At the edge of a sparsely developed neighborhood in Milton, Florida, you’ll find Ray and Wanda Davis’ “Clear Creek Farm.” When they decided to retire from their original careers, they thought it would be fun to try their hand at farming as a way to maintain activity and to grow their own food. Their 30 acre property, just west of a Naval Aviation Training base and backing up to a land preserve, has hills, flood plains, hardwood and pine forest areas and is bisected by Clear Creek as it winds its way to the Blackwater River.
From the property description, you can imagine, there are lots of ecosystems, but level fertile ground is missing. Ray and Wanda accepted these challenges to create their version of a Sustainable Farm. Here are some of the techniques they use.
One of the first problems to be addressed was controlling run-off and erosion. They created a series of terraces and concrete drainage streams, including a pool. Square foot garden beds and narrow long beds were built on the terraces. Trees cut down on the farm as they cleared areas were milled into lumber that they use to make the long beds. Tree height determined the bed length.
To extend the growing season and protect some delicate plants during the winter months, they have built high tunnel (hoop houses). Ray also has some hydroponic lettuce beds where he grows individual lettuce plants in a nutrient rich liquid supported by styrofoam.
All plant material that is left after harvesting is tossed into compost bins built from throw away pallets lined with hardware cloth and tied together with zip-ties. They use straw and shredded paper as the carbon component and toss in a shovel full of manure to keep it “hot.”
Solar panels installed on the farm buildings generate electricity for farm use as well. As a result of their hard work, farm tours, plant sales and consultations provide additional income. Now that’s sustainable.
Billie Nicholson, editor