Emily’s “Why I Farm” Blog

If you receive our newsletter, you have already met our talented volunteer, Emily Sutherland. Though she’s been with us just a few weeks, the Farm School is her home now; she is one of us! This is her first blog … we asked her to share her journey to becoming a farmer…enjoy!

Self-sufficiency has always intrigued me. As a child, I would read with wonder how the Ingalls family would churn butter, build log homes and barns, and tap maple trees for syrup. I would play with my American Girl Doll, Kaya, learning how the Nez Perce valued their food so highly that they left not one piece of buffalo wasted after a hunt. 

Even the postman gets some maple candy!

My parents went along with my various escapades, running the stove for hours to boil down the sap I tapped from the maple tree in the front yard and building me a raised bed when I was seven. Looking back, the pride and confidence I build while growing my own food was crucial in my development. I would bring my maple candy (after boiling it past the point of syrup) to school and proudly watch my classmates devour it. I was contributing food to my family’s table, selling it at the end of my driveway for a few dollars, and learning to love nutritious food all the while. My garden gave me ownership and responsibility, and I loved it. 

I took a career class during my freshman year of college at American University. The professor had us write down our main interests and favorite activities as a child. “This,” she said, “is where you’ll find your passion. Turn that into a career and you’ll be all set.” I looked down at my list and realized I was going to be a farmer. 

Just kidding. 

I didn’t know what I could possibly do with a list consisting of “raising pet rabbits and chickens,” “tending to my garden,” “being outside,” and “meeting new people.” So I decided to enter the business school, figuring I could pretty much go any path with a business degree. After finishing a year early (thanks AP credits!), I decided to pursue my masters, also in the business school, but in a specialized Sustainability Management program. It was one year long, and since I’d already completed the basic business classes, I got to take a variety of electives. I took environmental science, conservation, and political ecology classes. These opened my eyes to the wide, messy, complicated world of food- growing it, importing it, genetically engineering it, distributing it, and so much more. The director of the program had studied agriculture herself and was the first person that encouraged me to pursue farming. Nobody I knew had viewed it as a viable life path before, even myself. Farmers were poor, relied on subsidies, and wrecked the environment, right? 

During my masters, I started reading and researching potential programs for aspiring farmers. As it turns out, there are hundreds of farmers looking for apprentices. They tote labels such as “regenerative,” “no-till,” and “organic.” They sell at farmers’ markets in the inner city and donate to food banks. They educate kids on how to eat healthily and encourage the next generation of farmers. Once I got a taste, I knew that’s where I’d be going after college. So in March, I’m headed to a farm in Shenandoah, Virginia, to work full time as an apprentice. 

That’s where Barrington Farm School comes in. I was raised in Barrington and figured it would be wiser to move home for a few months after graduation rather than working a low paying job while paying high rent in DC. I quite literally stumbled upon BFS while walking my dog (I don’t know why I hadn’t noticed it over breaks previously, I guess college kids are in a sleep-deprived daze when they return after exams). I met the amazing farmers that volunteer their time to make this farm happen and teach others the same skills that empowered me as a kid. The next day, I showed up and put in a few hours of work… and have come back every day since. 

(to be continued …)

final touch of well water after sowing lettuce varieties in Billy’s Place (Garden Bed)

Why Turnips

While turnips are not directly related to radishes, they seem to have a mild radish flavor without any of the spice.

Our Hakurei salad turnips are so tender, juicy, and delightful, you’ll become a fan instantly. And like many root vegetables (beet, radish) the greens are perfectly edible.

We’ll have a good amount of turnips this September, so take a try… they are great fresh (raw) or in soups or roasted.

Late Summer at BFS

Reflection sinks in deeply when August night’s cool settles the mind as it looks back at the fruits of summer

In this first spring-summer employing market garden and bio intensive planting techniques, we begin to recognize how the beauty of the craft is in the continuous practice of bed prep and seed sowing.

With each bed flip, prep and new plantings what we get beyond the produce is … knowledge.

This summer was a test to see if the lessons we read and viewed would come to fruition.

