Seeds are in the ground and we are full speed ahead for the 2012 season!!!
We have come a long way in the past year but this past week has seen a flurry of activity not to mention some incredible weather (let’s hope this is how it’s going to be all year). This past week we’ve finished the framing of the hoop house, trellis system for the blackberries, prepared the ground with fertilizer (courtesy of Autumn’s ReRide Youth Ranch), and prepared the floor for the produce processing barn. This time last year we were just breaking ground, but this year we have seeds going in the ground. That gives a huge advantage and extended season compared to last year.
We are so thankful for the ground of dedicated hunger warriors who braved the cold on Saturday morning to put over 300 pounds of potato “seeds” in the ground. This includes Irish Potatoes, Yukon Gold, Red Lasoda, Kennebec and 3 kinds of fingerling potatoes. That’s just amazing and those efforts will provide an incredible amount of potatoes that will be a stable crop for distribution towards hunger relief in a couple of months.
Here are some of the stories & updates from last week so you can follow along.
Faces of The Farm
Huge thank you to everyone who helped on Friday and Saturday! You’re amazing.
For more info on how you can help at The Farm, please check our Volunteer/Events page or email TheFarm@CobblestoneProject.org
The 2012 season at The Farm is officially underway!
Today we broke ground to begin preparing the soil for seeds, installing raised beds, adding fertilizer and more.
If we take a moment and look back to one year ago when we broke ground for the 2011 season, we can see just how far we’ve come. How far we have all come.
Last year was our first year in Fayetteville. We started with an old tractor, devoted hearts and a God sized dream. However, when the first blades went into the ground, we knew it wasn’t going to be easy (see picture below).
One year later we can say that had we known what the 2011 season would have held, I’m not sure that we would have taken it on. :-) However, with thankful hearts, strong hands, a devoted community, and because of one rain shower in mid-August we made it. We all made it.
Here’s the difference that a year makes…
2011 Season Breaking Ground (read full story here)
2012 Season Breaking Ground
(Thank you Williams Tractor!)
So off we go for the 2012 and we could not be more excited. We have so much to do, but this year truly represents a break through year in so many ways.
We hope that you’ll join us again this season, and we invite you out any Saturday to put your hands in the dirt, pull the potatoes from the ground, and cut the sunflowers.
It’s hard to believe, but it another 2 to 3 weeks (weather permitting) we’ll be putting our first seeds in the ground for the 2012 season. Yes, we have high hopes and great plans for this year; however, we will do our part and leave the weather part to the One who holds this entire initiative together. Truth be told, we are selfishly asking for a little break compared to last season.
As many of you know, last season we produce 8,700+ pounds of food and gave approximately 52% of that food away to local hunger relief. This season our production plan tops 20,000+ pounds of food not counting the corn (which we struggled with last year). So, God willing and creek don’t rise, we are planning for a great season.
Over the winter months…
- We’ve finished our pole barn which will serve as base of operations for produce processing and cold storage.
- Purchased some equipment to make building raised beds and laying irrigation tape a whole lot easier (with the tractor vs people).
- Purchased a High Tunnel that will allow us to significantly increase our growing season.
- Framed up a small greenhouse to allow us to get started earlier with seeds for each season.
- Removed some dangerous barbwire from around the front of The Farm (too many kids around for barb wire).
- Trellised the blackberries
- Prepared and fertilized the soil.
- Gained our “Certified Naturally Grown” certification.
- And we are almost ready to reset our poultry operations to increase the flock size.
This past Saturday we had a great group of people come out to The Farm to help get us one step closer to planting. Here is quick update from Gary…
Special thanks to Teen Action & Support Center for their continued support of The Farm. We would not be where we are today without them!
For those who don’t have the opportunity to work directly with teenagers it might be hard to understand where they are coming from. They might seem a little odd to most adults, as they have their particular set of interests and ideas about the world. Most of them might seem silly, or rude, or awkward to many outside of their culture but after 9 years of teaching and 3 years of youth ministry this seemingly different group never ceases to surprise me. Maybe they are hard to understand as we (adults) see them but at every turn there are some that are every bit as excited about making a difference in the world, bringing dignity to their fellow humans, and fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves, as we think that we (adults) are.
