Why Farm Infrastructure Is Important

There's more to a farm than just hard work and great soil, learn about the basics that can ease and educate your mind.


| February 2018


According to Fruitful Labor (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2018) as the average age of America’s farmers continues to rise, we face serious questions about what farming will look like in the near future, and who will be growing our food. Many younger people are interested in going into agriculture, especially organic farming, but cannot find affordable land, or lack the conceptual framework and practical information they need to succeed in a job that can be both difficult and deeply fulfilling.

When I purchased my farm, it had no buildings, no well, and no electricity, and the access road was a seasonal dirt farm road. A 12-inch-diameter pipeline in one corner was meant to bring irrigation water from a distant well; however, that well, a very old one, failed during the first year with a collapsed casing and was abandoned.

A farm needs more than just good soil to carry out its mission. The requirements include all-weather roads, buildings for secure storage of supplies and equipment; packing facilities for preparing crops for market; greenhouses for starting seedlings; cool storage; electricity for light, power, and pumping water; wells to provide a source of water; and pipelines to distribute the water to where it is needed. A good deal of my energy and resources was devoted to developing the necessary farm infrastructure, especially in the early years.

Roads

The first requirement was a reliable road, and not having the suitable equipment, I hired that work done. The roadway was elevated and crowned with soil taken from adjacent barrow pits, and then covered with gravel (road base). Most of the gravel was mined locally, but some was asphalt grindings from nearby highway repair, and another portion was one-inch granite rock salvaged from an abandoned rail bed.

The graveled roads on the farm amount to about 1,600 linear feet, which required about 100 tons of gravel initially, and another 70 tons in maintenance over the years. In addition, there is three-quarters of a mile of common driveway shared with neighbors that was built at the same time, and which cumulatively has required several hundred tons of rock. Concrete used on the farm for the foundations of buildings, and which is mostly sand and gravel, amounts to another 110 tons.

Like all mining, gravel mining is not benign—it is a messy, destructive business harmful to both landscapes and waterways. In evaluating the ecological effects of a farming operation, gravel mined elsewhere constitutes a significant environmental cost. But in the case of roads and foundations, I have no good alternatives.





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