Author Archives: clara

Reflections during the Hunter Full Moon

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hightunnelslatenovemberReflections during the Hunter Full Moon
With October’s shorter autumn days, the passing of the Hunter Full Moon and the glorious abundance of harvested root crops and cool-weather loving vegetables still in the ground both out-of-doors and under the protection of low and high tunnels, it is also a time to take pause and appreciate the recent frenetic pace of human energy and plant growth of the past summer season. For many, numerous goals for the season were accomplished – new crop varieties tried and tested, crop rotations and succession plantings deemed successful despite needing a complicated visual map to stay on schedule, season-extension techniques used effectively to protect tender crops, discovering a streamlined record keeping system, and forging new markets and relationships for increased sales. But also unexpected failures and mishaps were experienced such as unanticipated cold temperatures after the frost sensitive crops were transplanted, too much rain, not enough irrigation in the high tunnels, too much humidity, the relentless bane of weeding, poor soil conditions which led to excessive disease and pest pressure, under-anticipated crop yields, disgruntled customers, and downright bone-tiring exhaustion at the end of each day. I never experienced a single year of farming when the balance of successes and failures was tipped too far in one direction or the other, and quite honestly, I believe that is why farming is so fascinating and fun as it challenges us to pay attention to nature’s inherent design while attempting to do our best to be the seamless conductors of the fields and greenhouses.
Of course, making good use of a little modern help such as low and high tunnel structures, well-made and innovative tools and equipment, good record keeping systems as well as the friendly collaboration and assistance of fellow neighboring farmers and the sharing of information at winter conferences and trade shows, ensures that the farming scale gets tipped a little further in a positive and successful direction year after year. Now is the time to reflect on the techniques and approaches used, evaluate their effectiveness for next season and discern what improvements could be made for increased success.
In particular, if growing in high tunnels, it is important to evaluate crop selection, planting dates, and growing methods to get the most efficient use of the tunnel. Heat-loving crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant and peppers make obvious choices for high tunnel crops, especially when they can be transplanted earlier in the season and trellised to take advantage of the vertical space inside the tunnel. If growing year-round, look at a calendar and anticipate the delicate dance of succession planting and the transition from heat-loving to cold-hardy vegetables so that certain crops can take full advantage of the protected growing space. Many sample crop plans can be found in Eliot Coleman’s books including The Winter Harvest Handbook. For simply constructed low tunnels using a Remay fabric secured over multiple pre-bent ten-foot lengths of ½” electrical conduit or EMT positioned over a crop every four feet down a row, many crops such as onions and spinach can be protected and wintered-over for an earlier harvest in spring/summer. The trick is to either direct seed or transplant seedlings into beds during the early fall so that the majority of early growth happens before the arrival of the colder, lower light-level, and inclement weather conditions of early winter. If wintering-over, a second layer of plastic is necessary to add increased warmth and protection from heavy snow loads. It is essential that the plastic be secured and anchored over the Remay fabric to prevent collapsing of the low tunnel from snow accumulation. Once the plastic layer is applied, it is important to diligently monitor the internal temperatures and ventilate to prevent excessive over-heating of the crops. One of my favorite moments of early spring is removing the snow from the end of a low tunnel and peeking inside to view a sea of vibrant green spinach carpeting the length of the tunnel and ready to be harvested!
When it comes to tools and equipment, nothing is more frustrating than a poorly manufactured tool or not having the right tool for the job. One well-made and effective tool will make all the difference to worker ease and efficiency on the job. Hoes such as the Collinear Hoe, which allow you to maintain a more upright body position, almost like waltzing down the row as my father likes to say, make quick and easy work of cultivating a bed before the weeds get out of control and it becomes necessary to bend over to hand weed. Johnny’s Selected Seeds carries many tried and tested tools developed by Eliot Coleman and many are even manufactured locally. One of my favorite tools is the Tilther, a lightweight tiller designed to create perfect tilth within the top two to three inches of soil on a prepared bed, and it is ingeniously powered by a rechargeable drill. No more potential asphyxiation from the gasoline fumes of a standard rototiller while preparing beds in the high tunnel!
Effective record keeping systems are critical to advancing both your experience and the success of your business forward. Simple notepads and computer spreadsheets can be used as long as one is consistent at taking frequent notes and copying them into a computer program. Other internet based programs such as AgSquared.com are very helpful at managing all your on-farm record keeping including calendar crop planning, field mapping, harvest data, inventory records, sales/customer tracking, and employee management. Reliable access to the internet is essential and a commitment to entering the necessary information on a weekly basis, if not daily, is the key to success with this method. The best advantage is having all the recorded information at your fingertips when the time comes to begin analyzing successes and failures and anticipating the most effective plan for next season.
With the slower pace of the winter months, many agricultural conferences and trade shows take place around the country to assemble farmers, gardening enthusiasts, and agricultural vendors together. Attending these conferences is a great opportunity to learn new information from the experts as well as share ideas and connect with other growers. The Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) has chapters in most Northeast states and hosts a number weekend winter conferences specific to the state. Many other conferences happen all across the country and it can be very beneficial to broaden your perspective and connect with farmers from other states who experience varied growing conditions and differing challenges. And since the farming profession sometimes offers little in the way of social engagement, attending conferences can be a fun and light-hearted way to make new friends and reconnect with old friends from near and far. But most importantly, I appreciate the chance to be inspired and reinvigorated by like-minded people and ultimately reminded of our common humanity and that despite the inherent challenges of farming, we are all working toward the same goal of producing the healthiest, most nutritious food possible while striving to live a good life.

