Friday, May 17, 2013

Learning New Skills

            We have been busy on the farm setting up important infrastructure for the season, namely irrigation and row cover and getting ready to use black plastic for weed control. The farmers who enter the program arrived with many skills from farming in their home country, and also had to learn some new skills related to climate and environmental changes. The farmers have learned:



Esperanza in the Greenhouse

The farmers have learned the importance of starting new seeds inside the protective walls of the greenhouse. Once the seeds are planted, they label the trays, water them carefully, and then harden them off before moving into the cold and rich outside soil. 

Some of the farmers from Somalia have talked about all the different steps one has to take to plant here. They have learned to move with the changing weather patterns, the back and forth nature of approaching spring, the threats of frost in the fall. The Somali farmers have mentioned that in their home countries, the soil is fertile and warm enough that all they had to do to plant was put seeds directly into the soil, no transplanting involved. Here, the greenhouse is a hive of activity.
Two years ago, we took a van full of farmers down to visit the The Food Project in Lowell MA, to get some expertise on irrigation methods, and specifically small scale drip tape implementation. It was a great day, and the farmers learned a lot about how to take these skills back home to use on their own land.
Here we are at one of the Food Projects urban growing plots, helping lay out drip tape.
It has taken a few years, but we have had irrigation on the farm for a while now. It is an incredibly important, fragile and expensive part of our farm infrastructure. It is also sustainable and efficient in the long run, and the farmers have been very excited to not have to fill huge blue barrels of water and lug them out to their fields every time they want to water.

 Many of the farmers from Somalia come from an agricultural system that is reliant upon the river for irrigation and nutrients. This is called a floodplains subsistence agricultural system, where the periodic flooding of the river is enough to nurture the seeds and growing plants.

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