Winter is the time when farmers catch up. The race to get all the Fall crops out of the ground and to market is past. They catch up on paperwork, finally get to equipment maintenance, do postponed repairs, peruse seed catalogs, and plan for next year. What over wintering crops that are left out in the field — garlic, kale, Brussels sprouts, and carrots, stoically deal with the cold, growing only a little, saving their energy for the warmer months ahead. Any cover crops that were planted wind down their lifecycles and die off, enriching the soil with their decomposing residue. But the farmer’s respite is short-lived. As soon as those seed packets arrive, the work begins again, starting first in the greenhouse.
At the student farm, that’s where the action is right now. Trays and trays of tiny bright green seedlings grow bigger by the day. Cauliflower, cabbage, lettuce, swiss chard begin their life behind glass, safe from hungry insects, in the comfort of moist sterile potting soil. They’ll spend anywhere from four to six weeks in the greenhouse and then will be set outside in a cold frame where they’ll have a week to get used to the dramatic temperature changes and breezes of the great outdoors. After a week of hardening off, they’ll be planted into prepared beds where they’ll be watered, weeded, and inspected for pests regularly, with their fruits, leaves and flowers becoming the stuff of CSA boxes and CCCC Culinary Program meals.
Not all the crops the farm grows, however, begin in the greenhouse. Some are happier being direct seeded into carefully prepared beds. If you look at the block of beds closest to the white bee hive boxes in the southeast corner of the farm, you’ll see eight beds that have been tilled and hand raked to a lovely smooth finish, ready for beet, radish, and pea seeds. We’re waiting for a warming trend in the weather, hopefully coming in the next couple of weeks, and then will plant, water, and cross our fingers until tiny bits of green appear, soon to be joined by their pals from the greenhouse. In two months that whole section of the farm will be green again with tasty organic vegetables on the way.