Day 1 of how-to start a plot for farming organics

August 17, 2010

Greetings world!

Today has been an exciting day! We mapped out the plot for our Victory Garden and began working on the compost construction! Yippee!

First, let me introduce Emily, our fabulous Woodstockian farmer, who is going to be using Dordan’s land to grow organics on next spring. These organics will then be sold to her customers, which consist of local restaurants in Woodstock and our neighboring oasis of Crystal Lake, a.k.a. my hometown!

Strinking a pose!

She is joined by her father and former high school biology school teacher, Phil. As you can see, he’s serious about composting; check out his compost themed-shirt! For those of you who can’t make out the text, I will transcribe, because it tickles my fancy:

Compost

Because a rind is a terrible thing to waste!

Here here, Phil!

Ha!

For those of you unfamiliar with the term and/or demographic—and I myself just discovered such a concept—“locavore” refers to those people who have committed to consuming food grown and harvested within a 100 mile radius of their home. From what I understand, some locavores make the commitment for a month, while others for the rest of their lives. There are locavore communities in San Fran, Boston, NYC, and pretty much any other city where conscious consumers reside. Consider the following definition of “locavores” supplied by good old Wikipedia:

Local food (also regional food or food patriotism) or the local food movement is a “collaborative effort to build more locally based, self-reliant food economies – one in which sustainable food production, processing, distribution, and consumption is integrated to enhance the economic, environmental and social health of a particular place” and is considered to be a part of the broader sustainability movement. It is part of the concept of local purchasing and local economies, a preference to buy locally produced goods and services. Those who prefer to eat locally grown/produced food sometimes call themselves locavores or localvores.

I don’t know for certain if Woodstock resturants prefer localy sourced organics because it participates in the above ideology or if it is just cheaper and/or better to buy organics from a local supplier as opposed to a national supplier and/or distributor; I can assume, however, that locally produced organics—like those grown in Dordan’s “backyard” next spring—will be free of pesticides and other chemicals and require little energy to transport when compared with those organics shipped in from national/international groweries, insofar as these organics are only traveling to resturants in Woodstock and Crystal Lake. Hurray for sustainability and Dordan being able to particpate in our communitys’ understanding thereof! And who doesn’t like a sun-warmed tomatoe on a late August afternoon?

And for those of you unfamilar with how this all came about (it is not everyday that you hear of a plastic packaging manufaturer who is converting its land into a farm!), let me provide a quick recap:

Emily is best friends with my brother’s and colleauge’s wonderful wife, Karen. Karen introduced Emily to my mother, the wife of Dordan’s CEO Daniel Slavin, as she intended on starting a garden this summer and needed some help with the layout. Emily then explained to my mother that she was in quite the pickle for next year because the land that she is currently using to grow her organics on for her various local customers will not be available next year because it is up for sale. My father and Dordan CEO Daniel Slavin then suggested that Emily come look at the plot Dordan sits on, as it is several acres big, is sheilded from the road, and gets direct sunlight for most of the day. She and her father came to look at our land several weeks ago and finally determined that it would suit their needs for next years’ harvest! And now we are converting Dordan’s “backyard,” or, more approriately, “sideyard,” to a lot for Emily to grow her organics on!

AND, as discussed in a previous post, Emily and Phil have been so generous to help us in the construction of a composter.

Which how-to would you like to hear first: how-to build a composter or how-to start a plot for farming organics? Decisions decisions…

Let us begin with a how-to make a plot for farming organics.

Please note, however, that today is Day 1 of converting the plot into farmable land. Therefore, many further steps must be taken, which of course I will share with you, my packaging and sustainability friends, in real time! By way of introduction, today consisted primarily of measuring the space and staking out the dimensions. Next step is to plow the area and begin working the soil. Details to come!

Day 1 of converting Dordan’s land into a farm suitable for growing organics: Measuring and staking out plot dimensions.

Emily’s current plot is roughly 3/4th an acre; she was hoping to map out a similar space for her plot next year on Dordan’s land.

Here’s Dordan’s sideyard, available for Emily’s farm:

Dordan land available for conversion to farm plot

And to give you some percpective, here is another shot of the land with Dordan to the right.

Available land with Dordan to the right

There are 43,560 square feet in an acre, which means we were looking to achieve a plot size of around 32,670 square feet.  

Emily and Phil began by measuring the desrirable space in Dordan’s sideyard and staking out the dimensions.

The tools needed are measuring tape, wooden stakes, and a heavy-duty hammer.

Imagine the stakes, too!

They decided to begin the plot 15 feet from Dordan’s outer wall (the wall that runs the length of the factory) and 15 feet from the brush that marked the end of our property, giving the plot a width of 45 feet.  

Measuring the width of the plot

By distancing the plot a bit from Dordan and the brush, Emily and Phil maintained that the farm would receive the best sunlight available. Moreover, this 45 foot width is comprised of the most homogenous and flat land available for conversion into a farm, which would make plowing the plot easier come fall. In addition, this placement sheilds the plot from the street and other hooligans, insofar as it is at a lower decline than the street and protected on each side by Dordan itself and the tall and unruly brush.

How Dordan can protect the plot

They then ran the measuring tape perpendicular to the stakes marking the width, until the reached where the land dibits and moves downhill.

Measuring length of plot

A man on a mission!

Where the plot will end due to existing vegetation

This totaled about 210 feel long, bringing the total lot to roughly 9,450 square feet, between 1/5th and 1/4th  an acre.

PISS, it’s not big enough, I thought to myself as I scanned the layout.

“Is it too small,” I asked with a wavering pitch?

“Ah, whatever,” Emily replied, “it will be just fine.”

Phew, I thought to myself. I love people that love the environment!

Let’s back up; I am getting ahead of myself.

The decision to use Dordan’s land did not happen overnight. There were many emails exchanged between myself and Emily as she began considering our offer as a viable business move. Below is a list of issues discussed, which anyone considering converting land into a farm for organics should consult, with Dordan’s answers in bold:

Has the land been sprayed with pesticides or chemicals? If so, when was the last time?

Yes, in the spring of 2010; we spray each spring and fall. Because the land will be converted into a farm beginning this fall, however, Emily has requested that we suspend future plans to spray as it may compromise the integrity of the organics grown in spring 2011.

Is there access to water?

Yes, we have hoses on the side of the building adjacent to the plot. We can also capture the rain collected from our roof via the downspouts in large barrels; because the plot has a gentle downcurve to it, we could use gravity to pull the collected rainwater from the barrels throughout the plot, as a form of elementary irrigation, in concept. How cool is that! (I will be honest, these weren’t all my ideas!).  

Is there access to elecetricity?

Of course, right inside the door adjacent to the outlined plot.

Is there storage space for our tools?

Yes.

Would you consider erecting some type of greenhouse next to the plot? Many types of vegetables require “starting” before spring because they have a longer growing seasons. A greenhouse therefore allows you to start the seedlings in a warm and protected environment and then transfer them to the outdoor plot when the weather beckens it.

We are totally open to looking into mini-greehouses and look forward to your suggestions.

Tune in tomorrow to learn how-to begin construction on a home-made composter. Many pictures to come!

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