Tag Archives: Sustainable Agriculture

Out With Summer Favorites, In With Fall Seedlings

This week, enjoy some of the season’s last week of summer favorites as we move towards planning and planting fall crops.

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Here is what you will find in your CSA box this week:

Okra

Assorted eggplant

Sweet peppers

Purslane

Shishitos

Sweet potato greens

Holy basil

Parsley

Pinto Gold potatoes

Red Ichilleum garlic

Gladstone onions

Please note that red shishito peppers can take on a spicy, hot taste unlike the green version of the pepper.

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The Gladstone onions should also be consumed soon to preserve desired freshness.

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Our last summer CSA…

This week will be the final summer CSA. The fall CSA will begin again after a 3-week hiatus. Thank you for all of your support during our summer  growing season!

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

Sweet potato greens

Early jalapeños

Red chiles

Banana peppers

Hungarian wax peppers

Basil

Parsley

Cabbage

Mixed new potatoes

Sweet peppers

Carrots

Beets

Talon onions

German Stiffneck Garlic

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Yes, Your (Purple) Majesty

Look for Purple Majesty potatoes in the CSA boxes this week. These antioxidant-rich potatoes are purple on the inside and out.

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Please note that the garlic has already been divided into cloves this week. It has been cured, but the rainy weather has negatively impacted the durability of the garlic requiring that it been broken up to salvage.

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This week’s box includes:

Cucumbers

Summer squash

Rattlesnake Pole Beans

Shishito peppers

Winter squash

Chard

Jalapenos

Summer greens (Purslane, Dandelion, and Nasturtiums)

Copenhagen or Capture cabbage

Ichilleum Red garlic

Carrots

Beets

Purple Majesty potatoes

Purplette onions

Kohlrabi

Parsley

Cilantro

Basil

Mint

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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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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