Bahner Farm, Belmont, Maine
Operated by Mike and Christa Bahner, Bahner Farm is a Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association-certified organic farm located in Belmont, Maine. The Bahners cultivate 6.5 acres of mixed vegetables across 10 tillable acres that are split between their home farm and nearby fields.
Produce and seedlings are sold through wholesale and direct marketing, including through a farmstand at Bahner Farm that is open daily through the growing season, a weekly farmer’s market in Bar Harbor, Maine, and CSA shares through the Daybreak Growers Alliance, an organization that aggregates and distributes produce and goods from a number of small farms across Maine.
Mike and Christa both had several years of farming experience before starting Bahner Farm together in 2009. Mike spent the four years prior working at Peacemeal Farm in Dixmont, Maine after graduating from the University of Maine, while Christa ran Double Bit Farm for two years after attending UMass Amherst. Currently, the Bahners run their farm with their two young children and several employees.
Crabgrass (Digitaria) has been among the most abundant and challenging weed species at Bahner Farm since 2016. Seedlings tend to survive tine weeding in many instances, and have also posed a particular challenge as a weed that grows through gaps in fabric laid down in pathways. Removing fabric at the end of the season is hindered by the need to remove crabgrass from the material before it can be stored away, sometimes doubling the amount of time for the task.
Weed management at Bahner Farm
Physical weed control, seedbank management through tarping, and weed suppression through plastic mulching are all critical elements of weed management at Bahner Farm.
Mechanical cultivation with tractor-mounted equipment is the primary means of weed control at the farm. Two cultivation systems are used, based on whether the crop is planted in a two-row or three-row bed. For two-row crops, including potatoes, leeks, sweet corn, and green beans, Mike uses a sequence of tine-weeding during the early crop growth stage, followed by “hard cultivation” with S-tines between rows, and then one to three passes with hilling equipment. The three-row system, which includes radishes, carrots, and paper pot beets, is also treated to tine-weeding (except the paper pot beets) and S-tines in the pathways.
For certain crops, such as alliums, black plastic in the crop row and weed fabric in pathways has become a staple of weed management at the farm. Black plastic has been “easier than a lot of other weed methods”, Mike said, comparing it to the labor required for repeated hoeings and cultivation events that would otherwise be necessary.
The tools Bahner Farm experimented with this season were the hand-powered, single row Q-hoe tine weeder and Terrateck double wheel hoe with finger weeders.
Tools were tested in fall carrots.
Reflections from the on-farm research project
Given the success with the Q-hoe and Terrateck, Mike is interested in using these tools again in the future. He also would like to improve the compatibility between planting and cultivation equipment in the carrots and radishes, by either finding or creating a three-row steerable cultivator that would correspond to a three-row seeder for the crops.
Further information, training, or resources
Mike is currently interested in more information on using and building steerable cultivation units.
Figure 1: Mental model of the components and connections within the weed management system at Bahner Farm.
- Gray boxes represent farming system priorities, orange boxes represent overall weed management strategies and goals, blue boxes represent physical weed control practices and decision-making, and purple boxes represent key lessons on using physical weed control tools based on practical experience.
- Blue arrows indicate the three strongest perceived relationships between components within the mental model.