A ‘Joyful’ Four-Season Farming Event in Black Forest, Colorado

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followthefarmereventLast weekend I had the pleasure of presenting on four-season farming techniques as the ‘Featured Farmer’ at A Joyful Noise Farm in Black Forest, Colorado, which is owned and operated by the lovely and motivated husband and wife team, Craig and Kellie McHugh. This was their second year of organizing the successful ‘Follow the Farmer’ event as a celebration of sustainable farming techniques for friends and community members to attend and enjoy. Last year, they hosted Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms as the ‘Featured Farmer’ and he spoke about sustainable livestock farming and other topics where he has garnered considerable fame and recognition.

Following the theme of coming full circle, I had first met Craig and Kellie in 2010 at my former four-season farm Divide Creek Farm during my event ‘Farming and Feeding of the Minds’ where I hosted both Joel Salatin and my father, Eliot Coleman as the featured farming talent. After that event, Craig was inspired and determined to bring Joel Salatin to his farm for a seminar and two years later in August 2012, he realized his dream. So it only seemed fitting that I would receive an email from Craig the next year inquiring if I would be interested in presenting at their 2nd Annual Follow the Farmer event. Of course I said yes and I was excited for the opportunity to return to high desert climate of Colorado to present on the four-season farming techniques I honed during my time envisioning, building and operating Divide Creek Farm.

Craig and Kellie have created a beautiful small farm on 10 acres tucked in amongst the noble Ponderosa Pine trees and rolling hills of Black Forest, Colorado. While not exactly hills at 7,600 feet in elevation, the location has a peaceful and joyous feel, with three high tunnels and gardens along with laying hens, milk goats, pigs, and a milk cow grazing and foraging around the forested property. The summer did not begin so peacefully however – on June 11th the McHugh family had to evacuate their farm during a devastating forest fire which burned 16,000 acres and destroyed over 500 homes in the surrounding area. Luckily, their house, farm and the majority of their animals were spared and they were able to return home 10 days later.

The event began bright and early on a gorgeous clear and sunny Colorado morning. Attendees arrived for registration and enjoyed a delicious breakfast prepared by local nomadic chef Kevin Campbell of Full Circle Cuisine. I opened the seminar with a slideshow presentation on the inspiration and basics of four-season farming and then we broke into smaller workshop groups to showcase specialized techniques and tools which were generously supplied by Johhny’s Selected Seeds. Some of the tools that sparked the most interest included the Tilther and the Quick Cut Greens Harvester, both of which involved considerable design ideas and feedback from Eliot Coleman before being put on the market and made available to farmers.

