Rustic Road Farm: Our First Year
And what a year it’s been.
We have harvested 11,000 pounds of organic vegetables, successfully raised three Berkshire hogs, as well as flocks of turkeys and chickens. We are currently collecting eggs from 50 heritage breed hens, raising four Lincoln Long Hair ewes, and playing host to four mischievous goats in the hopes of producing milk products of some sort.
All this in less than 10 months.
When we started Rustic Road Farm, we had no idea what to expect. But we (OK, more me) were visionaries and pictured a new lifestyle incorporating our work at home with the work I do for Big Bowl. My partner Luis and our daughters knew this was something I had always dreamed of and they supported me 100 percent. But none of us could have imagined coming this far this fast.
We recently toured the farm with another restaurateur-turned-hopeful farmer. He asked for advice and not to sugar-coat our challenges. Truth be told, there have been few real disasters this year – just minor bumps (learning how to operate a tractor and corral goats) and opportunities for growth
Because we grow organically, insect control became our biggest challenge. Growing up, my dad relied on a host of methods to fight insects. His favorite: picking off the insects by hand. But when the insects got out of control, he sprayed from a shopping cart of insecticides. They worked overnight. Organically, we needed a different approach.
For example, we started the season with a 150 feet row of Kobocha squash - the centerpiece of a popular soup at Big Bowl each fall. The plants started out strong and early signs looked great for a bumper crop of this sweet, dense Japanese pumpkin squash. But the hot, dry summer produced ideal conditions for insects. I thought the plants were handling the striped cucumber beetles well enough so I chose not to apply the expensive organic sprays.
Mistake. By the time we did spray, the insects destroyed most of the crop and got a start on the corn. A plague of locust I kept thinking as I inhaled the flying pests while walking through the corn and squash.
We managed to keep the Delicata squash clean and harvested 325 pounds as well as 300 ears of some very sweet corn.
But that was the worst of it. Not so bad in our book. It’s amazing actually. We have taken two jobs that on their own can be overwhelming and quite demanding and successfully combined them into a lifestyle we only once dreamed of.
During the growing season, Luis was out in the fields as I left for the restaurants in the morning. When I returned Luis was still out in the fields and I would finish the evening by helping him wash the harvest or bring the goats and sheep back to the barn. Dinner by 10 and lights out at 11, seven days a week.
We can’t wait to do it again in the New Year. Bring on 2013!