The days are now starting to get a little longer and the extra hours of light means that the work day is also getting longer. Planting, tilling, watering, seeding, harvesting, it's all in play now! There is much to report so I'll not dilly dally.
Up in the "Big Top" field we are carving up new ground and there is now has over 20,000 kale (four types), collard greens, bok choy, and broccoli plants in the ground. We have only just begun, soon it's gonna be truly epic up there. The sugar snap peas in the driveway field (almost an acre's worth) have really jumped after we got to irrigating and feeding them - usually no need as the ground is traditionally wet still from the winter snow and April showers. Since it has barely rained in a month we have had to start all our watering much earlier this year. Ugh. The lettuce, arugula, beets, and braising mix in the East Street stand field have also been suffering a little from the lack of water but that field has more clay based soil and keeps moisture longer then the other, more sandy, fields at the farm, so they are hanging in there. Rain will come this week. Our first waves radishes, broccoli raab, and asian greens which were planted very early will soon be ready for harvest and some needed market revenue.
The farmers markets we attend mostly start in June but this past weekend was the official opener for the Wooster Square market in New Haven. Though it is a market we attend all year round, cold rain and snow be damned (!), the glorious weather and return of the farms who do not attend the winter market made for a great start to the new summer season. It was gorgeous out and the people were primed to get out and enjoy. City Seed is the non profit who oversee the markets in New Haven once again did a stellar job getting the word out and the place was packed for the first time since last Thanksgiving. It was good to see old friends and meet some new farmers and food purveyors, and make some cash...
So what are we selling right now you may be wondering. Well, as usual, we have our line of killer food products and those have been selling briskly all winter long. But we have been doing a lot of ramping the past few weeks and it is awesome. We have a nice patch (luckily) and the price is right. Also, we have an amazing crop of fall planted King Richard leeks which Jed and Q put into raised beds in one of our greenhouses. The results have been spectacular. Long and delicate, these sweet leeks are a delicacy. You can mix with the ramp (a wild leek) if you are feeling decadent. We have also been taking cut flowers (fields full of daph's) as well a forsythia. Amazing, people will not think twice about paying for something they are gonna look at, but will b*tch about the cost of your arugula or leeks. But that's another post...
So, thats where we are at. The CSA program is still a long month out and there is so much to do it's silly. But we are on it. Q and jed have been really busting their asses the past month, as have Dana and JC (and the Taft crew, too). It is gonna be a killer season. Hope you can join us for the ride.
So here we are the day after the horror that was the Boston marathon bombing. Felt like a good time to get some things off the chest and also write about some positive things, as well. Yesterday was such a sad day for all Americans but especially for the community of New England. We know life goes on and the person(s) who committed this awful crime will be brought to justice. It just does not seem fathomable that a bomb would be used against civilians, but perhaps that's the point. The date will now forever serve as a reminder of something grim, like September 11, or December 14th, and hopefully we can repair quickly.
Now to matters agricultural. Here at the farm the date of April 15th was traditionally when we started to get lots of transplants into the ground. Yes, we have planted somethings already, small amounts, and seeds like snap peas which can take the cold weather, but we hedge that bet knowing the risks. And, we can absorb the loss if a big snow or cold snap came back through the region. The plantings we are doing now are the big ones. Now it is game time, farmers markets are gearing up, CSAs are 7 weeks away, and we gotta get down to brass tacts. The face paint is on! The seedling trays emerge from the greenhouses, maybe spending a night or two outside in their trays to "toughen up", and then they are loaded into the trucks and taken up to the fields.
The spring has been up and down temperature wise so we waited on our first seedlings going into the ground until yesterday. With row covering over them they will be snug and safe from the wee bugs who will soon emerge out of the soil and through the air. The broccoli raab, beets, and radishes have all had solid germinations, as well as the asian greens. They were all planted from seed. The transplants we picked up last week in Massachusetts - 15,000 kale, 5,000 swiss chard, and 5,000 collards, as well as the first waves (20,000) of head lettuce - are now in on on their way into the ground. The fields are starting to look like fields again! It's an exciting time at the farm right now and Quincy and Jed continue to lead the charge with thoughtfulness and diligence. The importance of the proper start to a season cannot be overstated.
The spring brings with it warmer air and the first of the "wild" crops we covet here at the farm. For the past few years we have been harvesting ramps (wild leeks) off the property and they are one of the hottest trends in the farm to table world. The best and worst part is the season : it is only 4-6 weeks long. You can make a nice profit selling these amazing little gifts from nature. Look for them at your local markets. So Yummy. The greens emerge from the forrest floor first,pushing out through the leaves, and are easy to spot with the dark green leaf attached to a red stem. At the base, under ground, is the white bulb. Hard to describe how wonderful these are. And here is a fun fact: the city of Chicago means wild onion or leek in Algonquian! Sweet name...
So, there is some action here at the farm and the hustle and bustle of the place is starting to heat up. The first seedlings are in the ground, fields are being tilled and we finally got some badly needed rain the other day. The nights are still on the cool side but soon the warm nights will return. We have great farm hands lined up for the summer, and currently we have a nice crew from Taft School three days a week. We are looking forward to spring and will keep the updates coming to keep you all informed. cheers.
So, after a little bit of a delay, the 2013 season is officially on! As seen in the picture, the first wave of sugar snap peas went in the ground March 28th. Not bad considering there was snow on the ground last week. The air got considerably warmer and the spot we planted drained well and we were able to till and plant relatively quickly. Jed and Q fixed our old seeder (and added the new one) and it sowed like a dream!
