Saturday, January 9, 2016

CSA Newsletter for January 2016

Farm Update

Due to the mild December, we
actually had some really nice
turnips to provide to shops and
restaurants, as well as our own table.
 After a very long fall winter is finally here!  The abnormally warm weather in November and December was good to us as we were able to supply some leafy veggies longer than usual to some of our restaurants and other accounts.  Fred was able to go to a couple farming conferences this December to speak, network, and learn ways to improve the farm. Timothy, our new addition to the family, is doing his job making sure Michele doesn’t get too much uninterrupted sleep.  He is doing well and growing fast.  Right now we have spinach and a few other very small greens that are overwintering in the coldframes but these very slow growing plants are about the only thing left growing at this point.  We did have a small electrical fire in one of our greenhouses recently, but fortunately some of our friends happened to see as they drove by on M46 and put out before we even got there! Thankfully it was put out before it did any serious damage.  This time of year our workload is at its lowest and we are mostly in the planning and purchasing stage for the coming season.  It is a good time to spend together as a family and pursue other interests as well.

We have had a lot of you sign up early already, but if you want to be part of the CSA this year and have not signed up for the 2016 season yet, we hope you will very soon.  The price is $290 for a half share and $540 for a full share.  Call Michele at (517) 896-6884 or email at to discuss home delivery options or to sign-up for your share.

New Year, New Ideas

Every December and January as an old season dies out and is put to rest, a new season and the possibilities it brings begin to grow in our minds.  Now the more rested and non-busy lifestyle begins to allow for better, more coherent thoughts in combination with the advice and ideas gleaned from fellow farmers, publications, and other people we come across.  Lately Fred has been poring over seed catalogues looking for the best varieties and best prices for each.  He is also lining up supplies and trying to negotiate better prices on things like plastic, irrigation lines, and packaging materials.  So what are some of these possible changes that we will have on the farm or you will see in the shares? 

This picture from last summer shows
how we planted the lettuce for our
spring mix.  The new Salanova
varieties will allow us to grow more
in the same space while also cutting
down on weed pressure.
One of the biggest changes will be to our spring mix.  Our spring mix contributed greatly to our farm’s success from the very start of the farm, and it has been a very regular part of the CSA share throughout the seasons. However, a slew of new varieties that started to hit the market about 2 years ago may change the way we grow spring mix forever.  Last season we did trials of some varieties in the field called Salanova from Johnny’s seeds.  The seeds were hideously expensive but the heads of lettuce were truly unique.  Instead of the lettuce plant putting on some leaves and these leaves becoming larger as the plant ages, the Salanova (also called multi-leaf) types just produce a lot of smaller leaves in a very dense mature head.  These are then cut loose from the mature heads instead of from a lot of very densely seeded rows of small lettuce plants, which is the way we and almost all other farms currently grow spring mix lettuce.  A great article that discuss these new lettuces in more detail is on this link.  Basically it will yield 40% more pounds of baby lettuce leaves on the same amount of field, and will be easier to harvest and weed.  The seed cost and fact that we will have to grow a lot more transplants were downsides.  Fred was able to find two other seed suppliers that were able offer the seed for 1/3 of the cost of Johnny’s, and fortunately the new greenhouse will accommodate all the new plants.  The real clincher, and reason we decided to go with it, is because it will improve quality, something we are constantly in search of in everything we grow.  The multi-leaf varieties have a stronger leaf that allows them to last longer, and it also allows us to put in some more unique and more attractive leaf types.  As in any new system, there are things that we will learn along the way and probably a few hiccups as we get used to growing our spring mix differently but the information we have seen especially from other growers has convinced us that this is the best way to go in the long term.

Besides the lettuce, we are going to try trellising some more varieties of cucumbers this year, to hopefully attain more prolific and higher quality cucumbers from less space.  There are also a bunch more tomato varieties that we will be growing that we think will be great tasting and visually attractive as well.  We’ll be switching over to a new variety of Brussels sprouts that we tried out last year with great success.  Many of the old varieties have looser leaves that make attractive homes for aphids, but a new variety that we tried last year called Dagan virtually eliminated this problem because it has tighter leaves than the old varieties.

We still have a lot of January to go so we may still come up with some more new ideas, but we are excited about the new additions to our old favorites.  Though wintery outside, it is pleasant for us inside as we enjoy a brief rest from the sometimes overwhelming workload of the summer and look forward to the possibilities another new season might bring.