Hello there! My name is Kayla and I am the other Fall/Winter apprentice at CEFS Small Farm Unit. I was previously an intern with CEFS this summer and through that experience I realized a future in food production was exactly where I wanted to be headed. This is the first farm I have worked on and I find it to be a fantastic place to start from the beginning and build skills. Caroline and I are now two months into our apprenticeship and are settling into Goldsboro nicely. We are greatly enjoying getting to know and serve our new community. Below I have posted a picture of the upper portion of the small farm unit where we spend the majority of our time working and learning. This area has seen both of us have a freak out moment while we learn the gentle touch it takes to drive a tractor, learn the process of building an electrical fence to manage our four steers, how to lay drip tape for each planting, take soil samples to send off for testing, plant our cover crops, and many more experiences. It sure is a special place!
As Caroline mentioned in her previous post, right now is such an exciting time at the dairy unit because it is calving season and I could not be enjoying it any more than I am. This is a little man that I went and picked up from the field to bring back and process. Processing a calf initially consists of weighing, tagging the gender, feeding the colostrum, and taking to a bedded hut. For the most part we let nature take its course when the mothers are birthing and rarely have to step in to help by pulling the calf out. When we pick up the calf we bring the mother in to collect the colostrum and then do an antibody test to determine if the antibody concentration levels are high enough to feed to the calf. There are several tools available for this process, but for us we use a colostrometer, which uses specific gravity to measure the antibody concentration levels with an ideal level at 50 mg/mL. The higher quality colostrum is fed to the female calves because they will be raised as dairy calves and the males get the average level colostrum since they will be raised for meat.
We currently have about 70 calves and are expecting approximately 130 total, so we are a little over half way. Here is a picture of how we try to train the calves to bucket feed. We start by bottle feeding for a few days which is actually still something they need guidance with. This is pretty time consuming and with having so many calves at once so we train them to bucket feed after only a few days. To do this we use a floating nipple inside a bucket that allows milk to come through the bottom and then place them directly over the bucket. This is a lot more challenging than one would think in the fact that they do not have a natural instinct that drives them toward this behavior and they are fairly strong even at this age when compared to human strength. It only takes a few days with the floating nipple to completely train them to bucket feed. Then once they are old enough we put them in the pasture to free up the huts for newborn calves. In the pasture we just feed them by filling a trough with milk.
The freedom farm is a women’s coop with a mission that consists of three goals. They strive to grow pesticide free fruits and veggies, serve the community, and
enable young women to carry out and create jobs through the growing process. They
are currently grant funded but hope to grow to the point that they are self
sufficient by building community support and relationships. This is the group of strong women I have chosen to work in the community with and learn from. These ladies dilligently come out everyday and work so hard to maintain this area and keep production at a steady pace. Each week I spend a portion of my time planting, harvesting, tilling, prepping beds, or doing any sort of jobs that benefit their needs. At the moment we have broccoli, spinach, cabbage, peppers, basil, dill, and salad greens. As time progresses I am excited to see how we market these products to best provide local produce to the Goldsboro community. Caroline has decided to commit her time to working with Dillard Academy and influencing how the young children form opinions around the food they eat. As we have gotten so far from a natural diet this task becomes more and more challenging and crucial in child education. I know the children are in such good hands with Caroline. Her passion for nutrition paired with her gentle spirit will benefit the children tremendously
These are the tomatoes that we are doing nutrient management research on. We have two high tunnels with 16 plots that have been treated with different combinations of nutrient applications and a control group that has not been treated with any nutrients. Today we held an organic tomato production workshop on the small farm. At this workshop we went over some basic practices for tomato production such as trellising, suckering, disease and insect management, and displaying how to set up drip tape irrigation.
This past week we also spent time learning the comprehensive process of field planning for the spring season. This involved selecting recommended cultivars for our region, assigning an allotted amount of space in the field for each crop, researching where we can purchase organic seeds, calculating how much seed we need to purchase per crop, researching the planting and harvesting dates, and documenting records of this process. This was such a valuable process to be a part of.
With all this hard work we figured we would unwind by treating ourselves with a trip to the NC State Fair. We had ourselves a jolly good time by eating as much as we could, enjoying all of the livestock, and observing the award winning items. We are having some really great experiences here at CEFS.