At Millstone Farm we enlist a variety of regenerative farming practices with the intention of increasing the health and resiliency of our soil, animals, extended environment, and community.
We move the animals once a day through a system of small paddocks where we can focus their grazing. By doing this, we increase soil fertility, organic matter, carrying capacity of the pastures, regeneration of forages, and animal health and performance.
SOIL FERTILITY - spreads the manure around the whole pasture (rather than around the water tank, shade tree, or best forages like in other grazing systems).
ORGANIC MATTER - prevents overgrazing which leads to smaller root masses and less soil organic matter. Prevents soil compaction by eliminating high traffic laneways to the water source or shade tree. With less soil compaction, the manure is able to integrate into the soil more easily, adding its beneficial nutrients to further loosen the soil and increase the organic matter. This all leads to the reduction of any additional fertilizers being necessary.
CARRYING CAPACITY - focuses the grazing in tighter spaces that “rotate” to include the entire pasture, limiting the grazers focus on the sections of pasture with their favorite forage and encouraging them to graze the whole pasture. Over time, with the increase in soil fertility, organic matter, and forage regeneration, the same size paddocks will be able to feed more animals, allowing the farmer to increase their yields.
REGENERATION OF FORAGES - the grazers are encouraged to forage in all sections of the pasture, including the weedy, less palatable plants they would choose to avoid in larger grazing systems. With this, the spread of these weed seeds is minimized, allowing a diverse array of higher quality forages (grasses, clover—research others) to take over. -Animal health and performance- “you are what you eat,” and with all of the above occurring, the animals are grazing on a healthier landscape, leading to a healthier animal. New pasture everyday minimizes the risk of and exposure to high levels of microorganisms, including worms. With constant interaction with the humans managing their grazing, the stress levels of the animals are lower. Associating humans with better food, the animals are more easily managed and moved, allowing the farmers to get close to the animals, diagnosing any unusual behavior and acting quickly on it.
We have a diverse selection of livestock including sheep, goats, llamas, meat chickens, egg chickens, and turkeys here at the farm. Each animal plays its own role in helping regenerate the landscape they live off of.
We graze the sheep, goats, and llamas together. The sheep graze their preferred pasture plants including grasses, legumes, and forbs first. After this, they will select out the weeds and shrubs in the pasture. The goats will also graze on the pasture plants, but are much less picky than the sheep, and will readily eat and manage weeds, shrubs, brush, and leaves. This helps to spread out the pressure on different plants, maintaining a diverse and healthy pasture. The llamas also graze the pasture plants, however, their main purpose here at Millstone Farm is for protection. They are wonderful livestock guardians, deterring predators (fox, coyote, and bobcat) from preying on the sheep, especially lambs, and the goats.
Once the grazers pass through a pasture, we wait a couple of days and then introduce the chickens. Chickens are omnivores and will eat a wide variety of food, including bugs, tops of grass, fruits, vegetables, grains, and extra produce from the garden or scraps from the kitchen. Their primary purpose in regenerating the landscape here at Millstone is to scratch and spread. After a couple of days, the manure piles left behind by the sheep, goats, and llamas are full of grubs that the chickens rely on for a free and healthy source of protein. As they scratch the manure piles to access their food, they inevitably spread the pile out and break up the manure, making it more readily available to break down and fertilize the pasture.
The turkeys are raised on pasture for 15-20 weeks at Millstone Farm, eventually supplying a family with a rich tasting, healthy bird for their Thanksgiving Day table. Similar to chickens, turkeys are omnivores that scratch for their food. We intentionally set them up in a pasture next to a garden plot. Once this garden plot is done for harvest for the season, we expand the territory for the turkeys to include the old garden. By doing so, we can rely on the turkeys to scratch through the old plants and weeds, finding an abundant stash of food for themselves while helping us out by cleaning out the garden space. They will eat the spoiled produce, weeds and weed seeds, bugs and insects all while cleaning up for the farmers!
We graze our livestock on pasture through the winter. Yes, even in the snow!
