We realize it’s been a minute since our last update. Lots of new things in the works as we’ve been settling in here at the new farm in Noti.
Here’s some of what’s been going on:
-Two new high tunnel greenhouses up in late January. These houses will be very productive for years to come. Unfortunately, this season they aren’t going to give us much of a jump since they’re situated in an area with a high water table, which flooded on and off during the deluge this past month. To remedy this we’re….
-Installing French drains around the greenhouses to lower the water table and speed the movement of excess water out of the fields. This is a huge project (and unforeseen expense) that will not be completed until midsummer. For now, we’ve dug the initial trenches to get the water moving. The entire zone now looks like a construction site. This summer (in the thick of it) we’ll install the underground pipe, gravel, and finish off with soil. If all goes to plan, this will provide us with earlier, more accessible and productive high tunnels for years to come.
-We built our new propagation house in December and stretched the plastic early January. It’s pretty awesome! We upgraded from a 12×50 to a 20×72 area, which enables us to grow more transplants better with less shuffling around. Farm produced starts is an art form we are steadily getting better and better at. While the initial investment can be costly compared to direct seeding, it’s easily worth it. The healthier and happier the plants are going into the ground, the better they’ll perform when planted out in the field.
-We’ve made major improvements to our bookkeeping which enables us to stay organized and keep track of where we’re at more efficiently. Getting familiar with the new software takes a good deal of time right now, but it will save us in the long run – especially during the busiest months of the year. The next step is streamlining our payroll and Employees! Angelina, who some of you know from market, will be returning to our team this year. We are also currently interviewing individuals for crew member positions this season.
-Oregon Tilth Certified Organic. We just wrapped up our final inspection from Oregon Tilth and it’s all but official now. A lot of work and planning has gone into this investment and I hope it works to broaden our network. To be honest, the label never meant much to us. We’ve always grown organically and prioritized the relationship – know your farmer! Many of you all have been with us since before our being certified and we really appreciate the connection prior-to and beyond the label. As time goes on and we grow as a farm and as people, it’s crucial we not forget that the bedrock of good food and food safety is not one of 3rd party verification but instead the local movement, the small-scale, and the familiar.
It’s been just over 6 months since we bought the new farm and began this grand transition. The fresh start has given us a sort of forced break from conducting business as we are used to throughout the winter and early spring. This time of year, we are usually harvesting over winter crops from the fields such as kale, leeks, cabbage, carrots, etc, doing wholesale restaurant deliveries and vending at the winter farmers market. But as a small farm, with change and growth there is bound to be some setbacks or tradeoffs. So we’ve been taking this time to invest our energies here at home, working on the projects listed above, familiarizing ourselves with the new farm and making tons of plans. It takes an insane amount of work to rebuild the infrastructure and shape the new farm scheme in a logical, efficient, and also aesthetically pleasing way, but the vision is there and starting to take form.
We’ve been meeting our neighbors, walking the land, digging into blackberry brambles and uncovering forgotten collections of rusting metal once thought to be of use or value. With record-breaking rainfall in the month of February and the coldest, wettest late winter/spring in over 20 years we are learning a lot about the land. To look on the bright side of things, we are getting a sort of crash course, year one. This extreme, relentless rain has shown us where the low zones in our fields are, where water collects and pools, where flooding occurs. This hopefully isn’t something we will need to consider in most years to come, but it is bound to happen again, sometime down the line, so at least we know now what to expect.
Today the sun is making an appearance! The next few days are calling for little to no rain, but overall we are still looking at a pretty wet April and May. The signs of new growth are here and there; a few daffodils are opening, the cover crop is growing, but the saturated soil affords us no planting opportunities in the near future. Starting from scratch on new ground, with no overwintered beds to plant into, we have to wait for at least 7 consecutive days of sun to even begin the process of cultivating the soil for planting. If we work the soil when it’s too wet it will become compacted and more difficult to work with, and also more difficult to manage for years down the road. So we are practicing patience and remembering why the CSA doesn’t start until June!
This time of year always give us a rough picture of what to expect moving forward, and even in a year starting out as wet and challenged as this one there is plenty to look forward to. Five years ago, 2012 the year we started Turnip the Beet – it snowed on the first day of spring and the rivers flooded way later into the season than living memory could recall. That year is the closest recent example that mirrors this 2017 season. So: what to expect? More greens, strawberries, and quick delicate crops early, and a later arrival of summer favorites like tomatoes, melons, corn, etc. (Also, more tired farmers 🙂
In this spirit, we will be delaying our open farm event for our CSA membership until summer. Trust us, it will be a lot more enjoyable on drier ground! As always, if anyone is especially interested in visiting the farm sooner, be in touch and we can arrange a time the works for everyone. (Bring your muck boots!)
Thank you all for your early commitment to our farm. We couldn’t do it without you. It seems like every year the price of seeds, potting soil, and organic amendments goes up and we feel so fortunate to have a strong core membership that enables us to make these crucial purchases when it counts. Thank you!
We still have many spots available in our 2017. Please spread the word to friends and family – We will extend the April 1st sign up price to all new members referred by existing members!
We feel so very lucky to live here and grow food for our community. Thank you for helping make it happen.
Lela and John