For generations, Floyd County has relied on conventional agriculture as its primary economic activity, and more recently, cattle and dairy farming have dominated this industry. More than 160 people learned in January, 2013 about the model that’s been developed to theoretically allow one person to make a living off an acre and a half of Floyd County farmland. About 50 people subsequently enrolled and took a six-week class exploring the plan in greater detail.
Lead by consultant Tony Kleese of Earthwise Company, LLC, the model was developed deliberately, with a committee of citizens and Floyd-based farmers examining and re-examining its assumptions about yields, spacing, wholesale prices and just about every other aspect of the model. But there’s no substitute for testing a model like this on the ground.
That was the focus of SustainFloyd’s experimental farm, Blue Valley Organic. Starting in the 2013 growing season, we executed Earthwise’s Zone 6 “pocket-farm” model right here in Floyd County. We gathered data on all aspects of the farm’s management, production and markets with the goal of refining the model so that future “pocket farm” classes will have even better, more accurate information and lead to more successful farms in Floyd and the region. Below see a few snippets of information about the farm in progress and our final, regretful decision to close the farm gates.
Update: March 18, 2013
Farm Manager Brian Moss and SustainFloyd Board Member Jeff Walker spent the last day of February marking out contours on the site. Despite uncertain weather, SustainFloyd then spent March 16 with Jason Rutledge and his team from Healing Harvest Forest Foundation ploughing those contours. Blue Valley Organic Farm Manager Brian Moss offered this word of thanks to the volunteers and supporters who participated and helped out:
“Want to send out a huge thank you to all who came out to the farm this past weekend, particularly Jason Rutledge, his crew Carl Whitaker & Jonah Tabb, and Jasons’ beautiful team of Suffolk draft horses. I certainly can’t forget Jeff Walker, whom accompanied with his Ford 3000 tractor to finish up the job as the day was ending, and time was of the essence as wet weather was quickly approaching. It would have been nice to have had it all done by horse drawn plow, but my in-experience led to some premature cancelations of a couple more draft horse teams. However, in the end it was a great lesson learned in what Jason termed ‘calling mother natures bluff’. Thanks again to everyone who took the time to come out. It was quite the warm welcome to what will be a wonderful 2013 growing season!”
Update: June 26, 2013
We’re well into growing season, and Blue Valley Farm products are beginning to appear in Floyd County markets. Earlier this month, Good Food – Good People offered our red-leaf and romaine lettuce through its regular availability list, and it subsequently sold SustainFloyd-produced cucumbers at its Farmers Market Stand. As the season continues, look for our products around Floyd County and elsewhere.
Update: Spring 2015
Sadly, we find that this model is not financially sustainable for us as an organization. We believe that it may be possible for an individual or family on their own land to make the model work, but in the context of a nonprofit hiring an off-site manager we have not been able to make this venture succeed. We learned a lot and have shared some insights with local farmers. We wish all of those continuing this exploration the best of success and we stand ready to serve once a new role for us emerges.