What is sustainable farming ?
Our mission: Sustainable agriculture integrates three main goals–environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity. It rests on the principle that we must meet the needs of today without compromising the ability of future generations of farmers to meet the needs of tomorrow. Sounds like a simple and straight forward approach. Keeping this principal in mind there are many things we do here on the farm to meet the goal of practicing sustainable farming. One component of our approach is the decision to use no- till planting when re-seeding our pasture and hay fields. No-till helps preserve the top-soil layer, while also combating against erosion. We use non-petroleum based fertilizers, opting to use composted manure and bedding from our barns. Soil sampling is done to provide us with the data we need to determine how much lime, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium are needed. The fields are also “fertilized” through the use of moveable electric fence. The fence is moved on a scheduled basis to provide fresh pasture for our sheep and goats. In return, they fertilize the pastures with their manure. Having two species of ruminants, sheep and goats, provides for a diversified grazing meaning each species grazes different plants within the pasture. The pasture is more uniformly grazed and utilized to the fullest extent possible.
Other farm practices working toward sustainability:
- We do business locally whenever possible keeping financial resources in the local economy.
- What grains we feed, and they are whole grains, come from another farmer less than 10 miles from our farm.
- Sheep are covered to keep fleeces clean. This means that it takes less energy, time and resources to process the fleece once sheared. Sheep covers are re-useable lasting 5 + years.
- Farm workers are paid above minimum wage.
- All animals have 24 hour access to pasture grazing unless confined for lambing, kidding or health reasons.
- Use of the internet for communication and marketing rather than print material sustains both financial and natural resources.
- Processing of animals for meat at an Animal Welfare Approved processing plant – Hilltown Pork Products in Canaan, NY.
The other huge component in our sustainability plan is alternative energy use. Our wind generator and solar panels produce 100% of the power consumed in farm production and in our residence. Any excess power is net-metered back to the power grid for use by other customers. In light of all the scientific evidence for global warming, the finite amounts of coal and gas resources and the nearing exhaustion of petroleum resources, alternative energy, in our opinion, is the hallmark of sustainability. More importantly, it is a NECESSITY that can not be overlooked by the average person. Solar power installations are becoming less expensive and much more within financial reach. Many states have matching grant programs for those interested in looking to alternative energy as a means to becoming less dependent on power derived from limited natural resources. Learn more about the alternative energy aspect of our farm here on the alternative energy page. We’ve also set up a Facebook page for owners of Gaia Wind Generators ( our wind turbine manufacturer).
This picture of a plaque placed at a wind turbine on Martha’s Vineyard sums up some of the attributes of wind energy.