Though many of the tractors at Holly Hill Farm have grown quiet in the past two years, there is still a need to start them, tinker with them, and make sure they can pull implements like the large mower. The tractors are often quiet because the farmers are employing a no-till approach to farming.
No-tilling is a strategy mostly that keep the tractors in their bays, so the farmers can focus on adding compost and organically approved amendments, such as dehydrated chicken manure, to the fields where crops can grow. The thought is that tilling the soil can disturb the microbial life in the soil. It might be better to add nutrient rich material to the beds.
The farmers also work to suppress the weeds by unfurling black or clear plastic to solarize the weeds and curb back the quack grass that likes to send horizontal runners from paths into growing beds. There is also just old-fashioned weed pulling.
This age old tradition was exhibited last week marvelously by 63 volunteers from Blue Cross/Blue Shield, who came with energy and a strong work ethic to help clear weeds, move compost and pull invasive plants from brooks, streams and field edges. When pulling these unwanted plants, it is important to try and leave the soil, once you have extracted the weed, root and all. This hard working crew of volunteers were very helpful and enthusiastic.
Farming is hard work and provides constant opportunities to stay busy, so a group like these folks did a great job to help us. The asparagus patch was freed, the black swallow wart was bagged and the galinstoga weeds were pulled from the walking paths. The only time a tractor was used, was to bring wood chips down from the donated wood chip pile to place on top of cardboard, which in turn was placed to cover the weeds in the way.
But the tractors do need attention and Dan, as well as volunteer mechanic John, help make sure the machines do run and work as needed. The other day, Dan was loosening and tightening to make sure the motored push mower and the mower deck were all ready to handle the grass that keeps growing. We are not a turf farm, but there are plenty of areas along the edges of fields that need tending so that school groups and visitors can walk along and travel from place to place, to and fro.
I do wonder if the recent closing of South Shore Auto Parts, where Holly Hill had an account for decades, was any result of our no-till farming or the decline in farming or the train being restored and folks driving less.
No to the latter, as there seem to be more cars than ever and not nearly as many bike lanes which would encourage more bicycle riding and bike lanes (real lanes, not a painted outline of a bicycle). I also bring up the fact that Cohasset Cycle Sports is going out of business.
So whatever your mode of transprotation for work or pleasure, who will be here to tend these machines that are in our sheds and garages and still have purpose? There are changes in local shops and local farms, but the need remains to keep thinking outside the box and beyond the tradiotional tried and true practices.
Perhaps tractors are meant for chldren to admire, and even sit-upon, with permission. Come to the Farm for Tractor day in October, anyone? In the meanwhile, we will continue to rage against and love the machine, while trying to grow healthy, organic produce and provide it for those in need.