NEW FARMER JOURNAL: Sol-e-Terre Farm, Suffield CT

Ready for spring
Negotiating a manageable farm plan, ‘organic’ red tape, and a firm deal with neighboring help.

By Daniel Duesing

Farm-At-A-Glance

Sol-e-Terre Farm
Suffield, Connecticut

Farmers: Daniel and Bethany Duesing

First season: 2004

What they raise: Pastured poultry, pork, beef, dairy products, some mixed vegetables

Marketing strategies: Farmers’ market

March, 2005. Every year it seems that Groundhog Day is the turning point in both the weather and my desire to put seeds in the soil. This year the weather had a different idea, but the seeds have found their way to the soil just the same.

As we finalize plans for the coming season, we are struggling to balance maximum profit from our small acreage with maintaining our sanity. This year we are focusing on increasing our presence at farmers markets. This will include our eggs, numerous greens, and hopefully a great variety of flowers. Hopefully, transplants will help us hold our own at the early markets, and the tomatoes won’t be far behind.

One problem that we face marketing is that we can’t be certified organic. The year before we moved here, the farmer who had been haying our field applied synthetic fertilizer. So now our chickens and pigs could be certified as long as they remain in the hoop house or barn on a bed of our hay, but the second we move them out onto that same grass while it is growing they can no longer be considered organic. We are exploring the Farmer’s Pledge and Certified Naturally Grown as alternatives, though it would be nice to be able to capitalize on the cache which organic has attained before it is completely destroyed by the corporate interests.

Even though it is now the second week of March, the ground is still covered with a blanket of snow. As soon as the ground thaws I hope to plant a cover crop of oats and peas to hold the soil through the spring rains. I think its important to make a firmer commitment with our neighbor regarding the tractor work, even if it requires more money up front. Knowing that the help will be there when we need it will be a great asset in planning the season.

In the greenhouse our early brassicas have broken free of their seed coats and are growing nicely. Our first planting of peas, also in the greenhouse, are just pushing out of the ground. This year we are growing three colors of cauliflower, four varieties of broccoli, several budding greens and three kales. Last fall we harvested some of our soybeans as edamame; they were fantastic, so this year we plan on planting them intentionally for that purpose. One thing is sure: No matter what the ledger says, we will eat very well this year.

Happy Equinox!