Human Scale Regenerative Farming
We are using human scale regenerative farming methods in order to restore and enhance the existing ecosystems where we farm. Because the practices we use impact the surrounding environment positively every season we notice an increase in native pollinators, birds, beneficial insects, and wildlife. We prioritize having the best impact on the land as possible, and through using natural systems to achieve our faming goals it helps us work in partnership with nature.
We grow nutrient dense vegetables, fruit, and herbs along with annual and perennial cut flowers, all by hand using regenerative farming methods that build healthy living soil. We are doing this without using a tractor, plastic tarps, or landscape fabric. Instead we prep and manage our growing area using human scale methods including select hand tools, plus organic materials that break down and continue adding organic matter to the soil like ramial (tree branch) wood chip mulch in our pathways combined with compost / straw mulch in our garden beds. When preparing an area that hasn't been previously cultivated for crop planting we may also use the assistance of our livestock to help prep the ground. By eliminating tractor use and the requirement for consistent wide tractor wheel spacing within our production growing area, we are able to incorporate multiple bed size widths 30", 36", 48" with 12"-18" walking paths between which allows for a variety of crop planting / interplanting options. This also provides us with a larger amount of bed space per square foot so we can grow more crops within a smaller area of land. Other benefits of not using a tractor in our garden space include: eliminating excessive soil compaction and erosion, increasing soil water retention and carbon sequestration ability, biodiversity of plants + habitat for a variety of beneficial insects and birds, and increased soil organic matter and microbe activity.
Our farm is Certified Naturally Grown and we are committed to using ecologically beneficial growing practices.
The farm land has a diverse history having been farmed organically for over 20 years prior to us being here, and it is forever protected from development by Genesee Land Trust.
"Genesee Land Trust preserves and protects natural lands and waterways that enhance the quality of life in the greater Rochester region—providing wildlife habitat, locally grown food, and connections in nature." To learn how to volunteer or donate to Genesee Land Trust visit: https://www.geneseelandtrust.org/
Heritage Breed Livestock - Raised Regeneratively
We raise heritage breed livestock for multiple reasons including: breed preservation, regenerative land management, and as a renewable source of healthy local food. The main breeds and species we are currently raising for these purposes include: American Guinea Hogs, Shetland Sheep, and Scottish Highland Cattle. We use managed intensive rotational grazing practices to maximize the health of our animals along with the positive benefits they provide for the land and soil.
For our sheep and cattle this means we are grazing a specific area of land (paddock) for a short period of time and rotating our livestock through areas at a quick rotation rate so they do not overgraze or damage the land. Depending on the area where our pigs are on the farm they can serve multiple purposes: they are rotated through select pastures with fully mobile solar powered paddocks on a regular basis, and we also use them to help prepare future crop planting areas where they are allowed to graze areas down heavily and those areas are then either replanted with cover crops or selectively deep mulched with straw, compost, and wood chip pathways to be planted in the future, or the paddock may be left to regrow with the perennial grasses and native plants that were already growing there and those established plants will grow back thicker and healthier after being grazed / pruned and fertilized with manure.
These methods allow our livestock to contribute to building healthy living soil, by pruning the pastures and encouraging perennial grass roots to go deeper which helps to sequester carbon out of the atmosphere and into the soil. Their manure also provides an organic fertilizer that feeds the soil and microbes, transforming once depleted and sparsely covered landscapes into fertile soil and lush pastures.
Livestock grows up to have a healthy nutrition profile when raised in the way we care for our animals: eating a species appropriate diet of 100% organically grown forage / food / minerals, raised outdoors in a natural environment, and allowed to express their instinctual behaviors.
Our ruminant livestock eat a diet of only pasture, while our pigs diet consists of about 80% pasture / 20% certified organic triticale (wheat / rye). Our pigs are soy / corn free. All our livestock is also provided with OMRI (certified organic) approved minerals and supplements in order to ensure they are getting proper nutrition. We never use any hormones or antibiotics.
Heritage breeds are slower growing, so patience is key when raising them to full butchering maturity size and weight. We are still in the early stages of building up the stocking density of our herds while also assessing the productivity of each breed for our farm's specific goals, so we will not have meat available for sale until we reach a point where we decide to thin our herd by selectively harvesting.
Building Living Soil, Beneficial Habitat, & Healthy Ecosystems
Our overall farming techniques work in partnership with natural systems so we can contribute positively towards rebuilding and enhancing existing habitat and ecosystems on the farm. Multiple species of birds, insects, and wildlife are in need of any help that can be provided because their populations are in decline due to two major factors: habitat loss / degradation and chemical pollution. Even on the microscopic level in the soil, biodiversity needs to be maintained for maximum health. The overall balance of life above and below the soil is what creates a healthy and resilient ecosystem and this is why it's important for us to farm in a way that is beneficial to our surroundings.
