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Days on the Farm

Posted by kevinwolz on March 25, 2010

I spent my first full day of spring break in Wisconsin hanging out with Mark Shepard at his New Forest Farm. The plan was just to see the famous place in person and really get a feel for the scale he’s working at over there. With nothing really green yet, it was easier to get a wider picture of the landscape and the intricate connections between areas of the farm. Everything there serves several purposes and is connected with everything else. The complexity and diversity of the systems there blew my mind.

New Forest Farm is based on permanent, perennial, forest agriculture, with the goal of “redesigning agriculture in nature’s image.” The farm is certified organic, and it just added a cidery and huge wind turbine to its arsenal. Major crops currently include chestnuts, hazelnuts, apples, and asparagus along with countless (literally–they have lost count–but we’re talking hundreds here) other supporting perennial and annual crops. The house is also uber sustainable and completely off the grid with several solar panels and a “mini” wind turbine. So many awesome ideas…so much REAL food! More to come on this place as I spend more time there over the summer and really learn how it all works.

Yesterday and today, I met up with Rob at Utopia. There was a long list of stuff to be done, so it was a great way to get a taste of everything and see some of the farm’s inner workings. Major activities included:

1)    Shredding pruned apple tree branches and soaking them in water to prepare for fungal inoculation. (The apple chips were beautiful and smelled soooo good! I’m going to try smoking some of them in the grill tomorrow as I make a steak!)

2)   Building a raised “lasagna” garden bed, including sifting some finished compost in an awesome homemade sifter.

3)   Weeding several beds of lettuce and carrots. The lettuce beds simply involved using a sharp hoe to chop and kill the weeds. The carrot beds, on the other hand, were a completely different story. The carrots have not yet popped through the soil, so basically anything seen growing in this bed is an obvious weed. However, pulling and/or hoeing the weeds would cause way too much disturbance to the carrots. Enter the flame weeder…okay basically a propane torch on a backpack. A few quick passes of the torch was enough to instantly desiccate and kill the weeds. The goal wasn’t to burn anything, just to blow up some cell walls. That’s farming!

4)   Getting some pointers on how to start my brassica seeds (container size, watering, seeding rate, and other care).

5)   Starting three flats of lettuce seeds (three different varieties!).


For dinner (and breakfast!), I was able to try a couple goose eggs from the farm. The first thing to note is that they were huge! I’d say about three regular chicken eggs could fit inside each. The shells are also much stronger and take a bit more to break. Once inside, I came upon this glorious yolk (yes, glorious…if you can’t tell, I love eggs) that was the diameter of a tennis ball and a deep orange color.  What a color! It’s obvious from the color alone just how healthy those geese (and their eggs) are.  The color of an egg yolk is a good indicator of the nutritional value of the egg, as most of the nutrients are contained within the yolk: more orange (as opposed to yellow) means the eggs are much better for you (higher good fats, lower bad fats, less cholesterol, more vitamins/minerals, etc.). This color change is usually indicative of free-range, omnivorous birds that get a healthy variety of food choices, just like the ones in any Utopia.


2 Responses to “Days on the Farm”

  1. Rick said

    Quite an impressive blog Kev. Makes me want to start my own. Which I might rather than writing my weekly updates. Just read all the articles today. It is the perfect match for me -Environment/Bio/Running awesomeness with a touch wit. I would like to think those categories were inspired by me. I Love it.

    I will be tuning in very often. You have just been favorited.

    • kwolz said

      You should definitely do it! It’s actually pretty fun and rewarding. Yeah, we are definitely two peas in a pod…and you are very much to blame for helping to forge those categories!

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