The Youth Agriculture Project uses organic practices to grow and harvest vegetable, herb, and berry crops on our 1-acre field, in our greenhouse, and in small surrounding gardens. In 2009, we grew over 1,000 pounds of produce and donated more than half of it. During the Summer Work and Learn program through July and August, the youth workers on our farm practice customer service by selling the produce they grow at the Brattleboro Farmers' Market. They also pack up and deliver the vegetables to local hunger relief organizations, such as the Brattleboro Drop In Center, Grace's Kitchen, The SE VT AIDS Project, and the Vermont FoodBank.
- Tilling - We till our main 1-acre field, but maintain a no-till children's garden. One of our favorite techniques is called "Lasagna Gardening" -- instead of noodles, sauce, and cheese, we covered the area with wet newspapers, peat moss, moldy hay, mulched leaves, and home-made compost. These layers will decompose with the help of worms, bacteria, and other small animals over the winter. In the spring, the layers will be a deep rich soil, full of nutrients and perfect for planting in! To learn more about this technique, check out the book Lasagna Gardening: A new layering system for bountiful gardens by Patricia Lanza.
- Soil additives - Instead of synthetic fertilizers, we use natural fertilizers such as bone meal, blood meal, and soy meal to add nutrients to our soil. We use additives like limestone to change the pH of our soil where it is too acid and pine needles where it is too base or alkaline.
- Pest control - We do not use any synthetic pesticides on our farm and our major method of evading pests is simply our hands! Every year we deal with Japanese Beetles, Tomato Hornworms, Aphids, and Cucumber Beetles, but our crops don't mind as long as we are sure to pick or rub them off as soon as they are sighted. If we have a severe problem with a certain insect, we will use a fermented chrysanthemum spray, which is an organic, but still poisonous, pesticide. We are always sure to wash our vegetables very carefully.
- Heating greenhouses is one of the major energy draws on a farm. We have a propane heater for our greenhouse to keep seedlings warm, since we start planting in the early spring. We also use a corn stove, which works just like a pellet stove, but burns seed corn which we buy from a nearby farm. This natural source of energy helps us reduce our use of fossil fuels.
- Although we emphasize hand tools and minimal tillage, larger machinery is sometimes needed. We fuel our Ford 1310 tractor with B100 (100% biodiesel) when the weather gets warm enough, and B20 in spring and fall.
Last modified February 24 2011 10:28 AM