ABOUT US

IN A NUTSHELL

Our journey into farming and farmers markets started with a simple passion for good food and cooking. As a youngster, gathering the fruits and vegetables needed for dinner involved walking outside the kitchen door into backyard gardens. Fast forward to the busy future, the megastore has replaced the backyard garden and the difference between the way food should taste and the way it does taste becomes too much.

The produce in the megastores is genetically altered to look good and travel well. (Meaning that what we can get at the supermarket may look nice, but the taste is often disappointing.) This is great for the producers, but we will have a generation of people who won’t know what real food tastes like!

We decided to buy some acreage and grow real food! With the farm, we produce foods that smell and taste as they should and show the true value to fresh local produce. Instead of growing the usual things you might find at a Farmer's Market, we specifically chose and continue to choose our offerings with the idea we want them to be foods you might know about but haven't really ever tasted.

Our current focus is direct contact with the consumer at Farmer's Markets and other venues. We are a biodynamic farm that offers heirloom small fruit including, Red Raspberries and charentais type melons, rhubarb, wild and cultivated mushrooms, Shagbark Hickory Syrup, culinary and medicinal herbs, other foraged wild edibles common to this area.


WHO WE ARE

The people who are Shagbark Farm in Ohio are:

Amy - Grew up in an apple orchard on the Northwest side of Cincinnati. Dad was always tinkering with the apple and pear trees and mom could (and still can!) grow anything from seed and always had a huge "Victory Garden" at home. As an adult, Amy took a sauce class at the Culinary Institute in Napa Valley which inspired a lifetime of experimenting with food, especially spices and herbs, but also fresh produce. Amy is in charge of anything with roots or fur, marketing, product research, creation and production. She is also the "I" on many of these web pages as well as the photographer....

Starr - Grew up for the most part on his grandparents farm in Loveland Ohio. Grandfather taught farming techniques based in tradition and the country gentlemans methods to getting things done around the farm. Grandmother knew how to get just about anything to grow and knew what do with what grew on the farm or that was bartered or traded in. At our farm, Starr commands any feat of engineering or building, crop and equipment research, head water provider, head schlepper of all dirt, compost, gravel, mulch, captains anything that runs on propane, diesel or gasoline and is a general all around good egg.

If you understand anything about Cincinnati, Eastsiders and Westsiders can be very different! But in this case Eastside meets Westside with the one major thing in common!

We like food that tastes like food and that has been the goal of what we are doing.

Read further to learn about the history of our farm, our farm practices, how we use the land and water, how we keep our crops protected from local "critters".

NOTE: Shagbark Farm Ohio L.L.C is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Amazon.com is solely responsible for fulfillment of book orders placed through these links.

We also integrate Google ads which will appear on our pages based on the text content of that page and the previous pages you have visited. Both Amazon and Google ads generate very small revenue for us, but enough to offset the costs of having this website. We recommend these programs to any other small farming operations as a way to generate revenues to support your online endeavors!


FARMING PRACTICES
  NUTSHELL: We are a biodynamic farm which utilizes permaculture techniques and forest stewardship council practices.
Biodynamic farming methods all work off the concept that a farm is a site-specific ecosystem. Biodynamic farming is a holistic system that places importance on all of a farm's elements: soil, water, plants & animals. These methods rely heavily on soil building, water conservation, composting, animal production and animal by-products. Not all growers using biodynamic techniques adhere to the complete biodynamics program. You can be certified, but you do not need to be certified to be considered a biodynamic farm.
Permaculture techniques include a design system which creates a sustainable food production environment which begins with soil building, specific site design, companion planting and compost production. These techniques encourage growing more food in less space and focuses primarily on perennial plants and crops.

Forest Stewardship Council Practices (FSC)
Encourages the efficient use of the forest’s multiple products; Conserves biological diversity and its associated water resources, soils, and unique and fragile ecosystems and landscapes; Monitors the condition of the forest & maintains the health of the the forest.


Although not certified organic, we follow natural, organic, sustainable farming techniques and environmental designs that rely on all natural methods. Some of the sustainable farming methods we implement: composting, companion planting, weed burning, and integrated pest management(IPM). We follow forest stewardship council (FSC) practices to maintain our farm's forest productivity and safe water. We drip irrigate all of our crops which reduces plant stress, resulting in a decrease in pest and disease problems as well as increasing the quality and size of our crops. All of our irrigation needs are supplied by rain or our pond.

