August 14 – 17, 2017
Elmwood Stock Farm is bisected to the south by US Hwy 460. Seemingly thousands of cars, trucks, motorcycles, and the occasional tractor pass through every day. A stone fence stands defiantly, staking our claim on the north side of the road, while to the south there is a sliver of land that slopes to Elkhorn Creek, our true southern boundary. Thankfully when property lines were being drawn back in the day, it was neighborly to share the wealth of access to irrigation water, and most farms had property that touched a nearby creek or river. Today, with the world whizzing by, we quietly go about our work wondering why more people do not consider the source of what they eat.
Mowing vs Spraying
Staking an organic claim along a state highway means we have to maintain the right of way along the road in order to keep the Department of Transportation (DOT) road crews from spraying chemicals to control weeds. They were very accommodating in relinquishing control of the strip of grass along the roadway, and even put up “End Spray” signs for their own people to heed. We now mow and weed-eat between the highway and the rock fence each week, after picking up trash. The fast food bags and food wrapper litter lets us know that many people blowing by must not care about what they eat. Weekend early mornings are the slowest traffic times, therefore the safest time to take care of the chore. The creek side of the roadway has a steep bank on part of it adjacent to the hay fields, so we run the tractor and batwing mower over that several times a year, at least enough to keep the noxious weeds (that would otherwise be sprayed) from growing.
We seem to share the magnificent trees that grow along the rock fence with DOT. In order to protect drivers and the flow of commerce, they remove bad branches, and dead or fallen trees. One problem is that since most of the trees are on the same side of the road as the stone fence, when the trees fall they will scatter the rocks all about. I have a video of some cowboy contractor rolling his rubber tire pay loader off his lowboy trailer to shove a huge wild cherry tree out of his way. The storm that blew the tree down still raged on, but he wanted to get the road back open and be on his way. Unfortunately he took out over thirty feet of fence as well.
Historic Stone Fence
Reconstructing the rock fence is our responsibility, often at our own expense. Countless car crashes have happened over the years, and the fence has the scars to prove it. An out-of- control truck will scatter rocks every which way. Smaller cars topple the wall over, but by the time we take it back to properly feather the rocks back in place, it can be a 15’ to 20’ repair. When there is a vehicle accident, the sheriff will get our contact information as part of the police report, as the insurance company should ultimately cover the expenses to repair the fence. The arduous path of following through with getting estimates, filing claims, getting the work done, and payment made is tedious but necessary, and often takes a long time to happen. A couple of years back, one guy, who stole a truck in Georgetown and careened down the highway to get away, drove directly into the taller rock wall at the main farm entrance. He then walked away and was promptly arrested, but left no one liable to pay for the damages.
Irrigation to the Rest of the Farm
We have invested in the infrastructure to run pipes for pumping Elkhorn Creek water under the highway and onto the crop fields. We are fortunate to be upstream from a low-water dam that forms deeper pools of water, giving farmers along the creek a sufficient volume of water from which to draw. A pipe and pump is set-up each spring, and attaches to the large pipes, buried under the adjacent crop field and aimed at one of the culverts under the highway. The pipe comes up out of the ground to meet up with a customized pipe we threaded through the culvert which connects to filters, and the other pipe that goes back underground heading north to the fields in the back of the farm. John designed and installed risers at key locations along the way, where seasonal flexible irrigation technology takes over.
While the farm does have over a mile of road frontage, some things make you wonder. The last time a small car lost control and veered off the roadway, it took out the connector at the culvert, breaking off the 8” pipe underground, in mid-summer, on a Saturday, when the pump was running 24/7 due to recent dry weather. It took several man hours to dig out the damaged pipe and repair it, after waiting several days to get the right fittings.
Back to the Edge
Being the first farm east of Georgetown on Highway 460 has some challenges of its own. Because drivers suddenly find themselves out in the country, it seems to be ok to drive fast and hard even if they are not good drivers. A surprising number of people choose to turn around in one of the two farm entrances when they figure out they must have gone the wrong way. Drivers Education teaches a 3-point turn for good reason, but essentially no one uses it when they should. Really, just luck is involved when people back out onto the highway, with an obstructed view, as vehicles pop up over the hill near the entrance.
We keep the rock fence repaired and our woven wire fences well maintained to be sure none of our livestock can get into harm’s way. When a neighboring farm on the edge of town sold, and subsequently was turned into a subdivision of single family homes, we were able to negotiate for a buffer strip and a fence, since good fences make for good neighbors. And we have a lot of them now.
Some people that breeze down the roadway along the farm are probably surprised to see chickens and their egg mobiles, lambs frolicking in the pasture, turkeys flocked together in great numbers, and rows and rows of fresh produce. Others probably hardly even notice. I’m sure some see the large fields and consider us to be rich and wealthy land owners. That makes me chuckle! The truth of the matter is we work tirelessly to keep a viable farm business going, and protect the land from bulldozers. But, we know the soil is rich and fertile, which is where the real wealth is.
By employing the organic farming systems we use, the wealth potential gets even greater. Thanks for your support and your partnership. It allows us to do what we love to do: enrich the lives of our customers with the best food in the world and keep a little piece of earth undisturbed, other than all those dang cars and trucks running through the fence all the time. – Mac Stone
In Your Share