During the two hour workshop, I discussed the benefits of soil blocks, seed starting and variety selection, appropriate crop planning using movable high tunnels such as the Rolling Thunder models manufactured by Rimol Greenhouses, various pruning and trellising techniques used in the high tunnel, successful soil bed preparation both indoors and out as well as effective sales and marketing methods benefiting small-scale farmers. For soil blocking, I spoke about selecting a good potting soil such as Vermont Compost containing peat moss, perlite and compost to form the best soil blocks and nourish and sustain the healthiest seed starts. Soil block makers come in various sizes including ½”, 1 ½”, 2”, 3”& 4”, which allow a grower to ‘pot on’ the seedlings to the next size block at the right stage of growth for the seedling. Soil blocks have the added benefit of not requiring plastic disposable plug trays and avoid the ‘legginess’ and root bound issues typical of container-grown seedlings. Ultimately, the earlier you can get healthy seedlings ready to transplant in the ground, the more effective you can be at using the protected high tunnel and/or low tunnel growing space to get a head start on the season and be the first to market with popular and high-demand produce such as tomatoes and cucumbers.

In addition to using protected growing spaces, appropriate crop and variety selection will ensure productive four-season growing. Certain cold hardy crops and varieties such as ‘Tyee’ or ‘Space’ spinach, ‘Astro’ or ‘Surrey’ arugula, ‘Winter Density’ lettuce, ‘Elegance Greens’ salad mix, ‘Vit’ mache, Claytonia, Tatsoi, Joi Choi, Mizuna, ‘Ruby Red’ chard, ‘Winterbor’ or ‘Red Russian’ kale, ‘Red Ace’ or ‘Touchstone Gold’ beets, ‘Bulls Blood’ beet greens, ‘Easter Egg’ radish, ‘Hakurei’ salad turnips, ‘Napoli’ or ‘Nelson’ carrots, etc. (which can be sourced from Johnny’s Selected Seeds) are all good selections for growing year-round in a high tunnel. Without a high tunnel though, there are still many crops that can be grown and protected early or late in the season in a quick hoop low tunnel or even overwintered in the low tunnel such as ‘Bridger’ onions and ‘Lancelot’ leeks. Using the Johnny’s Quick Hoop Low Tunnel Bender, I demonstrated how to bend 10 foot lengths of ½” EMT into 6 foot diameter hoops which I then set up over two 30” beds with a 12” path and assembled a winter low tunnel using Agribon row cover, plastic and sand bags. Various techniques can be used to secure the ends and additional staking and parachute cord can be used over the tunnel during winter to provide more stability in wind and prevent collapsing from heavy snow loads. The benefits of using quick hoop low tunnels either inside a high tunnel during the winter or independently outside of a high tunnel throughout the year are innumerous and I am always amazed by the construction and management improvements I hear being developed each season by small-scale farmers everywhere.

Overall, the day was filled with many questions and much excitement and attendees came away from the event very inspired to try some of the techniques at home or on their commercial farm operation. Most importantly, they learned that with a little innovation, ingenuity and some specialized tools, four-season farming is not only possible but a very successful and joyful venture in the high mountain terrain of Colorado. Happy four-season farming everyone!

High Tunnels – To Move or Not to Move?

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wintercarrotsinearlyseptember09Exploring the benefits of movable high tunnels- Movable high tunnels have become the new buzz word in four-season small-scale agriculture these days but are they really worth all the hype? The simplest answer depends on your needs as a farmer or a home gardener. In my personal experience, movable tunnels have the benefits of improved four-season growing as well as the potential to enhance customer relationship marketing. Let’s first get acquainted with movable high tunnel basics and explore the main advantages and possible disadvantages of a movable tunnel.

