I press down hard on my brakes as my captivation with the sights and smells of summer has caused me to nearly miss the turn onto Rustic Road. I impulsively check my rear view mirror for the impending danger of an oncoming vehicle as I coast onto the dirt road. A few minutes later I park at the top of a hill, across from a big red barn with a handmade sign that reads “Sunrise Farm”. There are five or six workers bent over in a nearby garden, still hard at work at five o’clock on a Monday. As I climb out of my car and wander up to the sugar house, employees from various farms in the Upper Valley begin to arrive for our first Learning Collaborative of the summer. Chuck Wooster, the owner of Sunrise Farm, greets each of them with a genuine smile and an enthusiastic handshake. After everyone has been introduced and made themselves a name tag, we stroll across the yard, through a large gate, and over to the first stop on our tour.
Standing between two fields, we learn that one that will remain unused this summer as part of the rotation planting that is essential to successful organic growing. A few rows are covered with a floating white fabric that protects the baby plants without the harmful use of pesticides. Alongside, there are rows of green vegetables popping out of holes in a corn-based black plastic that will eventually decompose. Next to these fields we are introduced to the 40 egg-laying hens that gave the farm 52 eggs this morning. In the paddock on the other side there is a group of broiler chickens and up the hill a few sheep of various sizes notice the tour and waddle down the hill to beg for treats at the fence line. One of Chuck’s employees explains that the broilers are moved every morning and the sheep are moved twice a week so that the animals have access to new grass and the old area can continue to grow.
Inside the hoop houses, the spinach and mesclun have been keeping the pickers busy as they have already undergone their second picking. One of the employees laughs and says that they have been eagerly waiting to see the end of the asparagus harvest for a few weeks now. Spinach, mesclun, and asparagus are only a few of the items among the CSA selection at the farm tonight. Other delicious looking produce includes arugula, broccoli, rainbow chard, radishes, and a wide variety of pick-your-own herbs. I also spot maple syrup, cheese, and eggs for sale in the CSA area as well.
Up at the sugar house, we all enjoy a delicious potluck dinner while Chuck discusses the other theme of this week’s Learning Collaborative: finances. He passes around examples of spreadsheets and visual aids that help him explain the importance of recording and tracking farm finances. Chuck talks about some of his successes as a farmer and a few of the difficulties he has had as well. I did not expect to learn a lot tonight, but as I walk back to my car I feel both enlightened and entertained. The secluded location and down-to-earth feeling of Sunrise Farm is inviting to CSA members, their families, and even strangers like me.