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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