The boys are on their bikes, and Dave’s seeding onions, that means it’s go time for 2019! Sign up today for another great season of produce!
The farm is hunkered down under a layer of ice but activity still continues in the root cellar and in the farm office as we continue packing and delivering last year’s bounty and planning for next year. Share signup will begin soon, but here’s a look back at the season that was. First, a few photos:
This season was the usual whirlwind, and it started off with a bang as we hustled to complete two unfinished projects from 2017. We finished the new greenhouse in mid-May but had to wait until the frost was out of the ground (at the end of May!) to put in the remaining drain tile in. By then we were off to the races. Bracketing ’round the clock irrigating in July and August were two serious rain events (4.5″ in mid-June and 3.5″ in mid-October) that kept us on our toes and up at night. Fortunately, our investments in drain tile and soil health continue to reap dividends and that combined with some good luck meant we had a good harvest on most crops. Potatoes were one of those that did not fare so well, but a poor crop there gave us a little extra time to get a great carrot harvest in before freeze-up. The farm crew held up well through it all, and we were able to muster smiling faces and positive attitudes even at the end of the year.
As always, thanks to all of you who support us with your interest, involvement and your kitchen table. Your support and care for the farm over the years reminds me that I’m a part of something great and long-lasting through life’s changes, and gets me excited to jump into a new year of farming.
Hi Food Farmers,
Welcome to the Food Farm’s 25th growing season! We’re finally set to go with our new online ordering system. To reserve your shares either follow the link above or click on the CSA Shares tab of this website. The ordering process has changed, but in the long run I think the new system will make things easier for us and for members. You can now signup quicker, get access to more information about your membership, and it should reduce our burden of data entry and the chance for mistakes, and make it easier for us to run reports and get an accurate count for each share type.
Please call or email if you run into any problems!
Overall, things are going well on the farm this winter. A poor carrot harvest last fall means that the winter wholesale orders can be put together quickly by Teri and Karin, and regular farm chores are fairly quick to complete. Truman turned the corner on potty training over Christmas, and Ellis just had his first birthday and is happy and healthy after getting over early winter colds. Annie is working three jobs but hasn’t gone completely insane yet, so we’re considering ourselves fortunate! I just returned from a four day trip at two conferences in New York giving workshops on cover cropping with some researchers at Cornell that I met a few years ago. I’m planning this season’s crop rotation, starting the organic certification paperwork and preparing for a presentation at the organic farming conference in LaCrosse at the end of the month.
Seed orders have all been made and are beginning to arrive. It’s hard to believe that we’ll be opening up the greenhouse in three short weeks to begin planting onions for next season!
We’re looking forward to seeing many of you at the annual Food Farm social hour at Zeitgeist Arts on Wednesday, February 21st from 5-7 pm.
2017 felt like we were constantly on the edge of disaster. With the exception of early June there was excess wetness pretty much the entire season. However, the year turned out to be pretty darn good. Summer Shares in particular were a high point, and we were really proud of the boxes we sent every week. It’s been nice that we’ve been able to keep adding a little bit of diversity to keep the boxes interesting. We did lose about 20,000 pounds of carrots due to the wetness—there are plenty for the Winter Shares, but our wholesale deliveries for early 2018 are significantly less than usual.
We had a really great crew last year, and they did a great job staying on top of the weeds—a particularly difficult job on a wet year. The new cultivation equipment I put together also really helped reduce some of the hand work that we needed to do. The crew pushed hard all the way to the end of the season even after getting an unexpected 10” of snow on the 27th of October.
See the next blog post back for the nice season review and slideshow that Karin put together a few weeks ago.
The big change for this coming season will be that we are no longer raising meat chickens or turkeys. Egg share folks shouldn’t worry–we are keeping the laying hens. We’ve been considering the change for a couple of years, but decided this year was the time. There were a number of things that figured into the decision, but the most immediate was that our insurance company no longer covers on-farm processing which meant that we’d either need to bring them somewhere else to be processed or else get a much more expensive policy from a different company. The birds have been a big part of our farm, and it’ll be sad not to have them around.
