It has been a few months since I have been writing blog posts and hopefully you have a good understanding about our approach to farming. Now it's time to give you all a complete picture of exactly what it is like to be an intern at Third Way Farm (TWF). Not only do we work hard all day and get lots done, but we also have tons of laughs and plenty of silliness! The farm also cultivates a strong sense of community, which has allowed me to grow tremendously as an individual since arriving. So please come along with me as I take you through my amazing experience as a farmer here thus far. It includes lots of learning, delicious food, and good times that I will cherish for the rest of my life!
I got to TWF in February when it was still freezing outside. Many of you may be thinking, “Why on earth did you start working on a farm in the dead of winter? Isn’t there not much work to be done?” And that is a common misconception I hear from many people. There is still plenty to do on a farm in the off season. During the winter we still have to take care of the animals. We continue to rotate their paddocks because if they stayed in one area they would completely destroy the pasture, creating lots of muck. And because the forage is not as optimal in the winter months, we practice bale grazing with the ruminants. This simply means we feed the animals hay to ensure they get all the nutrients they need.
Another major task in the winter is harvesting, which may seem strange since it's cold and things don't grow as readily. However, we have been thinking of fall and winter crops since July to ensure we have a bountiful off-season harvest. These crops include all the greens that go into our spring mix, spinach, arugula, brussel sprouts, turnips, radishes, kale, swiss chard, collard greens, cilantro, parsley, and a few more. We also rely heavily on storage crops such as beets, carrots, kohlrabi, parsnips, potatoes, onions, garlic, and winter squash (which unfortunately did not do so well this year and we already used up our stock of this). So we sow seeds and plant seedlings for the off season harvest in late summer and early fall. We keep those crops alive throughout the winter by employing several different techniques. These include covering crops with row cover to keep them warm, sometimes with double layers. We also rely on the caterpillar tunnels and high tunnels to protect a large amount of tender greens. These crops also get covered with row cover. It is very important that we utilize this space as efficiently as we can because it is the most optimal growing space in the winter as it is protected against the elements.
Other winter tasks involve washing eggs, fixing infrastructure, feeding and monitoring the worm compost system, and clearing overgrown areas in our driving paths. The barn store is also still open so you can continue to shop local all winter. As we approach the end of winter we start sowing lots of spring crops in the basement with grow lights. Finally, the winter time is a great opportunity for us farmers to continue learning and also plan for the upcoming season. Online courses are a fantastic way to further our agricultural knowledge because they are readily available to us and we have a little more free time during this time of year because of daylight hours. For example, Michelle is taking a flower course and I am taking a cheese making course. We are always wanting to learn and can’t wait to start our classes. Tommy and Michelle will spend time planning where and when each crop will be planted next growing season as well as grazing plans. This takes a lot of mental energy because they must consider crop rotation, estimate how much of each thing we will want to have, order seeds, and so on. It's hard work. I hope to spend time with Tommy and Michelle this winter and they can show me the ropes so I’ll be ready to create plans for my own future farm.
Overall, fall and winter are wonderful times to be a farmer. We have the chance to slow down a little bit and reflect upon the endless blessings we encounter everyday. Right now it is the constantly changing palette of oranges, reds, yellows, and browns. Just the other morning, I was working with Jason mulching the garlic beds. I looked up for a moment and found myself immersed in a cloud of beautiful yellow leaves falling all around us. I love farming during this time of year!
The summer time is also a blast! There is so much work to be done but it is so rewarding! We spend most of our time in the vegetable field. There is lots of bed prepping which includes cutting out all the old crops (which we feed to the livestock), potentially tarping the bed for a few weeks, adding fertilizer and compost, and sometimes adding a landscape fabric with holes for planting. There is always lots of weeding, irrigating, sowing, harvesting and processing veggies. But the best job on the whole farm is planting! I love doing this task because it becomes very meditative when I get into a good rhythm. I aim to be as fast and efficient as I can when planting mainly because we have lots of seedlings to get into the ground in a limited amount of time, but also because it is fun to see how quickly I can plant.
