The HVADC Cultivator
HVADC Client Spotlight: Owl Wood Farm
Mark Bascom and Lindsay Fisk met half a world away in the rain forests of Costa Rica tracking monkeys while young and still in college, and are now the sole proprietors farming Owl Wood Farm. Owl Wood Farm in Washington County’s quaint town of Salem is a five-years young, modest-sized operation, maxing out production on one acre like it’s 10. On one acre on the farm’s 10-acre expanse, they plant a wide variety of vegetables for local farmers markets, CSA, restaurants, and co-ops using small-scale intensive methods and hand tools. Bascom and Fisk employ a no-till system, which means that they don't plow or roto-till their soil. By never inverting or mixing the soil layers, these two former environmental studies majors say they are allowing the soil biology to build a healthy ecosystem that is undisturbed. Their focus is on creating highly fertile soils by using lots of compost to feed the soil biology, which ultimately feeds the plants to produce their Certified Naturally Grown end products.
Owl Wood Farm produce may be found at four farmers markets, including Saratoga’s. The land previously hosted a former nursery and mushroom farm, so Bascom and Fisk were able to add onto its existing infrastructure of high tunnels and some out buildings. In the first year of production, while the farm was still tenuously being transferred in sale, the couple added new plastic and roll-up sides to the high tunnels and built a much-needed walk-in cooler and wash station.
Fisk and Bascom heard about HVADC’s services through a neighbor, Holly Rippon-Butler from National Young Farmers Coalition. After working with HVADC Deputy Director, Mary Ann Johnson, and HVADC’s Incubator Without Walls program, they received services through a cost-share to help with the legal fees of purchasing the farm.
Bascom grew up in New Hampshire and Fisk was raised in Livingston Manor in Sullivan county.
They met while both still attending college with similar interests in sustainable agriculture and maintained a long-distance relationship, reuniting to work together on farms over the summers. They apprenticed together on farms after college, first on a farm with mixed vegetables attached to an orchard, and then on a farm with dairy, livestock for meat and 40 acres of grain. “We still kept coming back to vegetable farming,” said Fisk. “We exposed ourselves to a lot of different kinds of farming, but that was what we liked the most.” Fisk admitted there were choices to make, largely, the decision between traveling and remaining in the Hudson Valley. “We did want to travel; but also wanted to stay in the Hudson Valley and contribute to local economies and communities.”
The couple sewed their farming oats managing a historic farm museum for several years in New Hampshire. “At the time, we thought it would be impossible to buy our own farm and the idea was very intimidating and overwhelming, but we found a way to do it. We did the farm museum in New Hampshire for two years which was great, but it wasn’t ours... we knew we wanted to start our own farm together,” said Fisk.
Soon thereafter the couple leased land for a short stint, at which time the name of their farming venture gelled for them. “Owl Wood… at the time when we were trying to think of the farm name… it was late February when owls are very active,” said Fisk. “We were hearing owls at night and so we knew owls were involved in this. I love birds.”
The farm has one seasonal employee every season who is most typically someone interested in undertaking their own farm and learning skills at Owl Wood, explained Fisk, setting them apart from being a regular paid employee, in Fisk’s mind. Though they are only farming one a single acre, it is always in production; hand-seeding for the next crop the moment that the ground is clear using their no-till methods.
The next big amalgamation will be building a new house on the farm, with intentions to begin within the next year. Fisk said they are directing their energies on saving and planning for the house and then will redirect back to the farm. “We will be trying to run it more efficiently, we are not in the mindset of trying to expand it, but we are trying to be more efficient,” said Fisk. “We are so on the fence about doing winter growing, but we also cherish those winter months where we don’t have to go to market, but, it’s always a possibility.”
“[Bascom and Fisk] have smartly scaled their operation and growth to where it is manageable for them and still sufficient for their market demands,” said Johnson. “HVADC welcomes the opportunity to assist beginning farmers gain access to land. Our Incubator Without Walls program is designed to fill in gaps for farmers who need technical business assistance to move their plans forward.”
For more information about Owl Wood Farm, please visit their Bounty listing at https://owlwood.weebly.com/.
Information about HVADC’s Incubator Without Walls program may be found at https://www.hvadc.org/iww.
Photo Source: Owl Wood Farm