Wednesday, January 11, 2017

What's New for 2017?

Farm Update

Fred has been deconstructing two secondhand coldframes,
and will put them up at our farm as soon as the ground thaws.
Hi everyone!  Happy new year!  Not much is happening at the farm right now; the ground is frozen solid and the greenhouses have finally been shut down for the winter.  While we don't have anything growing right now, we have been enjoying the squash, garlic, onions, and root vegetables we have in storage, as well as the blueberries, tomatoes, and other things we preserved when they were in season.  And of course, the pigs!  For as much trouble as they were, they did turn out to be delicious. (As you may recall, they seemed intent on ending their lives by escaping out to the highway every chance they got until we moved them a few miles down the road to Fred's parents' house.)  This is also the year we're getting our deer fence, which is a huge relief!  The deer last year were so destructive that we knew we just needed to bite the bullet and get the deer fence, and it should be up well before the start of the season.  (Basically, animals were not my friends last year.)  Although the farm is covered in snow, we're still staying occupied with preparation for the 2017 season.  We recently purchased two second-hand coldframes from a farm in Ithaca, so Fred has been deconstructing them, and then he's going to rebuild them at our farm as soon as the ground thaws.  Another time consuming project that occurs this time of year is researching, sourcing, and buying seed.  He spends hours each day researching the different plant varieties and choosing the ones that will work the best for the growing conditions on our farm as well as the needs of our customers.  But this time of year there is still plenty of time to relax, and we've been able to do a lot more reading, cooking, exercising, and playing with our kids then we ever have time for in the summer.  We are also going to be going to Florida with some friends later this month, and we are really looking forward to it!  This is the quieter, more relaxed time of year that makes up for the hectic pace of our lives during the farm season.  Henry David Thoreau instructed his readers to "live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth."  Right now is the quiet, cozy, snow-covered season, but I know that the spring sunshine is right around the corner!

What's New for 2017?

Each winter, we get a chance to sit down and reflect on the previous season and decide what needs to be tweaked for the following year, and this year is no different.  There are a few changes we'll be making this year to save money, make the farm run more smoothly, and get us closer to that ever elusive ideal of work-life balance.  So here are some of the new things we'll be doing for the 2017 season!

The coldframe deconstruction project.
Moving the Midland drop-off to Thursday:  This is the foremost change that will likely affect you, our CSA members.  In previous years, we've delivered to Midland on Wednesdays and Lansing on Thursdays, and starting in 2017, we're going to be switching those drop-off days to Lansing on Wednesdays and Midland on Thursdays.  We found that this switch would allow us to better meet the scheduling needs of many of our customers.

Moving the Lansing drop-off location:  Those of you in the Lansing area may have heard that the East Lansing Food Co-Op, where we have previously had our CSA drop-off, is closing soon after 40 years of operation.  While we're not 100% sure about the new drop-off location, it is extremely likely to be at the Allen Neighborhood Center on the corner of Allen and Kalamazoo Streets in Lansing.  While we will be delivering the shares there late Wednesday afternoon, they have their indoor farmer's market occurring at that time, so it is likely that CSA members will actually pick up their shares anytime on Thursday instead.  We'll let you know for sure when we have confirmation on this, but that is what we'll likely be doing for the Lansing drop-off this year.

More veggies earlier in the year:  Because of the two new coldframes we're putting up this year, we'll have over 4000 square feet of additional season-extension opportunities.  We're planning on doing an early summer variety of tomatoes, as well as growing earlier peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, and probably one or two other veggies to round out the early-season shares.

Starting our own onion and shallot transplants:  In previous years, we've ordered organic onion and shallot transplants from out east because we haven't had access to enough greenhouse space to start our own from seed, but that was always a pretty expensive way to go.  This year, we're partnering with a local Amish organic farmer who has agreed to let us keep our flats of onions in his large greenhouse until they're ready to put in the ground.  Once we seed the flats, we'll take them to his greenhouse, and he'll water them for us for about two months until we put them in the ground.  We'll also be transplanting them into beds covered with plastic (which is how we grow several other things, like our lettuce).  Onions don't compete well with weeds, so this will help them to not become a weedy mess.

Overhead irrigating:  This year we'll be getting a small system that will allow us to overhead irrigate a few veggie beds at a time.  In previous years, we've only had our drip irrigation system, where we would run strips of perforated plastic right along the base of the plant, thus saving water and helping cut down on weed pressure.  But with as dry as last June and July were, that just wasn't enough, and the crops really suffered because they got too hot and too dry.  So this year we're putting in a system that resembles a glorified rotating lawn sprinkler that can be moved around to different areas of the field.  This will be especially good for our summer lettuce production, and will help keep us in more lettuce for more of the year.

Keeping the deer out:  We've always had a fair amount of deer pressure, but last year was ridiculous.  So this year, we're putting in a deer fence to surround pretty much our whole production area.  We estimate that this simple change will allow us to grow about 10% more veggies in any given year (and more in high-pressure years like last year).  It will also mean that we can put each crop in the area of the field where it would grow best, without having to consider the movement patterns of the deer.  Our estimate is that it will pay for itself in about two years through increased production, and it will also keep Fred from having to go stomp around the fields in the middle of the night every night to scare the deer (one more strike for work-life balance!)

So it's going to be a year of change at the farm, which in a way, is business as usual. :-)


One of my favorite things about January is that we have more time to spend in the kitchen!  Normally I include recipes that involve things coming out of the fields right now, but since there isn't anything in the field at the moment, here is a classic January dish that is pretty similar to one Fred has been making lately.  Try out this recipe for Pork Chops with Rosemary, Juniper, and Cabbage!