Hope you all have had an enjoyable and cozy winter, and are getting excited for fresh vegetables! We had a good winter and spent a lot of time planning for this season, attending farming conferences, and playing in the snow with our 1 year old Eli. Between Adam and I, we gave nine workshops in the past two months at regional farming conferences and for farm training programs. That’s a lot of powerpoints! We talked about everything from csa farm financials to electric tractor conversions to growing good broccoli. We relish our time at these conferences to re-connect with our fellow farmers, learn new things (always new things to learn!), and help educate beginning farmers.
One of things we are most excited about this season is adding 7,500 Honeybees to our farm! Laura just took a U of MN beginning beekeeping course and we will add one hive to our farm this year. The bees are crucial for helping us to pollinate many of our crops, and we hope to provide a good home with good habitat for them. In a hive’s first year, a beekeeper typically leaves all of the honey for the bees to get through the winter. By year two though, we should garner 75-150 pounds of honey that we can harvest. We hope to offer an add-on honey share to our members next season! And if you make a visit out to the farm this year, we’d love to show you the hives and talk more about these amazing creatures.
Although it may look and feel like winter still, the first veggie seeds hit the soil in the greenhouse this week. Our goal is to get those first onions, leeks, lettuces, and broccoli family seedlings transplanted out in the ground by late April. This snow will be nice to add to our soil moisture this Spring, but I’m ready for it to start melting. Bring on the sunshine and warmth!
I think the skies have shut off for at least a couple of days. In the past week, we have received over 6 inches of rain. We actually stopped keeping track after we reached the 5 inch total on Monday night, but rain continued on Tuesday and Wednesday. Fields are obviously saturated and we have done our best to stay out of them except when we need to get in and harvest. Wind and sun now are much appreciated to help dry things out. When it comes to weather, there is usually always someone worse off than you. Friends in the Northfield Area and Duluth Area are definitely in our thoughts as they battle floods and several month’s worth of rainfall falling within a few days. There is a lot we can do about drought, pests, weeds, but when it rains buckets and buckets for days on end, there is little that we can do to help protect our crops. Plant’s roots need oxygen in the soil and standing water and super saturated conditions forces that oxygen out, causing plants to stop growing and sometimes dying. The intense rainfall also leaches nutrients and compacts the soil–also a big detriment to plant’s continued growth. Let’s hope that the weather pattern is shifting a bit now and we are out of the June-soon! Keep the flooded out farmers and residents in your thoughts and prayers. Climate change and its impacts on our food system should be a national conversation. It’s time to get the ball rolling on this issue. We can’t afford to wait any longer.
A few photos from the last week on the farm. We are getting an amazing amount of work done since our 3 employees joined us last Monday. Adam and co. will begin the hoop house construction tomorrow, drilling over 80 holes with an auger for the hoop house posts. In the late afternoon, we will try to slip in some transplants, if the soil has dried out enough. And Friday is the first harvest for market. Saturday, Laura makes the trek into Minneapolis for the first Mill City Farmers Market! And it is all a blur from here on out until we get through the first CSA delivery in mid-June and heave a sigh of relief. The intense sunny, bright energy of early Spring and summer, the 15+ hours of photosynthesis happening all around us and getting to taste the pleasures of those green greens all help us to keep on keeping on despite myriads of projects and juggling an 8-month old before Grandma is here to help in June. It is such a thrill to be on the cusp of summer though and we remind ourselves to savor it as we work outside on these glorious days.
And a few photos…Hay wagons filled with seedlings waiting to be transplanted after the rainclouds pass.
Garlic growing up and up and up!
Edible Flower Packs up-potted for our farmers market. Contains nasturtium, gem marigold, pansy and viola. Cute!!
Just an update on 2012 shares. All the Twin Cities pick-up locations are sold out and there are about EIGHT spots available yet for pick-up at the farm in Hutchinson. We expect to fill these within the next month or couple weeks, so do contact us if you’d like to sign up. Thanks to all of our returning and new members for signing up with us this year! We’re looking forward to fresh vegetables soon!!!
Our new hoophouse (144 feet long and 32 feet wide) will be delivered this week and we will immediately start work on getting that up. I just up-potted the tomatoes in the greenhouse that will be transplanted into our new tunnel. Adam has gotten into most all of our fields to work out the first batch of weeds, plant oat and pea cover crops, and spread all our compost. Record earliness for us! We will do some seeding in the next few days in hopes of catching a passing rain shower. The high winds have really dried out the soil so rain would be excellent! We’re not jazzed about having to set up irrigation in early April, but we have the means to do it if necessary. For that we are grateful. Hard to tell at this point in the game, but it feels like this summer could continue on with the drought pattern started last fall.
Countless times a day I am reminding myself that it is only March 18th, although it feels and sounds like the first week of June outdoors. VERY strange. The warmth has been wonderful for getting outside projects done and is cutting down on the greenhouse heating bills, but we wonder daily what will come after this. It appears like it will just be an early Spring and snow is unlikely from here on out, but frost will definitely nip again before summer so we are sticking to our scheduled planting dates more or less.
The red-winged blackbirds came back on Monday, March 12th, along with robins, ducks, swans, and more. The frogs started in with their peeping yesterday and that is what is really crazy to me. The frogs calls mean late spring/early summer to me…and again, reminding myself that it is March 18th.
Since all things weather dictate our life and our livelihood, we are concerned about farming in the midst of some serious climate change. Metro Mag just covered this great topic and we sound-off about the whole deal here.
Before what little snow we had melted again, we took little Eli out for his first farm sled ride. Pretty darn nice weather for late January! It doesn’t yet feel like winter has come yet though–except for that brief below zero weather in mid-January. It feels like March might be a bear of a month. More snow wouldn’t be bad. We sure do need the moisture in the soil.
