From the Farmer: Swales, Contours & Berries

Lately I have been thinking more and more about how my everyday choices will affect the livelihoods of future generations.  Will my great grandchildren be able to enjoy the beautiful Earth as I do today?  Or will climate change have altered our planet to one I would not recognize?

It is a scary thought, but also an empowering one. As individuals, we can support local farmers, eat animal products less often (and when we do, seek out pasture-raised cattle and organically raised poultry).  As farmers, we can make choices to help store carbon from the atmosphere in “carbon sinks” often through practices such as cover cropping, perennial plantings and no-till farming.

Recently Crown Point farm crew completed a swale and berm project aimed at reducing run-off and improving soil quality for our new gooseberry and currant plantings.  Swales are low depressions in the ground designed to encourage the accumulation of rain during storms and then slowly infiltrate into the soil Berms are raised beds that prevent water logging of plantings and can be used to direct water to swales. The process started with finding our contour lines using a simple A-frame structure.

Sam with our A-frame helping us measure our contour lines

This device allowed us to find the equal level of elevation across our field. After flagging this area we started digging trenches approximately 8 inches deep and 18 inches wide.  Keeping an equal depth of the swales is important to ensure an equal flow of water along the contour.

Next, we created the berm by piling compost on the downhill side of the swales and layering this with our removed soil.  We shaped the beds and prepared for planting our berries.  After planting the berries in a mixture of peat moss, compost, and soil, we covered with burlap and wood chips for weed control. Finally we filled our swales with wood chips to help with water retention.

Soon we will add the final touches by planting a cover crop between our six rows of swales and berms and planting a series of trees behind swales and berms to benefit from the excess water retention and help with infiltration.

Completed swales after last week’s storm.

Although we won’t receive a bountiful harvest from our berries this year, we have invested in our farm, and taken the first step to ensure our soil is improved.  This field will no longer be tilled.  We have aided in carbon sequestration and soil remediation through reduced water runoff.

As farmers we have the choice to care for our land so that future generations may enjoy the sweet fruit we have the privilege of planting. When you stop by for the Organic Plant Sale or to pick up your first CSA share you can check out our sustainable agriculture in person.

Hope to see you soon, Roni