The sheep will dig through the snow to reach the pasture plants below if need be. By managing our pasture rotations throughout the summer and fall we are able to save pasture for winter grazing. The winter grazing paddocks will (generally) be rested from August 1 until December 1, when the grazers will be re-introduced to these areas. This time-period allows the winter grazing areas to grow to their peak height BEFORE going to seed, maximizing the nutrition and hardiness to wind, rain, frost, and snow. Similar to our intensive rotational grazing plan and similar to feeding hay in the winter, we will give out a ‘slice’ of pasture for the sheep, goats, and llamas to graze on each day. This practice maximizes our pastureland’s potential, keeps our animals in the field and out of the barnyard (reducing potential health issues), limits our need for off farm inputs (reducing costs, reliance on external feed, and oil dependency).
At Millstone Farm we are committed to the conservation of heritage breeds. Heritage breeds are those that thrived before the introduction of intensive industrialized agriculture. They are naturally adapted to their environment and thus support a sustainable agricultural system without the use of antibiotics and artificial hormones. Many of these breeds are endangered, and by supporting a marketplace for them farmers and customers are supporting their conservation for future generations.
Farm-raised heritage breed sheep, goats, chickens, turkeys, and cattle all graze on our pasture land. We provide our heritage meat to fine local restaurant partners as well as the public. We offer for sale through our CSA program and periodically in our online farm store select shares of eggs, chicken, beef, lamb and Thanksgiving/holiday turkeys.
NO & LOW TILL PRACTICES
We practice no-till agriculture for the purpose of making our soils more resilient by improving its biological fertility. In a no-till agricultural system, we are respecting the delicate balance of soil life, by maintaining the carefully constructed layers of the subsurface ecosystem and continuing to build soil at Millstone Farm. By doing so, we reduce the potential for soil erosion, increase the population and diversity of life in the soil, and increase retention of organic matter and water in the soil.
COVER CROPPING & GREEN MANURES
We use a diverse assortment of cover crops to selectively manage different plots in our vegetable fields and garden beds depending on the goal(s) we have for each particular plot. Cover crops have a wide variety of uses and it is fun to play around with different ones to help us in many different ways. Cover crops are essential for increasing soil fertility, organic matter, water retention and biodiversity. They also aid in preventing soil erosion, weed growth, pest pressure, and soil born diseases. In addition to the regenerative benefits they have on the landscape, cover crops can also be harvested for animal and/or human consumption or added to a compost system as organic matter.
YEAR ROUND GROWING
As the temperatures drop and the days shorten, most farmers are busy putting fields to rest, stockpiling for the winter, daydreaming for some rest, and planning for next spring. While we will certainly be doing all of that as well, we will also be planning and prepping for our late fall, winter, and early spring growing seasons. With a heated greenhouse we will grow and harvest lettuce and other greens through the lower temps and shorter days. In our unheated hoophouse, next door to the greenhouse, we will select specific crops, mostly cold hardy greens like spinach, collards, mache, kale, mustards, and chard, to grow before the winter solstice and use row-cover to help hold them over through the winter for harvests. Once late winter comes around these crops will bounce back and start shooting up new leaves to help give us a kick start for the spring season!
Our regenerative approach to farming has defined the design of two new buildings that will increase both farm efficiency and animal welfare, while also adding to the aesthetic beauty of a working farm.
A new, nearly complete, packshed will provide a sustainably-designed space where we bring the harvest to wash, sort, and package it for our produce consumers. It will increase our efficiency with harvests extraordinarily because it is centrally located to our gardens and fields as well as right next to our greenhouses, the main production area of the farm year-round. Also, the interior design and wash systems will speed up our harvest days big time with the additions of a greens bubbler, salad spinner, root wash station, and dry racks. The packshed will re-use the wash water to irrigate crops in a nearby garden via a pump and storage tank system and swill feature solar panels on the roof to integrate our ideals of utilizing cleaner energy.
TITO RUN-IN SHED
With the addition of a run-in shelter in Tito Field, we will increase our yearly grazing periods, allowing us to get the livestock out into Tito Field earlier in the spring and graze later into the fall/winter. Tito Run-In will provide the livestock with a sheltered area to take cover during these early and late season periods where temperatures can fluctuate drastically and precipitation events are more common. This will create less management restrictions and requirements for the farmers as well. Rather than bringing the animals back and forth from Tito Field each day, we can keep them rotating around the paddock systems in place in Tito Field and store any extra hay, feed, and equipment in the attached storage room.