Wednesday, November 22, 2023
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Farming the Patchwork – Frog Hole Farm


Have you ever ever checked out a patchwork quilt? The shapes are all totally different, and so they’re pulled collectively over time to create one thing new. Frog Hole Farm is just a little bit like a patchwork quilt. There are peaches in a single orchard, nectarines in one other, and apricots, cherries, pluots and extra unfold throughout practically 280 acres. 

Many farmers plant one crop. However Farmer Al has by no means been your typical farmer. His purpose for Frog Hole Farm has at all times been to construct a neighborhood, present farmworker housing, and to reap candy, scrumptious fruit year-round. To make all these puzzle items match collectively, Farmer Al needed to farm like he was stitching a patchwork quilt – just a little at a time, and with many alternative shapes and textures. There are various advantages to this method, and there are additionally many challenges. 

Fortunate 13

Farmer Al began farming in Brentwood in 1976 on 13 acres of land. He planted 5 acres of peaches (17 totally different varieties!), and he additionally planted row crops, like corn and cabbage. The next yr, he planted Cal Purple peaches. After a number of years, he constructed a easy packing shed and moved a trailer to the farm so he may dwell there. Then he heard about land on the market at an adjoining farm, so he purchased 10 acres. A number of years later, he purchased 10 extra acres. After which 20 extra. He stored including acreage, and whereas he knew he needed to plant extra Cal Purple peaches (demand was via the roof), he continued to diversify his stone fruit orchards to incorporate varieties that ripen all through the spring and summer time. Then he planted fruit that he harvested within the fall, like Warren pears and pomegranates. 

His patchwork quilt is at all times rising – Frog Hole Farm harvests luscious varieties that ripen via the yr that we promote on-line, via our CSA program, and in groceries shops. And Farmer Al can hold our valued farmworker neighborhood working from January to December, with staff residing close by.  

Helpful bugs love a patchwork

Frog Hole Farm is a patchwork in each sense of the phrase! We have now various kinds of fruit timber planted subsequent to one another, as an alternative of in massive consecutive blocks. For instance, peaches are planted subsequent to pluots, that are planted subsequent to nectarines, that are planted subsequent to cherries, that are planted subsequent to pears and so forth. Diversifying the orchard on this means gives wonderful biodiversity advantages. 

  • When farmers develop just one crop (referred to as a monoculture), they’ve to manage pests utilizing one sort of treatment, whether or not it’s natural or artificial. They wipe out the goal pest, however additionally they wipe out all of the useful bugs (ladybugs, lacewings, praying mantises and a number of others). It takes time for these useful bugs to come back again. 
  • Farmers who develop crops in a patchwork entice a range of useful bugs. Each sort of fruit tree wants a distinct pest treatment at a distinct time, so the farmer knocks out the pest in a single space. Some useful bugs are swept up within the treatment. However there are numerous different acres close by the place they’re thriving. Helpful bugs are continually transferring and thriving in a patchwork, Farmer Al says.

Give attention to logistics

This method to farming requires excessive group and planning, Farmer Al says. 

“Every little thing – whether or not it’s peaches, nectarines, or one thing else – has its personal set of wants,” he says. “Every little thing requires a distinct administration method.”

For instance, crews use a distinct pest treatment on peaches than they do on nectarines. Irrigation schedules could also be totally different for one selection than one other. And harvesting occurs at totally different occasions all year long.

Which is precisely what Farmer Al needed to do when he began pulling his orchards collectively many years in the past – year-round harvests and fruit to get pleasure from. It’s a patchwork quilt that’s numerous, scrumptious, and sustainable. 

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