Dear Friends of Many Hands,
We farmers are busier than one-armed paper hangers this time of year. And so, I suppose, are many of you. I hope this rapidly ending spring finds you well and in good spirits. I have to agree with Mary Remington, one of our new employees, who yesterday noted, “I am usually a pretty happy person, but these days I am happier than I can imagine.” Ed Go, another new employee says, “I am having more fun than any human being should be allowed.” One wonders what all of the components are that go into this ebullience regarding slogging through the rain, the heat, the sometimes mosquitoes, slipping in cow manure when one takes a misstep, staying one step ahead of the local rats, the hours of bending over, and working of a hoe with one’s head turned to the side, the machinery repairs, the hand-weeding . . . Well, I am not sure, but I think it has to do with the healthy air, the healthy soil, the happy animals (except for the rats), the camaraderie all day long, and the great food that we consume in large quantities here. Come on over and join us.
We are cutting off applications for the Summer CSA on Wednesday, June 5. You can get your order in via Paypal, by downloading a form from the website and sending in a check, using one of our paper forms you might have, or dropping by. We are close to full, and for the first time in years, we are not taking folks once the CSA has started. It is just too much of a logistical nightmare once we have started.
Jack finally gets Photo-Voltaic system
This has been a life long dream of Jack’s to get us hooked up to a PV system for our electricity. With a lot of help from grants and loans, we were able to work with Real Goods Solar to accomplish this project over a quick 2 weeks in May. Give Jack a call and he will be happy to spend time telling you how much he likes it. Our pigs like it too – they are living next door in the woods behind the orchard.
We are happy to report that all is well here on the farm. The layers and baby layers are out in the pond field, right next to the cows who are mowing the orchard for us. The pigs arrived this past week, and the baby meat birds will move out of their brooding house in the next couple of days to join the layers on the voluptuous pasture. We have postponed the delivery of our prospective cow – Daffodil – until early October. I breathe a sigh of relief on that one as work will have slowed a tad by then.
With help from our two consultants this year, Dan Kittredge and Derek Christianson, we have been able to upgrade the fertility and productivity scene another couple of notches this year. Derek’s fruit tree spraying protocol has netted us the largest fruit set I have seen. Even our Juneberry bushes are loaded. We succumbed to Dan’s love of rock dust and are shoveling the 24 tons on deep all over the farm, and finally have a solid drenching and foliar spraying regimen in place that we tend to regularly. The 4-6 inches of rain we got this week caused nary a waterlogged garden bed – that is a first time situation. The soil seems to be sucking it up and holding it nicely.
Our staff has evened off. Clare is the only one who is back with us this year, though we are in a regular consulting relationship with Brian. Jason counsels us bi-weekly from jail on mushrooms, drip systems, worm bins, and how to plant the spinach seedlings. And by the way, the shiitakes really love this weather. The spring CSA will get them in their bags this week – a first. Lindsay is a young UMass college student from around the corner, Nick also lives around the corner and is moving from being a welder in a factory all day to the glorious outdoors. Mary just finished art school and demonstrates her art in her beautiful tractor made beds. Ed is our resident mechanic, and go-to guy on all the un-ending repairs. This past week it was clear that the seven of us had hit our stride (including Jack and me). We hope to welcome Jason back in July.
Don’t forget to place your meat orders. Some stuff will run out before slaughter dates.
Misty Brook Compost
Katia and Brendan have left town and moved to Albion, Maine, but not before dropping off our 13 pigs. And Daffodil will come from them in the fall. They sold us some really nice compost last fall – part of the reason for the amazing soil quality this spring, I am sure. They have more for sale. Here is an ad – avail yourself:
Misty Brook Farm has composted farm yard manure for sale. Our compost was made with manure from our dairy cows and oat straw. We can deliver 20 yards for $1,000. Or you can pick up smaller quantities at the farm. Call Brendan for details: 978-257-0673.
We will miss these wonderful neighbors.
Worcester State University Credit Course
Jack and I are going to attempt to come off as experts again – this time as adjuncts for a WSU course this summer. You get college credit, and get to work and eat with us all weekend. What a deal! Here are the details:
WSU is partnering with NOFA to offer this 1-credit, hands-on, summer weekend course. Consider signing up. Make sure your friends and family know about it. This is a great opportunity to learn from the best!
GE 195 Special Topics: Organic Growing 101 (WSU Summer II)
1 credit weekend course at Many Hands Organic Farm in Barre, MA
July 13-14, 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
Julie Rawson, Executive Director, NOFA/Mass
Jack Kittredge, Policy Director, NOFA/Mass
(NOFA is the Northeast Organic Farming Association)
Description: Jack and Julie, who have owned and operated Many Hands Organic Farm for over 30 years, will combine hands on work with discussion of principles of organic growing. Besides participating in daily animal chores and one or two specific field tasks, the participants will harvest and prepare lunch on both days. Topics include sustainable farm systems, appropriate energy use, recycling and resource conservation.
Be part of building a sustainable food system here in Central Mass!
Pat Benjamin, Chair
Department of Physical & Earth Sciences
Worcester State University
486 Chandler Street
Worcester, MA 01602
508-929-8606 Office: ST 410M
Most inspirational movie of the past month
Jack and I enjoyed immensely the 2 part documentary of the Dust Bowl by Ken Burns. For me, I got reconnected to my relatives who were living variably in Wyoming and Iowa, and I also got a strong dose of American agricultural history that was previously a little sketchy. We will probably be seeking out more agricultural documentaries of the past century over the next weeks. Being a long-term part of the organic movement (now for about 43 years), I feel that this historical perspective is essential for me to be effective in today’s agricultural crisis. I am also enjoying William Albrecht’s Foundational Principles written over the period between 1919 and the early 50’s.
May you enjoy the advance into summer!