Cam’s Gardening Tips: Guest Farmer JD

Cam Flaherty here. I’m pretty busy with spring planting, so I’ve invited several farmers, Is your garden an interesting mystery (1)both real and fictional, to help me out with these posts. We have a special guest today, a young man who helps manage a local organic farm with two locations, JD Hutchison-Maxwell. He’s the Permaculture Manager at New Harmony Farm in Newbury and West Newbury, Massachusetts. He teaches and learns at the Plentitud educational permaculture farm in Las Marias, Puerto Rico. Oh, and he happens to be Edith Maxwell’s son! Take it away, JD.

We All Eat Together

JD at New Harmony

JD at work

Good cooking and garden-farming are really the same thing. They are creative laboratory artworks, in part based on recipes and formulas but mostly requiring a honed holistic sense and feel that we must cultivate for ourselves.

Think about the textures and flows of soils and sauces, the smell of “done” (steak or compost), working with living and dead biological forms: from rice crackers to alfalfa sprouts to live culture ferments, and from dried alfalfa meal to mycorrhizal soil innoculants to foliar sprays of cultured milk and other live solutions we apply directly to the leaves of our crops.

We are making so much life and death everyday, trying to guide and nurture ourselves andIMG_2960 everyone who eats our food, not to mention the entire ecosystem of the places we are at. You need food, your body’s microbial ecosystem needs food. We all eat several times a day, and we all think about it a lot more than that. So you grow food or you buy food, you do something or nothing to process or cook that food, and you ingest that food. Sometimes you order out for pizza, just like sometimes you buy tomato seedlings or lettuce starts.


JD’s latest batch of sauerkraut.

Often we ferment things, inoculating by intentional application of foreign bacterial, mycorrhizal, or fungal communities. We cultivate specific advantageous strains and species of microbes in different environments and substrates, like when making sauerkraut and beer, or fish emulsions and IMOs* for your plants and soils. It’s fun nurturing other life forms, and it is a lot of responsibility.

Most importantly growing plants and preparing food is best done for others. These are at times both solitary pursuits, but they are generally about enjoying the fruits Plenitudeof your labor together. We all need to come together and look beyond our small individual selves in order to find peace and justice within, in our communities, and in the world at large.

*Indigenous MicroOrganisms: a biological input to aid in growing healthy plants that anyone can make. A multi-stage multi-month process captures hardy local microbes on rice, feeds them sugars (brown sugar or molasses), expands their numbers to a larger quantity of wheat bran or similar dry material, and then mixes the inoculated composted bran with as much soil (or compost) for a finished stable product. From the Korean Natural Farming system, introduced to me at a recent NOFA/Mass workshop. We are planning on running trials of various KNF inputs at New Harmony Farm.

Edith reports seeing JD curled up on a couch reading a sneak preview copy of ‘Til Dirt Do Us Part recently!

Readers: What about you? Is organically grown food important to you? Have you ever heard about permaculture? Have you hopped on the fermentation train, or prefer to eat your food without microbial action? Or are you just wondering when the body is going to surface in Cam’s compost pile?

About Edith Maxwell

Agatha Award winning author Edith Maxwell writes the historical Quaker Midwife Mysteries (Beyond the Page) and short crime fiction. As Maddie Day she writes the Country Store Mysteries series and the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries (both from Kensington Publishing). She lives north of Boston in an antique house with her beau and a high-energy kitten, where she writes, gardens, cooks, and wastes time on Facebook.
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6 Responses to Cam’s Gardening Tips: Guest Farmer JD

  1. Reine says:

    I do my best to buy organic foods, and I never used pesticides or dangerous chemicals in my garden. Last year I had a lot of oranges on my tree. This year I had more flowers and baby oranges then ever before, but when I went out a couple of days ago to check the tree, all of the baby oranges had been chewed off. Some of the leaves were chewed. I was very disappointed—worse really… I’m trying not to make a scene here, But I am in very unhappy that come December there will be no fresh oranges for Christmas. I don’t know what happened. I hope to prevent this next year. Not exactly a New England farm topic but If Cam has any ideas I would be very grateful.

  2. Reine says:

    I mean Juan Diego…

    • I think both JD and Cam are out in the fields already. One question, Reine, would be – ALL the baby oranges, or only up to a certain height? That is, could it have been a wandering deer or whatever kind of critters you have there? Is the tree fenced in? I know from growing up in southern California what a treat it is to have fresh oranges in the winter, so can totally understand your dismay (rage?). But if it was all the oranges, maybe there is a caterpillar or some other small pest?

  3. Reine says:

    Thank you, Edith, for taking the time to respond to my question. Yes, of course JD and Cam are working in the fields!

    There is a 7 ft. block wall around our back yard/garden. The only uninvited critters that get in are bobcats, rattlesnakes, pack rats, scorpions, and scary insects. We do have a huge tarantula that lives in a hole offside the back patio, but she’s friendly and only eats insects.

    I am so sad. All the baby oranges are gone. The way the leaves look nearby, I suspect a beetle, maybe? But how to treat for that. I don’t want to spray the trees with anything nasty. Maybe something was wrong with the soil. I’ll do a careful clean up. I want to get it right for next year and feel like I must’ve done something wrong—rage and guilt—definitely!

    • I’d say ask your local university agricultural extension office. Perhaps bring them a chewed leaf? Ask your neighbors or a local citrus farm, too. The description of your critters and pests is so very far outside of my experience that I haven’t a clue! Good luck

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