This has been a week of many firsts for this season: first summer squash, first ripe tomatoes, first green beans, and first green peppers. To me these are the crops that are the precious reward for all the hard work of farming. There are certain vegetables that we rarely, if ever, buy from the grocery store. These include green beans, summer squash, tomatoes and peppers. To me these crops never taste as good as they do fresh from our farm. I spend a lot of time in the late summer freezing and canning copious pounds of vegetables to be able to enjoy these crops into the winter and spring.
A big part of my goal in farming is to feed myself and my family. Food preservation and growing a wide diversity of crops plays a large role in achieving this goal. That’s why besides growing vegetables we’ve chosen to incorporate laying hens, meat birds, milk and meat goats, and pigs into our farm. Having this many systems to manage can sometimes feel overwhelming, but it also means that on many nights we sit down to meals where we’ve had a hand in producing almost every item on the table.
Another great benefit of all of this diversity is the limited waste and the abundance of compost materials. All of the vegetable scraps from our fields and our house go to feed our goats, pigs and chickens, and all of the manure and spent bedding produced by these animals gets piled into large compost piles that are allowed to cook and cure for six months to a year.
Compost that can be purchased off site can’t shake a stick at the compost we produce on our farm. It also helps us create a more closed loop system, keeping feed and fertility here at home where it was produced. Compost is one of the key components of our farm, allowing us to take what was once a horse pasture and turn it into lush gardens. For me compost is that side of gardening that falls in somewhere between magic and science. There is definitely an art to creating successful compost, but there’s also a healthy measure of unknown that keeps the process fresh and exciting and allows me to feel awed all over again when I uncover my piles six months later to reveal dark, rich, earthy smelling soil!