Joey Klein has been farming organically at Littlewood Farm in the Winooski River Valley in Plainfield, VT for 20 years. He sells organic vegetables wholesale throughout the growing season, and 75% of his wholesale produce goes to Hunger Mountain Coop in Montpelier. In the spring, he also sells plant starts and pick-your-own strawberries.

 

Joey Klein, Source: montpelierbridge.com

Managing Water

Joey recommends paying attention to how land drains. He is fortunate to have both well-drained sandy loam and slow draining clay loam fields because he has to work with both wet and dry conditions. He is near the river so he has access to water, and this makes him a bit more climate change proof than farmers who don’t have a nearby source of water. He pumps a lot of water out of the river. He says that access to a good water source is a crucial consideration when shopping for a farm.

He has enough land that he doesn’t need to plant the whole area every year, and he crops less than half his land each year. In wet years, he has not been able to use the heavier land. In a dry summer, he can access the clay loam fields by mid-June and grow into the fall, but if it gets wet again in the fall, the plants will stick to the ground.

The sandy loam soils need to be managed carefully and not tilled too much. He rotates his crops, uses green manures – field peas, oats, winter rye, and vetch – and keeps a field in cover crops one year in every three. This reduces run off, keeps the soil organic matter high, and he needs only a small amount of chicken manure to supplement the green manures.

Climate Change

Joey has been thinking that the climate could tip, and a major change may not be far away. He says we will need to have local farms in production because people will want farmers for neighbors so they can live where their food is grown. He wants to prepare for this by using less fossil fuel and finding ways to have people work the land with horses.

Insects

Joey hasn’t noticed insects being any worse yet. He has some flea beetles, cucumber beetles, potato bugs, and in some years tarnish plant bugs, but they aren’t a big problem. He is dreading the possible arrival of the Swede midge that attacks the growing point of all brassicas and is currently in the Champlain Valley.

Benefits of Warming

Joey is glad to have warmer falls with a couple of extra growing weeks, and the springs aren’t as erratic as they used to be.

 

Catherine Lowther, PhD

Catherine is faculty in the Sustainability program, and Chair of the Sustainability Committee at Goddard College in Plainfield, VT.  We will be collaborating with her and her students on several blog posts during this project.  Many thanks for their contributions!