If you ask one of us at New Entry how things are going, we're likely to include the word “busy” somewhere. To prove we're not just saying that, we'll be posting several “A Week in the Life” entries in this space to give you an idea of what each of us does every day.
First up: Eero Ruuttila, Technical Assistance Coordinator and manager of our incubator training farm sites. He also spends a couple days a week in Connecticut, working one-on-one with farmers and carrying out projects as part of his “other job” as a sustainable agriculture specialist with UConn Extension.
Here's a look at Eero's work week, by way of excerpts from his notes at a recent staff meeting (with some additional explanation after each bullet point):
- Last week I met with the Arrowhead incubator farmers to discuss field prep, nutrient management, and general crop plans at their individual field plots. Steve and Rob started to seed April 17th and already have many beds of direct seeded greens coming up as well as a bed of transplanted cabbage up. Ed Tivnan seeded his first bed of lettuce while we were at the farm. Aysim's ¼ acre of garlic appears to be emerging from its thick mulch of marsh hay.
(Arrowhead Farm in Newburyport, Mass., is New Entry's newest incubator training farm site, premiering last year. Steve Fowler and Rob Fortune are beginning their second season at Arrowhead; 2014 Farm Business Planning Course graduate Ed Tivnan is starting his first year there; and 2013 graduate Aysim Dalmau started late last year, planting enough garlic to fill her entire ¼ acre plot.)
- I gave my third field talk on Wednesday evening, on field prep and nutrient management. Good attendance including some farmers who had never been to other incubator farm events.
(Eero teaches these Field Workshops throughout the season, building practical skills for our incubator farmers – but also open to the general public.)
- I visited the Kim family field at White Gate Farm with Mr. Kim's son John to assist with primary tillage of their plot. It was too wet to till but I am planning to go there today to look at the soils again and hopefully harrow in the emerging young weeds ahead of Friday's forecast rain event.
(Visoth Kim, or “Mr. Kim” to those of us who knew him, was one of New Entry's first and most successful farmers, a leader in Lowell's Cambodian community and a mentor and role model for other farmers. He passed away in 2012, but his family, including his son Somurphy – aka “John” – has decided to carry on Mr. Kim's passion, farming the same Dracut plot and selling to World PEAS and the Southeast Asian community.)
- On Sunday I did the first tillage at the Dracut incubator farm plots and turned on the water at Ogonowski Fields. Yesterday I opened up 10 different areas on the Dracut farms, utilizing both tractors to shallowly till soils that in some places are looking somewhat drier. I have an acre of field peas and oats + spring barley and sainfoin (new cover crop experiments) to seed today. Every Dracut incubator farmer now has at least a small area where they can direct seed or transplant.
(Eero has been grappling with wet conditions which have delayed field preparations at our Dracut farm sites. On the one hand, farmers are chomping at the bit to get seeds in the ground; on the other hand, driving machinery over fields when it's too wet can cause soil compaction and other problems which could limit the plot's productivity for the rest of the season.)
- Last night I went to Phalla's farm in Boxborough to do diagnostics on a few crops she was growing, helped her set up her seed spinner and demonstrated how to sow field peas and oats in an open field. Her lettuce and spinach in her high tunnel looked great!
(Phalla Nol is a longtime New Entry farmer, World PEAS grower, and fixture at the Lowell farmers market. Her high tunnel greens really do look great, as you can see in the photo!)
Check our Updates section throughout the growing season for the weekly adventures of the rest of the New Entry staff!