Local farm creates sustainable irrigation system using gravity and captured water
Nathan Smith has always been interested in farms. Though he pursued bookkeeping as a career, Nathan grew up on a farm and missed the physical and mental benefits of working outdoors. Looking for a change and wanting a quiet place to raise his kids in the countryside, Nathan and his wife moved to his grandfather’s farm in 2017, which he renamed Winterhill Farm and Garden. Inspired by his grandfather’s sustainable agricultural practices, Nathan continues to follow regenerative farming methods like rotational grazing while refraining from the use of pesticides and herbicides. Winterhill Farm and Garden provides their community with fresh organically grown vegetables, eggs, and chicken through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares.
Currently, the water used to wash the totes and vegetables at Winterhill Farm and Garden either goes into their septic system or gets used to water their perennial flowerbed. With the support of Seeding Our Food Future (SOFF), Nathan is working on capturing this wash water and pumping it back onto their fields for irrigation, instead of using their well water. As Winterhill Farm and Garden is a small-scale farm, they rotate through crops and plant multiple vegetables on the same piece of ground. Irrigation is important for their plants. By using gravity to collect this water and run it into a recycled pool as a catchment basin, Winterhill will be able to save electricity and reuse the water for their crops. The implementation of this project will allow them to reduce waste and enhance the farm’s ecosystem. Nathan is looking forward to future opportunities to connect and learn from other farmers and collaborate with local businesses to turn their surplus produce into value-added products.
Winterhill Farm and Garden’s entire operation model is based on circularity. From reusing wash water for irrigation, to repurposing dead trees from the forest on their property, to using the manure from their cows to fertilize fields, Winterhill implements circular practices wherever possible. Nathan believes it is crucial to set up systems on the farm that improve the level of environmental benefit – not just sustain it. As he learns more about farming and regenerative agriculture, Nathan aims to use methods that are “beyond sustainable,” meaning continuously improving upon practices that help the environment and the community. With regenerative farming methods, Winterhill builds soil health and allows the farm to become naturally more productive over time. Through this farming model, Winterhill Farm and Garden sees opportunity for increased access to affordable fresh produce for their local community and economic benefit through collaborations and job creation.