When we moved to this farm 30 years ago, most of the land was badly depleted from years of cutting hay with no added fertility. The way we raise chickens and turkeys on pasture played a vital role in bringing it back into vibrant productivity without a lot of tillage and added soil amendments. The good news is that our friend and neighbor Maggie Schulstrom of Spectrum Farm will increase her production of birds to accommodate our members. We became good friends with the Schulstrom/Vavrosky family during our pipeline fight a few years ago, and we know they do a nice job in caring for their animals. They’re also the family that is taking over strawberry production at our beloved Finke’s Berry Farm as Diane and Doug are retiring. You can contact Maggie by email or phone at (218) 380-258 seven.
That’s the big change for this year, though of course we have a lot of ongoing projects to catch up on. Among them are finishing the new high tunnel greenhouse that we started last fall, completing last fall’s drainage project, putting up new deer fence across the road, and working to rehab some of the older buildings on the farm. We are intent upon making this farm as resilient as possible in the face of increasing climate extremes, and many of these projects are designed to do just that.
We hope members are proud not only of the farm they have helped build, but the networks and support for local agriculture in general that has come out of your support of us. Never forget that eating is a powerful act!
For the farm crew,
There have been big things happening on the farm this spring–some good, some not so good. My mom Jane had a stroke about 3 ½ weeks ago. She just returned home last weekend after a stay in the hospital and a week of rehab at Miller-Dwan. The stroke has mainly affected her vision and spatial awareness, and we’re grateful that there wasn’t an impact on speech or any paralysis. The doctors still don’t know the cause, and think that she’s likely to recover most of her functionality with continued therapy. It’s a frustrating situation, but her spirits are high and she’s happy to be home again. My dad John was just beginning his recovery from rotator cuff surgery, so the last month has been a big adjustment for two normally active and capable people. My parents have been reducing their role slowly over the years, but it looks like we might be going cold turkey this summer which will be a big change for all of us.
On a happier note, we have a great farm crew on board this summer! We’re just waiting for one more person to show up in early June, but the other two new crew members are working out great so far. Look for more info on the crew in a few weeks. We’re excited to announce that Glen Avon Presbyterian has agreed to be our new Woodland pickup site! Other than that, we’re not planning on any significant delivery changes for this season.
We’ve definitely been on a weather roller coaster so far this year, with big swings from wet and cold followed by beautiful warmth. We got almost 3” of rain this week, so things are quite wet in the fields. Plantings are generally on schedule for a start to deliveries the week of June 12th, but we’re hoping that things dry out enough next week to get our third planting of broccoli in the ground. Meanwhile, the greenhouses are filling up and we’re getting a lot of miscellaneous projects done.
Finally, I was honored to be on the Farmer to Farmer podcast about a month ago with host Chris Blanchard, a former CSA farmer in Decorah. The episode I was on provides a good overview of the history of the Food Farm and where we’re at now. Here’s a link to the episode, or subscribe to Farmer to Farmer in iTunes if you’re interested hearing all about market vegetable farming!
2016 was a great year for growing the farm! Signup for next season has begun!
We’re hosting an awesome art and music event at the farm this Saturday, the 19th, from 2-5pm called høle in the skY with Kathy McTavish and Zeitgeist New Music. The full press release and more information is available here, and here’s a brief summary:
“Saint Paul-based music group Zeitgeist and Duluth composer/cellist/environmentalist Kathy McTavish join forces March 19 for a special presentation of McTavish’s chamber work at the Food Farm in Wrenshall, Minn. Featuring electronic and acoustic music, video, and an interactive exhibition,høle in the skY will transform the Food Farm’s expansive root cellar into a pre-apocalyptic world where extinction is imminent and our ecosystem is on the verge of collapse.”
When’s the last time you saw something like that in a root cellar?
Also, we’ll be at the Local CSA Open House this Sunday the 20th from 2-5pm at Clyde Iron. Stop by and say hello if you’re in the neighborhood, drop off your renewal form if you haven’t sent it in yet, or send friends and neighbors down if they’d like to meet their future farmers before signing up.
And for those of you who keep asking, I’ve included a few Truman photos as well…
That’s all for now, time to get back to the greenhouse!
For the farm crew,
It’s time! The greenhouse is up and running and the first seeds are in the soil. Stimulated by heat and moisture, life will soon begin to stir! Sign up now for CSA shares for 2016. Download an order form here!