We are slowly plowing through our winter farm work, spreadsheets, taxes, updating 2011 records, formulating our 2012 farm plan, ordering seeds, hiring employees, registering members, yada yada. The greenhouse work will begin in just over a month. Yikes! That puts things into perspective a bit here. The winter vacation is quickly coming to an end…and we still have a lot to get ready. CSA shares in the Metro are nearly sold out and we’ve got about 15 local spots left for farm pick-up. After last summer’s extreme weather, the very dry fall, and this unseasonably warm and dry winter, I am wary for what this season’s weather might bring, and we are preparing as best we can for the whole spectrum of weather conditions. A farm irrigation well is planned for this Spring. A very large hoop house is also on the agenda. Regardless of what the weather does here, we will sled ahead, on and on, into the longer days towards summer.
He’s not working in the fields yet, but he’s still a farmer to us! Eli Charles Cullip was born on August 20th, 2011 at 6:05 a.m. He’s a sweet little guy and we’ve been enjoying getting to know him these last weeks of August.
With sunlight until nearly 8 p.m. now and the snow piles finally gone, we are back in full outdoor farming mode! Yeehaw! The spring feels slow this year, or maybe it is right on time, but we’ve been thrown off the past couple years with early, warm starts. The fields are without snow and frost is out in first few feet, but soil is still saturated with moisture and very mucky. I hope that we can get in and plant the first crops by late April…perhaps that will really be more like early May this year.
The greenhouse is a lovely, full green place though and onions, leeks, herbs, lettuces, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, kohlrabi, baby bok choi, celery, celery root, basil and more are all in various stages of growing or sprouting. New seeds are laid in fresh soil every day for more and more sprouts! It’s makes me joyful to see all the cheerful seedlings saluting up at you out of their flats, especially after surviving the 100″ of snow we received this winter. There is hope after all!!!
Hoophouse soil is slowly drying out as well and dandelions are beginning to grow and flower in there. We’ve been munching on the baby dandelion greens and they are oh so tasty to our winter tongues. The dandy greens are really good for you, so check out your yard or other organic places to pick some for your next salad. Below are some photos of our newest hoophouse that we put the finishing touches on last fall. It’s a quality structure (a PT-30 from Poly-Tek for all you geeks out there) and we hope to be growing more than dandelions in there soon! Spring greens are slated to go in any day now (whenever the soil dries out!) and summer tomatoes will follow those. It is quite a production to put one of these babies up. It is 30 ft wide by 72 ft long and we took most of the summer to slowly construct it in our seldom free moments. We plan to put up a couple more eventually but we feel like it is an every other year project. By the time a year has passed, you forget how much time and work it is to put one up, so you say, ‘hey, let’s do that again so we can grow more awesome tomatoes!’ And repeat.
Adam, along with our 2010 employees, Lars and Chris, appear in the photos below… We’re trying to stretch the hoophouse plastic as tight as possible before securing permanently so that the plastic wouldn’t sag this winter with the snow and ice and get flapped around in the wind. Mission accomplished as our plastic is still as tight as can be and survived the great snow winter of ’10-’11.
Hoophouse #2 is finished!!! Inside you can see our Thanksgiving spinach that we planted.
Thanks to everyone for checking out the blog again after a long winter hiatus! Happy Spring!!!
Thank you to all of our wonderful CSA members and market customers who supported us through another year of farming in Minnesota! Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday and seems to be a favorite among many farmers we know. Finally, finally our outdoor work has slowed and we have put the outside work of growing food to a close for a few months. Our own stash of winter storage veggies have just been moved into our basement and root cellar today, and Adam is fixing up the snowblower attachment for our tractor in case the impending snowstorm blows our way. The knots in our back are slowly working themselves out, and we have time to cook some of the fall storage produce and enjoy it with our family and friends. Thanksgiving is also the first weekday holiday that we farmers have gotten off since March! It’s a great feeling of satisfaction to finish up another year of business and then eat the fruits of your labor.
In addition to thankfulness for our customers, we also have a lot of gratitude for the folks at Harvest for the Hungry, a program of the Emergency Foodshelf Network. In early November, Adam and I gleaned the rest of our fields and ended up delivering over 1,000 pounds of the fresh stuff to Emergency Foodshelf Network’s Harvest for the Hungry program. Thanks to donations from our CSA members and friends, Emergency Foodshelf Network was able to match those donations and purchase our extra produce from us at $1 per pound wholesale prices. It’s a pretty good deal for them to buy lots of great organic produce for a dollar per pound and it also really helps all us small, local farmers that sometimes find it hard to make ends meet. It goes without saying that we would love love love to be able to do big donations of produce for free, but honestly, the profit margins of small-scale farming are very, very slim and it is an extremely labor-intensive business. So, with this in mind, it is a really wonderful service that Harvest for the Hungry is able to purchase produce from us at modest prices and we can feel good about our produce going to hungry folks that may not have much access to fresh stuff otherwise. Harvest for Hungry has already distributed over 60,000 pounds of produce from local, organic farms in 2010 and they’re hoping to break that record in 2011! The work they do at Emergency Foodshelf Network is just phenomenal.We plan to be a part of that. Hope you can help us get there too. Thank you, thank you!
Have a wonderful, safe Thanksgiving! 2011 veggies are not too far away…the greenhouse will be turned on in a mere 3 months.
Last Box of our Regular Season! We still hadn’t had a hard frost by mid-October!
Week 18 Contents: Baby Spinach, Cauliflower, Yukon Gold Potatoes, Sweet Dumpling/Carnival Squash, Purple or Green Broccoli, Cippollini Onions, Acorn Squash, Orange Carrots, Parsnips, Baby Arugula, Celery Root, Cherry Tomatoes, Delicata Squash