Food Trail Map For Cortland County Capstone – Maria

Developing a Capstone Project and A Food Trail Map For Cortland County – by Maria

Discovering my capstone project was my first task, a project all on its own, which entailed determining what I was interested in and what was available for me to work on.  Unlike my fellow students who undertook more manual labor oriented projects, I decided I preferred the more cerebral, food systems side of our program. In fact, what originally sparked my interest in sustainable farming and local food was the discovery while living in Maryland that raw milk was in fact illegal to buy in that state, a food I was raised on here in NY. I wondered how something as simple as a food choice could be legislated, and what other issues our industrial food system has created for nourishing food procurement.

Food Trail Map of Cortland County
Draft Food Trail Map of Cortland County

I had always been interested in farmers markets, which I saw as a means to opt out of the industrial model by allowing producers to sell directly to consumers. My initial ideas led me to interview Becca Rimmel, a market manager for the Ithaca Farmers Market, as well as preliminary planning to attend the Farmers Market Federation of NY 2016 NYS Farmers Market Managers Conference and/or begin the FMM Pro: SUNY Farmers Market Managers Professional Certification Program.  But when I heard there was discussion of a potential indoor, year-round farmers market in Cortland County, I hoped that capstone project idea would to fruition over any of the other ideas.

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Dry Farming, Weeding, and Sticky Traps – Student Post

Dry Farming, Weeding, and Sticky Traps – Student Post By Maria

With the 2016 season well underway, many of the tasks on the TC3 Farm revolve around giving the plants a helping hand, the backbone of being a farmer.  As Todd mentioned in his CSA newsletter this week, our area has been upgraded to a “severe” drought; a big problem here because we mostly practice dry farming. But the plants need water, so I have been lucky enough to have the role affectionately titled Crop Savior. (watering picture) The past few weeks it was an arduous process that involved filling many 5-gallon buckets and trucking them to the field from the barn because the field does not have a water source yet, then using watering cans to get the water to the plants. Water Tank This required a team of people as a couple people filled buckets, while a couple more did the actual watering.  In the aforementioned newsletter, Todd shared the news we were gifted with a very large water tank that fills up the whole of the truck bed. (I was remiss in getting a picture of the tank like I’d hoped)  It has no pump, so it uses gravity to move the water, so our field being on a slope is a good thing in this regard.  While it is a slow flow from the tank out of the hose and it can be a lonely one-person job, the tank lasts for hours before needing a refill!  It’s almost a meditative job, so I rather enjoyed the watering shifts.

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This week on the TC3 Farm – Student Post by Maria

This week on the TC3 Farm we were engaged in various activities including harvesting lettuce, seeding, cultivation, broadforking, rock picking, and the final work on the crop rotation plan.  These tasks are all from different stages of the planting process, starting with getting the soil ready to plant which includes picking rocks out of the beds and broadforking.

Broadforking
Broadforking the Hoophouse Beds

For those not familiar, a broadfork is a wonderful tool for tilling and aerating garden beds by hand.  It consists of 5 metal tines, 8-12” inches long, spaced a few inches apart on a horizontal bar, with two handles extending upwards to chest or shoulder level, forming a large U-shape, like a pitchfork on steroids.  It is designed to use your body weight to insert and maneuver the tool instead of your back and arms.  You stand on the tool, gently rocking and wiggling the tool to work the tines into the ground. Then pull back on the handles using your weight and the tool’s leverage. Your motion is a natural pulling and pushing, instead of bending and lifting.  I found that you do need to use a fair amount of upper body strength to maneuver it properly, but my weight was a great benefit and certainly helped where I lacked in strength.

Removing Rocks
Removing Rocks from the Beds

The benefits to broadforking are numerous.  For one, as a hand tool, it requires no dependence on fossil fuels nor the noise, pollution and compaction that results from using power equipment.  The long tines allow for deep loosening of the soil to improve aeration and drainage, both important for growing healthy plants.  The rocking motion of the tool allows you to break up and loosen the subsoil with minimal turning, which leaves the topsoil on top where it belongs, and minimizes destruction of soil structure.  This is important as the topsoil is the layer with the most organic matter and the available nutrients plants need to grow.  And oddly enough, we found broadforking helpful in removing large rocks found below the surface of the soil, so we were rock picking at the same time!

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