25 Mar Farm Preps for New Season
Bard Free Press – March 2013 –
by Tessa von Walderdorff –
The Bard Farm is expecting their produce to double or even triple.
“One thing I can guarantee is that Chartwells is thrilled about the 15 to 20 thousand pounds of food, which will bring a great financial net,” John-Paul Sliva, the Farm Coordinator, said. “Last year, we grew over 6 thousand pounds of food, but with it being a full season this year, I am hopeful for what is to come.”
Eager to discuss what was new this season, Sliva began by explaining the aesthetic additions. Posts have been put up on either side of the farm with a wire running from post to post in order to allow hops vines to increase from eight ft. to about 16 ft. tall. Hops are the flowers that are used as flavoring and stability agents in beer brewing.
As for the produce itself, Sliva is anticipating for another successful year, particularly with their cranberry bog, which is the largest in the Hudson Valley. Last year they managed to produce up to 40 pounds.
“It will be a little bit of an experiment this year as we work off a new technique,” Sliva said.
These cranberries may experience some minor struggles as they slowly adapt to growing straight from earth. In order to make this change as smooth as possible, the farmers used row covers to protect the plants during the winter and keep the moisture from evaporating as fast.
“I don’t know if that technique will work as well as other techniques because it may freeze some of the buds, which won’t let them make it through winter,” Sliva said.
Junior Ben Gordon, a student that works on the farm, expressed his delight for the wine cap mushrooms being grown in the back of the farm.
“They are the only mushrooms we can inoculate in the spring and expect to get something in the fall,” he said.
Additionally, the farm is expecting to produce an abundance of loose-leaf lettuce and, at the end of this season, to harvest honey from bee boxes. Among these stirring innovations, Gordon seemed most upbeat about the current production of maple syrup.
“We recently have been tapping maple trees on campus for maple sap, which we have just made into syrup,” Gordon said.
A first-year who recently joined the farming community, Natalie Cuomo, said that there is a possibility that the farm will become certified organic.
“The Bard Farm has always been organic, even without the actual certification,” she said. “We don’t use synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or insecticides. Instead we weed the rows by hand and cover young plants as they mature.”
Sliva added that though they are organic, by receiving a federal stamp, it will give more value and appreciation for the produce grown and provide a clear product difference.
“It is a wonderful thing for institutions and consumers who want to buy products,” he said. “Certification is a legitimate thing saying we are being responsible for what we’re doing.”
Yet another novelty that will aid in further developing the farm is the creation of a new website, designed mainly to give Chartwells access to buying online. Unlike last year, where all business was handled via phone, this year will allow for a more efficient and steady process. It will also permit students to go online and see what will be available on the menu in both Kline and Manor.
“Last year, Chartwells was hesitant in buying food from us,” Sliva said. “Now they are much more committed. Personally, I think it’s a no-brainer. The food is not only better and super fresh, but there is plenty of goodwill to it as well.”
He made it clear that they are mainly focusing on distributing to Chartwells based on the sole belief that it is wiser to change the institutional food here as opposed to some local restaurant that has more money. “It’s an activist piece,” Sliva said.
Sliva is aware of a new energy in food systems and of the stronger support of local farmers from the government. “As a nutrition advocate, I tend to absorb the reality that’s going on,” he said. He went on to describe a myriad of problems, which included the constant struggle of the one-billion to find a meal, the issue of obesity and diabetes, soil digression, water quality, air quality, and climate change.
“The reality of the world food system goes all the way into some pretty dark areas that has huge global impacts,” Sliva said. “People are finally becoming aware of the seriousness and are beginning to take action. We are in the process of creating a new culture, or the culture that was once there.”
It is simple to become a member of the farming community. Anyone can join, according to Sliva.
“I was always eating cheeseburgers during my childhood. I was right along the lines of the contemporary pop culture of food,” Sliva laughed. Working on the farm has given him a true appreciation of nature’s supremacy and has radically altered his diet.
Cuomo also expressed how much her involvement on the farm has changed her values of food.
“I think more about where my food comes from and what was put in it. Tasting the difference between fresh organic produce and commercial produce grown in bulk is really incredible,” Cuomo said.
Gordon believes that his participation as a farmer has provided him with academic growth. “I have learned so much more about how much consumption affects the agricultural economy of the world and the environment.”
For Gordon, his hard work feels worth it when he sees Bard Farm produce in Kline. He takes a picture on his phone and sends it to friends and family to show them what his work has accomplished.
“There is nothing more fun than being really sore in the morning, crawling out of bed, making a nice breakfast for myself, and then going back out there and doing it again,” Sliva said.