Turtle Bend Farm is a sustainable vegetable farm in Polk County, Georgia. Adam and Mecca Lowe are growing vegetables on approximately 7 acres of family farmland using ecological methods without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides or herbicides. Our goal is to produce clean, healthy, fresh vegetables for our local communities while protecting and enhancing our local natural and social resources.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Our Standards for Production

Adam and I believe in following sustainable agricultural practices. Although what is considered "sustainable" may change over time, we are committed to constantly learning about new and existing ways to produce healthy food that help preserve our surrounding natural resources, promote ecological diversity on and around our farm, and protect the food we produce from any harmful substances. Although we are currently undecided on whether to become certified "organic" or certified "naturally grown" or not certified at all, our customers and neighbors can rest assured that our agricultural practices meet or exceed the requirements of these certification programs. Simply put, that means that we will employ natural methods for building soil fertility, such as cover crops and organic or natural soil amendments. We will never spray crops with harmful pesticides or other chemicals that have not been approved by organic or naturally grown certification programs. We will encourage biodiversity on our farm in order to promote natural processes of insect and disease control and we will rotate our crops to discourage disease. Although Adam and I have a lot to learn about agriculture, we are committed to providing our customers and our community with the cleanest, highest quality fruits and vegetables possible. We are also committed to transparency and we are happy to address any suggestions, questions or comments that you may have. We hope to bring high-quality, nutritious foods to your table this season.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Turtle Bend comes alive!

The farming has officially begun!! Adam and I finally put some seeds and plants in the ground on Friday and Saturday as the rain held off until dark on Saturday night. Our tomato starts look wonderful- all 300 of them! We have a great assortment of heirloom varieties. We did buy about 45 organic tomato starts from Melanie Hernandez at Youngs Mill Plant Farm in Kingston, GA because we were unsure about how ours would do- but it turns out that our method of seeding in soil blocks (prescribed by Elliot Coleman) made beautiful, strong tomato starts. We will have the following varieties: Cherokee Purple, Green Zebra, Yellow Brandywine, Arkansas Traveler, Roma, Aunt Ruby's German Cherry, Principe Borghese, Kellogg, and one more I can't think of at the moment. Get ready to have heirloom tomato sandwiches, salsas and more!
We also planted about 100 pepper plants. We have a good mix of sweet peppers and hot peppers. We planted eggplant (2 varities) and basil. We seeded our first successions of green beans (2 varieties), black eyed peas, sweet corn, pickling and eating cucumbers, zucchini and summer squash. Oh, and we planted about 90 sweet potato slips! Next weekend we will be putting in our okra, along with more corn, peas, squash and more! We also finally took some pictures of our area, although we still need a panoramic shot of the field.

Adam also got the fence up and running. Now we just have to install the gate and get another charger to increase our voltage. The fence will hopefully deter the deer from eating our crops! The other good news is that Adam only has one week of teaching school before he becomes a full-time farmer! He spent every waking hour this weekend tirelessly working on the farm and loving every minute of it. He used our new tiller and my dad's tractor for the first time this weekend and really transformed our field into beautiful beds of rich soil. We also planted 1 acre of buckwheat for a cover crop. We are competing with some aggressive grasses (Johnson Grass) so we are trying to introduce some healthy competition!

The pictures from top to bottom: Those are our sweet potato slips freshly planted; my brother, Jordan, and his daughter, Alyssa on my dad's Ford tractor; a beautiful storm cloud headed for us; our first bed of tomato plants; Mecca seeding flats of tomatoes about a month ago.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Irrigation blues

One issue that we have had the most trouble figuring out has been irrigation. We decided early on that we were going to irrigate from the creek using a gas-powered pump because there is no well closeby and no electricity run to the field (yet). We contacted our local NRCS office about applying for a cost-share for irrigation and to learn about how to set up our irrigation. We got good news and bad news. The good news is that they have engineers who can design a system for us since we qualify as "small-scale" producers, but that wouldn't be ready for several months. The bad news is that we can't get any cost share until we clear $1,000 of farm income, and even then, our application wouldn't go through until next year. So, we were on our own. After scouring the internet and coming up short on technical information, we finally figured it out ourselves with a little help from random people who sold different pieces of our irrigation system. We bought two 250 gallon tanks from a guy who listed them on craigslist. Then we went to Tractor Supply and bought a gas-powered water pump, hoses and other fixtures. We finally got a good farm boy who knew something about moving water and he was a big help. The last piece was the drip lines. Because we are going to run a low-pressure system, the drip lines are our best bet. We are lucky to have the Holt Family Farm Supply in nearby Euharlee, GA. Charles Holt is a dripworks distributor and he is ordering our drip lines and other fixtures. We hope to get this system going this weekend and I will post some pictures of that as well. Whew! Water is important! One thing we have realized in trying to figure out everything from straight fencelines to pumping water is that there IS a use for that math we learned in high school! If only we could remember it!

Weekend Farmers

Right now we are weekend farmers. We have been traveling up to Rockmart, GA from Auburn, AL every weekend for the past month or so to start working our field and getting the farm ready. Initially, we thought we would go work on some other farms this summer and start our own farm next year. My dad plowed the field for us because we were going to plant a cover crop of buckwheat to start preparing the field for next year. Once we saw that beautiful soil and beautiful surroundings, we decided to go ahead and start our farm this year. We figured that half of learning how to farm is learning at the particular piece of land you are farming with. Plus, we just bought a small house across the road from our field and just couldn't imagine going to live somewhere else with a perfectly good house sitting there. So, that's why we are currently farming on the weekends, but only for another two weekends. Adam's teaching job will be ending in a week and a half and after that he will be on the field full time. Mecca still has to finish up her master's thesis, but she will still be able to spend more time farming this summer.

So, last weekend we made some progress. Although it was still too wet to till and plant, we made some headway on our fence and will be able to finish it up this weekend. Unfortunately I forgot to bring the camera, so pictures will be up next week.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Starting up!

My husband and I are starting a small organic vegetable farm in Northwest Georgia.  We are farming on some of my family's land that has been in our family for generations and was used by my grandfather for a dairy farm.  Now we are plowing up one field and starting our own farm.  We have been talking about doing this for several years and since our two year stint in the public education realm (Adam has been teaching 7th grade geography and Mecca has been going to graduate school) we are eager to change our lifestyles.  We are going full throttle into self-employment. We also just purchased a foreclosed home across the street from our field and are renovating it (lifting it up and putting a foundation underneath it!).  
In our initial set-up of the farm, we are almost done building a deer exclusion fence.  We were able to remove some old cattle fence posts from other parts of the property so we have saved a pile of money doing that.  We are doing an electric fence in the hopes of staving off the deer.  
We also just purchased a King Cutter 5 ft. tractor tiller.  My father has a tractor so we are going to use that for now.  
We are going to grow all kinds of seasonal vegetables and specialize in southern heirloom varieties and cultural favorites, like cowpeas, okra, tomatoes, corn and cucumbers.  We will start out selling to four different farmers markets around our area, including Rome, Dallas, Powder Springs and Cedartown.  We want to sell as locally as possibly but we know that we will probably have to reach into Atlanta in order to find sufficient demand for our organic veggies.
I will post pictures soon!