The Farming Landscape: A patchwork of ideas, process and produce

“It is easier to do a job right, than to explain why you didn’t.”

-President Martin Van Buren

Well, I certainly think he’s right. As far as farming goes, after this week, I can safely say that doing a job right, with the right knowledge is much easier than backtracking, and explaining why unsound principles didn’t work out!

So stemming from this, the four of us  have explored how active agriculture fits into the framework of National Park Planning and Design with Alex von Bieberstein (OCLP Historical Landscape Architect) and Margie, who is currently working on an Agricultural Treatment Plan for the Martin Van Buren National Historic Site in Kinderhook, NY (MAVA for those who like NPS acronyms!). The site was once home to the President, and was a base for his farming, hunting and fishing passions. The interesting part about this park? It is still farmed today, and has been continuously for an incredible amount of time.

Discovering agriculture through MAVA

MAVA is a great starting point for learning about the current practices, and future possibilities of sustainable farming within the National Parks and Historic Sites. The site although owned by the NPS has leased land to Roxbury Farm, who’s approach to farming is very much a role model for sustainability and “Whole Farm Approach” that is deeply rooted in soil health, and community commitment.

Historic aerial of Martin Van Buren. Note patchwork of agricultural fields and spacial composition of orchards and lands. www.alamy.com

Historic aerial of Martin Van Buren. Note patchwork of agricultural fields and spacial composition of orchards and lands.
http://www.alamy.com

As part of understanding how active agriculture is seen and managed within the NPS, we each had the opportunity to help Alex by researching ways in which the park could deepen its partnership with Roxbury Farm, and learn/interact and incorporate sustainable management practices and design solutions into a set of guidelines. We each set out with several different topics to research, and investigate how aspects of organic farming can enhance the historic site, yet also provide interpretation and learning for visitors. After initial research, we took our information out into the field, to further question several farmers, and gain a better perspective of other methods used at two local farms, Pete and Jen’s Backyard Birds in Sudbury, and Drumlin Farm Community Supported Agriculture in Lincoln, MA

Researching Topics+Field Investigations

Livestock:

Roxbury farm currently raises cows, beef cattle, sheep and goats. I was intrigued by the ways in which these animals currently add to the dynamic process of managing a farm. They are utilized for so many more reasons, from crop rotation, vegetation clearing, and even forms of pest management. The following are some examples of ways in which our field trips reinforced or added to my understanding of principles that could be used at Roxbury Farm/MAVA.

Mobile hen houses create the opportunity to fertilize and manage fields that are not currently productive.

Mobile hen houses create the opportunity to fertilize and manage fields that are not currently productive.

Limiting the availability of pigs to wallow to certain areas prevents uncontrollable damage to fertile soils, and reduces the possibility of herd parasites. Pigs are utilized for tilling future planting sites, as well as vegetation management in forested areas.

Limiting the availability of pigs to wallow to certain areas prevents uncontrollable damage to fertile soils, and reduces the possibility of herd parasites. Pigs are utilized for tilling future planting sites, as well as vegetation management in forested areas.

A special treat for some hot pigs!

A special treat for some hot pigs!

Beneficial Species and Habitat Management/Pest Management

So another area that I investigated was how farms, and specifically how Roxbury farm incorporates beneficial insects and wildlife into their overall farm management. This is an incredibly dynamic, involved process, and what I found was that there are so many different management and designed ways in which farms incorporate ecologically sound habitat restoration into their agricultural units. There seemed to be ab endless supply of ways in which the NPS could include this into MAVA’s interpretation schemes!

Bees are kept strategically throughout Drumlin farm at the edge of fields, and in areas where pollination routes can be enhanced.

Bees are kept strategically throughout Drumlin farm at the edge of fields, and in areas where pollination routes can be enhanced.

Barrier fences protect fruit trees in sheep grazing fields.

Barrier fences protect fruit trees in sheep grazing fields.

I noticed several pastures at Minuteman National Park Area that were buffered by native wildflowers--a great way to provide habitat networks for many beneficial species of birds and insects, in an aesthetically pleasing way!

I noticed several pastures at Minuteman National Park Area that were buffered by native wildflowers–a great way to provide habitat networks for many beneficial species of birds and insects, in an aesthetically pleasing way!

As the week comes to a close, I am thinking of how everything I’ve processed and learned can be applied to principles out on the Boston Harbor Islands. Now, while I think that putting cattle and sheep on Peddocks for vegetation management may be a wonderful idea, and historically relevant for many islands, I think the more important take-home is looking at how historic land use is transformed into contemporary practices today, and how this might be an underlying theme that ties into many of the interpretive missions for the islands. It would be great to fully understand how an island farming community would sustain itself…hmmm….let’s not get carried away, Ericka!

Thank for reading!

Ericka

One response to “The Farming Landscape: A patchwork of ideas, process and produce

  1. Ericka, you really gathered a tremendous of amount of information in a weeks time! The work that the entire team has done and will continue next week is going to be so beneficial to this project. I am so excited about what you all have pulled together.

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