Farm Focus: A Note from Farmer Kristin

Abel building owl boxes

Abel building owl boxes

Here are Frog Hollow, we are very happy to be working with NRCS for a 4th year in a row, planting trees, shrubs and 50 total acres of conservation cover crop.  NRCS stand for the National Resource Conservation Service, a federal agency that supports farmers to implement practices that provide habitat and conserve soil and water.

In our case, the partnership with NRCS works like this.  We apply for a project, NRCS provides recommendations and guidelines from completing that project, and then we get to work.  Then, once we can prove we have followed the agreed upon steps and have achieved measurable results (seed germination, tree establishment, etc), NRCS pays us back for costs incurred.  In our case, our material costs will be purchasing seed, trees and materials for bird houses.  Frog Hollow will be donating the man-power to complete the tasks.

This year we are working on several projects.  For starters, our incredible handymen have built bat and owl boxes that are being stationed around the farm.  These habitat boxes are built according to rigid specifications, and will be permanently placed in the orchard, 19 feet above the ground.  Additionally, we're planting 20 acres with a "conservation cover crop" designed to reduce erosion, sequester carbon and improve soil quality.  Our soil conservation cover crop consists of organic clover, wheat, barley, vetch and mustard.  We are also (and potentially most excited about) planting 30 acres of conservation "pollinator cover crop."  This planting consists of a variety of native wildflowers, chosen for the timing of their flowering and aimed to feed our native bee and pollinator population. We have been very lucky to have immense help over the years from Gordon Frankie, UC Berkeley Professor and bee specialist. He has recommended the ideal varieties to plant to provide a longevity of nectar for the native bees. This year's pollinator seed mix consists of two types Phacelia, California Poppy, Berseen clover and Blue Thimble flower. Last but not least, we're planting 900 feet of hedgerow- a permanent shrub and tree line, established to increase habitat and reduce wind erosion.  This natural wind break is being planted along the border between Frog Hollow and our neighbor farm, so that eventually when our neighbors till in their spent garlic crop, the dust won't blow into our orchards.

More than a dozen Frog Hollow employees will take part in this project coming to fruition.  We're lucky to have such dedicated individuals who will sow seed, plant trees, complete paperwork and construct beautiful owl homes. We're also grateful for our partnership with NRCS, who help to provide support to make this happen.