farm report

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 A Letter From the Farm Manager

As the second Summer at Hip Peas Farm draws to a close, I wanted to take this opportunity as the days grow shorter to report some of our big accomplishments this year. In doing so, I have to thank everyone who has worked on the farm, had some of our produce in one of your meals, attended one of our Farm to Table Feasts, or stayed at the Farmhouse. You are the lifeblood that makes this operation work and you have my sincerest gratitude. 

I’d like to shine a spotlight onto our work in becoming a more sustainable operation. Sustainability features three major facets: economic, environmental, and social. These were some of our biggest steps forward in 2019.

Economic

Our third high tunnel has been completed, utilizing a passive solar heating system and a backup radiant heating system that will be powered by used cooking oil from local restaurants, and a fourth is right around the corner. Our new processing facility and plant nursery are in construction now. The ability we have to wash and package our produce has taken leaps and bounds from the deep sinks we were using to wash everything last year. By utilizing improved washing, drying, and packaging procedures, our greens can see shelf lives of up to three weeks. In the fields, we increased the number of crops grown, and utilized new techniques that made the crops we did grow last year even more efficient.  Even though the leaves have fallen, and we await snow this week, we still have strawberries growing, with low tunnels and high tunnels bursting with winter hardy crops like kale, spinach, carrots, swiss chard, pea tendrils, claytonia, and even green beans! Due to all of these advancements, we were able to more than triple our sales this year, all while reducing our labor. Keep an eye open for the barn renovation happening this Winter!

Environmental

Our big push this year was to find new ways to become better shepherds of the land and make our farm more environmentally sustainable for years to come. Successfully completing our transition to a “Certified Organic” farm in March emboldened us to take the next step. This year we used ZERO SPRAYS on our farm. This means no conventional OR organic insecticides, herbicides, or fungicides of any kind! Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not possible to farm without pesticides, because we are doing it here at Hip Peas Farm! For disease, we used a systems approach to prevent diseases before they could affect our crops.  For insect pests, we used insect netting to keep pests away from our crops, or introduced natural predators to minimize, or completely stop crop loss. For weed pressure, we utilized a three-pronged approach of stale-seed-bedding, landscape fabrics, and shallow cultivation to keep the weeds at bay. To help with our weed management and improve our soil health, we instituted a minimal-tillage system in our fields. Along with keeping weeds at bay, this reduces the disturbance of microbiota in the soil and increases the amount of atmospheric carbon our soils can store.   

Our new full time employee Jacob Midura took the lead on our composting program, taking kitchen scraps from local restaurants, crop residues, and fallen leaves to reduce waste and create a more sustainable soil amendment. We hope to reduce the amount of compost we bring in from offsite by next year, and hopefully stop bringing in outside compost all together by Spring of 2021.

Social

Potentially the things we are most proud of are our accomplishments working within the town of Hooksett. This is something that Dan and Valerie have been doing for years, so I think I speak for everyone at Hip Peas Farm when I say that we’re happy to join in and do our part. We continued our hyper-local business model, selling 95% of our total sales within 2.5 miles of our farm, and 99% of sales inside the town of Hooksett. We continued hosting local groups like the Hooksett Garden Club, the Cawley Middle School twice, and inviting our community members onto the farm for two of our seasonal Farm to Table Feasts! Those were a huge success and incredibly delicious. We look forward to continuing this trend in the near future.

What’s Next?

As winter creeps in on us, we are excited for even more big new projects in 2020. The event venue will be renovated, more Farm to Table Feasts, a research grant to do some exciting new on-farm research, and the inclusion of some new crops next year. Stay tuned, and catch the #FarmerFever!!

Dan Birnstihl

Director of Agriculture

Hip Peas Farm




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