Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Visit to an Urban Farm - The Fairview Gardens Story Part II

We are continuing our tour of Fairview Gardens Farm and the Center for Urban Agriculture just north of Santa Barbara - which is about 90 miles (about 145 km) north of Los Angeles, California.

We live on a semi-desert  coastal plain below mountains that reach about 3,000 feet.  In the winter, we get a dusting of snow on the mountain tops and seasonal rain in the rocky canyons.  Over time, the result has been that  our  heavy clay topsoil is up to 20 feet deep! 
So this is January in Santa Barbara.  At the top you see see Broccoli plants and below are fruit trees. In the centers between rows, the farmers plant crops that create a market profit, keep the soil biologically active, conserve irrigation water and fix beneficial nutrients for the fruit crops on the trees and the row crops to come. They work to produce as much as they can from every square yard of this farm, saving soil, labor, fuel and water.

The farmers on the crew work in the greenhouse to start the next rotations of cash crops.  High yields on small acreage requires lots of hand work in tight rotations. Though temperatures only dip below freezing for a few nights at a time each winter, concentrating light, water, heat and hand planting keeps crops ready for rotation  in all seasons.  We are studying this intensive method for our farm in PEI.  We think that concentrating production, even in our shallower soil and shorter season, should allow us to get higher than conventional yields. We think we can benefit from concentrating our inputs and relying on biological soil activity, moderation of water needs, managing weed pressure and focusing  labor and machines in a smaller area to give greater returns over time.

1 comment:

mark marino said...

John -
That's quite cool you visited Fairview - a very beautiful farm !
I actually used to work there in my fledgling farming days in the late 70's and helped plant many of the older trees there - have some great stories about the history of the place that i'll have to tell you some day - mark