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Working on the Farm

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I’ve spent the last three months working on the farm here at Green River Preserve, assisting with hikes and helping to maintain rows of beans, squash, melons, tomatoes, and kale in the mornings. Though my primary role here at GRP is that of Counselor, I’ve also had the opportunity to be the Farm Intern here at Base Camp.

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Green River Preserve’s farm, approximately five working acres, is only the second settlement along the Green River from its headwaters within The Preserve. Beyond it lie a dozen or so larger farms, many using industrial-scale equipment, pesticides, and herbicides. But the farm at GRP does things differently; there are no plows or harrows pulled behind tractors, no fertilizer spreaders or mechanized seeders. Instead, all of the weeding, planting, and maintenance are done by hand. This means that each plant is individually potted or seeded into rows that have been hand-constructed and -aerated using basic wooden and metal tools. The stirrup hoe clears the dense weeds and grasses while the broadfork helps us construct the rows and provide the soil with oxygen. The fertilizer that covers these newly-constructed rows comes directly from the compost on the farm, a concoction of food waste from our basecamp kitchen, hay and cardboard for added carbon, and water to accelerate the entirely solar-driven decomposition process.

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All of this points to just how impressive the GRP farm’s scale of production is—over the course of this summer, several-gallon plastic tubs of kale, lettuce, cucumbers, zucchinis and (most recently) a harvest of muskmelons have made their way from the farm up to basecamp and into the kitchen, eventually reaching the plates of our campers and staff. We’ve had farm-fresh zucchini bread for breakfast and a salad bar packed with blue kale and suyo cucumbers at lunch and dinner. Geoff Whitesides, the manager of our farm, has brought years of experience with both crop production and livestock management that has boosted the farm’s productive capabilities and opened up new opportunities for education.

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While most campers spend the morning here at The Preserve hiking to waterfalls and balds, one group each day spends the morning exploring what the farm has to offer with Geoff and myself. Campers have held chickens and turkeys, caught runaway rabbits, and fed pigs an assortment of melons, squash, and chard. We’ve sampled zucchini and cucumbers, tried spicy oregano by the handful, and helpful Geoff with seeding and compost production. Oftentimes, we end the hike with a short walk to the river, a great spot for finding spirit stones and completing our polar bear challenge in the frigid waters of the Green River. Campers of all ages have gotten to try new vegetables, meet unfamiliar animals, and enjoy the wonders of a fully-functioning farm right here on The Preserve.

Story by Adam Saacke with photos by Brandon S. Marshall