In 2009, the future home of The ReFarmery was a small, neglected rectangle of land. Ill-placed trees and aging fences posts punctuated long stretches of Bermuda grass and foxtails. Years of suburban-style landscaping had eroded the topsoil, creating a patchwork quilt of exposed clay pan.
In the years since then, we have dedicated ourselves to the thoughtful stewardship of the land, and have been rewarded with a healthy crust of earth forming beneath our feet. We have replaced pesticides with natural predators and hand-cultivation, and have been rewarded with choruses of frogs every evening and with bees and butterflies that visit our gardens daily.
We avoid herbicides with the aid of the sheep and geese, and through non-polluting practices such as sheet-mulching and occultation. Our priority is to encourage and preserve biodiversity on our little farm. We find great value in the use of native plants to support a healthy ecosystem. In the new year we will begin the installation of hedgerows; long sections of native plants to provide shelter and food for the beneficial wildlife found on the farm.
Here at the ReFarmery, we draw inspiration from the work of Sir Albert Howard- a farming pioneer who wrote about the interdependence between healthy soils, plants and livestock for healthy foods, and as a result, healthier communities. Howard understood that when any part of that system suffers, the whole of the system suffers. We respect our animals and treat them with care. The chickens, for example, each have about 50 square feet of outdoor space, and enjoy free access to the outdoors at all times. They also dine on a diet consisting of corn-free, soy-free, non-GMO, whole grain feed, and a daily buffet of vegetable scraps. Our pigs eat whole grains and all the excess fruit and vegetables we can find---they never seem to get full! The sheep are all pasture and hay-fed.
Farming near a large city affords us many opportunities to reuse waste from other industries. We collect restaurant scraps for the chickens and pigs, reuse coffee bags and chaff from local coffee roasters, and mulch using wood chips from tree trimmers around our community. We have been known to build gates from shipping crates and our eldest fences and first raised planters were constructed from discarded pallets. Old metal doors have been repurposed into workbenches, and old bathtubs protect our land from invasive crops like horseradish. Wherever possible we strive to repurpose materials that would otherwise end up in landfills. We use the phrase “post-modern farming” to describe our mix of farming and small scale environmentalism.