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Educate >Promised Land Farm

 

The Promised Land Farm

promisedland sign

Green Insecticides
Composting
Home Composting Made Easy
Farm Fridays
Millersville Community Market
Community Supported Agriculture
Green Refrigeration
Weather Station

Promised land farm is a family run farm located near Millersville Pennsylvania that is taking large steps towards sustainability. Amy Yocom and her husband Dan have run their 25 acre preserved farm with the aid of workers and interns interested in learning more about how to make their lives more sustainable. As well as learning some of the biological processes involved in running a farm. The farm prides itself on not using any insecticides, fertilizers, herbicides, GMOs or treated seeds. All their fruits and vegetables are hand picked and treated very delicately. The promised land farm is doing some very interesting things to try to minimize their impact on our environment.

The Creek

When pulling up to the farm there is a line of bushy copper colored plants. They line the creek that borders the property. There are small trees intermingled between the banks of the creek and the sea of the copper colored switch grass.. The polluted creek at one point had been home to a flourishing ecosystem full of plants and aquatic wildlife. In recent years that ecosystem has been severely destroyed. There once were plants and fish but due to the pollution over the past decades that self sustained ecosystem has been close to destroyed.

The Trees

The goal of the trees is to help restore the water that flows from their creek into the Conestoga and eventually ends up emptying into the Chesapeake Bay. The hope is that the trees will provide enough ammonia, nitrite and nitrate reduction that it will be able to bring this suffering creek back to life. Their efforts have already shown some much needed improvement. Amy says that recently they have noticed small critters returning to the water. They have seen frogs and other small critters beginning to inhabit the creek once again. Hopefully as the trees continue to grow they will continue to help resuscitate the section of the creek that flows through the farm. They have faced some opposition from their neighbors however. Some of their surrounding neighbors seem to feel that the line of trees along the creek in unnatural. The owners of the farm disagree and have insisted that the trees are helping the environment and have decided to keep the trees and let them grow.

Switchgrass

The switchgrass that is also at the waters bank is another attempt to assist wildlife. The bushy plant provides a cover for many types of wildlife critters such as deer, snakes, mice and many other creatures. Giving animals a place to call home helps keep them localized and prevents them from being in other unwanted areas. The neighbors also have a problem with these plants. But the benefit that the plants have had for the creek and for the animals has been so prevalent that they farm owners insist that they are going to keep them there along side the small trees As you proceed up the drive way to the barn it is difficult not to notice the assortment of crop fields that surround the farm. The farm chooses it crops very carefully. They have a selection of cold and warm weather plants. When the weather in cooler they grow cabbage spinach broccoli and lettuce. Keeping different crops in different seasons helps to maintain the grounds natural resources.

The farm also does not use insecticides or pesticides, instead they sow plants in with their crops that work very effectively to keep bugs away. As you walk through the patches of lettuce and broccoli you notices strong smelling stalks of onion and thyme. They use garlic and other herbs to keep unwanted critters from eating their crops. There are many ways to keep bugs from eating your plants

Green Insecticides

one easy way to help keep bugs away is by mixing up what you are growing. Many people believe that mixing crops throws off the scents for many bugs. Another easy way is to seed a few common plants in with your desired ones to ward off unwanted visitors. Some common things that can help keep bugs away are:

• radish
• basil
• sage
• garlic
• thyme
• rosemary
• mint
• celery

cold

If you do not want to plant any of these plants there are still other ways to keep out pesky pests. One easy thing is to keep your garden clean. Many pests are attracted to leaves and thick weeded areas. By keeping your garden clean you can be sure to provide as little cover for annoying bugs as possible. Also you can provide homes for helpful garden creatures like lady bugs and spiders. Another tip is to use hot peppers and hot pepper wax. You can spray the solution right on the plants. The spicy smell is usually enough to keep almost anything away. And you wont have to worry about it effecting your crops. As long as they plants are throughly washed off before you eat them you will have no problems. This is such a healthier way to ward of bugs than using the dangerous poisons in pesticides and insecticides.

Composting

Composting is an excellent way to cut down on garbage build up and one of the easiest ways to recycle and reuse organic materials from your home or garden. It reduces the amount of waste that eventually ends up in our land fills and offers a natural chemical free source of plant food. The promised land farm does composing on a wide scale. They use all the clippings from their produce and other plant matter. From the home side, they reuse as much biodegradable material from the kitchen as possible. They compile kitchen scraps in a bin that is later used in a larger compost heap.

