The largest crop raised on Chewonki’s hilly, rocky farm is grass, and the animals make excellent work of converting pasture into protein. We rotationally graze our animals, moving cows and sheep onto new grass twice daily with a combination of permanent high tensile fencing and moveable electric fencing. Raising both vegetables and livestock on the same piece of land allows us to interconnect the nutrient cycles of these various systems opportunistically. For example, pigs eat garden waste, and meat birds in chicken tractors eat covercrops and fertilize those fallowed gardens.
Raising livestock through a Maine winter requires a stockpile of hay in the loft of the barn. Traditionally, hay season was the first time of the year that farming families came together to work each others land, because one family was not sufficient to bring in the whole of the hay harvest.
We keep that tradition alive at Chewonki by bringing in loose (rather than baled) hay from our own land. After two to three days of cutting, teddding, and raking with the tractor and Sal, our hay is dry enough to come into the barn and an announcement in the dining hall brings the masses to the farm.
With rakes and pitchforks in hand, we load fluffy piles into trucks and trailers and offload them into the hayloft. This many-hands work epitomizes the community work ethic at Chewonki. Additionally, the farm crew brings in up to 1000 bales of hay from nearby fields managed by a local farmer. Hay days are the longest and hottest on the farm: the work of the day begins with chores pre-dawn and extends well past dinner with hay tossing.
Deep contentment goes hand-in-hand with stinging micro-cuts from hay chaff and full and absolute exhaustion on those certain summer days.