Trusted Roots Farm takes hold in its first season in New Lebanon
NEW LEBANON, N.Y. -- Just beyond the barn at Trusted Roots Farm, a rectangular parcel of wide open acres lies tucked in front of a mountain, around 80 chickens on one side and vegetables and cover crop on the other. Near the perimeter live four Nubian goats.
Inside the barn, in a small apartment, live Cameron Hastie and her partner, Blake Etchison, and their dog, Finn. Outside of the apartment, a well-organized series of baskets and chalkboard signs make up the farm's CSA pickup area. Around 20 shareholders have come here all summer to get vegetables, eggs and maple syrup, and to pick their own items right off the land.
It's a very clean, organized setup for the farm's first season. Hastie and Etchison have been there since January, and they're working on a three-year lease with a landowner who lives across County Route 34. They farm about 10 acres, with cover crop on five.
Hastie, a former zookeeper, and Etchison, who works at the Pine Bush in Albany as an environmental educator, have an easy division of work.
"I'm the outside farmer, and she's the inside farmer," Hastie said.
Their CSA is free choice, which means you can take more of what you want and less of what you don't, depending on how big the harvest is. There's also the pick-your-own option.
"Part of what we're interested in is making the whole farm accessible to people," Hastie said.
The CSA share requires two hours of volunteering per season, which is "a good time to get to know people a little bit more," Hastie said. A winter CSA is in the works. State nutrition program benefits are accepted.
The barn also acts as a farm store, where non-members can get things like eggs and maple syrup, made there. It's self-serve, and it's open during daylight hours.
Trusted Roots does not use herbicides or pesticides, or organically approved sprays.
"We rely on the pastured animals, compost and cover crops for fertility. We rotate crops, use row covers and manually remove insect pests to keep them at bay," Hastie said.
The goats are not part of the CSA, except for their contributions to grazing. They are mainly for personal use -- Hastie and Edgerton have been making goat cheese, yogurt and ice cream out of the milk.
A college agriculture class planted the seed in Hastie's head to become a farmer.
"That got me thinking about it," she said, "and over time I was becoming more interested in living more sustainably, particularly about food."
Before they started Trusted Roots, Hastie apprenticed at a few farms, including Caretaker Farm in Williamstown, which she eventually co-managed when the owners spent a year abroad in Chile. The landowner she works with now is a member at Caretaker.
She has no machinery yet but is looking at tractors for the coming season, which she is already preparing for. Now that fall is here, she begins work at sunrise and tries to end at 6 p.m.
"I'm not always successful," she said.
She takes off Sundays and tries to work a half-day Saturday, but the amount of work really depends on what she has to do. And the animals need care every day.
When I ask her what the worst part of farming is for her, she takes a moment to consider the question.
"The scariest part is knowing your body is your most important tool," she says.
A recent illness may have inspired that answer -- Hastie got Lyme disease shortly after moving to New Lebanon, which put her out of commission for five days -- and even then, she was out working for around two hours a day.
Year One is a year with extra expenses. A new greenhouse was the biggest investment, followed by fencing, which encases the acreage used to farm (Finn also helps by patrolling the field's edges).
But things look like they will hold tight, Hastie said, and a new tractor will help a lot with the workload.
"Next year we'll have a significant dip in expenses," she said. "So it'll be nice to farm next year."
If you go ...
What: Trusted Roots Farm
Where: 402 County Route 34, New Lebanon, N.Y.
When: Farm store open Monday to Saturday, during daylight hours
Taking winter CSA share memberships now.
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