Category Archives: What’s going on on the Farm

CSA Boxes

June 21st, officially the first day of summer.  We are halfway through the year and full of cheer! Why? Because the CSA box this week is bursting at the seams with flavor and potential.  The variety of basil can take you around the world and back to your home kitchen. So lets talk about what’s in the box…

Beets

CSA 6-21-2017

Have a glimpse : )

Carrots

Chard

Cilantro

Cucumbers

Dill with leaf and flower

Feher Ozon Peppers

Italian basil

Kale

Mint

Non-Italian basil

Parsley

Potatoes

Rattlesnake pole beans

Shishitos

Spring onions

Summer & winter squash

Summer greens: nasturtium, garnet stem dandelion, golden purslane

 

Post by: Shaquannah Faison

Crazy about carrots…

Our first spring carrot harvest has arrived. The strawberries are ripe and delicious again this week, and a massive kohlrabi awaits our CSA patrons.

 

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This week you will find the following items in the CSA box:

Broccoli

Beets

Carrots

Kohlrabi (Don’t forget to grab one)

Chard

Collards

Kale

Bulb Fennel

Napa cabbage

Strawberries (Don’t forget to get a quart)

Garlic Scapes

Cilantro

Dill

Parsley

Basil!

 

 

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Winter strikes back!

It was a cold week on the farm folks!  With spring only a few days away it seems that winter has decided to pay us one more visit.  We had several nights well below freezing this past week including Wednesday nights where many farms in our area experienced lows in the low twenties and even the upper teens.  So what you ask?

Well this is a particularly sensitive part of the spring season for many farmers in our area.  Right now many farmers are planting tender transplants in the field.  These plants are carefully time to take advantage of the first soil temperatures of the season warm enough to accommodate growth at something approaching a normal rate.  So, as you can imagine a sudden cold snap can slow things down quite a bit.  More than that, a farmer that’s caught unaware of an upcoming cold snap can lose a significant portion of his spring crop.

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Young, direct seeded brassicas

Now, I suspect that the more astute among you may be saying to yourselves, ‘hey, anything planted this early in the season has to be cold hardy right?’  That’s true enough, but as with many farmers in the area we grow our transplants in a greenhouse that’s nice and cozy.  We also, like other farmers, gradually acclimate our transplants to outside conditions through a process called hardening off.  This involves exposing our transplants to more and more outdoor conditions in a mini greenhouse-like structure called a cold frame over a period of several days or a week.  Once our tender little plants have toughened up a little bit we’ll put them out into the field.  No problem right?  Not so fast.

In a situation like we had this past week our tender little transplants were hardened off and planted in fairly mild conditions.  They aren’t used .  Then we had a streak of nights below freezing before our transplants had really established them
selves in the field.  They’re sitting ducks, and it’s too late to bring them back into our greenhouse to keep them safe!  So what do we do?  We do the same thing for our plants that you do for yourself on a cold night.  We tuck them in under a blanket!  This blanket is called a frost cloth, row cover, or by a trade name ‘reemay.’

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Row cover on our spring crops

This cloth is not all that impressive compared to what keeps us warm at night, but it serves the same purpose just as effectively.  However, unlike our blankets, which trap the warmth generated by our bodies to keep us warm, row cover is designed to trap the heat absorbed by the soil during day as it is released overnight.  This little amount of heat is enough to keep plants from freezing on a cold night.

So, if you come out to the student farm, or drive past another farm and see fiel
ds covered in huge sheets of white cloth just know that these proactive farmers are protecting their plants from the cold.  Soon enough these wise and well prepared farmers will be bringing a delicious bounty of early spring greens and vegetables to market for you to enjoy.  Hopefully, like our row covers, the thought of good food and spring weather coming soon will keep you warm through these cold nights!

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Coming soon to a table near you!

What’s Happening on the Farm

It seems this winter has been very warm.  So warm, in fact, that I have been a little skeptical whether or not everyone’s fruit trees will set fruit , or if my broccoli will button from a late freeze.  So warm, in fact, that I decided to try a little early outdoor planting of some heartier spring crops like spinach and snap peas to get a head start on the year in my own garden.  More on that later.

The Student Farm at CCCC is currently less busy on harvesting, as there isn’t a whole lot to harvest this time of year, and more busy preparing for spring planting.

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Hoop House A is bustin’ with greens! Spinach, Collards, and Swiss Chard make a delicious braising combo.

Hoop House A is busting with greens, and the kale is starting to bolt from the heat, believe it or not!  That’s okay, kale flowers are one of my favorite snacks.  You really should try some this year if you never have.  They also attract beneficial insects like pollinators and predatory wasps that kill those nasty aphids.

