POM'S CABIN FARM
"First priority was to get a sense of the place,
... to become in relationship to it." - Robin Zitter
Pom’s Cabin Farm is located on the Housatonic River in Falls Village. Maintained by a dedicated team, Dale’s vision for the farm is her intention to further the Land’s desire to be all that it wants to be.
Dan Wolfe began working there before Dale purchased the property, and Dan’s son, Tobi, now cares for the land.
Robin Zitter, a horticulturist from nearby Sharon, Connecticut, came on board shortly after the land changed hands in 2007. She describes her work in stages. First priority was to get a sense of the place, “…to become in relationship to it. It was a time for lots of observations and listening to the land”. Next, a flow of “big picture ideas” began to take shape. Those intentions were always driven by a steadfast commitment to “work with the forces of nature, to enhance and steward the landscape.”
After creating circulation through natural pathways, the open areas and trees were first to receive attention. Many of the evergreens were about the same age, so more young evergreens were planted to begin a new generation and to diversify species. The open spaces had been disturbed, so the farm team began suppressing unwanted growth before seeding the native-plant meadows in 2008. The landscape has both high, dry meadows and lower wet lands. The meadows are constantly evolving. Over time, the shorter-lived species that first stabilized the meadows give way to the longer-term perennials and native grasses.
By paying attention to the woodland edges, we’re “building a transition zone, which is where the most interesting ecological interactions take place,” thus blending the open meadows with the wooded edge. Fifteen or so years ago, the woods had been disturbed by logging: The team removed a matted web of exotic invasive species, led by Japanese barberry, and today are patiently encouraging the return of the understory plants, which include the ground level herbaceous layer, shrubs and the trees.
Robin emphasizes “we work to encourage native species and discourage non-native species.” Many of the native plants on the farm are giving cover for the birds and other wildlife, as the team works to restore the ecological balance. There’s an old attempted-pond site on the property that wants to be a sunny meadow: It was unsustainable as a pond. This area is home to unusual plants; “we’re doing the least disturbance possible while transitioning the pond to a sunny meadow.”
The food grown at Pom’s Cabin Farm is sustainably integrated into many parts of the landscape. Lengthy hedges of raspberry plants and red, white and black currants are thick and prolific, as are elderberries, nestled just above the flood plain. A blueberry field of some four hundred shrubs, planted in 2004, expands across a swath of the farm’s property, bordered on the southwest with four wooden housing projects, home to honey bees of Russian, Italian and hybrid extraction of the genius of Vermont’s Ross Conrad. Close neighbors are single-family dwellings of our native mason bees, tucked into the blueberries.
Two of the vegetable and flower gardens on the farm are fenced, with beds growing squash, tomatoes and beans, lettuces, eggplant and onions, all festooned with native pollinator-attractors. The thick grape vines of several varieties follow a trellis of cedar, harvested on the property and lovingly constructed by the talented and magical hand of John Fuchs. There are varieties of quince and fig, peach and pear dotting the landscape. Asparagus and strawberry beds look across to shiitake logs, productive from spring through fall.
Energy conservation is a priority at the farm. The farm works with nature: Gardens are fed by the capture of roof water, collected in a buried cistern, from which gravity leads water to the lower garden and overflows to a berry patch. Drainage from the driveway runoff is directed to swales, infiltrating the ground and thereby remaining an on-site asset instead of a land erosion factor. The farm features a reclaimed, cool greenhouse, cold frames, geothermal wells, solar voltaic panels and a currently-hatching solar thermal hoop house --- An exploration of energy.
The whole effort is singularly driven through deep inquiry into nature’s charm – We are of this land, not its ruler.