The primary reason to use any greenhouse structure, whether movable or not, is to provide crops a protected and controlled microclimate. Crops are either grown on benches, in raised beds, or more commonly, directly in level soil within the greenhouse space. This way all crops, whether salad greens or tomatoes, can be easily re-tilled and re-configured if necessary. A movable greenhouse is not actually a new idea but a ‘rediscovered new idea’ – the first commercial movable greenhouse was built in England at the end of the nineteenth century. It was a very large and expensive glass structure and moved along old railroad tracks so it was not realistic for the average farmer or gardener.

Modern movable high tunnels, such as Rimol’s Rolling Thunder, have the advantage of being moved along a track from one growing area to an adjacent area at a scheduled time to accommodate four-season growing. For example, if the tunnel is protecting a summer crop of tomatoes and winter carrots are in need of protection for the winter months but not during the fall growing season, the carrots can be seeded in the late summer in the adjacent plot while the tomatoes are still producing inside the tunnel, and then only once the tomato crop is finished in late fall, then the tunnel can be moved over the carrot crop to protect it for the winter season.

This system creates a ‘best of both seasons’ scenario and the cold-hardy crops that can be grown and harvested during the winter months are quite varied. Since the most economic and sustainable option is to avoid supplemental heating or use very minimal heating, the crops selected for the winter months are cold-hardy enough to withstand cold winter temperatures but since they are protected from the desiccating effects of the wind and outdoor elements, they remain in a perpetual harvest state during the majority of winter.

These crops include spinach, baby lettuces, Asian greens, European greens, salad mixes, carrots, leeks, radishes, onions, scallions, kale, chard, beets and salad turnips. Depending on your USDA plant hardiness zone and without using supplemental heat, some of these crops such as carrots and spinach perform well through the entire winter months while others such as beets and radishes are best to grow later into the fall or started earlier in the spring. Simply from the double protection of the high tunnel and an inner layer of Remay or Agribon, you will be amazed by how much can be grown and survive the cold of winter.

To provide a quick overview, movable high tunnels have many advantages over a stationary tunnel:

1) Movables maximize square footage growing area by two to three times depending on the number of moves per year.

2) With proper planning, the use of a movable prevents summer crops from being removed prematurely from the high tunnel due to fall/winter crop timing issues.

3) A grower can avoid planting or seeding crops that are adapted to cool weather growing conditions in a hot summer/fall high tunnel.

4) They mediate potential soil and pest issues by exposing the soil to the cleansing effects of the outdoor elements for a season.

5) They accommodate crop rotation issues more seamlessly.

6) They can be used as a ‘Hoop Coop’ to shelter pastured laying hens during the winter months.

7) Using movables enhances the success of four-season production which ensures fresh product available year-round and a more consistent income available for the farmer and farm employees.

Like anything in agriculture, there are always disadvantages to consider:

1) Movables can cost more per square foot due to additional components needed for movability and structural integrity.

2) The endwall designs need to accommodate the moving process to allow for an easy move, sliding over crops, sufficient ventilation and door access.

3) Further planning and foresight must be considered if installing electricity, heating elements or irrigation.

4) Unless movables are properly and securely anchored, they can potentially be blown away or damaged by extreme wind gusts.

5) The learning curve to successfully plan four-season crop plantings and seeding times is more challenging and it is essential to do your homework and be open to learning through trial and error when starting out.

In my personal experience, I am a big fan of movable tunnels from the success I had using them at my farm, Divide Creek Farm in Colorado. Not only did I appreciate the numerous advantages listed above, but they enhanced my customer outreach and relationship marketing by providing an interesting educational topic to engage in conversation at farmer’s markets, during CSA pick-ups, farm tours and at other farm events.

As small-scale farming becomes more competitive, it is important to have niche crops and strong customer relations to ensure the success and longevity of your business. One of my niche crops was the sweet winter carrots which were only available during the late fall and winter months. For the unique advantage of being able to more easily grow freshly-harvested sweet winter carrots, I would always choose to have at least one movable tunnel. The winter farmers market I attended every Saturday provided countless opportunities to discuss the reason why I had fresh sweet carrots to sell and not storage carrots due to the advantage of the movable tunnel to protect the winter crop.

