SPEAKER 1: I grew up in northern Maine on a commercial potato farm, so it was a highly intensive with chemicals-- fertilizers, herbicides, the whole nine yards. And I wasn't interested in doing that type of farming. I was more interested in doing something a little bit healthier and more sustainable as far as the environment.
SPEAKER 2: Sustainability and good stewardship of our land is one of our guiding philosophical tenets.
SPEAKER 3: One of the ways I tried to design this farm setup here is to intersperse vegetable areas with cover crop areas that have-- attract beneficial insects, like buckwheat and Austrian winter pea, and also to make sure-- be conscientious of how the beds are laid out in retrospect to slope for erosion.
SPEAKER 1: First couple, three years that we owned the farm, I bushhogged the fields to try to get rid of the golden rod. . And I initially got a herd of goats.
SPEAKER 4: We bought the farm severely overgrazed, so we've actually taken steps to improve our pastures. Thistle's our main problem here on this farm, so we have heritage goats.
SPEAKER 2: One reason that we have our livestock is because we want to restore our pastures. This farm has been fallow for probably 40 or 50 years, and so there's a lot of weeds in the pastures. There's a lot of brush growing up, and we wanted to restore what we could to really nice, rich pasture.
SPEAKER 5: Well, some of the ways that we try to make sure that we're not overusing our land is to only put on pesticide applications that we need to. We monitor weather information daily, and then that's used to develop the models that we go by from Cornell onto whether we have to spray or don't spray. We have insect traps out, and we scout once a week during the growing season.
SPEAKER 6: The selection of grapes that we've-- I've always made a criteria is the grapes that require the absolute minimum amount of any kind of spray, and preferably if they have to be sprayed at all, it's organic.
SPEAKER 7: We use a mechanically weed control, so we're not putting any chemicals to control weeds or anything, and that plus a good crop rotation.
SPEAKER 2: In our gardens, we do crop rotation. A four year rotation is our goal for all of our vegetable crops. Because we're certified organic, it's very beneficial for pest control to do-- to rotate things.
SPEAKER 6: It is important that crops be rotated, that you maintain your organic matter.
SPEAKER 8: We're very fortunate to have the available land that we have, the fertile land that we have. But we wanted to make sure that we did a rotation, not only with crops but also with animals, that we're costly putting back nutrients. We're not draining. We're building up humus and organic matter.
SPEAKER 4: Improving the soil is really key.
SPEAKER 9: We did do a soil testing and analysis, and it does show us where we need to amend the soil, to-- whether it would be to raise the pH or add some nutrients that are lacking in the soil.
SPEAKER 2: We have very, very heavy clay soil, which requires a lot of amendment. We do an awful lot of mulching with hay and leaves. We go to town every spring and fall and collect bags of leaves off the side of the road and bring them to the farm so that we can add organic matter.
SPEAKER 7: We use natural organic fertilizer. Our main source of nitrogen is bean meal.
SPEAKER 8: I don't have to put down much nitrogen because I use the rotation of the animals.
SPEAKER 2: We wanted to get into livestock to complete the picture for sustainability because if you only have vegetables, you don't have the resources to amend that soil with manure on your own property. You have to cart it in. So we would ideally like to be able to have all of this right available right here.
SPEAKER 1: It's amazing. Once you start putting animals, both chickens and ruminants, on land, how-- especially if you're doing rotational grazing, so you're spreading manure fairly evenly, the land actually does heal itself to a large extent.
SPEAKER 4: Compost, we either have sheep and goat compost from our bedded pack in the winter, or we were using the cattle manure with bedding and other products for-- so basically adding a lot of compost, doing a lot of soil sampling.
SPEAKER 10: We've used a lot of organic cow manure and that type of thing to amend the soil.
SPEAKER 11: My horse's only job in life is to eat and produce fertilizer.
SPEAKER 1: In order to make sure I take care of the property and leave it for the next generation, I don't want to be doing anything that's going to deplete resources in one area or contaminate any one area of the farm.
SPEAKER 4: For us, we see the profitability in it, and we also see the importance of actually-- not only just the farm infrastructure, but also the whole ecosystem infrastructure.
SPEAKER 2: Everything we do, we think about how we're going to enhance or preserve the quality of the land.
SPEAKER 4: And in the end, it makes us money.
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Farmers explain some of the conservation-oriented practices that are part of their farm management. Good stewardship is essential to keeping your farm's resource base healthy for years to come.
In the Voices of Experience series from the Beginning Farmers Resource Center, you'll find the kind of dirt-under-the-fingernails advice that can only come from someone who's been there.
The NY Beginning Farmer Project is led by a team of Cornell Cooperative Extension Educators in partnership with the Cornell Small Farms Program. The project, launched in 2006 in response to increasing interest in farm start-ups, aims to enhance the likelihood of success of new ag enterprises by making the best resources and training available to new and diversifying farmers.