Category Archives: Farming

Introducing the Word of Mouth Market

The Word of Mouth Market is now open for business!

The Word of Mouth Market is now open for business!

First some rumor control: While it is true that I have given notice and will be moving my Genesee Graphics business out of its current location by the end of the month, I am not going out of business! I have been looking for a better location for the past 6 months, and am currently talking to one local landlord about a possible Main Street location. If that doesn’t work out, I may temporarily run the business from home until I find the right location.

The reason I need a new location is that I want to combine a farm market in the same location with the graphics business and therefore need a more visible and accessible location. I have planted around three acres of vegetables this spring and that is a lot more than I can eat myself! By combining the businesses I can save on labor costs by having one person supervise both operations.

I am not a big fan of self-service farm markets having tried that route with Strong’s World of Pumpkins in Caledonia for many years. Although 99% of people are honest and many will overpay for their produce, such operations inevitably attract thieves who will figure out a way to break into or carry off your money box. No fun!

In the mean time, however, since the early crops are coming in, I have opened a small self-service stand on the farm. (See picture.)  The “Word of Mouth Market” will not be publicly advertised other than through this column, Facebook and e-mail. I am not looking to do a high volume business at this location for obvious reasons.

If you have heard about the market from any of these sources, or by word of mouth, you are welcome to come down the driveway and check it out. Currently we have some tasty snow peas, a good selection of lettuce and greens and some of Miss Amy’s flowers at reasonable prices. All produce has been grown without chemical herbicides or pesticides, although I have not registered as an official organic farm. (See my previous column for a discussion of that.) I have also installed a small refrigerator to keep some of the tender produce cool until you get there.


P.S. Thanks to my daughter Corinna for the fancy sign!

Free Soil Farm

A few weeks ago, I introduced the Free Soil Community Garden by offering 7 free garden plots to members of the community. Six of those plots were taken and have been planted by local families and I took one back to make room for my own asparagus patch and some edamame.

Now a little more about what is going on outside the garden fence. I have decided to call my new farming venture “Free Soil Farm.” As mentioned in the previous column, this is a hat tip to General Wadsworth, who built the Hartford House in 1835 and was one of the founders of the Free Soil Party in the 1840s.

The Free Soil Party was adamantly opposed to the expansion of slavery into the western states and their candidates ran under the banner,  “Free Soil, Free Speech, Free Labor and Free Men.” After putting up 3rd party candidates for President in 1848 and 1852, they merged into the newly formed Republican Party in 1854.

Of course there is another meaning to Free Soil and one that is probably more important to those of you who I hope will someday soon be eating some of our produce. It is my goal to make the soil of my farm as free as possible of agricultural chemicals.

This is not to say that my farm will be certified organic, at least not in the first few years. Organic certification is a state-regulated designation that prohibits a laundry list of chemical herbicides and pesticides as well as most manufactured fertilizers. Having farmed commercially before, I know just how hard it may be to produce a decent crop under such restrictions, especially on an old pasture that to my knowledge has never been farmed.

That is not to say I have been busy dosing the land with chemicals. The bulk of the 5 acres that has fallen to the plow so far has not seen any herbicide. I did spray one acre of the grass with a generic version of Roundup just to hedge my bets, but that land is only going into a cover crop this year.

For the time being, I will try to make due with mechanical cultivation to keep the weeds at bay. To that end I have recently purchased a new Kovar tine cultivator and a used Lilliston rolling cultivator. I only bought new, because the tine cultivator is a rather new adaption of the old spring harrow concept and there are just not many used units around.

The Lilliston, which features gangs of rolling “spyders”, has been around for decades in conventional agriculture, however, that tool as well as most mechanical cultivators are being used less on conventional farms because of the growing trend to incorporate herbicide-resistant genes into crop seeds.

For that reason, I was able to buy a 6-row unit, which probably originally retailed for over $10,000, for just $450. Of course that unit was in Michigan, but even with $500 of trucking it is still a bargain. No, I am not planning to use a 6-row planter (please shoot me if start thinking big again!) The plan is to break the unit up into three 2-row cultivators. That way I can have different configurations for different crops without having to constantly readjust the rig.

I am not a true believer on the evils of conventional fertilizers either. I know some organic farmers go to great pains to only used “approved” sources for their NPK. In my view nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus are all natural elements, and with my soil test results showing large deficiencies, I will take the cheapest source I can find.

I do plan to make full use of my locally-available manure supply to cook up some mean compost, however, that is a long-term project. In the meantime, I want to have decent yields, so I have supplemented the manure with conventional fertilizers. Note: This does not apply to the garden area which has seen only natural compost and lime.

According the National Organic Farming laws and regulations, land must be kept clear of all banned herbicides and fertilizers for two years before it can be certified organic. That means the earliest I could certify the Free Soil Farm would be 2012. We’ll see…