Arcadia Farm is located just outside of Dove Creek, CO on 208 acres of land. In 2016 the current land components at Arcadia Farm included cropping fields/pasture areas, savanna, shrub-land terrain, and riparian zones. The farm was a blank canvas with no infrastructure (homestead, outbuildings, fencing, roads, water or electricity).
The aim is to maximize our effectiveness as resource managers to create a healthy environment that supports a variety of diversified species. Our practices are based on a dynamic design approach that integrates the frameworks of Holistic Management, Keyline Design, and Permaculture Design. The goal for Arcadia Farm is to create and enact regenerative sustainability and long-term increasing health of a land-human whole. We will use the farm to teach and demonstrate the principles and practices of regenerative agriculture. We continue to learn and utilize our new found knowledge that we share through our website, social media and blog.
To be actively engaged on our 208 acre farm, we discontinued the lease agreement with a local farmer who previously raised dry land beans and wheat on the farm ground, while the native land was not utilized. We knew that we had a steep learning curve to begin our farming venture, so we began our education by reading, attending workshops, networking with mentors, and watching You-tube videos. We read Dan Barber's book, "The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food" which gave us insights on a new way to approach nutrition and agriculture in the 21st century. In April, 2016 we attended a Keyline Design Workshop which gave us a basic knowledge of how this system maximizes the beneficial use of water resources based on the keyline scale of permanence. Additional reading included "Restoration Agriculture" by Mark Shepard and "Holistic Management: A Commonsense Revolution to Restore our Environment by Allan Savory, both of which gave us insights on non-conventional farming systems that benefit the land.
Today on the Farm
Planning/Design: 2016 - 2017
a. Farm ground
- September 2016: We received a cover crop grant to test various species in a dryland setting. The grant provided $300 for seed on a 10 acre plot, as well as the cost for the Haney soil test. We planted a cover crop mix of winter triticale, hairy vetch, Austrian winter peas, crimson clover, and tillage radishes.
- October 2016: We worked with a surveyor to develop a topographic mapping of the farm ground to determine the contours and corresponding keylines. The surveyor flagged the contours at 5' intervals.
- October 2016: Using the flags as a guide, we plowed with the Yeoman's plow on the contours at a depth of 8" to open up the soil for better moisture retention.
- May - June 2017: We planted raspberry slips and a small vegetable garden on one edge of the farm ground. We watered the plants using our 1100 gallon water tank with domestic town water. We were unable to water them adequately, so the majority of the raspberry plants died and the vegetables did not grow to maturity.
- June 2017: The goal for the summer and early fall was to prepare a clean planting bed on the farm ground to insure a desirable germination and growth of the perennial seed mix that would be planted as a dormant seed planting after November 1st. Several methods were employed due to continuing germination of volunteer wheat and weeds. First, we brush cut the volunteer wheat, cover crop, and weeds.
- September 2017: We ran a tandem disk to kill new weeds and volunteer wheat.
- July and October 2017: We sprayed new weeds and volunteer wheat with herbicide in two applications. New weeds and volunteer wheat germination made it necessary to do the second application.
- November 2017: We flagged the contours using the GPS mapping from the surveyor in preparation for plowing with Yeoman's plow.
- November 2017: It took 7 days to plow 116 acres of farm ground with the Yeoman's plow at a depth of 12".
- December 2017: Planted perennial seed mix of 13 species which include pubescent wheatgrass, sheep fescue, Russian wildrye, smooth brome, sainfoin, orchardgrass, intermediate wheatgrass, strawberry clover, cicer milkvetch, blue grama, sideoats grama, little bluestem, and switchgrass.
b. Native ground
- October 2016: We brush cut the sage brush to clear a route from the home site to the equipment area.
- November 2016: We walked the land with a GPS unit (east and west orientation) to map the contours. This data will provide a base map to develop strategies for erosion control including contour brush lines to maximize rain infiltration and minimize runoff.
- 2016 - 17: We began the project of cutting dead pinyon, juniper, and oak to minimize fire hazard and to use the wood for firewood; and picked up old fencing materials and trash. The majority of this work took place during the winter months when the farm ground was dormant.
Year 2 goals: 2018
- Begin planning and design of house, research local solar suppliers, investigate local contractors, and visit Greenstar Blox company in Mason, TX.
- Plan and complete a succession estate plan.
- Purchase a water tap from the Dolores Water Conservancy District, install a water storage tank and pipes.
- Purchase and erect a 30' x 90' high tunnel for vegetable production.
- Apply linseed oil on wood surfaces of all trailers.
- Put battens on the equipment shed.
- Spray equipment shed with a waterproof finish.
- Install a water catchment system on the equipment shed.
- Level the ground and spread a road base on the equipment area.
- Build and install 10 bat houses near the home site and equipment area.
- West side boundary fence - talk to adjacent landowners and begin clean-up work.
- Plan and build a chicken tractor
- Research drones at Compass Tools
a. Farm ground
- Plant, water and establish first shipment of shelter belt trees.
- Order additional shelter belt trees for 2019 planting.
b. Native ground
- Build a primitive road to connect the north and south farm ground fields.
- Pick up old fence posts, wire and trash.
- Cut dead wood for house beams and firewood.
- Chip small tree branches
- Fire mitigation/firewood
- Tear down and build new root cellar
- Tear down old building
- Close up old water well
Year 3 goals: 2019
- Build west boundary fence
- Purchase and install tap from Montezuma Water Company for domestic water
- Build house
- Begin egg production - build egg mobile and purchase layers
- Raise vegetables in high tunnel and garden
- Plant shelter belt trees
- Evaluate cattle breed and management options
- Build wildlife fencing around vegetable garden
Year 4 goals: 2020
- Build south, east and north boundary fence
- Apply poultry fertilizer and humus to the perennial grass pasture
- Plant orchard trees
- Build or purchase poultry butchering equipment
- Build chicken tractors for broilers
- Install interior fencing, feeders, and barn for pigs
Year 5 goals: 2021
- Build interior paddocks for cattle and set up watering system
- Begin cattle production
- Begin broiler production
- Build a pond based on the Keypoint for water capture and storage
Vision for the Future
The vision for the future is to continue to refine our practices and methods to help further the advancement of the Regenerative Agriculture Movement. We will continue to be mentors and educators, and the farm will be productive and profitable. The land will be green, with a diversity of plants and animals; supported by effective water and mineral cycles, a high energy flow, and dynamic biological communities.
In five years, 2021: 1) the soil organic matter and life in the soil will be increased, 2) boundary fences and flexible interior fencing will be in place, 3) our new home will be completed, 4) windbreak trees, silvo-pasture tree-belts, and an orchard will be established; 5) two roads: one for main access and another to connect the north and south fields; and a trail system on the native ground will be in place; 6) water storage including a pond and a soil sponge will be developed; and 7) transformation of the farm ground to perennial grass pasture will be complete.