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Beautiful, colorful salad mix in Hoop House South

Hoop House South is growing some beautiful salad mix coming up that is almost ready to harvest.

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Peas trellised and planted; irrigation installed

In Block One, where the winter brassica crops (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.) were planted, are now prepared, bare beds full of potential, and in one of those beds we have peas planted and trellised.  Down on Block 7 the students have been diligent preparing the potato beds.

In the propagation greenhouse, the new brassica transplants for the big spring planting are not quite ready to set out just yet, and need a couple weeks longer.  They are currently spending some of the day outside in the cold frame on warm days to get them hardened off.

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Advanced Crop Production Teacher Cheryl McNeil instructing on the finer techniques of using bed-building hoes

 

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Baby broccoli in the Propagation Greenhouse

There are plans in the works for some new polycarbonate sheeting on the propagation greenhouse to replace the dull sheets that were installed 18 years ago.  Along with fresh plastic will be a few other innovations to improve ventilation, to be announced in a future entry.

Like I stated before, and as you’ve probably noticed, it’s been unseasonably warm this winter.  It doesn’t look like we’ll really get a winter, since Sir Walter Wally saw his shadow. In my own garden in Hillsborough, I decided to bet against the cold ahead of Ol’ Wally and plant a 30-foot row of peas as well as some spinach in mid January.  I know, you probably think I’m crazy.  Don’t worry, I think so, too.  And sometimes, crazy can pay off.  Sometimes, taking a risk can lead to big rewards.  And for me, at least this time, it looks like I might come out on top.  Not trying to, “count my chickens,” but I’ve already got sugar snap peas peaking 2″-3″ out of the ground, and my spinach is over an inch tall, with some true leaves.   I’ve only covered them one night in the three weeks they’ve been in the ground.  Is there really something to this climate change thing, or is it just freak weather?   I’m thinking the former.

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Spinach seedlings in my garden right now, planted mid January

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Sugar snaps already 3 inches tall

 

For further reading on climate change, check out what NASA has to say about it, if you believe them:

http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/ 

-Josh Calhoun, Advanced Crop Production Class

 

What’s happening on the farm

 

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Bring on the salad!

This is a busy time on the farm.  We are already preparing for the spring season even though we seem to be in the depths of winter.  The fields still have a few overwintered brassicas that we are getting a harvest off of, but one of our hoop houses has already transitioned to spring crops with the early alliums and some salad mix already popping up.  Meanwhile our greenhouse has already started to fill up with trays of spring seed germinating and sprouting ahead of outdoor spring planting.  Last week we seeded trays with a variety of brassicas including broccoli, kale, and cabbage.

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Our new Poultry Palace

There are several other winter projects coming to fruition right now as well.  These would include new (to us anyway) gravel around the greenhouse, storage shed, and wash stations, a new and improved mobile chicken coop that is nearly finished, and a hugelkultur bed that is almost ready to transition from cover crops to cash crops.

In years past this time might have been a quiet time of rest and reflection for the piedmont farmer, but increased competition at markets has changed all that.  The increasing number of small vegetable farmers has created an arms race of season extension.  With the first and last crop to market commanding a premium price it seems that nearly every successful small farmer is continuously pushing the envelope to get his crop in earlier than the farmer down the road.  Likewise we’re all trying to extend our harvest later and later such that our fall crops are being harvested into the spring.

There are a couple of factors facilitating this escalating competition.  Seed companies are developing new varieties that are more heat and cold tolerant all the time, and this increasing diversity is one factor that helps us stay competitive.  Another is the increasing availability of season extension and new and innovative techniques that allow crops to survive extremes of temperature that would’ve ended their production a decade ago.  Yet even with these new varieties and practices farmers today are facing more and more challenges from unpredictable weather, high fuel costs, and drought or extreme rain events.  As the effects of global climate change continue to manifest in new and different ways the farmers that succeed will be those that stay curious, adapt quickly, know their markets really well, and invest in flexible infrastructure that help to buffer their crop against the outlier weather that is becoming the norm.  So the next time you pick up a bunch of kale in January or a clamshell full of cherry tomatoes in April take a moment to reflect on the skill, expertise, and experience that made that minor miracle possible.

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Beds prepped and ready for trellised peas

 

 

 

 

Hugelkultur🍂

Hugelkultur meaning hill culture is a way of making raised beds by covering rotting wood. We cut from trees from around the farm with dead leaves, compost and soil. We just completed this project at the farm! It is similar to the decomposition that happens in the forest floor. This will create an amazing bed for future plants once the decomposition starts. The breaking down of the compost will raise the temperatures in the soil extending the growing season. Here is what ours looks like. Looking forward to what the Hugelkultur has in store for us in 2017!
-Zoila