Historically, the first peas go in the ground a little after St Patrick's Day so this is pretty good. Soon the first kale(s), swiss chard, spinach, radishes, lettuce greens, and other earl;y hearty fare will be in the ground, too!. Sweet.
More to come later but just so psyched to be finally in the ground.
Two days into spring and what you may ask does that mean for the farm? Well, usually the first wave of sugar snap peas would have been in the ground but there still remains a few inches of snow cover, as well as the fact that the ground has yet to thaw. We had hoped to get some hearty fare into some row covered rows by no, too, but it looks like two weeks before we'll be in the ground, at the very least. Depending on which ground is ready first, we'll have to plant carefully in the first few weeks of April. Often the planned site for a certain crop is not ready yet, too wet. The gradual start to the season we hoped for looks now to be one which starts all of a sudden and doesn't let up till fall.. But, we will be prepared for it. The greenhouse is full, our offsite growers are ready with our seedlings for a mid April first pick up, and the season will get underway eventually.
The maple sap has been flowing fairly well and we look to have a wonderful supply for the year (about 80 gallons - which is great for us), and the CSA program is busy collecting funds and getting new and old members caught up with the goings on at the farm. machinery is primed and ready, farmers (Jed and Quincy - Patrick is on paternity leave for a month) are chomping at the bit to get outside and farm the land. 2013 is so full of potential and excitement, we are really looking forward to it.
So, spring will have to wait another week. Such is life. When the snow finally says goodbye and the ground warms, winter will seem a distant memory.
Ah, March, you rascal. Balmy and sunny one moment, snowy, icy and cold the next. As spring peeks out from around the corner, winterreminds us she still has a few last bursts of arctic air left to dispel. The month where we start the process once again of toiling the land, creating from the good earth a sustainable crop in which to feed the community. A month where seeding directly into the ground will begin (sugar snap peas go in the ground in 7 days) kicks off the long 7 month planting season here at Waldingfield, it is also the month which sees the last of our 2012 storage crops coming to an end. A month of contradictions.
So as the weather challenges us outside, the warmer temperatures in the greenhouses provide the perfect environment for our spring greens to flourish. Rows of salad are sprouting up (the pic is from a few weeks earlier) and now the entire house is filled with greens which will be ready for market in early April. The snow from last week is now gone, the thaw not quite making the muddy mess we're sure to get, and the farmers can easily maneuver around the property on the tractors. The buzz has started for 2013...
A couple of nice notes to pass along. One of the farmers, Patrick, and his wife Suzie, are now the proud parents of Griffin Ryerson Rogers Horan, born 3.5.13. Mother and child are well and will be spending much of the summer at Waldingfield. Also, we are happy to announce that Waldingfield will once again host "Outstanding in the Field" in 2013. The event is September 4th, tickets go on sale March 20th.
So, as our CSA sign up continues, and the spring planting begins, there is much to rejoice for the upcoming season. All we ask for is that March goes out like a lamb and allows us to farm unencumbered by Mother Nature.
The snows of Nemo linger still, the air temperature fluctuates between bitter and balmy, and the ground hog said to look for spring a little later then usual. So what does that mean we do at the farm to pass the time, you may ask. Answer: lots! From machine work, greenhouse prep, creating marketing material(s), seed ordering, the list is endless. And how do we pay for such things when the fields are barren and we are coming to the end of the storage crops from the previous season? One answer is the CSA program which we have done for 24 years now at the farm. In fact we were amongst the earliest CSAs in CT and they are popping up all over as people more then ever want to identify and support who grows their food and how it's produced.
So what is a CSA program and how does it work? The CSA model hails from Japan originally, and has been in the US since the late 50's. It is a unique investment model in which client invests in the farms harvest and shares the risk(s) of the farm. This capital allows us to make the seed orders, pay staff, fix machinery, and so much more. The return is (usually) a bounty of produce which is picked up each week from early June till the end of the fall harvest. From sugar snap peas and early lettuces in the spring to summer tomatoes, to autumn classics like winter squash and fingerling potatoes, the diversity and seasonal approach will open your eyes and stomachs to your regions food supply. We offer pick-ups at our farmers markets, our farm stand, and a drop off spot in New Milford CT - and most CSAs last from anywhere from 15 to 25 weeks depending on the area and type of farm. In urban areas their are CSA drop spots all over delivering fresh farm food to the cities nearby, too. So cool. At Waldingfield we offer a 20 week season with extensions should the fall harvest be robust and this is usually enough to keep people happy deep into the winter.
When someone invests in a local farm by participating in a CSA there are many rewards besides just great, healthy, and super fresh food. There is the investment in the land and how it is tended. We are a certified organic farm and apply no synthetic chemicals to our fields and orchards. We care about the water table below, and we care about our neighbors, too. There is the investment in the preservation of rural character and integrity, as well. Before too long those pristine fields of the past are parking lots, mini-malls and McMansions. Ugh.
Is a CSA for everyone? Probably not but there are many people who will attest to the fact that being part of a well run CSA brought them closer to the land, closer to their community and reconnected them to food they had not eaten in a long time. Check Out this link which has all of the organic CSAs in CT, and if you are errreading this from further away, google CSA farms in your area. We don't think you'll be disappointed.