Unlike bears, bees, sloths, bats, and snails; farmers do not practice winter hibernation. Winter is a time of reflection, planning, long term projects and season extension. One of the most basic things farmers can do to help crops along during the winter months is row covers. If you are completely removed from farming you may drive by the farm and wonder why there are sheets all over the farm, these row covers are actually creating a micro climate for germination and extending fall green production. Under those row covers carrots will be sprouting out of the ground and kale will slowly be eating the suns energy. Due to row covers we also expect a late harvest of salad mix, small beets, head lettuce, and kohlrabi. Mulching is also a form of season extension. Mulching bare ground blocks wind from cooling down the soil and removing moisture. Over wintered green garlic, hardy flowers, peas, spinach, and cilantro are all getting a thick blanket of mulch to tuck them in for the cold winter months.
With not much really growing farmers take this time to take a look at the foundation of sustainable growing; their crop rotation plan. Like any good plan it is important to constantly look back and make changes and adapt to the real problems being faced on the farm such as Bermuda grass management and planting times. It is a good time to reflect on what was was planted too late and won’t produce, cabbage and cauliflower could use a couple more weeks that we just don’t have. Documenting this will help future student farmer’s make the decision to turn those cover crops in just a little earlier next year so we can get full production.
These semi dormant times are great for working on structural projects that are much needed on the farm. Plans for the packing shed are still being worked out but we are all hoping for some progress soon. Having a clean shaded place to handle veggies is good for the workers and for the food. The pack shed will also house the CoolBot (AC unit converted to use as refrigeration) and more Solar Energy Arrays. It is exciting to potentially see a working example of a carbon neutral production farm and awesome that is happens to be at CCCC! One Idea that I seem to share with most small farmers is independence from the things that are making this planet sick and it is important for me see farms going in a more independent and sustainable direction.
This picture is when I first moved to NC in 2009 and helps remind me of even on cold and dreary days winter can still be beautiful