Our farm is surrounded mostly by cattle and hog farmers so harmful pesticides that float from one farm to another is not an issue with our fresh product production. When necessary, we apply the most environmentally and consumer safe controls only when needed. We use natural remedies whenever we can, and the majority of our crops are not sprayed at all. Our goal is to provide the freshest, highest quality locally produced products possible.


We utilize a 3 bin composting system. This is one of our new bins.

We shred downed tree branches and allow them to decompose

Two piles of shredded mulch

When we prune raspberries we allow the leaves to drop from the canes before we remove the canes for burning. The leaves are left in a pile to decompose for future use.

Composting
is as old as gardening. We harvest composted goodness several ways. Our three bin system is the primary source of compost. Weeds, leaves and plant castoffs are placed in one bin and "stirred" with a pitchfork periodically. As it begins to decompose we continue to place new weeds, leaves and plant castoffs into the second and third bins allowing the first to become true compost.

Common Tansy

Companion planting is an important part of integrated pest management. Companion planting is a technique used to encourage desirable pests or discourage undesirable pests by installing herbs and flowers that either encourage or discourage. There are also plants which when residing in the same proximity improve the quality of one or both plants, like the age old old wives' tale to plant borage with tomatoes and the tomatoes will taste better. They do. And that's what we're all about - food that tastes as it should.

There are many varieties of herbs and flowers that can be used for companion plants. I use lemon balm, lavender, tansy and rosemary as companion plants to the herb plants that are the most susceptible to pest infestation.

Weed Burning is an effective method we have found for massive and large weed eradication.

Praying Mantis on raspberry leaves
Integrated Pest Management(IPM) is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices. IPM is not a single pest control method but, rather, a series of pest management evaluations, decisions and controls. Adams county is home to some of the most bizarre insects we have ever seen, but the hardy standards are there as well. We were excited to see a large quantity of praying mantis take up resident in the raspberry field. We also have a huge quantity of ladybugs present in the field, both orange and red species.

We follow Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) practices to keep our forest healthy. It is a large part of our farming operation as we see what the forest produces as just as important as what we cultivate.

Our FSC practices include monitoring our forest for disease, rot, lightening strike or other natural occurrences that harm the trees and undergrowth. We remove dead trees and trees that have been harmed and could cause harm or danger to the healthy trees. We remove smaller trees that can crowd or otherwise undermine healthy trees.


Birds go after insects in rotting trees

Rotting trees can and do fall over

Turkey tail varieties of mushrooms on a tree are a good indicator of a dead or dying tree

Large Red Oak that fell from unobserved rot


Trees inappropriately spaced can cause inosculation.
Inosculationis a natural phenomenon in which
two trees grow together.This often causes rot at the base.

Rot at the base of insuculated trees.

Lightening strikes often will kill a tree.

Tornadoes and wind shears can kill trees.


LAND USAGE


Google earth image of our farm.

Google earth image of our raspberry field.

Our farm was a small part of a large Adams County, Ohio farm that has been owned by the same family for generations. The topography lends itself to a variety of microclimates which provide a variety of natural and cultivated products. We focus primarily on perennial plants, which include the raspberries, blackberreies and most of our herbs are perennial. In addition, our land produces wild mushrooms, hickory, sassafras, sumac, wild blackberries and Ohio pawpaws.

Currently we utilize approximately 1 acre of our 10 acres for raspberry production. The field is a new field, never been tilled before. We accomplished this by removing a band of invasive red cedars on the hill side. The field is terraced and uphill from the pond. Our raspberry production is focused on more production in less space. We are experimenting with a variety of pruning techniques and with controlling the number of canes per foot to determine if more and larger berries can be achieved with the varieties we have selected. You can read more about our berry operation here.

Our herb gardens are scattered around the farm. In some places we have 50 foot rows, other places we have large whimsical gardens that herbs lend themselves to. Many of our medicinal herbs are thriving in woodland gardens we have established.

We have tried to introduce 2-3 large areas each year for more herb production. Currently we are utilizing approximately 1/2 acre for herb production. We experiment with taking multiple cuttings of various herbs which allows for more vigorous growth and a larger harvest in less space. You can read more about our culinary herb production here and our medicinal herb production here.

New in 2013 we are introducing an orchard which will have plums, pears, apples and blueberries. When we enlarged the pond, we cleared a significant amount of frontage on the dam so where we grew mustard in 2012, we're adding the orchard.

