Foggy Meadow Farm hosted RAFFL's last workshop on September 7. Despite the drizzly weather, we had a great crowd and an informative workshop. Paul Horton and Sally Beckwith have operated Foggy Meadow Farm in Benson for six years. They cultivate 4.5 acres and sell at the Rutland, Middlebury, Dorset, and Fair Haven farmers’ markets. Their crew consists of 2-4 interns, 1 full time employee, Paul, Sally, and occasional help with harvesting. Paul focuses on unique techniques and equipment, which are critical to his success.
Propagation Greenhouse: 17’ x 45’, inflated
The greenhouse uses a heated bench system: the center bench (4’x 38’) of the greenhouse is heated using Rimol’s Delta T system. The system includes tubing, plumbing and controls, and temperature sensor. Cost: $1000. Paul bought hot water heater and paid for plumbing and wiring. Construction took a couple days.
How it works: Temperature sensor (in soil block of 1020 tray) forces system to kick on if below a certain temperature (65-70), then hot water runs through tubing on center bench. Trays are set on top of tubing and soil is heated to aid in germination. In cold weather, Ag-19 remay is pull over the top, sometimes in a triple layer.
- Predictability for germination
- Lower heating bill: without the bench, heating bill could be $1000-1500. With bench, it costs only $80 to heat greenhouse.
- More even stands in the fields: all greens are started in the greenhouse, mostly in 200 cell trays, and then transplanted out 3 weeks later.
- Tractors and Cultivating Equipment:Paul has searched far and wide to find inexpensive tractors and cultivating implements.
Farmall Cub- Paul’s cost: $3500 with buddingh baskets included. Typically, the basket weeders alone could be $3000.
The basket weeders are used to kill small weeds. Paul will typically run through a planted bed two times or so. The implement also has pins to mark where the rows will be. The farm uses a system of three rows at 15” or 2 rows at 30”. That way, in transplanting and direct sowing, the rows are always exactly where they need to be for cultivation to happen. Paul is able to use the basket weeders to get within ½” on either side of the plants.
Paul has a few other 1940s Farmall tractors, which he prefers because of the ease of repairing them (more old fashioned equipment). Other cultivating equipment includes shafts with various heads, and hilling discs.
To find good used cultivators, Paul recommends looking in ditches and old farms, in Agriview, on Craigslist, etc.
- Hand Tools
A variety of hand tools are used on the farm for shallow and precise cultivation, including a Dutch push hoe, several forks and a broad fork. Paul recommends Earth Tools out of Kentucky for good high quality tools.
Three types of irrigation pipe that Paul uses:
- Ames ABC
Paul got some great deals on irrigation pipe. At least 1200 ft for $1/ft (usually $3/ft new).
Then he paid about $70 for custom fittings so that he could run his various types of pipe into each other. For custom fittings, try Charles Harris Irrigation out of Massachusetts, or Rainflo.
Pump: Monarch 9 HP pump with Honda engine.
Nozzles: Rainbird 70 Sprinkler (shoots water 120’)
Rainbird 30 Sprinkler (shoots water 60’ and is preferred by Paul for its better coverage)
Drip Irrigation: in tomato hoop-house only.
Paul puts about 1” of water on everything, every 5 days or so. It is essential for transplanting and helps with the predictability of yields.
- 8’x8’ walk-in cooler was all Paul needed for first four years of production. His cost for the used unit was $2000 including installation.
- 12’x14’ storage unit to function as a root cellar. Has a coolbot and window air conditioner. Used to store 5000 lb. of roots
- New walk-in this year, a little bigger. Really nice compressor. Cost $2500 including installation. Will be used for summer squash & tomatoes in summer, then roots in the fall/winter. Kept at 55 degrees for summer crops, then 99% relative humidity for bulk storage of roots.
Paul recommends Quality Cooling in Poultney or Gerry Guppy in Killington for finding used refrigeration equipment. He also recommends spending money on a good hygrometer (about $50) to keep track of humidity in storage areas.
Other items of note:
- Paul touched on his use of Remay to exclude flea beetles and cucumber beetles.
- He has used a bulldozer and done lots of earth moving to create shallow ditches for improved drainage.
- He plans to expand into more winter growing. He currently uses two unheated Quonset style field houses for winter growing and plans to get a high tunnel in the near future.