Open Farm Day returns to Round the Bend with socially distanced tours
When left to choose their own meals, pigs will typically pick the healthiest food available. In the case of Dartmouth’s pigs, it tends to be mugwort.
This was just one of many agricultural facts Round the Bend Farm Executive Director Desa Van Laarhoven told a gathering of around seven farm enthusiasts at a socially distanced tour on Sept. 19.
“It’s amazing what they choose,” Van Laarhoven said. “Pigs are very smart creatures.”
Once a month, Round the Bend Farm opens up its gates for families to partake in its Open Farm Days — which normally involves showcasing the importance of agriculture through face-to-face tours.
This tradition normally kicks off in the spring, but had to be cancelled because of the pandemic. Starting last month, the in-person tours are back — with a few new rules.
To reduce any potential spread of the virus, there are only a few tours throughout the day and are limited to eight people. Masks must be worn at all times.
Even with the new rules, those who attended the tour said it was worth it to no longer be cooped up at home.
“I’ve been trying to get my family out to an Open Day here for some time now,” New Bedford resident Kamile Khazan said. “I was absolutely thrilled to see they were even doing a limited tour.”
“Plus, it’s always nice to get out of the city,” she added.
During the tour, attendees were able to meet some of the farm’s animals, learn about natural forms of pesticide, and got to see some of the farm’s irrigation systems.
Van Laarhoven said the irrigation tubes came especially in handy because of this year’s drought, noting how they helped save water since it goes straight to the root system.
“I’ve been here for 12 years — this is the first year we’ve ever ran out of water,” she said to the group. “Thankfully it was only for one day, but it was such a bummer.”
To combat the ongoing drought, she said the farm has also made sure to limit water use and is even looking into using more perennial plants like blueberry shrubs, noting that their deeper root system lessens the amount of water consumed.
“The biggest thing is to plant crops that don’t need as much water,” Van Laarhoven said. “I think we’re on a good path, but we’ll definitely think about this winter when we’re ordering our seeds.”
Fortunately, she noted crop yields didn’t see any significant reductions amid the rough season.
Van Laarhoven said the main reason for that was the increase in production as part of the farm’s “Manifest Love” project.
The project, which began in March, is a collaboration between Round the Bend and New Bedford nonprofits YWCA, Youth Opportunities Unlimited, and NorthStar Learning Centers to get food to those who need it.
“Having a more sustainable community helps everybody,” Van Laarhoven said.