There are multiple ways that we accomplish this by:
- Eliminating tractor use in our vegetable crop areas in order to significantly reduce soil compaction, erosion, and damage caused to soil by mechanized farming. Minimizing soil disruption positively impacts the soil's beneficial fungal networks, microbe balance + health, and water retention abilities. We do not rototill, plow, cultivate, or transplant with a tractor, instead we do all those things by hand which has been proven to be more beneficial for the land and surrounding ecosystems.
- Companion / interplanting different plants together in our vegetable, fruit, herb, and cut flower growing areas helps to: reduce external pest and disease pressure, mimic nature's diversity, and reduce taxing the soil's nutrient availability. Interplanting creates a diverse natural landscape for birds and beneficial insects to thrive in while also maintaining proper soil health and nutrient balance. Because available soil nutrients and micronutrients are being are split up between a variety of plant species' needs, the soil doesn't become depleted from only one type of monocrop growing there. Planting annual and perennial cover crops also contributes positively towards overall soil health.
- Never using plastic mulch, silage tarps, or landscape fabric on our soil in order to eliminate microplastics and chemicals from leeching into the ground. A practice that has gained more popularity over the years in the organic farming community as an alternative option to tilling the soil, is using tools such as silage tarps to sit on top of the soil for weeks in order to create a stale weed seed bed and prepare an area for planting. Plastic mulch and landscape fabric are also used to help suppress weed growth around the base of growing crops. Understanding the ecological effects of microplastics in the soil is an area that still needs a lot of study, but from studies that have been completed in recent years it has found that microplastics are an emerging contaminant that are regularly found in agricultural soils and they have shown to have damaging effects to soil health and function. For those reasons, we only use organically grown / produced mulches and weed suppression such as: straw, hay, compost, wood chips, mowed / chop & drop cover crop, or tree leaves.
- Grazing livestock to replenish areas of land on the farm along with increasing the land's overall productivity, soil health, and biodiversity. Livestock play a crucial and important role in regenerative agriculture, when managed properly they will provide great benefits to soil health and ecosystems. When ruminants graze perennial grasses it encourages roots to grow deeper helping to improve the soil, and when animals are rotated to different areas of the farm they deposit manure evenly across the land feeding the soil microbes and increasing soil fertility. Rotationally grazing ruminants has also shown to increase native plant biodiversity in pastures, which provides benefits to native pollinators and birds.
- Focusing on incorporating perennial plants and trees into our farm landscape because they put down well established root systems which contribute to preventing soil erosion and increasing soil carbon sequestration. We prioritize using native plants whenever possible, and specifically focus on plants that will benefit the surrounding ecosystem while also providing a crop that can be harvested in the future such as nut tree crops for wildlife, flowers for pollinators, or cover crops for soil fertility. As trees grow they will also provide future silvopasture benefits for our grazing ruminant livestock.
- Consciously evolving our farming techniques and an approach to growing food in balance with nature. We are always assessing how we can improve our farming methods, and working to do the best we can for the land and the surrounding habitat and ecosystems. It is this approach that allows us to use what works best, and move past what doesn't. We use simple evaluation tools, for example asking ourselves questions on a regular basis like: Will this improve the land to become better than it was before? Can this technique be replicated season after season as a consistently applied method? Are there other beneficial methods we are not considering that could be better, and if so how do we implement those? How can we tie in our bigger picture long term goals, with short term immediate action? It is this constant critical thinking that allows us to approach our farming methods with an open mind and ability to adapt for the best long term results. We are working to create a positive impact on the surrounding ecosystems and habitat, while at the same time producing healthy local food and products for our community.
Getting a donation ready, with the help of my niece who is also passionate about helping our local community. She has been volunteering to assist with our farm's donation efforts since 2019.
If you would like to support regenerative agriculture and all the positive benefits that it provides for the environment, we ask that you consider making a monetary contribution to our farm and our overall goals / mission. Your contribution will go towards expanding our ability to donate locally by upgrading our existing infrastructure, so that we can continue to increase the selection of regeneratively grown and raised products that we are able to offer our local community.
We currently operate our farm on support from the local community through offering seasonal vegetables, herbs, and cut flowers for sale, but as we continue to expand we would also like to increase the amount of food that we can donate locally each year. Your contribution can help us increase what we are able to donate and give back every year, as everything on the farm has a cost directly associated with it, including what it takes to grow, harvest, wash, pack, and donate food. As we move forward with our farming goals, we plan to continue expanding our donation efforts and your contribution will help us reach our long term goals faster.