What does it Mean to Be a Low-Input, Perennial-based Agriculture Farm?
Following Nature’s Lead
At Cate Hill, we model our practices after nature’s complexity to create a sustainable, thriving ecosystem.
- Interspersed among our fruit trees are plantings of herbs and flowers, which act as pest confusers and homes to wild pollinators and other beneficial insects.
- We use the leftover whey from our cheesemaking process as a fungicidal spray for our orchard. Studies done in New Zealand and France have shown that whey can inhibit the formation of the apple scab fungus.
- We dry the apple pomace left after pressing cider and feed it to our sheep as a milking parlor treat.
- Planting mint, comfrey, chives, horseradish, mallow, chicory, lupine, Queen Anne’s lace, tansy, daffodils, yarrow, sweet cicely, bee balm, and garlic created a diverse understory in our orchard. These different vertical layers of plants between the grass and the trees contributes to the overall health of the whole orchard system in many ways.
- We use pigs to dig up pasture areas for reseeding and new beds for plantings of fruit and nut trees.
- When we can after harvest, we run chickens through the orchard to disturb apple pest habitat and speed up the breakdown of leaves harboring the apple scab fungus.
- To help create the fungally dominated ecosystem most trees and perennials prefer, we use hardwood chips around the apple trees and berries.
- We planted willow trees in our swampy areas to be browsed by the sheep. Willow is a high protein forage and has been shown to be an effective dewormer.
- Poor quality wool from our sheep is used as mulch around young berries.
- Cheesemaking demands lots of very hot water for cleaning, so we have built a hybrid system consisting of a wood fired boiler and solar hot water panels. This allows us to meet most of our hot water needs with renewable energy.
- Animals thrive in mixed woods/pasture setting, benefiting from the shade and diverse forage. We turned part of Cate Hill into a silvopasture through low-impact logging and pig power.