Slow Tractor Farm has had a season of lessons learned – read on for their new thoughts and ideas on crop rotation and intercropping…
At Slow Tractor Farm we had a great learning year in 2013 and are looking forward to using the lessons learned for a successful 2014. In 2013, we took on more acreage and tried planting several new grain crops, the main two being corn and soybeans. Although you wouldn’t think this to be a likely candidate of crops for us, we are an organic farm and need to plant other crops besides our beloved barley and wheat to combat disease, build soil fertility and promote biodiversity. Although we did our best, our yields were low on these crops, and the level of effort was high. However, in a year where much of the grain crop in the Northeast was affected by fusarium head blight (aka vomitoxin), our grain crop harvested well and yields were consistent with previous years.
Moving forward in 2014, our focus will be on increasing our small grains (wheat & barley) yields as well as being able to market our crops grown on GFN fields as certified organic. We are also trying to streamline our rotation to make it more suitable for our strengths of growing grains. One of the ways we are doing this is by working with other established organic vegetable growers, so we can integrate our crop rotation into theirs, similar to what we are doing with Crimson & Clover on the Main Field. On the East Field we will be working with a farmer to grow squash while we will be planting a crop of small grains on one of their former squash plots. This year, in addition to barley and wheat, we will be growing buckwheat and dried beans.
September 23, 2013
Leasing GFN’s East Field and also farming part of the Main Field under Crimson & Clover’s management, Slow Tractor Farm attained official organic certification this month on Grow Food Northampton’s East Field. Congratulations!
Farmer Christian Stanley harvested winter barley and winter wheat from both fields this summer with decent to good yields. He intersowed clover on the East Field in March and will now leave it in clover for the remainder of the year, while inviting Mockingbird Farm to graze cattle, further enhancing soil fertility. Currently, STF has a corn crops maturing on the Main Field. Once the corn is harvested Mockingbird Farm will unleash a drove of pigs on the field to uproot the corn stalks and enjoy what remains of the corn harvest. When Crimson & Clover finishes harvesting its sweet potatoes from the main field STF will be planting a winter grain crop, still to be determined between barley, wheat or rye. In the spring we will be plowing the now corn field for either a edible or soy bean crop. STF sells its crops to various markets: To Valley Malt, it sells barley, corn and wheat for malting; to Mockingbird Farm, it sells feed grains; to a new collaborative grain CSA, NOGMO, it sells grains directly to consumers.
Welcome Slow Tractor Farm!
Last spring, Grow Food Northampton inked a three-year lease of it’s 10-acre “East Field” to Slow Tractor Farm, owned by Andrea and Christian Stanley of Hadley, MA. Andrea & Christian are better known for their successful young business, Valley Malt, that malts locally-grown barley to sell to local breweries. Slow Tractor Farm grew oats, wheat, & barley on the East Field and Main Fields of the Northampton Community Farm.
In 2010 Andrea and Christian Stanley started Valley Malt in Hadley, MA. When they discovered that all malt being used by craft breweries came from thousands of miles away, they committed to “bring the malthouse back” to a local level.
It’s been a wild ride to try to start a new agricultural based business in tough economic times but the response from farmers, to brewers, to beer drinkers has been positive! Their business is growing every day and so are more and more barley fields in New England.
Andrea and Christian also started growing barley in 2010 in order to bring back heirloom varieties and trial newer varieties that would grow well in Massachusetts. It has been many decades since malting barley was last grown in Massachusetts. With little background in farming, Christian & Andrea rely on the mentoring of more experienced farmers in the region. They are very passionate about barley and organic growing practices and are thrilled to have been offered an opportunity to expand their barley farming to the East Field through Grown Food Northampton.