This past week TJ (GM), Melanie (Asst. GM), Kelly (Produce Manager), and Justin (Marketing Manager) had the pleasure of venturing up into the hills of Shrewsbury to visit Ryan and Kara of Evening Song Farm to see how they continue to give the Co-op fresh veggies, even in the depths of winter.
Evening Song Farm is perched on a hill looking down on the Mill River in Shrewsbury, where the original site of the farm was swept away in Hurricane Irene. Since 2011, Evening Song has been able come back from the devestation of Irene to grow and expand their hillside farm, working towards and receiving Organic certification in 2018.
At the top of the dirt road you are met with a vista, bordered on the left with fields and the growing tunnels, and their barn/root cellar/CSA distribution/prep room on the right with a beautiful view of Mill River Valley. In side the Prep Room is where Ryan and Kara, along with their dedicated staff, clean all of the produce. Some goes to the Rutland Farmers Market, some to CSAs and some straight to our Produce cooler here at the Co-op.
Each part of the farm has a piece of New England ingenuity, from a repurposed washing machine that spins greens, passive cooling in their root cellar – needing only the smallest amount of energy to keep things cool, even in the height of summer, to small fans directing air between the layers of plastic in the wind tunnels – ensuring necessary insulation to the ever growing greens housed there even to temperatures of -20 F; each part is well thought out, re-evalutated, and constantly improved.
This constant renewal was an interesting aspect of Organic Farming that we had not put our finger on before. To be Certified Organic comes of course with guidelines and strict accounting of everything going into the plants being raised, but it also means that organic farmers must continue to innovate and look for more sustainable solutions. Now that the farm has been successful for the past few years, Ryan is researching “no-till” farming, a soil-preservation process that he hopes to implement in the next 5 years. Organic farming is not thinking solely about this growing season, but how to improve your processes over years, if not decades, of hard work.
It was a pleasure and an honor to be able to tour the farm, see the fresh greens growing in winter soil, and learn more about what it really means to be a Certified Organic farm in Vermont. Thanks Ryan and Kara!