When Kathy and I began looking at farmland, we developed a set of requirements (and a project plan) for selection of a property that would nurture us into retirement and beyond.
After reading many books about sustainability and farming, we decided that 15 acres was more in line with our goals than 150 or 1500. Our plan was to work the land on our own, not involve a staff of farm hands.
We wanted a diverse ecosystem and not just a flat empty fields. The ideal property would include pasture for animals, woodland for fuel, marsh/stream/vernal ponds for wildlife habitat, wildflowers/grasses for pollinators, and space for an orchard/hoop house/berry patch.
As of today, Unity Farm has come very close to that goal.
We now have 15 acres divided into
5 acres of dry woodland (oak, maple, ash, hickory, cedar, poplar, elm, pine)
2 acres of orchard/hoop house/berry patch
2 acres of marsh/stream/vernal ponds
1 acre for house, shed, roads, and lawn
1 acre of pasture (orchard grass/timothy hay)
1 acre of meadow (wildflowers/grasses)
2 acres of barnyard (barn, paddocks, poultry coop)
1 acre of work areas for wood processing, composting, and mushroom farming
The orchard, pictured above, now contains 30 fruit/nut trees, 180 blueberry bushes, 30 raspberry bushes, and a foundation for the 21' x 50' foot hoop house we'll build later this Summer, all surrounded by an 8 foot deer fence.
In the past, I was a rock climber, an ice climber, and an alpinist. Creating the orchard involved many weekends with a chainsaw, a pushcart for wood hauling, and a wheelbarrow. I've burned more calories and gained more upper body strength as a farmer than I ever had as a mountaineer.
Thanks to my wife Kathy for her vision, Stumpy's for tree clearing, Tree Specialists/Barbara Keene-Briggs for tree species selection and design, Paul Rossi for excavating/grading artistry, and River Valley Fencing for protecting all the produce from being eaten.
In three years we'll harvest our first fruit crops. Now that the orchard is done, our next task is to shear the alpaca and complete the mushroom inoculation so that we'll have our first crops of Shitake and Oyster mushrooms by next Spring.