Week 4: Resilience on the small farm

Last week, Ethan was on tractor rotation. He got to practice using all three of the farm school’s tractors, including two Kubotas and an old Farmall cultivating tractor. In our sphere of the farming world, old tractors are still incredibly useful and often preferred.

Ethan used different tractors to deep chisel and disk fields, make beds, and dump compost. It is amazing to work with a full range of equipment here so we can figure out what we might want to have on our farm one day!

Meanwhile, I learned about our farm’s irrigation system with my classmate Emma. Irrigation is a big responsibility, so two students do this rotation, one being the “rookie” (me) and one being the “veteran” (Emma). The pump to our well has been acting up for over a week, so this task was a huge challenge.

Early in the week, we were watering with a water trailer, but later we learned we could use the well water with caution. We had to prime the pump at the beginning of the day, let the pressure climb, and then be sure to keep the water running somewhere throughout the farm at all times to keep it going. 

The farm school has had several specialists come in to look at the issue and we are hoping to get the part we need and have it fixed sometime this week while I am the veteran!

Even though we work in rotations where we are in charge of certain aspects of the farm each week, we still help with all kinds of other tasks.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that the mark of small farm life is variety—such a wide range in the types of work, skills utilized, muscles used, and crops grown. Balancing all of this (not to mention the budget) is the great challenge of a diversified farm, but it’s also what makes it strong.

We are engaged in learning this work because we believe small, local farms are the most stable, dependable source of food for the future, especially in the face of climate change. When one crop fails, another one will thrive. On the diversified farm, there are always workarounds, new markets, different crop varieties, and the ability to do a task by hand when a machine breaks.

In the face of climate change, these things make small farms resilient. It’s not easy or perfect, but together, a worldwide network of growers (home gardeners included) is working toward a better system that aims to improve the health of both humans and the planet. And we can do several things to support them: 

  • Replace as many of your groceries as you can with locally grown alternatives (eggs are a wonderful place to start!)
  • Cook and eat seasonal veggies as much as you can (rhubarb, asparagus, turnips, radishes, and greens are the big ones right now but beets, carrots, bok choi, and green garlic are soon to come.)
  • Expand your garden! Containers count. 🥬🥕🌶

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