Terroir matters at Oxbow Brewing Company

Oxbow Brewing Co.

Oxbow Brewing Company

The Oxbow Brewing Company motto is “loud beer from a quiet place.” Local yeasts and bacteria influence many of their beers. Local fruit and honey will influence future beers. Co-owner Tim Adams, Director of Brewing Operations at Oxbow Brewing Company, said their brewery brews uses well water at their farm in Newcastle, Maine.

Company marketing targets craft beers aficionados and as well as newbies, inviting them to enjoy Oxbow’s funky saison beers. Sales continue to grow across the Northeast, Baltimore and Philadelphia and selected cities in northern Europe. Increasing production demanded more and larger equipment, overflowing the brewers’ rural barn in just two years. In 2014, Adams and Co-founder, Geoff Masland added a second production site – a 10,000 square foot warehouse in Portland’s east end industrial park, about an hour from their brewing barn. The Portland site handles the brewery’s barrel aging, blending and bottling. The barn now hosts additional large steel tanks increasing their production capacity for draught beers.

The Portland site also houses a Tasting Room. Picnic tables and twinkling Christmas lights welcome visitors. Servers offer table service delivering beer and water. Learn more here.

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Building a Great Farm Team

Dave Hambleton of Sisters Hill Farm

Dave Hambleton of Sisters Hill Farm (photo provided by Sisters Hill Farm)

Good hiring decisions help farm owners/managers and farm workers build an efficient, productive and happy team. Where does a farmer find good employees? How should farmers select the right apprentices, farm workers or farm managers to build a successful farm team?

David Hambleton has been the farm manager of Sisters Hill Farm in Stanfordville, NY for 16 years. He shared his experience with hiring, training and managing over 30 Apprentices in a workshop at the 2015 Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) Winter Conference.

Interviews are just a small part of the hiring process. Farmers must begin a search by posting openings where their ideal candidates will see the listings. See the sites Hambleton posts his openings and read about his screening and interviewing process [here.]

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Multispecies rotational grazing maximizes soil fertility and health

Joel Salatin at Polyface Farm

Joel Salatin at Polyface Farm (photo shown in Joel’s presentation)

Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm (polyfacefarms.com) in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley recommends rotational grazing to caress soils and confuse pathogens. The Salatins delight in diversity and prefer portable, flexible animal infrastructure. They blend and rotate livestock and pasture species to puzzle pests. Soils rest between rotation cycles to nurture nutrients and to break pest and pathogen patterns.

For centuries farmers have understood that animal manures return vital nutrients to crop fields. Many farmers pull mechanical spreaders behind fossil fuel-burning tractors to move manure into fields. At Polyface farm, livestock spread their own manure.

Rotational or mob grazing simulates large herds of bison grazing and moving across the American prairies. Well managed grazing concentrates livestock in one area for a short period and then move them on. At Polyface farm, portable electric fences contain grazing beef herds. Farmers move the fences and livestock daily. Salatin said his animals look forward to a fresh “salad bar” every morning. These cattle graze forage at a sustainable level. They trample their manure patties ensuring good soil contact and starting the decomposition process. [Read more here.]

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Legal concerns around farm workers & employees

Rachel Armstrong

Rachel Armstrong of Farm Commons

Workers and Employees

Farming is hard work. Many farmers seek help from a blend of volunteers (CSA work shares – trading food for labor), compensated volunteers (trading food and/or housing for labor) and paid employees. Farmers seek happy and productive workers. Rachel Armstrong, lawyer and former grower, led an informative webinar on the legal considerations around unpaid and compensated volunteers. “Ag. law is incredibly complex,” said Armstrong. Her website (farmcommons.org) offers checklists, flowcharts and model documents to guide farmers.


Armstrong recognizes that consumers everywhere value their connection to the land; they want to reconnect with the land and with farmers who grow their food. Many farm customers happily volunteer with their favorite farmer. Armstrong noted that no one volunteers to pump gas.

[Read more here.]

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Energy conservation opportunities in broiler & breeder poultry operations

Dennis Brothers and NPTC staff installing a bubble-wrap/fiberglass side-by-side wall insulation test at a grower owned commercial farm. Photo taken by NPTC Specialist Jess Campbell.

Dennis Brothers and NPTC staff installing a bubble-wrap/fiberglass side-by-side wall insulation test at a grower owned commercial farm. Photo by NPTC Specialist Jess Campbell.

Poultry operators may increase their profitability by lowering their energy expenses. Dennis Brothers, Extension poultry housing specialist with the National Poultry Technology Center (NPTC) of Auburn University, led a webinar on this topic called “Poultry Operations: Broiler and Breeder Energy Conservation Opportunities.” Brothers focused on commercial broiler and breeder houses. Brothers said broiler and breeder chicken production accounted for 85-90 percent of American commercial poultry houses.

Brothers found many energy saving opportunities in large poultry operations including significant energy savings for lighting, building envelope, ventilation and heating systems. [Read more here.]

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Beginning farmer training for military veterans

Norm Conrad

Norm Conrad of the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT)

Military veterans prefer hands-on learning with people they trust. Veterans want to “do” rather than listen to lectures. Successful educators build relationships with veterans and create Beginning Farmer training techniques that address veterans’ unique learning style.

Effective educators offer training and other beginning farmer services for veterans by connecting and engaging with their audience. Norm Conrad suggested agricultural training programs created for veterans include plenty of hand-on experiences for this high-energy group. Veterans learn their technical skills through haptic or hands-on, experiential learning. They are accustomed to demonstrating those skills to peers or sharing skills with other veterans.

Conrad strongly suggests having extra materials on-hand as well as an extra group exercise or activity in the curriculum. Veterans are often more focused, productive and efficient than other workshop attendees. Educators may find events or activities finished early.  [Read the full story here.]

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Bittersweet Farm raises heritage pigs

Heritage pigs at Bittersweet Farm

Heritage pigs at Bittersweet Farm

Brian Bennett of Bittersweet Farm has been living with pigs for over 30 years. Each year, he raises 10-12 liters of certified organic pigs with 6-8 piglets per liter. The pigs live as families outdoors not packed together in huge barns. All the farm’s pigs have names. “I like to know who is coming to dinner,” said Bennett with a smile.

To people offended by smelly pig barns, Bennett reminds them that he does not run a confinement operation. Farrowing huts may smell of manure and afterbirth, but it’s all connected: “Energy, passion, life process and life force.”

Bennett’s favorite heritage breeds are Tamworth and Gloucester Old Spots. These breeds are known as great mothers. Bennett used to raise Yorkshire pigs but their large liters lost too many piglets, especially in extended subzero periods in upstate NY. Heritage pigs thrive on pasture, in woodlands and with diverse diets. Bennett and his family raise much of the pigs’ food on the farm. [Read more here.]

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