Just saw this short piece in the New York Times about a growing trend among small farms - more and more of them are using animal power in place of tractors and other oil-powered machines.
|Rich Ciotola with the team of young oxen he works with in Sheffield, Mass. Photo by Jennifer May, courtesy of The New York Times web site.|
It looks like Kristin Kimball, author of The Dirty Life (a great new read - my review is here) and her husband, Mark of Essex Farm are in good company. They use draft horses to work their 100-acre organic farm in New York's northcountry.
Animal power has some distinct advantages to oil-powered machines for small-scale farming:
- They don't require costly, environment-polluting fossil fuels;
- They never need spare parts;
- They are literally lighter on the land than machines are - instead of leaving deep ruts of dense-packed soil behind them, the hooves of horses and oxen actually aerate the soil and do not damage the all-important layers of fertile microbes in the dirt;
- They also provide free fertilizer!; and
- They're better company than a tractor.
Demand for instruction on how to train and work with draft animals is soaring as young farmers look to a 7,000-year-old practice to help make their farms as modern as possible.
Draft power is spreading! Read more on the NYTimes.com site.