Dear Village Roots supporters and friends...I have an unusual the name of land reclamation and regeneration

Posted by Marty Castriotta on Tuesday, June 17, 2014 Under: News and Updates

A small bit of history. Village Roots leases about 13 acres of pasture from Orchard Hill on which we graze lambs, broiler chickens, turkeys, ducks, rabbits, pigs (who also pasture in the woods) and our oxen, Boss and Chez. We hay another 7 or 8 acres for winter forage. When I say pasture, I mean cleared land that was once considered prime agricultural soil, but has been over grazed, compacted with heavy machinery and chemically fertilized until about 10 years ago. When Orchard Hill bought the land, it was shocked when we pulled the chemical IV. 

Pigs out to pasture

The oxen, Boss and Chez, out to pasture in the evening

Since 2006, we have been slowly building back fertility by rotating grazing animals through the pasture, never allowing them to overgraze. Grazing animals build pasture (think about the relationship between bison and other herd animals and the great plains with its once impressive depths of exploited by monocultures and chemical warfare). We have seen great improvements, but there is a long ways to go. 

One of our biggest issues is a very high water table, meaning that there is often water right at the surface of the field in some locations, making these spots too wet to move animals through in a way that would be healthy for them or for the land. One of these locations we turned into two rice paddies, creating both food and wildlife habitat. Another wet spot we turned into a duck pond last fall and planted elderberries, cranberries, strawberries and buttonbush around it. 

 Pigs working up a new rice paddy

Our goal now is to catch more water (and nutrients) as it runs down our hillside pasture and to slow, spread and sink this water before it creates more erosion. The NRCS (National Resource and Conservation Service) has given us a generous grant for pasture management which includes fencing, liming and reseeding the pasture. It is our wish to first cut a shallow swale (a ditch and berm running on contour) across the entire length of the field and transecting two low/wet areas. This would serve the purpose of slowing water and distributing it to drier areas. Along the ditch we would run a fence and water line for animals. On the berm we would plant a hedgerow of nut trees, such as chestnuts that once dominated the Northeast.  

So what's the request? Well we can only do this sort of project when the land is most dry (namely July), and it makes sense to cut the swale before we lime and seed (this needs to be done for the grant before September 1!) Cutting the swale requires a day with a bulldozer at $100/hr. This is not what we budgeted for with Ellen due in August; however, it is the logical sequence of events and the grant project needs to be completed either way.

Any help with this project would be greatly appreciated. If everyone who likes this page made a $5 donation, we would just about cover our costs. The potential here is huge. The way we see it, if we can double the forage that we grow on this pasture, then we just doubled our acreage. This means more animal production, more carbon sequestration, more fertility, more possibilities.

Thank you all for reading.

In gratitude, 
Marty and Ellen

Checks can be made to:
Village Roots
134 Old Settlers Road
Alstead, NH 03602

In : News and Updates 

Tags: "orchard hill" "land reclamation and regeneration" lambs "broiler chickens" turkeys ducks rabbits pigs oxen "grazing animals" "rice paddies" "wildlife habitat" "national resource and conservation service" "fruit and nut trees" 
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About Me

Marty Castriotta Marty grew his first potato when he was 12 year old on a worn out piece of ground behind his parents’ house. He’s been attracted to the idea of growing food ever since. He started growing seriously in 2001 with his wife Ellen’s guidance and has worked on several organic farms prior to moving to Orchard Hill. His passion is in integrating all aspects of the farm; the gardens, animals, buildings, water systems and so on. Marty has been raising heritage farm animals since 2003, and started training his young oxen Boss and Chez to do some of the farm work in the winter of 2012. Marty graduated from Antioch University New England with an MS in Environmental Studies and currently teaches Farmers & Foragers and summer camps at The Orchard School, as well as Permaculture Design Courses at Orchard Hill.