photos: Stacey Cramp for the New York Times
This totally inspiring piece in the New York Times Home Section about Four Seasons Farms in Maine just blew our minds. Eliot Coleman began farming near Penobscot Bay in 1968 on 60 acres of forested land he bought from Scott and Helen Nearing for $33 an acre. Like his organic farming idols before him, he now grows an amazingly sustainable garden with a vast variety of organic crops on a small patch of land with his wife, Barbara Damrosch. They grow food to sell and to eat all four seasons of the year. And not only is everything they grow organic, they’ve also developed a truly innovative system for farming, starting with a rotation of greenhouses on wheels that keep plants warm enough from the sun in colder months so they don’t freeze at night while they’re still young and fragile. And then, when these first plants are hearty enough to sustain themselves, the couple and their farmhands roll these ingenious and inexpensive greenhouses away to protect newer seedlings. In winter, the henhouse is moved to a greenhouse on wheels, which gets rolled 10 feet every week, so the hens have fresh ground and, in the process, an entire field is fertilized. Mr. Coleman and his books on farming have been a catalyst generations of seasonal organic growers, including Dan Barber, an owner and executive Chef of Blue Hill at Stone Barns who says he “followed the path because Eliot made it possible and exciting to farm in the four seasons.” Mr. Coleman and Ms. Damrosch don’t use any pesticides on their farm, as they believe that if you grow healthy organic crops, they have their own defenses against pests. And they really don’t have any. Similarly, the two don’t take any medications or vitamins and are both in fantastic health (he’s in his 70’s). They also give their farm hands free room and board and have sold acres of land to a few of these young farmers for the original $33 an acre in the spirit of The Nearings and the spirit of the locavore movement, in general – did we already use the phrase “totally inspiring”? It really can’t be said enough about these two modern, organic farming pioneers!