Starting from scratch on leased land + Innovations for the small farm to increase productivity and efficiency
On Sunday, June 25th the West Virginia Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (WV CRAFT) kicked off at Harmony Farm’s Pig Roast in Morgantown, WV. Sky Harman, owner and operator of Harmony Farm, leases 5 acres of land on the Ridgeway Farm that overlooks a gated housing community. Perched on top of a hill, Harmony Farm stands out against the development of large, single family homes that peak through the black metal fence tucked beneath a tree line. The solid, uniform surfaces of the development are stark against the slightly rolling three acres of vegetables surrounded by soft grass, a natural fence line of brush and trees, and a deer fence that allows Sky a restful sleep during those few special hours and no more dreams about deer. Farm infrastructure dots the property, laying hens are nestled behind the brush separating them from the rows of vegetables, farm equipment and their implements are laid out on display for us, and picnic tables sit next to a roasting pig producing smells that make your belly rumble. The setting of the farm represents the increasing conflict between rural and suburban development that continues to encroach on farmland in West Virginia and the rest of the country. The location of Harmony Farm is an anomaly.
Because of the generous support of the late Pat Keith, and Harmony Farm’s partnership with Jean Meade and the nonprofit Human-Animal Bond, Sky Harman is growing a successful farm business in Morgantown, WV. But, the 5-year lease agreement also presents many challenges that impact major business decisions for Harmony Farm and become evident as we participate in the tour. For example, the long-term goals of Harmony Farm to expand production depend on access to additional acreage of farmland which is not currently an option on the Ridgeway Farm property. The three acres of cultivated land is the most the property allows and Sky’s temporary tenure and the unknown prevents Harmony Farm from reinvesting back into the farmland, a major part of the farm business. The lease agreement ends in 2019 and Harmony Farm will begin competing with major developers in the Morgantown area for healthy farmland.
Towards the end of the tour, Sky walks us over to his lineup of farm equipment. Several tractors, a flame weeder, a mechanical greens cutter, a broadcast spreader for amendments, rototiller (for sale), and other various tractor implements. The water wheel transplanter guarantees plantings to be evenly spaced, planted, and watered efficiently. Exact spacing of crops allows for the IH 140 Cultivator tractor to effortlessly cultivate between plants without uprooting or decapitating. Otherwise, Sky and interns spend several hours hand cultivating with the assortment of tools mentioned above. Need a calculation for how many hours, minutes, and seconds this saves the farm? Sky has the answer.