Essex Farm Note
Week 1, 2017
The new year has come skating in on a fresh cold wind. January feels fast and light, unburdened by the year that came before it, and full of so much potential. It’s a good time to refocus our farm goals, and to share them with our members. They are so simple! And so eternally challenging – which is how we know we’re on the right track. Here they are: We want to grow the best full diet on the planet for ourselves and our members, and we want to build soil that is capable of doing it.
What is good food, what is a good diet? Ask thirty people, get thirty answers. But one thing pretty much everyone agrees on is that a good diet is a whole foods diet, based on unprocessed or minimally foods, with an emphasis on plants. Good food is also nutritionally dense and delicious. It comes from healthy plants and animals that are well-grown, well-harvested, well-prepared, and well-enjoyed. Go one step deeper, and you get to the farmer’s level. In other words, the dirt. All of it –taste, quality, nutrition, and ultimately, the wellbeing of the people who eat it – rests first on the quality of the soil.
So what makes for healthy soil? From an organic farmer’s perspective, good soil has high microbial diversity and high microbial activity. It has a balance of readily available macro- and mirconutrients. But perhaps most importantly, it contains a high percentage of organic matter, a.k.a. carbon. How do we put carbon into the soil? We use the energy of the sun to pull it from the air, make it into plants, and then lock it up, underground. Mark calls carbon capture (via cover cropping, strategic tillage, and good grazing management) the farmer’s chief objective, because it does so many beneficial things all at once. Carbon capture increases plant yield and nutrition; reduces erosion and improves water quality; makes plants better able to resist pest and disease pressure without chemicals; and increases resilience in both floods and droughts. Moreover, not for nothing, keeping carbon underground helps mitigate climate change. So here’s to capturing and keeping more carbon in the dirt for 2017, and using it to grow wonderful food.
I’m out of town this week so Mark has been managing the farm, house and kids while tackling some longstanding administrative tasks, like reevaluating our farm’s insurance policies, getting 2016 tax prep onto the runway, and looking into some mysterious thing called a retirement account – all so exciting it gives me shivers. Meanwhile, we had four students visiting from Swarthmore and Oberlin, and they have bulled their way through some big bad projects, like sorting all the winter squash, and trimming the outer leaves from every single head of cabbage. Jon picked up our new boar, Buddy, and the animal team vaccinated all the newborn piglets, which hopefully puts an end to our adventure with circovirus. We are waving farewell to Megan Moody, who is off to bike the California coast. Have a great safe trip, Megan, and thank you for all your good work. Finally, we are happy to be back on Instagram for the new year, at essexfarmcsa. (I also post at kristinxkimball.) Look for new posts there, nearly every day. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this fresh 1st week of 2017. –Kristin & Mark Kimball