Since getting to Third Way Farm I have gained agricultural skills and knowledge that I did not have before, and I am thankful for this expertise. However, what I am most grateful for are the relationships I have developed with the other people on the farm. Tommy and Michelle have been excellent role models for me regarding how I want to approach my future farming endeavors. I love that they incorporate ministry in their work and honor this land as God’s Creation. Their love and respect for one another and us interns is unmistakable. They also help me realize my potential as a farmer. To be honest, I am very hard on myself and struggled when I first started my internship. Despite my prior farming experience, I felt like I was incapable of bringing any value to the farm. Tommy and Michelle, however, disagreed and began to help me feel confident in my contribution to the farm. They now ask me questions about farming plans they are considering and valuing my inputs. Most importantly, they have been excellent friends to me.
Peter and Colleen have also been great friends and mentors to me. Without them, I would not have been able to realize my dream of getting a dairy cow. It has been a challenge for me to get to know Mildred and understand how to make her feel comfortable. Thankfully, Colleen and Peter are extremely supportive and we are working together to try to figure out how I can bond with Mildred. Other than our bond through Mildred and Louie, Peter and Colleen are such kind and loving individuals. I love hearing their perspectives, especially because they are both educators. They have a knack for understanding other people’s personalities and helping them understand themselves. They lent me a book about the enneagram, which is a personality model with nine different types. I have learned I am a 3, an achiever. This helped me understand myself and give myself grace when I can’t cross off all the tasks on my to do list.
I have also made friends with the other employees and interns on the farm. Jason and Hailey have taught me a lot about strong work ethics. They are constantly working hard and efficiently. Tom is our newest addition and he has an open mind to all new things. He is hoping to work on various different farms, dairies, and maybe some retreat centers to learn different skills. Finally, Muriel has been a great friend to me. We complement each other’s silliness and have made so many great memories together. There are some other people who come to the farm often and help cultivate a strong sense of community. We all have community dinner every Wednesday, which is a great time to get to know each other. It is also a fun opportunity to cook with all the delicious food we grow and raise on the farm. It's a fun time to be creative. Other community activities include bonfires, game nights, and days out to the Renaissance Faire. We have built a strong community here at Third Way Farm and with that comes the freedom and safety to be yourself. I have definitely come out of my shell since getting here. Most of the time I am laughing so hard I can’t even talk. You’ll hear Tommy saying, “You’re going to have to give her 5 minutes before you can understand what she’s saying.” I just love all the joy running through the veins of this amazing place. I couldn’t have asked for a better environment to learn and grow as a young farmer and as an individual. Because of this I am staying here for another season! I look forward to the laughter, friendship, and education to come next year!
This farm does not just stay within our little community. I encourage you to invite your friends and family into our space by joining us at the Barn Store or market and cooking with our fresh veggies and meats. Don’t underestimate the power of bringing people together with food grown and prepared with love and care. I in fact went home this past weekend to visit my family just outside of Philadelphia. I came bearing gifts: lots of veggies and most importantly, Mildred’s milk from the night before. Me, my dad, step mom, and four of my siblings all took a shot of milk out of Phillies World Series shot glasses. It was a lovely way to share my farm life with my suburban family while also celebrating our home baseball team. It was a fantastic bonding experience. Our TWF community is boundless and can extend into your homes just like it has with mine!
Until next time,
The Return of Robinhood
Nestled into a hidden woods on Robinhood Road, in Havre de Grace Maryland, exists a picturesque farm community; a place of green pastures, beautiful woodlands, and colorful fruits and vegetables. And in this thriving place, a place called Third Way Farm, there is also a community on a mission to build a better world through a holistic and regenerative approach to agriculture; a mission grounded in our faith and our belief in a world where all have a place at the table. Where, when we give back to the land, and to one another, all of creation thrives.
We are farming on land that was once inhabited by the indigenous peoples of the Piscataway and Susquehannock tribes. We recognize that this land was unjustly taken from them without their permission. We hope our lives upon and care for this land will honor their legacy and wisdom in living harmoniously with this place.
Third Way Farm, LLC
Barn Store Hours
601 Robinhood Road
Havre de Grace, Maryland 21078
Barn Store Hours
601 Robinhood Road
Havre de Grace, Maryland 21078