Spring at Howell Farm is also the time for plowing. Intern Jake Czaja recently helped plow up the farm’s kitchen garden. It was his first time behind a walking plow.
“Steering was a little bit of a challenge,” Jake reports. “And it was a workout. To plow an entire acre, it’s something you probably have to get used to.”
Jack, an 1,800-pound Belgian draft horse, the farm’s largest, did the pulling. As the dirt in the kitchen garden hadn’t been worked extensively for several years, the farmers used a subsoiler to break up the soil at depths below the level of a traditional walking plow.
“You could actually feel the soil when you’re plowing,” Jake discovered. There was a marked difference between plowing one end of the garden, which is a little rocky, and the other end, where the soil is much softer. The changes in the soil come on quick – the garden is less than 100 feet long.
Jake hopes to use what he learns at Howell Farm this spring to someday start a farm of his own that incorporates draft animal power. Emese Salopek, another intern, also hopes to gain some experience with draft animals. Emese has a Hungarian grandmother in Somerset, New Jersey who has a small farm that grows Hungarian peppers. “One day, down the line in the future, I hope to be able to plow her fields,” Emese says.