We’ve learned enough to get by and we remain humble in knowing there is still so much to learn.

While we kept it relatively simple, as far as variety of produce, we certainly recognize that as we scale up some next year and look to offer more variety, the farming will be more involved and the practice will take on another level of intensity.

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To that end, we’ll keep studying and work toward mastery of the craft, and listen to our customers, neighbors and friends.

This fall and winter will have a good and select harvest, with carrots, lettuce varieties, beets, kale and chard, radish, beans (plus a few others).

Then we prep many of the garden beds and land for next season – resting the soil so that it might nourish us again.

– Dan Penengo, 1848, 31.08.2019

Cover and Crop Planting

Late summer and fall opportunities for cover and fall planting serve as fundamentally essential moments too nourish, heal, and regenerate the soil-structure on the farm or in the garden.

We are sure to study best practice in the field, and share our vision and knowledge with visitors and volunteers.

Truly, our vision is yours. The more input and support in the region the greater the change.

If you’d like to volunteer or become an intern please email us barringtonfarmschool@gmail.com

See you at the farm.

Hello Tomatoes

August brings with it the first of our tomatoes. And the wait is worth every juicy bite. Though we would love to bring the succulent reds to the stand by early July, our story is one of patience and perseverance.

As we incorporate new methods for growing through organic practices, we first heal the soil and enrich it with certified compost and a cover crop rotation. For some of our fields, a three year cover crop rotation would be necessary.

However, we can improve the soil while still growing delicious veggies. We simply need patience.

While we know what we’re planning will take some time, we’re excited, as many of you are, about our progress.

This spring, summer and fall will be a mere sampling of what will be in store for the coming years at BFS. As the soil is nourished, so is our spirit to learn, and educate around healthy and sustainable living.

A Farm School … More Than a Farm

Often when folks stop in at the farm stand for the first time, they’ll ask “what’s in the name?”

Surely one of our board members/farmers will get long winded quickly about it and explain that while we’ve been doing it all as volunteers in this or first full year as a .org, we are a farm school because our mission asks us to educate with respect to all the farming we enjoy.

We strive to provide educational opportunities to the community with respect to sustainable farming and food practices while also being a space for the community to drop off food scraps, volunteer and learn what goes into farming using organic methods. From interns and youth groups, to local students or corporate outings, we invite anyone and everyone to come and learn with us.

It is important that we minimize our footprint. And locally produced and sourced food is one sure way of doing it.

We ourselves are always studying and learning from the best farmers around, through books and videos, and we want to pass along the knowledge we’re gaining.

So next time you stop in, ask one of us for a farm tour and we can offer you a bit of insight into what we do here at the farm school.

Cucurbit and Solanaceae

Mid and late July bring these families of fruit into hyper mode. We’re picking squash daily and the nightshades are really taking off– cucumbers and tomatoes are just about ready for market. Our pumpkin row is doing well and fall will be fun with a few pumpkins on the ground.

We’re excited to be able to offer these fruits and hope to expand these offerings next year. We expect an awesome selection of melons next summer plus a steady supply of summer squash and fruit.

As always remember to swing by the farm stand to meet the board and volunteers and pick up great produce and honey.

Saturday market opens @ 9 a.m. each week.

Spuds

We are trialing early (8 week), mid (10 week), and late (12 week) potatoes this year. Today we pulled our first plant and we found tubers … totally stoked for these. And easy to grow … a few weeks of pest control by hand eye coordination and we were all set …

Now we know we can grow potatoes here … love sandy soil helps.

Now, how shall we cook them?!

July at the Farm

July is here and it’s wondrous heat … we’ll get a beach day in there but early July means lots of transplanting of beets and beans and direct seeding of carrots and other crops for a successful fall harvest.

It’s peak season for vacation and holiday play and for us that means bucking down and fortifying our investments in the soil and our mission.

So much to come in the near and far .

Social Hour at the Farm

Every Wednesday evening we gather for farm chores and to socialize …volunteers, drinks, food, community. Meeting new people and building relationships is what we’re all about.