Welcome to the CSA
We've made it to the first box! We've been busy since January to get ready for this day. In the middle of winter, when it seemed impossible that anything would grow in our harsh climate, we poured over seed catalogues, choosing varieties that will thrive in our Northfield hardiness zone 4a. Looking through them was like being a little kid at a smorgasbord. Our eyes might have been bigger than our physical limitations... We planned when to plant what, how much to plant, and how every crop will be grown.
Winter season is conference season, and in between leading dogsledding trips, I squeezed in a handful of conferences where I joined other sustainable farmers to learn about cover cropping, nutrient density, soil microbial populations, soil health, tractor implements, greenhouse production, crop rotations, raising animals holistically, and more. In February, we applied for and received a USDA grant to research soil microbial populations in our soil and how inoculating our soil with compost tea effects our soil health.
Then the spring came and we were able to start getting our hands dirty in the greenhouse. We planted over 40,000 plants in our greenhouse. Our growing season has an average of 124 days. In order to grow the crops we want to grow, we have to start many of our plants inside, like tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, swiss chard, lettuce, and more. Many were started in March, well before the snow began to think about melting outside.
But slowly the snow did melt, the frost came out of the earth, the soil dried out, and we were able to start preparing the land for our little veggies. We spent hours on the tractors subsoiling to reduce compaction, injecting compost tea to inoculate our soil, plowing to turn in our cover crops, tilling to prepare the seed bed, and spreading tons (actually, 61 tons) of manure and compost to fertilize our soil.
The spring also brought new life to the farm. We welcomed 10 piglets and 50 laying hens to Seeds Farm. They are fun. Watching them is better than watching tv! They all have their individual personalities and quirks. We've been rotating the chickens (and soon we'll start rotating the pigs) onto new pasture where they can eat grasshoppers, grubs, insects, fresh greens, and enjoy plenty of sunlight. When the animals are happy, I am happy.
We also welcomed an awesome work crew. Ian, assistant farm manager extroirdinaire started in April after working on a number of farms out east for four years. In May, Michael joined us as he finished his junior year at St. Olaf, and in June Marie and Olivia from Carleton, and Kayla from Northfield High School joined us after finishing their sophomore, junior and junior years, respectively.
By May we were able to start putting our tiny vegetable plants in the fertile soil. The first crops to sprout outside were the peas, spinach, radish, onions, and potatoes. When the threat of frost was minimal, we transplanted our brassicas-broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards, brussel sprouts, cabbage, and kohlrabi. When the threat was gone, we planted our solenaceous- tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. It took us weeks to plant all five acres of vegetables.
Not only do our plants grow in the fertile soil, plenty of weeds grow as well. Just like our human bodies make a scab whever we have an open wound, mother nature protects her wounds by populating it with growth. To farmers, it looks like weeds. It's mother natures way to protect the soil from erosion. If we weren't trying to grow vegetables, we'd let nature heal her woiund, but these 'other plants' steal nutrients, water, and sunlight from our vulnerable vegetables, so we get rid of them (without using harmful chemicals). Thankfully we have a number of tractors and implements that we drag through the soil and strong backs to get the job done!
And that brings us to this week... We welcomed 50 kids from the local YMCA camp ages 7-11 out at the farm for a field trip to check out the animals, make potato stamps, have a scavenger hunt, and paint. We dodged flash floods and have been watching the Cannon River rise nervously. Some of you recall last year when we weren't so lucky... We also welcomed 8 baby turkeys. We planted fall cabbage and broccoli. We pulled mega amounts of thistle from the fields.We trellised our tomatoes. And we spent a lot of time getting prepared for this first CSA pickup.
I hope you enjoy your fresh, delicious, produce. We're thrilled to get to share it with you.