Tuesday, April 13, 2010

April Crop Mob at The Good Life Farm- Recap & Photos!

Thanks to Matt Stillerman for the great photos!

"The diligent farmer plants trees, of which he himself will never see the fruit." — Cicero

On a sunny Sunday morning in early spring, the Ithaca Crop Mob assembled (for the first time!) at The Good Life Farm in Interlaken, NY. The feeling in the air was one of excitement, optimism, and energy- and a bit of nervous anticipation about how our first mob- and a full day mob at that- was going to be!

Some of us came early, carpooling with neighbors and new friends. Others brought their families or a buddy or two. We had an unexpectedly high turnout- it was really inspiring! The weather was perfect- clear blue skies, bright sun, and a pleasant wind greeted us as we congregated in front of Melissa and Garrett's barn to learn about our task: planting apple trees.

The Good Life Farm's philosophy- guided by permaculture teachings and low-fossil fuel practices- is based on cultivation of perennials, season extension through high tunnels, and solar- and animal-powered energy. Since they began in 2009, Melissa and Garrett have already set up a yurt, a barn (with storage cellar in the basement), movable high tunnels for greens, and pastures for their horses. They've also begun their asparagus, which is beginning to poke up through the ground in many places.

Our task was to continue the planting with apple trees- over a hundred, of several different varieties. Many of us had never planted a tree before, and were given an outstanding lesson in tree grafts, soil amendments (mycorrhizal fungi and rock phosphate), and proper hole-digging, root-trimming, and tree-straightening procedures. We spent the morning digging and working in pairs to plant the first rows of trees, taking our time with each one to ensure that its new life on the farm would be off to a good start. We got to know each other pretty quickly, and by lunch, everyone had made a few new friends.


 Lunch, graciously provided by our farmers, was a delicious buffet of plenty, including (but not limited to) lentils, rutabaga-carrot mash, hummus, freshly cut apple slices, bread and cheese, and a wonderful salad mix just harvested by Melissa that morning. After a morning of hard work, our stomachs were extremely grateful for the sustenance. Some of us gathered in the sun and ate on blankets, picnic-style; others enjoyed the shade of the barn's awning. We also announced our next crop mob- Kestral Perch Berries at Ecovillage in Ithaca!

In the afternoon, we got back into the rhythm of planting and hole-digging, joined by several new faces and eager hands. Some of us split off to receive a crash course in irrigation from Melissa. We all got to know each other a little better, and talked about our motivations, our interest in agriculture, and about why we came out to the crop mob. The Good Life Farm saw an extremely wide variety of people that day-- people from all ages and walks of life. What we all had in common was a love for the land and for our neighbor, and an appreciation for being outside on a beautiful day and using our hands. 

At around 3:30 we stopped, stretched, regrouped, and surveyed our work. We'd accomplished an incredible amount- only one row of holes and just a few rows of trees were left, to be saved for Melissa and Garret for another day. Walking back through the rows, picking up stray tools and gloves, you could never have guessed that many of us hadn't even planted a tree before. Each tree looked happy and perfectly oriented, firmly set into the soil, the rootstock perpendicular to the ground.

To conclude the day, Melissa and Garrett gave us a tour of the farm, talking more about their mobile high tunnels (wheels and tracks allow horses to pull these hoophouses from point A to point B) and the role of animals on their farm. Their dogs serve as a deer deterrent; horses pull tractors, move high tunnels, and mow pastures. Having horses, they've found, seems to draw other animals into the speculative plans of the farm. Cattle could eat the grasses that are too tall for horses to eat effectively; chickens could pick bugs out of dung to control the pest population. "We're still planning on planting hazelnuts and more apple trees next year- so you guys are coming back!" Melissa laughed.

By the end, we were exchanging contact information and invitations to visit at places of work and programs of interest. 

"See you at the Farmer's Market!"

"Come visit me at the restaurant!" 

"Will you be at the next Crop Mob?"

Thanks to everyone who came out- we'll do it again soon!

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