategy this farm and many have used for generations. No-till planting is an agricultural technique for growing crops or pasture without disturbing the soil.
Tillage, on the other hand, is the preparation of soil by mechanical agitation, removing weeds established in the previous season and making the ground easier for farmers to plant in. Tilling is an ancient technique with clear evidence of its use since at least 3000 B.C.
Modern science shows us that tilling the soil turns soil ecosystems on their head annually, disrupting and killing the soil microbes and other organisms like mycorrhizae (a good soil fungus), arthropods (good soil bugs), and earthworm (everybody loves worms!). The loss of this organic matter contributes to degradation of the soil and releases tons of methane into the atmosphere. Tillage also contributes to erosion and nutrient run off. And, at the bottom of that tiller blade too, hidden from sight, is a layer of compacted soil which is no good for any soil habitat.
The transition to no-till planting often results in a lower yield. Farmers need to build their soils back up while still maintaining a steady crop for their animals and markets. However, once the soil recovers from tillage, yields with no-till farming are the same or better!
The technology and equipment for tillage is different than conventional planting. Check out this video of how a no-till planter works and this video for how the planter looks moving through a un-tilled field.
No-till planting has many benefits for the environment, the soil, and the farmer:
- decrease soil erosion
- increase water infiltration
- increase soil retention of organic matter
- increase the amount and variety of life in and on the soil
- increase carbon sequestration
- reduce soil compaction
- reduce fuel usage, machinery costs AND labor costs
Barstow’s Longview Farm uses a number of other best practices for soil health too: using cover crops, engaging in rotational planting, manure management, and maintaining natural riparian zones along bodies of water ensure healthy soils and productive farmland for not just today, but for generations to come.
Join us on Saturday, May 7 for Pasture Day! The cows come out at 1pm and Barstow’s will be open 8am-4pm. Join us for lunch, ice cream, live music noon-2, a free walking farm tour at 11:30 and free wagon tours 1:15ish-3pm. Full details on our website. Check out this live stream video from Pasture Day 2020!