Sunrise at our farm. Every day is a balance between livestock care, forestry, gardening, crafts and homestead chores. With a fully integrated agricultural system, stewardship is not just a job--it's a way of life.
Healthy economies, ecosystems and communities need to be resilient so they can endure in good times and in bad. At Mosby's Secret Sidehill Farm, we applied that concept very literally. Our goal is to never be dependent upon industrial products (chemical fertilizers, weed control, pest control, seeds, dewormers or antibiotics). We focus on self-reliant, low-input production of healthier, traditional foods.
We believe in practicing stewardship of our land, our livestock and our community. Through reliance upon renewable energy, crop and pasture rotation, and local sourcing, we feel that we can diminish our negative impacts and provide healthier food options.
These aren't empty words to us. We try to minimize our reliance upon any materials or products we can't make ourselves (such as diesel or concrete). We even refused to buy a tractor! Instead of industrial crop treatments (organic or otherwise), we use a whole-farm process of cover crops and integrated livestock to create composted, nutrient-rich manure, allowing us to fertilize crops safely. Our goal is to grow perennial, resilient crops while building and maintaining healthy, living soil--a regenerative system that renews and heals the land.
We're committed to agriculture that protects the future.
Hogs turn compost into healthy soil, and have fun while they do it!
Herbs abound in the garden, providing continuous nectar sources for a stunning range of pollinators, predatory insects, and healthy microbes.
As stewards of our land, we recognize the importance of the interactions between ALL of the ecosystems on our farm. That includes beneficial microbes and fungi in the soil, understory and canopy trees in our forests, meadow species in our pastures and, of course, our domesticated species.
Keeping a diverse range of species in the farm and using them to fill different ecological niches (while producing useful products) helps promote the health of all of these systems.
Here's a snapshot of how our livestock perform vital roles in a whole-farm system:
Pigs compost manure and other waste into a safe fertilizer, and till garden beds, improving soil and rooting up pasture weeds.
Goats devour weeds (including poison ivy) and produce rich milk; as browsers, they help fight pasture weeds and invasive species (such as kudzu and ailanthus).
Sheep "mow" pasture sod without harming the soil or cutting down the seedheads, allowing pastures to reseed themselves, while producing wool, meat and milk.
Free-range ducks reduce pests, eating mosquito larvae, slugs, spiders and stink bugs, while producing large, rich eggs.
Free-range chickens patrol the yard and forest for ticks, spiders and other bugs, while producing rich brown eggs.
Livestock guardian dogs patrol and protect the other animals from predators.
Diversity in our environment includes a variety of ecosystems present on our farm:
Mature hardwood forest, a massive solar collector that converts sunlight into biomass, energy (stored in firewood like a battery for winter heat), soil-building roots and many species of nuts for the pigs to forage in fall.
Coppice-managed forest edges and taller perennial fruit, nut and berry species, which provide understory habitat and produce annual food harvests, while also providing a wind-screen and blocking sunlight from the deep understory of the woods.
Open meadow land in managed pastures, which we are working to convert slowly in to the most resilient form of landscape: savannah silvapastures, where osage orange hedges provide wind-shelter and shade, and anchor soil, while mulberry trees planted singly in the middle of pastures provide tree hay and shade for livestock. Our meadow pastures already contain a diverse network of grasses, legumes and herb species, maximizing soil health year-round.
Bog wetland, with a spring, a braided creek and multiple ponds providing habitat for numerous native creatures, and slowly turning into a managed willow and pawpaw grove with cattail and other marsh crops thriving in the wet lowlands of our valley bottom.
Incorporating, managing and improving all of these ecosystems within one 26 acre landscape is a lifelong task, and we take our stewardship seriously. Whether we live here for 20 years or 200 years, our goal is to see this land become ever healthier and more resilient, while making it sustainably productive. Many of our plans are slow-moving and gradual, involving the establishment of trees, the composting of hugelkultur beds, and the never-ending work to create and maintain hedgerows. The work is a joy and a journey, one we are glad to share with other homesteaders and anyone interested in sustainable agriculture.
Building abundant pastures and healthy forest canopies is a slow, but rewarding, task.