Field Trip to First Light Farm

Posted: April 28th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Farm, First Light Farm, Hamilton, News | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Want to learn more about sustainable farming? We’ve got just the thing: a conversation with Mike Raymond, owner of First Light Farm. The Hamilton farm is in its third season of community supported agriculture, having provided shares to 120 members last year and planning on at least that many this year.

As in the past, First Light CSA members pay $600 for a 20-week share that begins mid-June. Members can pick up their boxed share in Beverly or Danvers on Tuesdays, Topsfield on Thursdays, Ipswich on Saturdays, or (new this year) at the Salem farmer’s market on Thursdays. First Light will also be selling produce at the Georgetown farmer markets on Saturdays this year.

First Light operates a bit differently from other CSAs in the area (Green Meadows and Appleton Farms come to mind) in that there are no pick-your-own opportunities. That’s because Raymond doesn’t own the six acres of land he farms. Rather, he barters with Brick End Farm, a large composting operation. But don’t assume that means Raymond isn’t invested in the business—just the opposite.

Raymond graduated from University of Vermont nearly 20 years ago with a degree in environmental and resource economics and has been farming ever since. His passion for growing vegetables organically in the most sustainable way possible is infectious. On a tour of the hilly field where fast-growing crops like lettuce and herbs are planted, we immediately saw why Raymond is so excited. The field is divided into many small beds with strips of clover growing in between, a technique called permanent bed strip tillage in which the clover and the crops form a symbiotic relationship.

“We feed the soil, not the crop,” explained Raymond, a Beverly native. “And we don’t do anything in a field that doesn’t make sense.” Unlike most farms, the field is not plowed under each year. Rather, the clover strips provide the soil with the necessary fungus and bacteria, and when mowed during the growing season, they provide additional organic matter for the growing crops. In keeping with Raymond’s desire to use resources at hand, irrigation water is pumped from a small pond at the bottom of the field.

For shareholders, this unusual technique (along with strategic use of the farm’s greenhouse) means more variety in their shares each week, since each bed in the field is like its own little garden. It also means maximum production with minimum damage to the land—Raymond and his crew have gone so far as to modify old equipment to facilitate this updated version of back-to-basics farming.

Tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and other slower growing crops are planted in the farm’s upper field, which Raymond described as bio-intensive, meaning it’s designed to produce as much as possible in the space. An unusual moveable greenhouse is used section by section to maximize growth, and after each part of the field is harvested, a cover crop is planted to fertilize the soil.

Those interested in the CSA will be happy to find a picture of each week’s share from last year on the First Light site, along with delicious-sounding recipes for 40 vegetables and quirky descriptions of First Light team members. You can also e-mail Raymond directly for more information on the farm, his philosophies, and the CSA program.

First Light Farm
www.firstlightfarmcsa.com
firstlightfarmcsa@gmail.com

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