We like to think of New Ark Farms as a playground for professionals (and some “not so” professionals) in their respective fields. It is a place for practitioners devoted to the successful reentry of ex-offenders to explore new approaches in mental health, job training, and character development. It is a place for experts in community development to help mold new leaders. And, it is a place for social entrepreneurs to think about the marriage of business and the people it should be serving.
For instance, we have set up a “play date” with the two leading regenerative and holistic farmers in the US to make our (one-acre) orchard uber-sustainable and (actually) beneficial to the planet. Michael Phillips is the owner of Lost Nation Orchard in NH and author of “The Holistic Orchard”. He is a top philosopher and practitioner utilizing a biological approach to orcharding. As if this isn’t enough, Michael will be teaming up with John Kempf and Jason Hobson of Advancing Eco-Agriculture (AEO), a leading regenerative farming consultancy, with a mission to improve crop quality and yield by focusing on soil health.
We just had our first onsite visit with Jason. He left his scientific jargon at home, and really explained his farming methods in a language we could understand – food. In many ways feeding the soil is like feeding a person. Specific nutrients like carbs, proteins and fats are needed in order to foster big glossy leaves, a strong trunk, and eventually big flavorful fruit. And, interestingly enough, we’re also learning that their practices are actually more effective (and a heck of lot cheaper) than spraying with toxic pesticides and herbicides. Jason showed us pictures of blueberries the size of quarters, and grape bunches with nearly double the average fruit.
It may seem ridiculous to pour this much effort into our first 100-trees, but it is exactly because of our size that we are able to experiment with these non-conventional approaches to agriculture. We can’t wait for our playground to come to fruition!