Farm Update Friday April 17
By Nat Wilson
As of Friday, all of the unplanted quads and terraces at the Yale Farm have been tilled. Tilling is a process in which the soil is ripped and shaken up, which make it much easier to prepare and plant. From a sustainability perspective, tilling has a pretty checkered record. Although the procedure makes the upper six inches of soil light and airy, works in the layers of mulching, and more or less obliterates any winter cover of chickweed, it can also over oxidise the soil, destroy important fungal communities, confuse the hell out of insects and soil microfauna, and contribute to creating a impermeable layer in the soil below the tilling level, which inhibits proper drainage. There are, in fact, various “no till” farming operations in existance, which aim to avoid these pitfalls by avoiding tillage completely. Although we do till at the Yale Farm, we avoid doing it frequently in order to better stave off some of the potential consequences. Daniel McPhee, our new farm manager, summed it up when he said “Nature manages things pretty well. We’ve figured out some shortcuts, and the trick is to use these without damaging the system.” In addition to tillage, we harvested from practically all of the beds in the north greenhouse. All told, we put together some 13-14 trays of bagged mesclun mix, chard, kale, pea shoots, and mild early spring radishes, which we successfully sold at market on Saturday morning.