Putting feet to their desire to serve their community set in motion the establishment of BHS Cobblestone Project. After sharing with some students the driving force and mission of Cobblestone Project and mentioning to them that there might be a chance for a club to form and then work with local NPOs they didn’t hesitate. To borrow language from Cobblestone project and having adapted it to fit BHS Cobblestone Project our mission statement is as follows: Our purpose is drawn from the belief that every person has a unique and immeasurable value because of our shared human story. It is this story that is defined by a movement towards the renewal and restoration of the image that all people were created for a purpose. Every human heart deserves dignity, respect and the opportunity to fully realize this purpose.
The strategy to take these ideas and turn them into action will be approached by 1) Identifying Issues of Justice & Mercy, 2) Connecting Needs with Willing Resources and 3) Fulfilling Needs with Sustainable Solutions.
Among other things we will be doing an annual coat/shoe drive, participating in regular initiatives from Cobblestone Project as well as conducting a school wide imitative in the Spring called “30 days for change” (more info coming).
The students are fired up! Every meeting I seem to see new faces and on a weekly basis encounter fellow staff members or parents who are increasingly interested in what we are doing. We have been interviewed in a High School sports talk magazine, broadcasted by our student newscast in the daily morning announcements (reaching approximately 4000 people every morning) and approached by the Executive Director of community relationships and PR for the Bentonville Schools.
It’s been a fast and encouraging journey so far. The “30 days for change” initiative has sparked a lot of interest with students this spring as we have almost 40 participants signed up to work with now 7 local non-profits. I am inspired by the energy, passion and desire in the students at Bentonville High School to improve the local community of NWA. The students in the club come from all types of lifestyles and personal beliefs but see a common goal as more important than self-promoting and are willing to put aside their busy schedules to be a blessing to their community and without question their teacher and club sponsor. I am very thankful to Cobblestone Project and their willingness to partner with Bentonville High school as well as the principal of BHS, Kim Garrett for her continued support of our student body and their desire to be creative and active in their communities and am excited about what the future holds.
- Scott Herron (@scaherron), BHS Teacher
Spring is quickly approaching & believe it or not if the weather cooperates we could have seeds going in the ground in another month. Our production plans are 98% of the way complete with the total production for 2012 season planned at 20,000 pounds of food. This would be almost 3x the amount of food grown in 2011, but we learned a lot last season and we think it’s an achievable goal. We had a good rain on Friday, and that meant that some of the site & soil prep we had planned for Saturday would have to wait.
However, this past Saturday an incredible crew of community friends come out to The Farm to help get us one step closer.
Specifically, they help make a lot of progress on laying down a rock layer under the pole barn. This will serve as a solid surface for our wash stations, produce preparation, and cold storage that will soon be build on site. They help clear rocks from the north end of the field and ensure the chickens were all set.
We grabbed a little video from the day and got to hear from Hannah & Gary on what’s ahead plus from we had privilege of having Andy, Kari & their son come down to help us continuing clearing the north field.
We have purchased a few pieces of equipment that have finally arrived.
Our High Tunnel (Hoop House) arrived on Friday & we had planned to prep the site to install it; however, the ground was too wet from the rain the day before so that will have to wait until the next opportunity. We are really excited about the High Tunnel as this will be a significant step in extending our growing season. Once completed, it will serve as a greenhouse to allow more delicate plants to get started earlier in the season and protect them during the more extreme summer months.
For more information on how High Tunnels are used there is a great article from the University of Arkansas Department of Agriculture “Horticulturists focus on organic and high tunnel production systems.”
Additionally, we were able to purchase a “Plastic Mulch Bed Laying” attachment for the tractor (see example picture below). This will allow us to layout all the beds, weed control, and irrigation tapes with the tractor and save us a lot of time and energy that we can allocate towards putting more plants & seeds into the ground, produce harvesting & processing, and pest management.
As you can see, we’re hard at work getting ready for spring. However, we could not do it without the tremendous support of the community. You are all amazing!!!
We still have some Harvest Share Subscriptions available that will allow you to take home a portion of the harvest (this is how we cover our costs for seeds, fertilizers, water, etc. at The Farm), so you get fresh, local, sustainable food, and we get to give a whole lot of it away to those at risk for hunger in our community!
We have Spring Preparation Volunteer days scheduled every two weeks for the next month, so check out the calendar and come out and join us!