The Prying Mantis

No Justice, No Peace – reflections on organic farming, CSA and domestic fair trade.


April 2016

A Walk Through the Kraai Preserve

Kim Grabosky spring 2009 039

Photos and Text by Elizabeth Henderson

After we dance around the May Pole, come to the woods of the Kraai Preserve!

There are three ways to get there.  You can drive by turning right onto Welcher Road out of the farm driveway, and then turning right again onto Norsen Road, going to the very end of the road and parking.  There is a sign at the entrance to the Kraai Preserve. Or you can walk straight across the Peacework fields to the woods.  But I invite you to join me in taking the trail we have created along the Ganargua.  To get to the trail, we walk from the barns to the north along the grassed banks of the little stream that is overgrown with watercress, past the hoop house and the hay bales until we get to the Ganargua.  There we turn left and follow the trail marked with small Genesee Land Trust signs. Peacework leases our farmland from the Genesee Land Trust with a 25 year rolling lease.  CSA members contributed the money so that the Land Trust could purchase the farm ten years ago. This May Day Party is a significant anniversary, celebrating a full decade of cordial and productive cooperation between the farm and the land trust!  The Kraai Preserve is a nature preserve that honors the memory of Doug Kraai, a passionate conservationist as well as bison farmer, good friend and founding father of NOFA-NY.


Along the trail are ceramic plaques that identify some of the plants and trees. Students of the ceramic arts of CSA member Carol Bell made the plaques. There is an impressive patch of Horsetail or equisetum, one of the most ancient plants on earth.  Horsetail is rich in silica and makes a good spray to boost the immune system of vegetable crops like tomatoes.

Continue reading “A Walk Through the Kraai Preserve”

Carbon Farming at Peacework Farm: A Farm that Builds Carbon in the Soil

POF aireal view of Peacework farm 2008
From the air, you can see the patchwork of diverse crops in many beds near the barns at Peacework Farm, a contrast with the monocropped fields like the one on the upper left where corn and soy beans rotate year after year.

While most people understand the urgency of reducing the use of fossil fuels and resulting carbon emissions, fewer realize that a companion path is just as urgent – restoring carbon in the soil.  Fully a third of the excess carbon now in the atmosphere used to be in the soil.  Poor land management and industrial farming methods released that carbon into the air. Before forests and grasslands were converted to field agriculture, soil organic matter generally composed 6 to 10% of the soil mass.   These days, agricultural fields in the US average 1 to 3% organic matter.  Soil scientist Dr. Rattan Lal has calculated that “a mere 2 percent increase in the carbon content of the planet’s soils could offset 100 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions going into the atmosphere.” Using traditional methods, organic farms like Peacework are putting carbon in the soil and keeping it there.Sept27 025

Without requiring a billion dollar contraption like the one the tar sands folks boast about, Peacework cooperates with Nature to increase soil carbon.  The first and simplest practice the farmers use is to keep plants growing as much of the year as possible.  Plants are the miraculous carbon pumps – and they work for free.  Through photosynthesis, the chlorophyll molecule in their leaves allows plants to absorb energy from sunlight and to use that energy to separate water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen.  The plant releases the oxygen back into the air, and combines the hydrogen with carbon dioxide to make simple carbohydrates such as glucose. This process is so active that an estimated 15% of all the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere moves through photosynthetic organisms every year! Continue reading “Carbon Farming at Peacework Farm: A Farm that Builds Carbon in the Soil”

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