Yesterday morning, I was having a crisis. I was overwhelmed by too
many tasks on the farm and no idea how to prioritize. Which is more
important direct seeding beets or transplanting peppers? Seeding
cucumbers in the green house or planting potatoes? Creating more
raised beds or tilling under the cover crop? Planting out head
lettuces or strawberries?
Last year, the question could have been answered simply by looking at
which crop stands to earn us the most at market or resigning ourself
to the fact that we couldn’t get everything done. This year things
are different because we have 10 families patiently awaiting a
diverse bounty. Our CSA expects (and rightfully so) that we have
beets, peppers, cucumbers, potatoes, lettuces and strawberries. So,
what is a farmer to do?
We eventually decided that focusing on the live plants was more
important than seeding new ones. I worked in the green house potting
on an array of hot and sweet peppers (Padron, Chocolate Bell, Greek
Golden Pepperoncini, Anaheim, Cayenne, Sweet Cherry, & Corno Di Toro)
while Matt transplanted head lettuces and used
the bed shaper to prepare more raised beds.
With the added incentive of already having sold your produce, farming
becomes a balancing act of new proportions. Instead of allowing
stress to impact my ability to farm, I am concentrating my energy into
the plants with a new purpose - “these peppers will be for Terrie or
Mark” or “I bet Jadon is going to love these strawberries”. It adds a
dimension to growing food that is so local, direct, and important.
Not only do our CSA members know where there food comes from (my
backyard!), I know who is eating the fruits of my labor.
The disconnect in our current industrialized food system not only
alienates the eater to a point of curious wonder about how food is
made, grown, or processed but turns the farmer into a machine with no
regard (or interest) for who will ultimately consume the product. For
both sides, food becomes only about calories or dollars.
Matt & I feel so lucky to have the support of our community with
individuals and families excited to eat our produce and share in our
farm. We are having our first work party this weekend in the spirit
of community support. People are just plain interested in getting
their hands dirty and truly understanding how food is grown, made or
processed. It makes me happy to be able to share those experiences
with others and there are a few things to do around here!
...how many more to go?
At least one more.
As of today, our successes and failures in this first season have almost always been summarized to inquisitive folks by stating, “We’re doing it again next year.” The learning curve for this endeavor is steep, to say the least, but it seems as though every day there is a new problem that can be solved by applying knowledge either Vanessa or myself already have, or by doing some research and trying our damnedest to incorporate what we find.
I haven’t had a chance to review all of our blog posts, but if I do, I’m sure to see a picture, or read a story, or something, from early last season that will make me think (in caps lock nonetheless): “WE WERE TRYING TO DO WHAT? LIKE THAT? *grooooaaannnnnnnn*.” But what’s passed is past, and what’s learned has most definitely been learned. I titled an earlier blog post “Tangible Results,” and I feel like the evidence of those results has and will continue to be the proverbial “fire under my ass.” Take for instance the pictures comparing cover crop planted fall 2009, to the cover crop planted fall 2010. As any organic grower will tell you, “it all starts with soil”, and it’s exciting to see such dramatic evidence of improved fertility on our plot.
Since things started winding down a few weeks ago, we’ve been on a diet of continuing education: I’m attending a series of workshops at Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks to learn more about Biodynamic agricultural techniques, and have become increasingly interested in taking our farm in that direction. I have a bachelor’s degree in the Philosophy of Science, and learning about the principles of Biodynamics has me fascinated. Biodynamics comes from Rudolf Steiner, also a figurehead in Waldorf education, and sees its foundation in Goethe’s scientific philosophy. Goethe’s view of science and nature is largely phenomenological and stands in contrast to the science of Newton, an empiricism that was the dominant scientific paradigm for three centuries. A part of me is definitely pleased to find a new context in which to get back on the philosophical horse, and another part of me laughs that my most academic of endeavors has come back full circle, manifested as large piles of manure (whether or not that manure is from the *same* horse is yet to be determined, but I’m sure Newton and Goethe could argue at length about it).
In addition to doing another round of pigs this year (hopefully twice as many as last year), we plan on starting a small meat poultry operation in the back half of the pasture which will be available primarily as an add-on for the members of our CSA (we will have 10 shares available).
In the words of a more experienced farmer down the road: “Start small. Make it work. Get bigger.”
Our planned expansion next year might also include a few other outlets, but only if abundance requires another channel. A little wishful thinking, or another way to light a fire? Who knows, but seeing how crop quality and quantity improved over the course of this past season, it feels like next season’s total output might be an order of magnitude larger than the first…. or maybe we’ll have another hard freeze at the end of May and this will be a fun joke I can humor myself with next summer, as I read old blog posts to find out exactly what I was thinking. :D Jeezy peazy.
To our readers, I wish you a wonderful hibernation. I’ll see you sometime in February.
As we were beginning to modify our planting beds back in February, we were fortunate enough to have a family friend let us borrow a Honda Rototiller (Model FR800 if you’re curious) to break some ground. When compared to hand hoeing, this tiller was a godsend; but after one 10 hour day of non-stop tilling back in the spring, I was out of commission for a couple of days afterwards. The Honda certainly had some power to it, but harnessing that power effectively resulted in more fatigue than… Read the rest of this article »
In July, I had the pleasure of attending my cousin’s wedding in Oregon. It was a beautiful ceremony in the Willamette Valley. It was the first time I had been back to Portland since we moved in January. It was nice to visit friends and family and of course, Powells. For those of you who have never had the opportunity to visit the City of Books, Powells spans an entire city block and has four stories of new and used books. Their selection is quite impressive, including categories such as “sustainable… Read the rest of this article »
Working clay soil is a little bit of a pain. I’m new to this, but a little bit of applied research is starting to show promising signs. Although there is a lot of potential nutrition locked inside of clay particles, its dense physical structure and relative nutritional unavailability demand some attention. As is the solution for many other soil problems, adding compost has certainly shown off its efficacy. The added organic matter from our soil block transplants has also helped… Read the rest of this article »
The alarm went off at 4:45 Friday morning…harvest day! We loaded the coolers and baskets into the quad trailer and zipped on down to the field. First item: Kale. This was our last kale cutting. It’s been a long greens season due to the rainy spring and it isn’t selling very well at the market anymore. Time to dig it up, feed the stalks to the hogs and plant a quick summer buckwheat cover. We load our greens into coolers right in the field so that the heat is removed as quickly as… Read the rest of this article »
Our 27 pullets had to leave the kiddie pool at some point, and building a coop became a top priority. We had initially budgeted $250.00 hoping that would cover materials, but I hadn’t actually taken the time to make up a materials list when that happened. That much new lumber would cost way more than we loosely estimated, so I winged it and decided to frame most of the coop with pallets. I had never built anything out of pallets before, but it made enough sense to just go ahead with.… Read the rest of this article »
After a two year battle with breaking digital cameras, we finally broke down and bought a nice one. It is even dust proof and shock proof! The best part is that it actually takes photos. Matt has been loving the macro feature and I am excited about capturing all that happens daily on our farm. Now that the sun is shining consistently, everything has grown about a foot including the chickens! We are also starting to feel like we are catching up. Instead of the usual 12 tasks a day, there are only… Read the rest of this article »
...besides being the current seasonal offering from the Lagunitas Brewing Company, “WTF” also sums up my take on the weather so far. If you read the Freshman Farmer blog regularly, you may have noticed that northern California has been exceptionally wet and cool this spring. To give you an idea of what we’re dealing with, we had two hard frosts in a row the week of May 16th; the average last frost date for Penn Valley is March 20. Guh. Luckily, we only lost two successions… Read the rest of this article »