The full vision of Wind’s Four Quarters Farm is to have a virtually self-sufficient farm, providing food/drink, shelter, clothing, and power for the residents while supporting and educating about land and species restoration. It will not, of course, be able to provide some of the more modern conveniences itself (electronics or refined metals, for example), which will be purchased with profits from the farm.
Food and drink come in the form of water (most likely a combination of well and surface water, all put through a purification process to remove impurities), pasture-raised heritage breed livestock (Milking Devon cattle for dairy and meat, Chantecler chickens, Pilgrim geese, Jersey Buff turkeys, and Cayuga ducks for eggs and meat, and American Chinchilla rabbits and Guinea Hogs for meat), heirloom/native and ancient crops (grown in rotation to protect and enhance the soil), and orchards. Hay for winter feeding of the livestock will be grown as part of the crop rotation.
The rabbits and alpacas (both Suri and Huacaya) as well as some plant crops produce materials that can be used for clothing.
This requires a number of buildings to provide shelter for people, livestock, equipment, and storage: a water wheel-powered gristmill (the water wheel also plays a part in the water purification and power systems), a smithy/machine shop for minor (and maybe major) repairs, a woodshop, a smokehouse, barns for the livestock (including facilities for milking, shearing, and slaughter), coops for the poultry, hutches for the rabbits, storage sheds for equipment and hay for winter feeding, and housing and food storage for about twelve people. The buildings will be constructed of local, renewable, high thermal mass materials, including cob and strawbale.
Power sources will include hydro-electric (from the water wheel) and wind power, and may also include geothermal and solar power. Because most of these power-generating facilities will probably not exist at the time the farm is purchased, the property will start on the local electrical grid. The transition from grid power to off-grid power will depend on local rules and regulations; some electric companies allow customers using off-grid power to sell off excess power production for credit during times when the off-grid power isn’t sufficient and the customer needs grid power, but some don’t.
The main source of income for the Farm will be selling surplus crops, meat, dairy, and clothing products. Possible sales venues include U-Pick (pick-your-own produce), roadside stand, Farmers’ Markets, and direct-to-business sales (such as restaurants).
In addition to supporting the residents, the Farm will be operating programs to help others: a vocational rehab program (especially for individuals suffering from conditions such as PTSD and autism), apprenticeship programs for teenagers and young adults, and educational programs to work with local school districts. In addition, a “Guest Farmer” program will be established for individuals who want an opportunity to spend a few weeks on the Farm. The programs include participation in day-to-day activities on the Farm, including (but not necessarily limited to) caring for and butchering livestock; planting, weeding, harvesting, and preserving crops; handling sales venues and profit; housekeeping tasks; and craft tasks such as spinning wool, throwing pottery, carpentry, metal-working.
Today, this is just a vision, the end result of a number of goals. Today, the Farm consists of an urban plot with six deciduous trees, including two maples. Five years ago, there was no garden at all. In 2012, I put in a tall raised-bed garden in the back yard with 80 square feet for raspberries, 15 square feet each for blueberries and blackberries, and about 20 square feet for vegetables, which I used in 2013, 2014, and 2015. The bed was 4 feet tall because I expected to be weeding and I wanted to work at standing level rather than at ground level.
By 2015, the raspberries had become so prolific that they were choking out the rest of the garden, so in the fall, after harvest was complete, I reorganized. Over the past three years, I found that using the leaves from the trees for mulch effectively eliminated the need to weed, so I moved the blackberries and blueberries to other locations and reused the materials from most of the existing garden and converted to multiple, larger 8-inch tall raised beds: I now have 300 square feet of annual vegetable garden space and I also set up three small perennial crop beds that are about 10 square feet each.
In past years, I’ve grown about a dozen different varieties of annual vegetables. In 2016, I planted 70, of which about 15% failed. I also branched out into more vertical gardening: 1/2 of the crops were vine or indeterminate varieties that either sprawl or can be trellised or are crops that are good as foundation plants (low-growing plants that thrive around the base of trellised crops); this increased the square footage of used growing space by over 200 square feet.
All but a handful of the crops are heirloom varieties, and nearly all started from USDA-certified organic seed.
I sold produce at the Fridley Farmers’ Market and became quite involved with the management of the Market.
What will happen in 2017 remains to be seen.