This year’s Olney Farm Report boasts a change in management, new construction, renovations, annual events, and an organic certification, as well as a bounty full of harvested vegetables and grains. There are also changes and increases to the animal farm. We have much to celebrate, the first of which is the approval for a USDA organic certification which took effect on December 1, 2015. Generally this certification takes several years to acquire after submitting a request; however, years of expert record keeping and unconventional farming practices allowed Olney to receive her credentials in one year’s time.
New structural additions include The Wellingdon. This vegetable washing room is designed to unload, weigh, clean, package, and process vegetables from ten acres of field and greenhouses. A second chicken coop was constructed to house and grow broiler chickens. On the Taber property, a barn was erected to store organically grown hay. In addition, water and electricity are utilities reintroduced to this property.
A root cellar in the lower level of the Music Box starts off the list of completed renovations. A shed roof addition to the east side of the Towe Barn houses a new squeeze and head gate for the beef herd. Herd health and animal loading will be much safer and more efficient. A chain-linked fence surrounds 4100 square feet on the west side of the Cliff Guindon Chicken House. The enclosure allows the organic hens a free-range roaming area. Lastly, the farm office has been moved to the lower floor of the Main Building.
The animal portion of the farm has undergone several big changes. The broiler chicken production has expanded to 800 chickens a year. Four times a year on a six week cycle, 200 chicks are raised for eight weeks, then butchered, to provide meat for students and staff. To date we have brought in 2,065.5 lbs. of chicken meat. The first organic chicken egg was collected on August 28, thus the start of the Olney’s organic egg production. The farm manages 173 organic hens that currently lay between 90 and 110 eggs a day. This past spring, 6 goats kidded 13 kids — 6 bucklings and 7 doelings. At this time there is no financial report on goat sales but 6 goats have been sold. The introduction of the pork production began this fall with the purchase of 2 feeder pigs. They are a Yorkshire/Hampshire mix and will remain part of the farm until early spring. The beef cattle birthed 13 calves. From the overall herd, 8 animals were sold and 4 were butchered for the school. Of the 37 heads of beef cattle, 17 heads represent the organic beef herd.
Due to a change in management, loss of some equipment, and a shortage of proper fencing, the farmers decided to grow less vegetables; nonetheless, with the help of students, interns, and volunteers the harvest remains substantial. As of November 14, the farm yielded one and a half tons of produce. There are still more fall crops to be harvested. Partial totals are as follows: 161 lbs. of cucurbits, 230 lbs. of beans and peas, 262 lbs. of lettuces, 330 lbs. of nightshade fruits, 613 lbs. of leafy vegetables, 1,394 lbs. of root vegetables, and 544 heads of garlic. The Sunnyside herb garden produced an abundant mixture of parsley, dill, cilantro, oregano, basil, chives, green onions, lemon balm, peppermint, and sage. A poor yield on cucumbers, squash, and watermelon was due to bad seed. A bad year of regional tomato growing and experimental farming were responsible for a zero tomato yield. Crops not grown this year were sweet corn, sorghum, sunflowers, and onions.
The totals in the hay and grain fields are as follows: Hay: first cutting-190 tons; second cutting-24 tons. Straw: 10 tons; Wheat: 40 bushels; Field Corn: 130 bushels. Fifteen acres of forage peas, tillage radishes, wheat, barley, rye, and oats were planted as cover crop. We produced 40 tons of compost.
The farm participated in two annual events. The theme for FARmOUT, a two day promotion that hosted middle school students from various schools in the region, was “Pioneer Farming.” Students learned about 18th and 19th century farming through a scavenger hunt, a “poultry” slam, cooking and baking, and a hands on demonstration showing how to care for gardens and small farm animals. The farm supported the school’s Harvest Festival by offering a hay wagon tour of the farm, by manning a farm market stand, and by setting up stations to make apple butter, shell dry beans, feed goats, and create art. Another ongoing program is the summer internship program. This year the farm chose four individuals: a returning Olney senior, an Olney alum of 2015, a local Barnesville High School student, and a visitor from Florida.
The success of the farm would not be possible without the help of many volunteers. We would like to take this time to thank: Dave Cook, Dale Guindon, Denny Hunkler, Sam Hunkler, Linda Jenewein, Dale Johnson, Randy McBride, Bob Rockwell, Joel & Shelley Rockwell, John & Wanda Rockwell, Roseanna & Thomas Rockwell, Eric Ruble, Gustav Ryberg, Rich & Mary Sidwell, Richard Simon, Amihan Tindongan, Dave Warrington, and the students, staff, and their families.
Special recognition goes to Sandy Sterrett who shared her time, knowledge, and expertise as Assistant Manager of Olney Farm from 2010 to 2016. We miss her. We wish her much happiness in her years of retirement.
As you can see, we have much to be thankful.
The goal of the school is to promote a showcase/educational farm. The goal of the farm is to produce as much as it can through sustainable agriculture. Under the management of Head Farmer, Don Guindon, the farm is thriving and expanding to meet both of those goals. Together we look forward to see what the year 2017 will bring.