Most people were amazed after sampling a carrot as they had rarely tasted one that sweet and delicious before and many parents would regale humorous tales of how their children quickly became popular at school with lines of kids clamoring to trade for their carrots. If vegetables taste good, it rarely takes any encouragement to get kids to eat them!

While choosing to add a high tunnel, whether movable or not, involves much consideration, I believe the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages and if smartly planned and executed, it will provide a substantial improvement to your farm or garden. Most importantly, the more farmers, gardeners and customers who are inspired and educated about the advantages of movables, the more expertise and innovation we can develop in high tunnel use and design, and the more effective we will be in moving small-scale farming into the twenty-first century for the benefit of all in agriculture.

Additional in-depth information and resources can be found in Eliot Coleman’s books, Four-Season Harvest and The Winter Harvest Handbook and also at his website Four Season Farm. And of course, Rimol Greenhouses can answer many of your questions when considering a Rolling Thunder movable tunnel or a stationary model.

Clara’s Keynote Talk at NOFA-VT 2013 Winter Conference

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On Saturday, February 16th 2013, I was the keynote speaker at the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont’s (NOFA-VT) 2013 Winter Conference. I delievered an inspiring speech titled “Back to My Roots, Forward to the Next Generation” to a crowd of over 900 people and hosted a workshop with my father, Eliot Coleman.

Was this your first time attending the NOFA-VT winter conference? If so, can you tell us your first impressions of the event?

As far as I can remember (I may have tagged along with my dad as a kid), this was my first time attending the NOFA-VT winter conference and both my dad and I feel it is one of the best organic winter conferences in the country. Since it is also one of the oldest organic conferences (since 1971), it is very well attended with over 1,500 attendees from the Vermont farming community and beyond. I met out-of-state farmers traveling from Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. They all shared with me how much they appreciate the informative workshops, interesting keynotes, and networking opportunities easily sourced at this conference.

Can you tell us a little bit about your speech titled “Back to My Roots, Forward to the Next Generation”. What does this title mean to you? What were the key points you addressed in your speech?

Since the 2013 conference theme was ‘Generations of Innovations,’ my aim was to address both the early pioneers and the new generation of farmers in an attempt to encourage a larger conversation about the heart of farming as we move forward into the next generation of farming communities. I shared my story about starting my farm in Colorado and how the inevitable uncertainties of the farming lifestyle can sometimes lead to unpleasant and unanticipated results – namely burnout and divorce. What I discovered through my experience and through sharing stories with many other farmers is that not only do we need to innovate solutions to farming problems and hone our technical proficiency, we also need to unearth our authenticity and cultivate our emotional intelligence as farmers.

Emotional intelligence is defined as interpersonal relationships, those we have with other people, and intrapersonal relationships, the one we have with ourselves, and it is the single biggest predictor of performance in the workplace and the strongest driver of leadership and personal excellence. With this in mind, I sought to develop a clear and simple framework for helping farmers to strengthen their resilience and my innovation is the development of a Real Farmers’ Manifesto (MANIFESTO is an acronym for Make Connections; Ask For Support; Nurture Yourself; Innovate And Inspire Ideas; Farming Fun; Educate Your Community; Serve Your Community; Trust In Nature; Own Your Story) as a call to action to farmers to share stories with one another to discover authenticity and cultivate emotional intelligence. Each of the Manifesto topics was illustrated with personal farming stories collected from farmers, both young and old, located around the world. And I am still collecting stories as I work toward developing my idea into a book. Stay tuned!

Does every Northeast state or region have an Organic Farming Association? What is the purpose and function of the association?

NOFA-VT is part of the larger NOFA association, an acronym for the Northeast Organic Farming Association, and it is comprised of seven state chapters in the Northeast United States including Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and each chapter is a self-sustaining entity within its state. The primary purpose is to advocate on behalf of organic farmers and their communities by providing educational conferences, workshops, beginning farmer resources, farm certification, technical farming assistance and printed materials to better educate farmers, gardeners, consumers and land care professionals.

