Essex Farm Note week 6

Essex Farm Note

Week 6, 2012

 Mark and I just got back from our annual retreat to Montreal. We were wearing our town clothes and I thought we were looking pretty good, but not good enough for all the attention we were drawing on the street. Then I saw that Mark had his knit hat on inside out, and it was all covered with bits of straw. He was also carrying a big duffle bag with a broken strap, and wearing international orange gloves. Man, I thought, I can’t take him anywhere! Then, while pointing at his hat, I realized the cuff of my own glove was speckled with chaff and seeds. And these were my good gloves, the ones I don’t farm in unless I can’t find the other pair. I am a legitimate hayseed, I thought. This did not dampen my enjoyment of the city. We walked all over town, ate Chinese dumplings, went ice skating in Parc La Fountain, and meanwhile fulfilled the purpose of our trip: talking about where the farm is, and where it is going. We decided the focus this year will be on improving the share, and acquiring the infrastructure needed to do that. We reaffirmed our commitment to draft horse power, and the goal of having a fossil fuel free farm in five years. And then there is Essex Farm Academy. Mark came back from PASA last week captivated by the idea of creating an elite training school for new farmers. His vision is to raise enough money to fully fund the education of 15 to 20 exceptional, motivated students per year, and turn them into skilled, productive, horse-powered farmers through a combination of practical and theoretical training. I don’t know exactly where this idea is going yet, but his enthusiasm is contagious.

We talked about two other big ideas that Mark brought home from PASA. One is the realization, via our friend Kenneth Moulder of Green Mountain College, that 30% of the energy that goes into food is spent in the kitchens of the eaters, on storage and preparation. With so much focus on food miles, it seems we’ve forgotten about the last steps to the table. Mark and I talked about building a wood-fired community bread oven, or doing larger-scale, more energy-efficient canning here. Let us know if you have other ideas about how to conserve energy in the kitchen.

Mark came up with the last big idea while trying to distill his many thoughts into a sentence for a workshop he was giving. It’s his answer to the question, what is it we are trying to do? He puts it in the form of a challenge to farmers everywhere, because he really likes a competition. It is: Who can catch the most sunlight, and keep it?  We’ll explore what that means in another note. For now, the short news, which is, as it often is, all about testicles. David Goldwasser came by on Wednesday to castrate 20 bulls in the beef herd. They have been moved from the metal barn to Valley Field pasture. Meanwhile we got an infusion of testosterone in the form of a Jersey bull, Spencer, who was bred by Jack Lazor of Butterworks farm, and is here on loan from Misty Brook Farm. His job is to impregnate the dairy cows we missed with artificial insemination. While he seems like a nice enough fellow, we never trust a bull. Jerseys are known for deadly tempers. The sooner he has done his job and leaves, the better I’ll feel. Members, please stay far from the dairy pasture until Spencer goes back home. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this is-it-really-February? 6th week of 2012.