Northland Sheep Dairy Field Trip

Northland Sheep Dairy Farm Tour – Student Post by Ben

As part of TC3’s integrated pest management (IPM) program for the summer of 2017, the class went on a field trip to Northland Sheep Dairy. Located in Marathon NY, amidst beautiful hilly countryside, Northland is “a 100% grass-fed seasonal sheep dairy powered by draft horses & mules and some committed, hard-working farmers,” to quote their website’s welcome page, which you can find at www.northlandsheepdairy.com. We were joined by a class from Binghamton University Acres Farm and the VINES program from Binghamton, and we made for a very large group altogether.

Draft Horse Northland Sheep Dairy
Draft Horse at Northland Sheep Dairy

We were introduced to the farm by Northland Sheep Dairy co-owner Donn Hewes, the man with a passion for and in charge of the draft animals used for power in the fields and property. He showed us the barn where the animals are kept and explained a bit about the nature and nurture of these horses and mules. These included Percheron and Belgian varieties of draft horses, and Suffex mules and Cleveland Bay mule crosses.

It was a treat to be able to see an operation that implements work animals on a farm, as we have learned that there are a variety of benefits of an integrated farming system. The horses and mules not only provide work in return for calories taken directly from the farm they live on (in grass and hay) but also cycle those nutrients through their manure, and reduce the need for external sources of energy (diesel for tractors, grain based feeds). The horses and mules are fed on a permanent pasture system, which means that the land for grazing is always for grazing, as opposed to cropping it one year and grazing the next or some permutation of the like.

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TC3 Farm Plant Identification Tour – Student Post

A Plant Identification Tour of the TC3 Farm – Learning Common “Weeds” – Student Post by Make

Today’s post is a plant identification tour of the TC3 Farm. All the species we will discuss today are potentially “weeds” on the farm. But what is a weed? A weed is simply a plant that is growing where it is not wanted (even a single tomato plant growing in a field of squash can be identified as a weed). The plants being discussed here are all things that grow on the TC3 Farm and can sometimes be found where we don’t want them. Gardeners and farmers alike know all too well the main problem with weeds: competition with their cultivated crops which reduces yields.

Here are some things to think about as you learn to identify your weeds. There are other attributes weeds possess that often get ignored. Weeds can be used for sustenance as mentioned in an earlier post (http://tc3farm.com/index.php/2017/06/19/harvesting-wild-plants-at-the-tc3-farm/). Weeds can be medicinal and are used in traditional medicine. Specific weeds under certain conditions can be used productively in a sustainable manner to properly manage your soil and environment (add organic matter, habitat for beneficial insects, encourage healthy soil biota). Other weeds need to be suppressed because they can harbor certain pests and ultimately leave you open to crop failures.

Horsenettle
Horsenettle

The first weed in our plant identification tour is known by the common name Horsenettle (Solanum carolinense). It is an herbaceous perennial flowering plant that belongs to the Solanaceae or Nightshade family. All parts of the plant are toxic to human health when ingested and can lead to death (its fruit which can resemble tomatoes are the most toxic). The most identifiable characteristic are its spines on the stem and underside of its larger leaves. Each fruit contains around 60 seeds. It flowers throughout the summer, from April to October. The plant can spread through seed and rhizomes (sexually and vegetatively). This plant can harbor and sustain Colorado Potato Beetles (Leptinotarsa decemlineata), Eggplant Flea Beetle (Epitrix fuscula), and Tobacco Hornworm (Manduca sexta) just to mention a few. Leaving the Horsenettle unchecked can lead to lower crop yields for Potatoes, Tomatoes, and Eggplants. Hint: The plant should be removed preferably with gloves as to avoid the stinging spines which can become embedded in your skin.