Are you a member of the NOFA association? How can growers and farming enthusiasts get involved?

Since I recently moved from Colorado I am not a current member but after attending the conference, I plan to become one!! All of the details you need to join or learn more information is found at this link: http://nofavt.org/join

Can you tell us a little bit about your workshop at NOFA-VT with your father? What was the workshop’s title, how many people attended? What were some key points?

Roughly 75-100 people attended our workshop entitled ‘Keeping Four-Season Farming in the Family.’ My father and I presented on our farming observations as two generations of farmers sourcing from two generations of inspiration and situated in two drastically different farming locations (Maine and Colorado) and how these differing experiences allowed us to discover some universal inter-generational similarities. Specifically, we shared the following to be important to both of us: follow an intensive, ecological and high quality approach; focus on healthy soil, seeds and supplies; invest in high tunnels and greenhouses for four-season growing; discover your niche market and educate new customers; relationship marketing is key to building a loyal customer base; consistent attention to detail is imperative to success; always learn from mistakes and record observations; innovate and collaborate with farmers; share stories and knowledge, and remember to have fun! Our goal was to provide encouragement to farming families to keep farming in the family as a means to inspire and ensure future generations of farmers.

What is the overall importance of events like NOFA-VT to growers and farming enthusiasts alike? Why should people attend?

Since farmers are typically very busy during the summer months, annual winter conferences give them a wonderful opportunity to learn new information and skills, connect with other farmers, and celebrate the joy of farming. Joining NOFA-VT or another similar association and attending the conferences is another important way of adding your voice of support to a growing movement of farmers and enthusiasts who want to grow sustainable, nourishing food, care for their land, and educate and serve their local communities.

What was this experience like for you? Will you be attending again next year?

Wow! What an amazing weekend! The conference was great fun and I feel like my talk was well received but I was even more inspired and humbled by all of the heartfelt comments and feedback I received during the weekend. I even had someone come up and just give me a hug! Of course I would enjoy attending in the future.

What are some tips and tricks growers should keep in mind when attending conferences like NOFA-VT? Do you have any networking advice?

Expect to be delighted!! And take advantage of a tremendous opportunity to make connections – you just never know who you might meet.

Introducing Clara Coleman

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I had the pleasure of chatting with Rimol Greenhouses and further explaining my role as their Four-Season Farming Specialist. Read more!

Why did you decide to work with Rimol Greenhouse Systems?

I have known about Rimol Greenhouses ever since my father and Bob Rimol collaborated on the movable Rolling Thunder greenhouse model a number of years ago and then I met Bob in 2009 when I started a four-season farm in Colorado and I knew I wanted to use the Rolling Thunder greenhouse models on my farm. Bob Rimol was a pleasure to work with during that time – his dedication to customer service, quality and innovation are exemplary – so it seemed only natural that I would want to work with Bob and Rimol Greenhouses once I moved back east and found myself in a position to help inspire the next generation of four-season farmers.

Why did you decide to become a four season farming consultant?

After an overall amazing experience creating and operating a successful four-season in Colorado, I knew I wanted to raise my boys closer to my family back east so it was an obvious choice that if I wasn’t actively farming, I would dedicate my time to consulting on four-season farming techniques and share my expertise with other farms and companies seeking to enhance their farming methods. I had the wonderful opportunity to work with Wegmans Food Markets for a year in aiding their vision to successfully and sustainably grow year-round produce on their small farm in upstate New York. I am continuously in awe of the passionate interest and increased awareness of sustainably produced food and the commitment I see from both small and large players in the food movement to effect positive change in agriculture.

Growing up with a renowned organic farming pioneer, Eliot Coleman, what were some impressionable memories that made you value your father’s work. If not, what ultimately inspired you to pursue farming?