Promised land farm owner Amy Yocom uses a product called Soil Secret in her garden. It is a plant food made of composted materials and earthworm castings. It is an all natural way to deliver useful and beneficial microorganisms to a garden or potted plants. Other than using worm casting on their farm they use their own nitrogen rich compost as natural soil and fertilizers. All the kitchen compost is collected and mixed up with all the materials able to be composted around the farm.

They have two huge heaps behind the small freezer barn on their farm that get composted. They throw as much as they can from the farm in there. All the produce that does not meet the farm's standards, the leaves and prunings from all around the farm get thrown into their compost pile. The compost mound gets going and before long there is a good quality, nutrient rich soil to spread on the produce. They use this as an excellent all natural alternative to fertilizers. It is a natural, renewable chemical free way to increase the output of the farms produce.

compost

Home Composting Made Easy

Here is a list of a few common kitchen items that can easily be composted:

egg shells
• fruit and vegetable peelings
• teabags and coffee grounds
• corncobs
• paper towels,
• napkins
• and cardboard cereal boxes
• moldy breads and cheeses
• and old leftovers
.

Whatever is used in the compost pile it is important to use a good balance of 'Browns' and 'Greens'. 'Brown' materials are dead or dried out plant materials such as grass clipping or dried leaves. The other half of the compost pile should be comprised of 'Greens'. These are typically vegetables and fresher plant matter. This includes any fruit or vegetable peelings or most other foods that would be used. These are usually higher in nitrogen content which is the food source of most the aerobic microbes that are getting the work done in your compost pile.

 

 

Another crucial part of the mix is air and water. While this may seem obvious, if not in the right proportions it may have disgusting side effects. If there is not enough air in your compost pile, you will have an abundance of anaerobic microbes in stead of the composting aerobic microbes. While these anaerobic microbes do contribute slowly to the composting process, they will make your compost pile smell like rotting refuse. To make sure your compost pile is getting the most air it may be beneficial to mix it up periodically.

To have the most success your compost pile should be moist. If it is too wet or too dry it will dramatically slow down composting. The ideal consistency is that of a wrung out sponge. Once your pile gets going and the natural bacterial and fungal life start to do their job at decomposing the organic materials, you should seek help from common composting critters. Worms and other bugs do a great service to your compost pile. Adding earthworms to your compost piles can give it a great texture. Usually words with naturally gravitate to a Compost piles can be as simple as a small bin in a yard to a huge heap buried under the ground.

The final step I n your composting is temperature. Most people believe that to have an efficient compost heap it must be kept unseasonably warm. Yes it is true that you will most likely see the fastest rate of decomposition at temperatures between 110-150 degrees F, but it can be done at lower temperatures than that. This is especially true if the compost pile is a small kitchen compost pile. As long as the mix is right compost piles with break down at temperatures as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Farm Fridays

Not only does the Yocom's farm provide enough food to feed their family, but they also open their market stand on Fridays. Farm Fridays, as they call it, is open to all those in the community interested in fresh farm grown produce. Fridays from June-October the farm sells flowers, produce, and herbs inside the farms spacious barn. Customers can weigh out and chose from a wide variety of products.

While the farm is not certified organic, shoppers can rest assured that the farm keeps the highest standards in growing their produce. All produce is washed by hand right on the farm. Farmers markets are not only excellent ways to deliver fresh produce locally, but they also cut down on the hundreds of thousands of miles put on trucks planes trains and other vehicles every year transporting produces from farms to grocery stores. It also cuts down on the amount of trash that goes into our land fills from unnecessary packaging.

Millersville Community Market

promised land farm also sets up a stand a the Millersville community marker night. Between June and October at the George street cafe there is a weekly gathering. People come from all over the area to share local produce. The market offers take out music, whole foods, arts, crafts, and more. The community market also offers seasonal flowers, fruits, berries herbs and a wide array of other organic produce.

Community Supported Agriculture

Although they sell a lot of the produce that they have to offer at the farmers market, they also offer customer supported agriculture or CSA. A CSA farm share is a partnership between the farm and people interested in local fresh farm grown produce and reasonable prices. Shareholders get a portion of the farms harvest every week. The produces in a weekly harvest is usually enough to feed between 2 and 4 people and may include up to 12 items.

