Tired of lettuce which expires so quickly in plastic bags from the grocery store? Wish you knew the origins of your peas, strawberries, beans and other produce?
Honey Brook Organic Farm on the Watershed Reserve sells fresh vegetables, herbs, and flowers that connects families with where their food is grown. The farm also educates people about local, sustainable practices.
The privately run farm has showcased successful soil and water management practices, as well as the viability of organic farming, on about 80 acres of land they lease from us, said Jim Waltman, executive director of The Watershed Institute.
Farmer Jim Kinsel and his partner, Sherry Dudas, have run the farm since 1991. They sell fresh, organic produce annually from May to November to about 3,200 shareholders through their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.
As pioneers in this region for the CSA model, members pay a flat rate for the growing season and bring home weekly shares of the farm’s bounty. The CSA model is a way for locals to support farmers and share in the upcoming harvest, while giving the farmer a reliable source of income early in the season to help them buy seeds, supplies, and equipment.
Unlike produce from a grocery store, the CSA produce is harvested just hours before weekly pickups, which maximizes taste and nutrition. Alongside old favorites, CSA members are introduced to new varieties that bring exciting opportunities in the kitchen.
Sherry anticipates Opening Day will be around Memorial Day this year.
As certified organic farmers, Sherry said the farm has regular oversight from inspectors with the state Department of Agriculture. Their farming practices conform to the National Organic Program.
They don’t use pesticides, fertilizers or other chemicals, which means runoff from the farm isn’t tainted with chemicals. Instead, they fertilize their fields with compost made mostly from leaves gathered by nearby municipalities. They carefully irrigate their fields with water conservation practices in mind.
“On the Watershed, we’ve been doing soil and water conservation since the mid-1990s. There may be swales and waterways that might need to be reconditioned because they’ve been out there for so long,” Sherry said. “With global climate change, we’re getting rain events that are dumping more water. It is time to reassess what is working and not working. What is exciting is we are getting better information from extension agencies on cover crops.”
One such innovation is the Rodale Institute’s recommendation to plant a cover crop of Sudan grass, which isn’t attractive to Canada Geese, and helps control erosion.
“We are continuing to improve our irrigation practices so we’re using less water during the growing season,” Sherry said. “We’ve been taking more acreage out of production and leaving the cover crops lay longer to help recondition the soil and keep the soil in place and out of the streams.”