Thursday, June 4, 2009

Opening Week




Eleven students arrived on June 1st to begin a 77 day intensive Sustainable Agriculture Semester. Joined by five faculty and four academic interns, the students will immerse themselves in the daily rituals of managing the farm and gardens at Sterling; livestock and garden chores coupled with intense classroom sessions focused around our theme: Conscious Farming in the New Economy.

Each morning, students rise and are working by 6:30, crews are at the farm feeding our current load of animals (lambs, heifers, cows, beef steers, poultry, horses and oxen), moving fences, or building projects in preparation for the arrival of poultry (100 meat birds, 25 turkeys, and 50 barred rock laying hens) and 15-20 lambs; or, working in the gardens where seedbed preparation and transplanting are in full swing. This summer, we are expanding our small grain operation to include nearly an acre of wheat, oats, and rye. With the construction of our new bread oven, we are hopeful to offset our dependence on outside sources for flour.

The draft horses are in full operation finishing primary tillage responsibilities and beginning to cultivate young crops. Students are split between horse power and mechanical (tractors) systems to learn what type of motive power system is best applied to a specific farm application.

One large project, the development of an improved compost system, is in full swing as compost bins are being constructed next to each six garden sites. Our potting mix for next season is nearly finished with the active stage of composting and will be set aside for curing--this took only 21 days with our new bin system!

Permaculture projects are emerging in preparation for the Permaculture Design Principles course taught by Keith Morris of Prospect Rock Permaculture. Students are already looking at our landscape and brainstorming ideas for their projects.

Food, as always at Sterling, has been wonderful--localvores are in culinary heaven as Mary (our cook extradonaire), interns, and students prepare delicious meals for our nourishment.

2 comments:

Ethan H. Darling said...

OK.. What is the deal with the photo showing a thermometer in the ground/soil/compost? And why is it reading 136ºF ?

Rick Thomas said...

In the active stage of composting, temperatures can easily attain 140-170 degrees, this is beneficial to destroy unwanted bacteria, severely damage or destroy most weed seeds, and decrease the population of parasites. We like to see our compost cook!