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  • Stephanie McMahon

Farming as relationship


When a guest first arrives at Gould Farm, they have a choice as to which work team they will join. A combination of factors influence their decision, but the most important factor is finding out what lights up their sense of curiosity.


We ask each guest: what are you interested in doing with your hands? What work would give you the greatest sense of purpose? Do you want to work with animals, plants, bread dough, trees, or ingredients?


In offering this choice from day one, we center the guest in relationship with their environment. The message is subtle and has been at the core of our work for over 100 years: every individual who is a part of this community has a purpose.


Whether you’re the guest who fills the half-gallon milk jugs, washes the kale, makes the lentil dahl, refills the napkin boxes, stacks wood in the Sap House, or shapes bagels, your work is integral to the smooth running of this community.


As guests settle into their work here, mastering new skills and building relationships with people, animals, plants, and land, they hopefully begin to see all the ways they are connected, needed, and appreciated. Hence our tagline, harvesting hope, promoting recovery.


In this winter 2022 edition of our newsletter, we focus on the Garden Team and Farm Team, taking a look at the ways they blend agricultural practices with work program to create opportunities for deep connection and healing.

Ask anyone what they love about Gould Farm, and you will get a beautiful variety of answers. Ask those same people what Gould Farm would be without our connection to this 700-acre landscape of pastures, forests, and fields, and you’ll get a lot of head scratching!


If this community is like a tree, and the branches and blossoms are the many individuals who spend time here, then the roots are our close connection to the life cycles of plants and animals.


Working in close relationship with that life cycle is a daily occurrence for Matthew and Mel, farm manager and garden manager respectively.


For Matthew and the farm team, the life cycle of grass in our pastures informs the movements of the dairy and beef herds through deliberate rotational grazing plans. And the health of those grasses and cattle influence the nutrient density of the milk, cheese, and yogurt produced in our creamery for community consumption. Food is one of those things that brings people joy and the quality of the food we eat matters. It all begins with caring for the grasses our cows consume and ends in our dining room.

Rotational grazing is the practice of moving animals through pasture to improve soil, plant, and animal health. Resting grazed paddocks allows forage plants to recover and deepen their root systems.

For Mel and the garden team, one could say the life cycle begins with the compost that is delivered from our kitchen to the worm bins at the garden. The industrious appetites of our red wiggler worms convert compost quickly into a probiotic soil-like substance that is used to inoculate the garden with a microhabitat of helpful bacteria. That helpful bacteria, alongside strategically planted cover crops, strengthens our topsoil and allows the garden to use no-till practices, encouraging deep roots for our produce and discouraging the growth of weeds.

No-till practices allow the soil structure to stay intact and protect the soil. This leads to retention of nutrients, better absorption of rainwater, and the flourishing of beneficial microorganisms, fungi, and bacteria - which are all critical to soil health.

The variety of innovative farming and gardening techniques our teams employ are based on a reciprocal relationship with the land and animals. This ethos of sustainable stewardship permeates our work teams because of something we all know to be true: healing and growth are not linear and can’t be rushed.

Whether you endeavor to heal the land or heal yourself, the possibility for healing and growth happen best when a combination of rest and activity, addition and subtraction, and individual and collective efforts are taking place within a given cycle. At Gould Farm, the cows and the plants are there to keep us company and teach us all what it takes to have deep roots, rich soil, and a strong sense of belonging and purpose.

 

Help save us 1,000 hours!

In 2023, the Garden Team plans to double their worm composting (vermiculture) enterprise. We will need to invest in a $5,000 worm harvester to keep up with our doubled efforts. This harvester will save no less than 1,000 hours of painstaking work separating worms from matter. If you are interested in supporting this, please contact executive director, Lisanne Finston, at LFinston@GouldFarm.org
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