George “Geo” Kenty has a deep affection for two apparently disparate things: food, and his grandfather. Geo has managed to combine these two affinities in the form of Dewey Alexander Farm, a plot of 36 acres in Winchendon named after his grandfather. Described as “the most amazing man [Geo] ever met,” Dewey Alexander was a dairy farmer in northern Vermont who initially inspired Geo to study dairy in college. Instead, Geo worked in science labs in high school and college, putting off his agricultural career until after graduation.
While he still manages a developmental biology lab at Harvard by day (and teaching woodworking there at night!), Geo’s call to farming never faded, and he took New Entry’s farmer training course a few years ago. He and his partner, Jenny (pictured), eventually purchased land in Winchendon last year. Although farther from their home in Medford than New Entry’s Dracut incubator farm site, the Winchendon site came with a solar-powered house that they use for occasional weekend getaways. Geo is proud to say that the house is completely off the grid, so overall, his farm has a pretty small environmental impact.
A “huge fan of the stuff” (that is, food) and the agrarian lifestyle, Geo acknowledges how difficult farming can be. Their first season in Winchendon was apparently so unsuccessful that “not even deer were a problem.” They experienced difficulties with soil chemistry and pests, and Geo claims that they would have been out of business were it not for World PEAS’s patience and support. Their second season had much better success: they got some rototilling help from a neighbor, improved the soil with lime, bone char, and KMag (all organic soil addendums), and were finally able to make good sales to World PEAS and a restaurant. Geo is wrapping up his third season on Dewey Alexander farm and says that although it was not as productive as last year, it was a success. He works nights and weekends on the farm when he is not at at the Harvard biology lab, and he continues to sell vegetables through World PEAS. Despite the challenges, Geo maintains that the biggest reward truly is the work itself.
These days, Geo meets the challenges of farming by keeping careful track of the details: he writes down everything he does, from different seeding techniques to how he mows the fields differently. He says his greatest challenge continues to be the nutrient concentration in his soil. He works with a mentor from NOFA (Northeast Organic Farming Association) who visits the farm to give him tips on improving his soil and increasing plant productivity. Together, Geo and his mentor have come up with a plan to split his garden into 3 one-acre plots, actively growing food on one of the plots while cover cropping the remaining acreage. Covercropping with beneficial plants like bell beans, field peas, and oats will put nutrients back into the soil while increasing soil organic content, decreasing weed pressure, and preventing erosion. Geo will then rotate growing vegetables between the 3 plots, allowing the covercrops to work their magic and replenish the soil's fertility between vegetable plantings. Geo and Jenny look forward to growing at a smaller and more manageable size moving forward.
From the business aspect of his farm, George continues to use the business plan he wrote in the Farm Business Planning Course. He had not owned or managed a farm before he took the course, so New Entry introduced him to the business aspects of farming. He frequently reviews his business planning notes to this day. Once his crop yields improve, George plans to diversify markets while increasing sales to World PEAS. George says he would ideally sell produce long term at a farmers market, set up a farm stand on his own farm and set up some long-term accounts.
George enjoys experimenting with new crops, and continues to feel a great sense of accomplishment after a hard day’s work on the farm. The most important thing to him is looking at the bigger picture and realizing that what is does is a huge part of creating a healthy ecosystem to thrive in and enjoy. With the improvement of his soil and the help of mentors like NOFA and World PEAS, George awaits the day when he can leave his job at the biology lab and follow his dream of living and working on his farm full time.