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Pollinators on the TC3 Farm

Pollinators on the TC3 Farm – Student Post by Kateri

Bees at Dyce Laboratory
Honey bees in a managed hive buzz as the Sustainable Farming and Food Systems students observe them during a field trip to Dyce Laboratory

Hi all! It is the time of year on the TC3 Farm when flowers are appearing all around us! Tomato plants are flowering and fruiting, wildflowers are filling up the wild areas around our worked fields with color, and the squash plants need their white row covers to be pulled so that pollinating insects can visit their beautiful yellow flowers. All of these things make this a good time to share with our readers about these important friends of ours, the pollinators.

No doubt you have been hearing about bees in the news lately-and with good reason! The populations of these superior pollinators are on the decline-even in Upstate New York. But what do pollinators do for farms? Farmers rely on pollinators like bees to fertilize their flowering crops. Fertilization, occurs by way of the transfer of pollen (male gametes)-found in the plant’s flower and produced by the male part of the plant found there- to the ovule, the female part of the plant also found in the flower. This process must take place in order for the farmer to obtain the fruits of his labor (pun intended!). It is important to clarify that bees are not nature’s only pollinators. Butterflies, moths, and other insects also enable the fertilization of crops by spreading pollen, though not as much as bees. The incredibly designed hairs that cover the bodies of bees and easily pick up pollen as they buzz in flowers, make bees pollinators of extreme importance, and not just to farmers, but to anyone who eats most edible plants!

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Edible Acres Permaculture Farm Field Trip

Edible Acres Permaculture Farm Field Trip – Student Post by Juliet

Edible Acres Permaculture Garden
Permaculture Garden at Edible Acres

The summer Integrated Pest Management class had the opportunity to take a field trip on Monday June 19th, 2017 to see Sean Dembrosky’s homestead farm, Edible Acres.  Edible Acres is a permaculture farm business and nursery where he plants, cultivates, cares for, harvests, and sells both perennial and annual plants like chestnut trees, currants, wild onions, and cacti.  He farms several plots of land throughout the Ithaca area, owned by several different people.  This flexibility allows him the opportunity to continually expand his business and experiment with different practices since he is not tied down by the cost of land ownership.

It was a gray, drizzly day on Monday, and the sky threatened to crack and cause a downpour.  The  weather this spring has been a complete reversal from what we had experienced at this same time last year.  In any case, this was farming, and rain or no rain, we were all excited to head out on this field trip.  And so, we quickly bundled up into our raincoats and jumped in the van to make the short drive to Sean’s homestead.

When we arrived at Edible acres, Sean eagerly greeted us in the front of his yard.  Our class had worked with him previously, because he helped us to create a small nursery and permaculture minded growing space at the farm where we planted our gooseberry, elderberry, and currant bushes.  It was during this past workshop that  we learned about the true meaning behind the term ‘permaculture’.  Coined by its founder, Bill Mollison, permaculture is actually a combination of two words- permanent and agriculture.  According to Mollison, Permaculture is an ethically based design system for human habitation that is in harmony with the natural world.   Mollison himself states that, “It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing for their food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way.”   For example, pumpkins planted in between hop plants, the ‘Three Sisters’ (corn, beans, and squash) system of planting, or peas trailing up a nut tree would all be examples of permaculture practices. (http://library.open.oregonstate.edu/permaculture/chapter/what-is-permaculture/)

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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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Main Street Farms Visit – Student Post

A Visit to Main Street Farms – Tompkins Cortland Community College Sustainable Farming and Food Systems Student Post by Justin

Main Street FarmsIn the week of June 27th through July 5th we took a trip to Main Street Farms in Cortland and in Homer. We got a tour through the main farm site and the owner Allen told us about how they started in 2011 selling to various farmers markets to how they became a large scale provider from many restaurants, schools, grocery stores etc.  Allen took us through his fields and told us certain ways he does different things and how small details can make a big difference in farming such as making sure your rows are straight so it is easier to weed around the crops with a tractor. He also showed us all of his equipment and told us about each tool and what it does. He told us about how older equipment is very difficult to have because it needs to be maintained because it always breaking so you need to know how to fix things or you will have some issues.

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