One Acre Farm, which is located just off West Baltimore Road in Boyds, became the first farm in Montgomery County to receive a $10,000 Kiva Zip crowdfunding loan.
The farm, which is owned by farmer Michael Protas, is a sustainable-practice, Community Supported Agriculture vegetable farm. While the name may say one acre, the actual farm is almost thirty acres in Boyds. The loan through Kiva Zip, an online platform that crowdfunds zero-interest, no-fee, microloans for entrepreneurs, was facilitated by the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development.
Kiva Zip’s loans are based on the character of business owner and his or her network of supporters, rather than credit scores or collateral. The MCDED served as the trustee for the loan, which Susan Miller, of the Special Projects Department of the MCDED explained simply means that the Department of Economic Development vouched for the character of Michael Protas, the farmer.
According to the farm’s website, Protas started One Acre Farm because he wanted to create a community where people can feel an association with the farm, crops and vegetables they serve their family.
The farm uses a number of farming techniques which make for a more sustainable environment, such as composting to build the soil, planting cover crops in the fall when the fields are not in use to capture nutrients, and using drip irrigation to save water, according the farm’s website. The farm is chemical free which means that no synthetic pesticides or synthetic fertilizers are used.
Protas will buy a strip till plow with the loan, which will allow him to plow small, targeted sections of his fields, and leave the rest of the land undisturbed. This technique will prevent runoff and erosion, preserve the soil’s microbial life and provide more room for plants to flourish.
Strip tilling normally is done in the fall after harvest, but it also can be done in the spring before planting. It is a field tillage system that tills only the soil between lines of crops. Narrow strips, six to 12 inches wide, are tilled in crop stubble, with the area between the rows left undisturbed. Fertilizer can be injected into the tilled area during the strip-tilling operation. The tilled strips correspond to planter row widths of the next crop, and seeds are planted directly into the tilled strips.
“Through our experimentation with this tool, we can spread awareness of this tillage method to other farmers in the area, and vastly improve conservation efforts in our community,” said Protas.