WATER USAGE

All of our irrigation needs are supplied by rain or our pond. Our farm is approximately 1 mile off the road away from "grid" services such as electricity and water. This leads us on any number of alternative pursuits and solutions other farmers might take for granted. When you plan to install an acre of raspberries and an acre of herbs, not to mention personal vegetable gardens and fruit trees, you have to think about irrigation first. Currently, we draw 2500 gallons of water from our pond to irrigate everything. This would not be possible without the clever engineering, gravity and fluid dynamics we have become so fond of.

Our irrigation involves pumping water uphill, filling multiple tanks along the way. To date we have nine 275 gallon tanks spread along our irrigation path. Four "stations" and a base station each serving a different purpose.

Base station is at the edge of the pond where the water is drawn. Station one is approximately 50 feet uphill where the pond water is filtered and sent to the other stations. Station three, about 250 feet uphill. consists of three tanks. One holding tank for water transfer to station four above the raspberry field and two holding tanks for the drip systems down hill in the herb gardens. The placement of the tanks was very important for gravity to work. By placing the tanks higher on the slope than the gardens to be irrigated, we have enough water pressure to run sprinklers as needed, but more importantly, to need pressure reducing valves and heads for each drip zone.

In 2010 and 2011 we were successful in being able to provide an inch of water to the raspberries all season as well as being able to water all the herb beds as often as we needed.


In 2012, because of the drought and the planned increases in our crop production, we enlarged our existing pond. On the average we draw 2500 gallons each time we irrigate. We are not sure if it was good karma or good planning but the drought in Adams county in 2012 was pretty severe and we were very glad we had enlarged the pond!


CROP PROTECTION
BIG CRITTERS
Adams County is known for a huge population for whate tail deer, raccoons and wild turkeys, all of which love berries. We knew we were going to have to protect our harvests from these critters, and made attempts which would work for a while and then not.

Our raspberry field is cut into a wooded area which we cleared and terraced and is in the center of our woods. Our foes have been wandering in these woods for years long before we came along, we saw their tracks in the field as we progressed through from clearing to planting. We just weren't sure how to keep them out.

We talked with other farmers, no one had a good answer. It wasn't until one of our neighbors told us how deer had eaten all of his very large garden in one night leaving him with nothing that we realized we needed to find an answer. Starr did some research and found an interesting solution based in Science and tested true by us.

The first time we went to the local feed store owner to ask him for parts we needed, he scratched his head and said "you want to do what?". He really was a good sport and helped us immensely with our crude drawings and almost baked solutions. We built a new twist on the solar powered electric fence. As of fall 2011, not one critter foot print in the fields, no deer, no turkeys, not even raccoons. If you are interested in the fence get in touch with us we trade and sell the information!


Pie pans stapled together with stones inside and just pie pans swinging in the breeze. Worked for a bit.

Then we got serious


Probably the last time the cats went near the field without us there.


Stevia row protected with clanky pie pan kept the plants protected until late fall

WINGED CRITTERS
Adams County is home to some of the prettiest birds and some of the largest. Two in particular love to claim our raspberries, woodpeckers (Pileated and Northern Flicker) and Blue Jays. Not graceful critters by any means, they are pretty clumsy in claiming the berries, as they massively destroy the growth around them. At one point another farmer had described his disgust in dealing with raspberries asked us if we had had any bird damage. We more or less said "What are you talking about?". Now we know:

Read about our solution to this issue here.

MOTHER NATURE
2011 was the wettest and rainiest year on record in our area. As our field is cut into a wooded slope and terraced, we experienced a pretty awesome mudslide in the upper side of the field. We knew eventually we'd have to deal with the issue, rain in 2011, forced the issue. In two very condensed, very wet weeks weeks we installed a 4 foot by 110ft retaining wall. Most of it done in pouring rain. A French drain installed behind the wall in pea gravel.

December 2012 and into 2013 we experienced yet another very wet winter and had to revisit the retaining wall project. We needed to install an additional French drain 110' long and 18" deep in front of the retaining wall to encourage yet more drainage from the hill behind the raspberry field. The original drain worked, but water still persisted in settling in the top row row of the field. With new raspberry varieties scheduled at the end of April for that row, this unplanned project became the immediate emergency at the end of March 2013!

In 2014 we added new drainage to the raspberry field, this time in terrace 1. Raspberries do not like to have their feet wet and the clay in Adams county is constantly providing plenty of puddles! Near the end of the raspberry season in 2013 we had significant flooding in terrace 1 and lost a good number of raspberry canes so we planned to install the drainage early in 2014.


Mudslide in Spring rains 2011

Retaining wall and deer fence late 2011

New drain 2013 ->

Drain complete!

Terrace 1 drain installed 2014.

 


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