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Sustainable Steps

Light time, dark time

Light time, Dark Time

Most farmers don’t really go by the clock too much. For us it is either “light time” — or, loosely translated, work time — or “dark time” — loosely translated, eating and sleeping. Time change is really nothing but a pain for us, as it confuses the animals. Try explaining Daylight Savings to a milk cow that is used to being milked at a certain time. They just don’t get it, and for that matter neither do I.

So it is much simpler to stick with light time, dark time. They know they get fed and milked when it gets light, and upon darkness, those pesky humans leave them in peace to do cow things. As the days get longer and lighter, it means more work can be done. If you are farming, it just doesn’t feel right to be inside when you could be out working. Better to just keep on working in these short New Hampshire seasons.

This past winter, having been in my mind extremely brutal in terms of cold, made me think a lot on farming elsewhere. Somewhere warmer and with longer growing seasons. It is very hard on New Hampshire farmers to try and make a living in six months of the year. You need to be able to go from 25 miles an hour, so to speak, and jump to 80 miles per hour very quickly. The local food movement has made us aware of the importance of having the ability to purchase food locally.

The warmer places I had in mind to migrate to have their own challenges — droughts in California being a big one, as a lot of our food comes from there. The importance of having our own food and maintaining the local landscapes with farms has become glaringly apparent.

With all of that said, it is very important to support local farmers. The past year or two has shown an upswing in the numbers of young folks willing to jump into the farmer arena, an arena that is not know for high pay but known for long hours. Many of these folks have dropped out due to the inability to make it, but many have continued the good work and they need to feel the support of their communities.

On May 13, Peterborough residents will have chance to do so. Citizen Amendment M will be on the ballot. It asks the town to allow expanded uses on farms.

Diversification is a necessity for viable farms. The amendment says it is not supported by the Planning Board but this is due to a minor error in wording. It refers to an Agricultural Business Zone rather than rural district which is what Peterborough has. The Planning Board was very supportive of it overall. So on election day, please support your local farms and farmers, and vote yes on Amendment M. Your farmer will thank you.

Ruth Holmes is one of the principal farmers at Sunnyfield Farm, a nonprofit community farm in Peterborough.

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