News From the Farm | May 20, 2013

Farms come in all different shapes and sizes.  Some farms are all business, geared up for production. These farms have few frills or folderol, and they’re efficient in their own way, which means their way of growing one or two crops. These farms figure they better be efficient because if they aren’t it’ll probably spell trouble down the road.  

In contrast, Full Belly Farm has never been efficient at growing one or two crops because we grow one or two hundred of them, and the facts about why and how we grow so many different things don’t come in a straight line. If you start to ask questions about the crops and their byproducts, the relation of one crop to another, the use of the crop on farm or off, or the ways that the pieces of the puzzle fit together, you are likely to be found quite a while later stewing in a tangled mix of philosophy, theory and straight-from-the-fields know-how. 

At Full Belly we’re so excited about diversity – like our mix of flowers, vegetables, fruits, nuts, herbs and animal products – that we have even taken to thinking about our interns as “crops of new farmers” and our hedgerows as a way to grow “crops of pollinating insects!” It seems as if the “efficiency” here is more about the way that one thing builds upon another and how the whole relies upon the parts, than it is about yield per acre.  However, it is hard to describe this clearly in the linear language of economics or agronomy where efficiency is usually measured in terms of the production of ONE crop per acre.

There are always times when the integration of the parts into a smoothly functioning operation will be tested and found wanting. The aphids will be out of control, as they were this spring. The Johnson Grass will take over a field of asparagus. We pick green garlic that the store sends back… Sometimes these misfires seem like the result of trying to do too many things at once, or a misbalancing of competing demands.  Maybe these misfires happen just as often on other farms, or maybe not, there are probably different challenges.

The philosophy at Full Belly, the ideal that we strive for, is that reading and responding to the signals becomes less the ongoing and constant job of the farmers and more of a natural process that builds upon itself, improves with experience and sustains itself over time. We welcome all of your feedback and comments, and we are always glad to answer any questions that come up around your table!  Blessings on your meals.

–Judith Redmond