Shareholders also receive two reusable, insulted, tote bags to use for carrying your weekly produce home. The shareholders also are entitled to a monthly newsletter that includes updates, facts, tips, and recipes. Families and local restaurants in the area are all taking advantage of the benefits of a farm share. Its a great way for restaurants to get delicious produce that is free of herbicides, pesticides and chemical fertilizers. It is also the best way to get the freshest quality and taste. It's great for kids as well. For many kids being able to meet the hands that prepare their vegetables encourages them to also want to eat their vegetables as well. It teaches kids that fruits and vegetables are not grown in little plastic covered Styrofoam containers.

  • Payment

The system is pretty simple at the beginning of the season a share holder application form must be filled out. There is a small refundable deposit to hold your share. Since shares are limited they are distributed on a first come first serve basis. The prices for a share are quite reasonable. For a full share it costs $22.00 a week. For an 18 week season it ends up being around $400 for an entire season. If you do not need a full share you can also purchase a half share for about $11.00 a week which for the whole season winds up being about $200.

There are also 2 ways to pay for your share. You can either pay in full before the season begins, or you can get a work share. A work share means that you work on the farm getting hands on experience side by side with farmers and summer interns. To qualify for a work share a minimum of 4 hours of work a week must be fulfilled.

  • Pick-up

Promised land farm makes it as convenient as possible to pick up your shares. Shareholders have the option to come to the farm to pick up and select their own produce. They can chose from the list of available products on the weekly share list. To make it even easier shareholders may also pick up their share at the turkey hill dairy pick up site. Each and every week you will be provided with a market bag packed with the highest quality items from that week's share list. The items on the list change every week which add to the anticipation of the weekly pick up. Being a part of a CSA is the perfect way for customers to get a little bit of every thing that the farm has to offer.

Green Refrigeration

The farm produces enough food to distribute to the shareholders and enough food to share with the community on farm Fridays and To bring to the Millersville community market night. But what happens to all the extra food. To be kept fresh for its customers the Yocoms have built their own refrigeration unit. There is a room in the chicken house that was made into this unit. They used regular home insulation and lined all the walls with about 4-6 inches of insulation. They also cut a small square hole into the side of the room. This hole is just the right size to fit a small air conditioning unit. With this they can keep that entire room cold enough to store vegetables like potatoes.

green fridge

They also freeze a lot of produce. To use it for their families as long as they can they grown an abundance of products when the season permits and then freeze them at the peak of freshness. This allows them to cut down on the need to buy groceries and lets them keep their produce for as long as possible.

Weather Station

The Promised Land Farm has partnered up with Millersville university and its meteorology and chemistry students. Every week students come to the farm to collect precipitation samples. Through funding from the Pennsylvania department of environmental protection (pa DEP), the meteorology department at Millersville university joined up for a partnership with the National Trends Network(NTN) , National Atmospheric Deposition Program(NADP) and the Mercury Deposition Network (MDN). The goal of the project is to collect information on the metallic content of rain water and acid rain. The site is called PA47 and is one of only eight sites of its kind in Pennsylvania. It is also one of the only sites that collect and analyze metal and mercury samples. The site brings chemistry and meteorology students together to check and monitor the readings. There are about six collection bins and the system was set up in November of 2002. As students have graduated, new students and interns have come to take over the project. They monitor and record metal reading from the rain water as well as acid rain data. They record the pH and report back to the state programs. The farm offered to let the student conduct their experiments on a small section of their land.

weatherstation

station2

 

The equipment they use is given to them by the state agencies. They are all designed specifically to collect the data and make sure it is uniformly able to be verified. The bins are designed so that the sampling train only touches glass surfaces to minimize contamination. The sample is collected and funneled down into two liter bottles. When it is not raining the mercury wet deposition sampling train is covered my a motorized mechanical system. When it actually des rain, it triggers a sensor to move the motor which moves the lid from the wet deposition to the dry side. After the samples are collected each week they are compiled into an annual summery of weekly reports. The information is compiled on many internet and paper sources.

The promised land farm is doing many things to help maintain its environmental sustainability. Some are larger than other but every little bit is an effort that will be well appreciated in the long term. From composting to their weather station they are trying to improve the way that we treat and respect our steak in our land. Some of the interns that have worked on the farm have also taken what they have learned and applied it to their daily lives. They now have home gardens which provide them with simple fruits and vegetable and they make use of small kitchen compost heaps which they later used for soil in their flower gardens. It is easy to be intimidated when it come to make a step towards sustainability, but even baby steps with have an impact on our plants future health.

This site was created by Lamar Reid ( stacey.irwin@millersville.edu) who is a student at Millersville University of Pennsylvania

© 2007 Millersville University. All Rights Reserved.

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