Daniel Bishop is a farmer on a mission. He isn’t just harvesting organic winter rye on a rehabilitated family farm, he’s educating the community about it too. He’s not using a brand new John Deere harvester (which can cost over $200,000), he’s using a 1947 vintage harvester that he bought with his neighbors for $2,500. And he’s not going at it alone; he’s inviting the likes of Joe Hasbrouck, third generation farmer, to work with young farmers in order to share valuable wisdom.
At the recent Winter Rye Harvest event at Mantelli Farm in Hurley, a happy crowd watched as Joe and Daniel worked together to make some final adjustments to the well-worn harvester. Joe reached into his toolbox while Daniel turned his attention to me to explain what was going on that fine day in August. “By bringing together conventional farming wisdom and vintage equipment with a more modern, sustainable small-scale agriculture,” he said, “we begin to learn from each other. With all of the changes happening in the valley, maybe we can come across undiscovered techniques that an established farm can’t stop to recognize.”
The Mantelli Farm fields have been planted for the last five years with organic grains and broad leaf cover crops. Soon Daniel will be introducing biochar to the fields, which is a biomass charcoal that can be added to soil as a healthy amendment. This is an ancient practice that is being reintroduced in our modern world.
A drone camera captures images of the vintage harvester
A highlight of the event was when a drone camera was flown behind the harvester to capture the process on film. The ultra modern world came face to face with our farming roots in a startling juxtaposition—almost like a young farmer, smart phone in hand, coming together with a weathered farmer who wields a rusty wrench.
Activities around this harvest event are still in progress. The restoration of the harvester continues, and the grains are being cleaned with a 1930s grain cleaning machine. The grain sample was sent to the University of Vermont’s Cereal Grain Quality Laboratory to analyze the quality of the grains being produced here in our backyard. The rest of the rye grains are being delivered to the local Widow Jane Distillery for distillation, and to Wild Hive Farm for milling and subsequent use at Brooklyn artisanal bakery and restaurant Saraghina.
As always, send us your stories, ideas, and thoughts. We’re always looking to share.
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