Sunday, May 2, 2010

Experiential: Down on the Farm

By Katie Lukshis

For the past two weeks, I’ve been putting in volunteer hours at a bio-dynamic farm in Pomonoa, NY. Camp Hill Farm is a bio-dynamic farm, the first Community Sponsored Agriculture in Rockland County, and a member of the Rockland Farm Alliance. Camp Hill Farm is owned by John McDowell and his wife Alexandra Spadea, and they promote the cultivation of healthy communities and a holistic lifestyle.

Bio-dynamic farming/agriculture is a method of organic farming that recognizes the importance of the interrelationship between the soil, plants and animals. Everything on the farm is viewed as one whole living organism. A Community Sponsored Agriculture, or CSA, is when a farmer offers a certain number of shares of its crops to the public. Interested customers purchase shares, or a membership, and in return receive a box of seasonal produce each week during the season. It is a great program to support because food is kept local, and small farmers are able to stay in business.

Camp Hill Farm is a six-acre plot of land that grows a range of vegetables throughout the season, as well as herbs and flowers. The farm has a greenhouse and hoop house in order to get a start on growing other vegetables out of season.

My first day there consisted of weeding the perennial garden in order to prepare it for planting. I really enjoyed getting my hands in the dirt the second I got there. After weeding, Andy – the master farmer, and I gathered compost from the many piles on the side of the property, and distributed it over the raised beds. The next task involved trimming of stinging nettle.. a job that required gloves in order to prevent the obvious stinging effect. … After leaving that day, my hands black from working with the earth, the only thing I could think about was how soon I would be able to return.

On my second day there, I helped Andy stack about 20 columns of two rubber tires and fill them with soil, in order to be used for planting potatoes. We discussed how using rubber tires created the perfect conditions for growing potatoes, because tires retain heat. The next activity involved the transferring of onion sprouts from the greenhouse to the ground. Although I didn’t count how many we actually planted, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were close to 100. They looked like grass shoots, and there just seemed to be an endless supply. Our last job consisted of turning over topsoil in the hoop house. Their middle bed needed to be prepared for planting, so Andy and I used spading forks to pull up the different grasses in the bed. Some sections were tougher to pull up than others, like ryegrass, because of the roots.

I really enjoy volunteering at the farm… I feel like I belong there. I plan on continuing working there until I’m finished with school, and possibly volunteer there a few times over the summer. I’m glad I took the initiative to get this experience in before I lost my chance forever.

Check out their website!

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