Page 47 - The Hunt - Summer 2019
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                 pumpkin patch. They also eat pests and turn the soil slightly. Goats are “browsers” that help manage invasive plant species, like milkweed, which is poisonous to cows. This is a relief to her team, because the milkweed is what supports the beautiful monarch butterflies. “We want to have the cows and butterflies coexist,” says Wales.
Planting hedgerows of fruit and nut trees is also part of the new system, attracting even more biodiversity. An ornithologist visits the site to count the birds alone. “We hope to create a robust ecosystem,” Wales says. “We’re tracking not only the health of the soil, but also the insects, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and other wildlife we’re finding on the farm. This grassland isn’t just for the cattle. It’s also for birds to use for part of their life cycle—whether it’s to feed, lay eggs or fledge their young.”
In a field adjacent to another small barn where the market is held, seven acres of garden await a new organic high-quality soil that will foster the growth of cabbages, swiss chard, kale, squash,
edible flowers and other tasty vegetables. “Different crops demand different things
from the soil, so crop rotation gives soil a chance to heal,” says Wales.
Between rows of this colorful patchwork quilt, strategic “buffer zones” of native plants attract insects—pollinators and predators—that benefit whatever crops
are growing there at the time. Elsewhere, climate-controlled hoop houses nurture a cucumber jungle, where vines of the crispy green fruits dangle from trellises. There are also eggplant varieties and the juicy tomatoes that are in such high demand. These houses allow Coverdale’s farmers
to extend the growing season of the crops to meet the needs of the community.
Wales and her team also employ precise drip irrigation, avoiding any water going to waste. On the periphery of the farm, tall grasses have been planted to capture any that does escape, further protecting water quality in running streams. Instead of tractors, tarps are used to terminate vegetation, robbing plants of access to light and moisture. “The garden is man- aged by human hands more than anything else,” Wales says, “with small machines occasionally doing some intentional
soil work.”
The barn contains a propagation house for seedlings, as well as a full-service kitchen where Wales teaches culinary courses like “Three Ways to Prepare Tomatoes that You’ve Never Thought of.” Her mission is to make people think about food differently, diversify their palates, and prevent waste by sharing exciting options for foods they might be getting tired of toward the end of a growing season.
In addition to educating the community through classes and school field trips, special events and weekly
CSA markets, Wales hopes to take Coverdale’s product into the community, where it can feed more people. “We want to feed a more diverse community—not just the people who can afford a CSA,” she says.
Wales and her team also hope that other farmers can benefit from what they continue to learn at Coverdale. “Even if you can’t mimic everything we do, if there are things we can share to help you make your farm more environmentally sound, that’s our job,” she says. “Right now, we’re suggesting it’s possible—but we have to do it.”o
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