Our farm is also home to an assortment of chickens, gardens, fruit trees, etc. for the home use.
We generally employ two apprentices full time from March until Christmas, or longer, and have several
local part-time helpers as well. In addition to those mentioned above, we have pursued many endeavors
here over the 14 years we’ve been here. Among them are sheep, beef cattle, a dairy cow, farmers’ markets,
and wholesale produce. Currently we are primarily a CSA serving about 200 families. Surplus produce
is sold to our shareholders for preserving or storage, or to local grocers and restaurants. Anna also
runs a small farm store, open to CSA customers, which primarily offers local products from neighboring
We have chosen to run our farm exclusively with horsepower for several reasons.
On a very basic and personal level, we really enjoy working with them. We find horses to be incredibly versatile. They are well suited for delicate cultivation, heavily tillage, digging, lifting, hauling, and traction in all seasons, terrain, and conditions. The capacity for us to raise the feed for our draft animals is also very appealing, both economically and philosophically. We feel that relying on live power will help to create a sustainable economy independent from petroleum dependence. In this way, we feel that horsepower can help to address many pressing environmental and political issues.
Our basic care and maintenance of the working herd is fairly labor intensive. We start each day by retrieving our five horses from their night pasture, which can be up to 1/2 mile away. To facilitate this, we ride “ commuter” bikes to pasture and ride the horses back in to the barn. Usually two people can bring in the herd in one trip, though David will sometimes bring all five in one trip. Once in the barn, horses are fed and watered, and those who will work are hoof-picked, groomed, and harnessed. In the growing season this means four horses, five days a week, and often six or seven days during haymaking. In winter it can vary from zero to four horses in harness, depending on the day. We prefer to harness the horses during chores and have them in their tie stalls, ready for work whenever we need them. We feel that this helps with efficiency since horses are constantly coming and going off to work in various combinations throughout the day. Furthermore, the horses appreciate the shelter from flies that the barn provides (in summer) when they are not working. By keeping the animals stabled by day we can collect enough manure to provide adequate compost for our vegetable fields. We move our temporary fencing and solar charger around the farm to various pastures. This takes time, but leaves the pasture clear for clipping, post grazing, and pasture dragging, and it minimizes the amount of fencing we need to cover all of our pastures, not to mention the benefits of rotational grazing on pasture health and productivity.
|Farm Products||vegetables (3 1/2 acres)|
|Markets||CSA, farm store, grocery stores, restaurants|
|Power Sources||5 horses ($12,945)|
|Hay & Pasture rental||$816|
In the vegetable fields, for primary tillage we use three or four horses abreast for disking winterkilled cover
crops in our early fields. We do most of our plowing of live cover crops with a team. If we have a lot of secondary
tillage to do, we’ll use four abreast on the spring tooth harrow, usually with the cultipacker in tandem. We do a
lot of work with a team on the riding cultivator such as forming beds cultivating, and hilling certain crops. We
use our homemade transplanter for planting all plugs spaces 12” or greater in the row. This tool is helpful for
getting plants watered in with a nutrient boost and set at a uniform distance. We find that it is most efficient
when there are few variety changes in the row. We try to foliar feed all vegetables weekly with our five-row boom
sprayer, though we often only keep up with this until haymaking derails us for a couple of months at midsummer.
We also use the sprayer for applying organic pest and disease controls. Most of the work in the fields (mowing
cover crops, spreading compost, and all haymaking tasks) is done with teams with the exception of the larger
hitches mentioned, and some amount of single horse cultivation and mowing in tight spaces. Since we must ford
the South River to bring supplies onto the farm and our farm produce off the farm, we spend a good bit of time
Having two teams plus a spare has proven essential for making hay while keeping up with the demands of the vegetable production. While keeping a spare horse can seem like a drain on resources when it is idle for many weeks, it is a blessing when another horse must rest for illness or injury. We’d like to work that spare horse into more regular work, if only to rest some of the older horses. Some horses have turned our to be relatively easy keepers, subsisting on minimal grain and lighter hay rations, while others (like our best horse) can require much more in grain, vitamins, and supplements to maintain good condition and health.
|Oliver 357 two-way sulky plow||$250|
|Syracuse walking plow||$0|
|John Deere 6-foot tandem disk harrow||$0|
|6-foot spring tooth harrow||$$0|
|8-foot spike tooth harrow||$0|
|I&J riding cultivator with drench tank||$1,200|
|assorted walk-behind cultivators||$0|
|8-foot drop spreader||$0|
|12-volt battery-powered 60-gallon, 5-row sprayer||$150|
|single-row potato digger||$250|
|homemade single-row transplanter||$450|
|Ontario 6-foot grain drill||$650|
|No. 9 McCormick 6-foot sickle bar bower||$450|
|McCormick 4-foot single horse mower||$350|
|New Holland rollabar side delivery rake||$900|
|New Idea combination rake/tedder||$500|
|New Idea hay loader||$0|
|McCormick 6-foot reaper-binder||$1,100|
|Pioneer 3-ton wagon||$1,400|
|homemade snow roller||$100|
|Pioneer 7-foot snow scraper blade||$500|
|piggy-back log arch||$600|
|*Equipment costs do not include the expense of hauling nad restoring implements, replacement parts, tongues, eveners, neck yokes etc.|
Participating in this study has been a fantastic exercise for us as it has revealed
where some of our inefficiencies lie. It has motivated us to plan for a new barn, which
we hope will greatly reduce the time we spend on horse maintenance tasks. For example, we currently
put up all of our hay loose, by hand, and, for lack of barn loft space, we make several outdoor
haystacks, which need to be moved into the barn for feeding when space permits. We wheelbarrow the
daily stall clean out to a separate composting shed, and we need to lead our horses out to turnout
in a winter paddock daily for four to five months of the year. With a new barn, we plan to have mow
space enough to hold all of our hay and bedding needs for a year under one roof and have space for a
traditional track and trolley system for loading the mow with horse power rather than people power.
We plan on locating our compost middens in immediate proximity to the horse stalls for easily clean
out, and having an attached laneway from the barn to the paddock for hands-free turnout.
We look forward to making improvements towards a more efficient and economical future with horses.