I like to say I learned farming through osmosis since I was wholly immersed in the environment, my father never forced me to learn how to farm and he always exuded such passion and enthusiasm for farming that it was hard not to find the profession exciting and joyful, if not an enriching and meaningful way of life. One of my fondest memories is harvesting shell peas as a teenager with a summer crew of interns, all young and enthusiastic about farming but also not used to the tedious and long hours of very repetitive hard work. After our group completed harvesting row after row of peas in the unrelenting hot sun, my father, who upon noticing our weariness and knowing we had a long afternoon ahead of us of hand shelling the peas for winter freezing storage, decided to set us up in front of a TV and VCR to watch a favorite movie as we hand shelled peas, one pod at a time into stainless steel bowls, all the while joking and laughing and sharing silly stories. Certainly the work could be long and tedious at times but my father always had a creative way of making it fun and enjoyable and that lesson has never been forgotten and I carry it with me wherever I go.

Why should people consider “Small is better” model of farming philosophy?

My father and I both believe in our motto ‘Real Farming, Real Food’ – whereas my father tends to interpret ‘Real’ as the opposite of synthetic, artificial or chemical input farming and instead is based in the natural biological systems of agriculture, I also interpret another side of ‘Real’ to mean the authentic human connections and community which is created when we farm. The smaller model of farming enhances both of these interpretations of the word ‘Real’ because one is always actively involved in this dynamic process on a local level – both the actual farm work where one is caring for the land by observing the natural systems at play and also the human connections created within our family, the local community of other farmers and customers as well as the greater community of people from all walks of life dedicated and committed to sustainable food and farming.

Can you describe some previous experiences with your farm Divide Creek Farm. What were some of the produce you shipped and animals you raised? What are you most proud of about the experience?

Divide Creek Farm was located at 6,200 feet in elevation in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. I intensively farmed about 2-acres of vegetables using three 22’x48’ Rolling Thunder movable greenhouses. Since my focus was on four-season production and Colorado has a challenging growing environment, the Rolling Thunders were instrumental to the success of the operation. Using the benefits of the movable greenhouses, I became famous for my early heirloom tomatoes and cucumbers in the summer and my fresh candy carrots and hardy salad greens in the winter. I was committed to the concept of relationship marketing so I sold locally at both a summer and winter farmers market and occasionally to a progressive farm-to-table restaurant if extra product was available. In the process, I developed a loyal customer base who became an extended family to me. The farm was powered by a 25 kwh grid-tied solar system which rendered the farm carbon-neutral for five adults annually. I relied on internship help as well as the willing contribution of friends and neighbors in the community. One of the best innovations was the ‘Greenstream’ – a 1967 Airstream Caravel retrofitted as a walk-in-cooler and charged off of the farm solar system before being loaded with produce, driven to market and displayed as the self-sufficiently cooled market booth. I also was committed to education and giving back to my community by hosting elementary school groups, customer farm days, and dinner events. ‘Farming and Feeding of the Minds’ was a weekend event I conceptualized and hosted in 2010 to bring together the knowledge of my father and renowned livestock farmer Joel Salatin to inspire the community about sustainable farming. All in all, I am most proud of the positive impact my farm had on the surrounding community – both in enhancing local and sustainable food production and also in helping to inspire the local community, including other farmers, that four-season production was possible and also highly successful even in the harsh winter climate of Colorado.

What made you move back to the Northeast?

To be closer to my family, of course!! And I was born in Maine and spent a number of years of my childhood growing up in Maine so I have always had the desire to eventually move back.

What is ahead for you at Rimol Greenhouse Systems? What are you most excited about?

I am excited to work with Rimol Greenhouses to be both a resource for the company as well as for their customer base of farmers and gardening enthusiasts. I will be writing for the quarterly newsletter to provide tips and techniques and sharing my experiences with Rimol’s high quality products. I also see great potential in my role as an influential next generation farmer and how I can connect with this new generation of farmers and best help educate and inspire them about the benefits of movable greenhouses in particular, and more broadly, how I can provide creative ideas to help them realize their dream to farm sustainably.