We started farming in 2010 with 3 acres of heirloom barley variety trials behind the malthouse.
By partnering with other farmers to seed, cultivate, and harvest we were able to start learning about growing grains. It became apparent that we not only want to malt barley, we wanted to grow it.
In 2011 we purchased a pull-behind combine from the 1950’s and harvested 10 acres of rye and barley.
We also heard about an amazing project called Grow Food Northampton (GFN). This was an opportunity to lease 20-50 acres for growing organic grains.
In early 2012 we applied and were granted a 3-year lease to farm a total of 35 acres owned by Grow Food Northampton.
The first year was spent improving the soil through cover crops and 2 grains (oats and barley). Our yields averaged 50 bu per acre.
In 2013 we are now farming over 75 acres in Hadley and Northampton.
Our lease with GFN was extended for 5 years and we are working to bring the land into certified organic status in September. We also acquired an additional 20 acres of fertile land in Northampton through the Smith Vocational High School. This partnership will allow us to grown grains in rotation with other crops and provide the school with straw for their farm. We hope to forge a powerful connection with students and faculty from the school who want to get involved with organic grains and farming.
Christian does most of the tractor work while Andrea handles the logistics of harvesting, cleaning, and storing the grain. We are both passionate to succeed as organic grain farmers in Massachusetts. Many say that land in the Pioneer Valley is too good for grain and better suited for high value crops, but we have a different opinion. Through reading literature, attending organic farming conferences and being mentored by successful, established grain farmers we know that without proper rotation organic farms will battle with disease and the high costs of off-farm inputs.
Going forward. . .
We would like to work with more farmers in the area on rotation. Partnering with vegetable farmers could help both us and them to break disease cycles without inputs, sprays, etc. and find a good field rotation for sustainable growing of local grain, veggies, legumes, and other foods.