Farmers reinvent their ways for the Earth’s sake
SHARON —New ways of treating and caring for land, crops and animals were the subject of a panel discussion on Saturday, April 2, sponsored by the Sharon Historical Society.
It was the second in a series of four programs on the broader topic of reinventing farming.
Sharon Historical Society President Christine Beer noted that the panel on innovative farming was to be led by two local women farmers who own and actively operate their own farms, a nod to 21st-century progress.
Panel members were Julie Miller of Q Farms in Sharon and Megan Haney of Marble Valley Farm in Kent. Serving as moderator was Carol Ascher.
With a focus on livestock farming at Q Farms, Miller’s early interest was in food sources and how animals are raised.
Haney, who farms land belonging to the Kent Land Trust, focused on herbs and sunflowers at Marble Valley Farm, studying properties of farmland and how to nurture rather than deplete it. Key to her transition into farming was a realization that she should speak at length with farmers.
“It was a point of transition for me, an incredible learning process,” she said, recalling her time as an intern studying ecological agriculture in Palo Alto, Calif., before making her way to the local area in 2006. “Farmers have less ego and less hubris,” she said.
Miller explained that she takes a holistic approach to farming, acknowledging the tradition of a farmer’s love for the land. Her focus digs deeply into soil health, animal health and human health, she said, aligning with the land’s capacity.
“All of our animals are raised on pasture, including the chickens and pigs,” Miller said, contrasting with the practices of industrialized agribusiness. The health of the community is uppermost, she added.
The focus of Marble Valley Farm is also on the health of the community and the health of the soil in which plants grow, Haney said.
“It has to be organic farming,” Haney explained. “Why start with a regimen of poison?” She estimated that less than 5% of farmland in the U.S. is being farmed organically.
“If I plant peas and beans in the fall and let the plants wither and die in place, the soil will be enhanced with nitrogen over the winter,” Haney said. She plants both cash crops and beneficial cover crops. Use as many renewable resources as possible, Haney explained as key to her methods.
Well-established perennial pastures are important to Miller who added that the result is a pasture that remains resilient to the weather. To prevent over-grazing, she moves the animals regularly, a bonus being the effortless dissemination of manure.
“The animals are doing the work for you,” Miller said.
Next in the series will be “Reinventing Marketing and Distribution of Farm Products,” scheduled for Saturday, April 23, at 4 p.m. With Carol Ascher again moderating, panel members will be Connie Manes of Kent Land Trust, James Shepherd of Smokedown Hope Farm and Rick Osofsky of Ronnybrook Farm Dairy. To register, go to www.sharonhist.org. Videos of past panels can also be accessed there.