Day One of being Farmers
Bundled up with hats and scarves we braved the cold, Easterly wind today to break ground on our new plot; Sunny Corner. It was a tough day, shifting great clods of earth around and, as I type this, sat in front of our wood-burner, my fingers are still tingling from the cold.
We’ve been dreaming of setting up a small market-garden business for the last couple of years and over the last 6-months we’ve planned out how to make that dream come to life. Our rented 1-acre plot will, hopefully, be a great addition to the local food system; producing ‘veganic’ ‘no-dig’ veggies and flowers for local restaurants, health-food shops and to sell at farmers markets.
Today’s task, though, was to prepare our site. Old-growth pasture presents some challenges in the form of well-established perennial weeds and, in our case, the site is also lumpy and uneven which can make it hard to work - or even walk - on!
We decided to follow the no-dig approach we’ve used in our allotment, but with a twist that involves a little digging at the very start to get things going. We were inspired by information we found on the zerodig.earth website. We layed out cardboard in 50’ x 2’6” strips to suppress the pasture, with a 1’ path between each strip. Then, our neighbour from across the valley, Mark, helped us to dig about 4’ - 5’ depth of turf out of the paths using a mini-digger, and then flip that upside-down on top of the cardboard strips.
The advantage of this method is that it gives instant raised beds which suppress the perennial weeds in the growing area, removes the weedy pasture from the paths, and the hope is that flipping what comes out of the paths will kill off most of the grass and perennials all while maintaining as much soil structure as possible on the growing strips themselves.
Today we managed to almost complete six 50’ beds before we (or should I say, I) ran out of steam. Day One of being a farmer was overall a great success, but it’s clear I’ve got some strength and stamina to build after a decade working desk-based jobs, and relying on Rich to do the back-breaking jobs at our allotment.