i’m not sure if i’ve pointed out before how critical eliot coleman’s books are to my entering the profession of farming. i’m certainly not alone, his book the new organic grower is on the book shelf of nearly every organic vegetable farmer, and his methods are considered among the most innovative. his book was one of the first farming books that i really found useful – and i read a lot, sorting though nearly every book on organic farming in my local library before finally stumbling upon the super useful tome. while the book itself was very useful, it was the cover photo that really inspired me. which can be viewed here. here is man standing in his field admiring his crop, wind tossed hair, a bounty in his hands, tool at the ready, comfortable and clean cloths, and a smile on his face.
this is what i wanted to do – this is how i wanted to spend my days – standing out in the field and looking at stuff.
in spite of the reality check that there was lots of dirt, sweat, and no money involved in this line of work, i was hooked by the time i realized all that.
i was lucky enough to get to spend a couple of days with eliot when he did a two-day workshop at work last summer. i very much enjoyed his stories and recommendations – and he was quite a character in person. while talking with him i realized that his maine farm was not too far from where my mother and aunts always vacation in the summer. when ma figured this out she figured she could use this as leverage to get me to finally take a summer trip to visit maine after years of threatening to take her.
she was right. and with that in mind saturday’s big adventure was to find eliot’s farm – 4 season farm.
the farm was open to poke around whenever the farm stand was open. i figured if they had a farm stand that they must be on a busy road, but that assumption was quickly brought to a halt as we seemed to turn onto smaller and smaller roads until we were on a one lane dirt road in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere to me.
even though it was in the middle of nowhere they seemed to be doing brisk business, several groups of folks coming in and making purchases while we were there. ma and i wanted to poke around every nook and cranny of the place – while my aunts and mother where over it pretty quick. but i did warn them that i was going to want to spend a good amount of time looking around. they took off and we carried on.
one thing i was stuck by was just how neat the fields were and how well tended. everything really was in straight as could be rows, and cultivated about as clean as could be. i’ve often wondered if all the photos of his farm where staged, and they quickly got out and cleaned everything up before taking photos. as an illustration of just how neatly everything was i took this photo of a recently prepared set of beds.
i feel a little bit better about the standards i keep, i always feel as though i am asking to much of people to have the beds in really good shape with very fine seed beds.
among the more unusual crops being grown are the artichokes – which were for sale. why didn’t we buy any? we can only eat so much stuff in the next couple of days.
also very interesting where these chicken tractors – in a design i’ve not seen before. several aspects of them made them very sensible, though it did require the addition of an electric fence. these look much easier to move and lighter weight than other designs i have seen. they do not sit on the ground, but are set up on bike wheels. this means they don’t have to be dragged across the field but can relatively easily be rolled to a new place. it also strikes me as less potential for chicken injury, as their legs often get stuck under the tractor as you try to move them. since they do not sit on the ground the chickens can get under them during the day and get plenty of shade. also because the bottom of the tractor sits of the ground and has chicken wire mesh it means that at night when they are roosting they don’t end up pooping all over the floor, it falls to the ground.
i also spent a bit of time poking around the mobile farm stand – note the license plate, it’s says vgtbls. i would have liked to open the farm stand and take photos of the construction so perhaps we could build one, but everyone seemed very busy, and i didn’t want to be a bother. i did spot mr. coleman out in the fields – we complemented him on the quality of the farm and gave him a t-shirt from work as a souvenir of when he taught at there. he had nothing but kind words to say about detroit and the work being done their. glad to have another cheerleader for detroit.