Farmer and Food Education
In 2015 Stonewall Farm began building on its foundation of certified organic practices to regenerate the health of the land and improve the farm’s production. At the time, the new director was seeking regenerative solutions that could restore the productivity of the farm’s land without expensive inputs, provide an important habitat for pollinators and wildlife while producing healthier food. Regenerative farming is a system of farming principles and practices that increases biodiversity, enriches soils, improves watersheds, and enhances ecosystem services.
Meanwhile, growing awareness of agriculture’s contributions to climate change and food insecurity motivated the board and staff to take on a leadership role in demonstrating how agriculture, specifically regenerative agriculture, can be part of the solution to climate change, healthier food, people, communities and planet. Researching innovative techniques to experiment with and demonstrate these practices, led to partnerships with the Cheshire County Conservation District, Xerces Society, and the Savory Institute. Staff and board members attended training with the Savory Institute connecting with farmers and practitioners from all over the world actively working to create and implement solutions and management systems that had the power to transform rural communities.
Even though our farm had been organic for many years practicing crop rotations, the fields were overrun with weed pressure and soil compaction from regular tillage, pest pressure was present and soil was mostly bare during non-growing season leaving it highly susceptible to soil erosion and depleting fields, and crops, of nutrients. Our pastures used to graze our dairy herd had been managed using a rotational grazing system for many years. Yet it had weed pressure, soil compaction, and bare ground between plants, poor water infiltration, and poor forage production and was highly vulnerable during drought conditions. After connecting with the Savory Institute in 2017, Stonewall Farm began implementing holistic management and adaptive multi-paddock grazing, or planned grazing, with great results. Holistic Management is a process of decision-making that gives people the insight and tools to restore ecosystem processes while balancing key social environmental and financial considerations.
The farm’s pastures and crop fields now serve as demonstration sites for classes, workshops, and tours sharing our lessons learned with farmers and homeowners throughout the region to expand the impact beyond our farm’s borders. Farm employees are in the process of transitioning the farm to a model of how small-scale farming can build a healthy local food system and economy, transforming our degrading rural communities into vibrant, productive ecosystems providing abundance for all who live on and work with, the land.
We believe as a non-profit agricultural education center it is essential, we lead the way in testing and innovating cutting edge solutions to our food system and climate change crisis, taking risks that might otherwise be economically unfeasible for small privately-owned farms. To that end, we offer a variety of workshops, classes and ways for people to engage in the work at Stonewall Farm.
- Stonewall Farm innovates in the pursuit of agricultural solutions that produce healthy ecosystems and food.
- We share lessons learned with farmers and landowners to increase the collective success of New England agriculture.
- We teach and grow future land stewards and farmers.
- We foster the engagement of our community in a healthy food system.