Sunday, March 29, 2009

Snow Report

Greetings from the farm. While it looks more like Winter outside, it is Spring. And as we've learned over the last 6 years, such a March day is to be expected, rather than be considered a suprise. We are glad that the 16 deg F overnight temps that some stations were forcasting never happened, as that would have been the real potential for damage.

To get ready for the storm we battened down our hatches, namely putting 3 layers of row cover on the bed of lettuce we have already planted (see photo), as well as 2 layers on a bed of onions. The greenhouse and cold frame were also buttoned up and filled to sit out the storm. Things looked fine this morning, and we await some drying weather so we can start planting.

Here are a few photos of the storm.



A disconcerting view out the window.



Ice storm



Snow storm


Morning view



Lettuce

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sign-up Meeting March Madness

Thanks again to everyone who helped out at this year's Fair Share Farm CSA Sign-up Meeting. That includes all you members who came to the meeting and made it such a success. As we've grown from 25 members to 105, added more vendors, and relied almost entirely on the Core Group to manage the signup, it has become more fun each year.


Here are a few photos of the day, as well as a picture of sunrise on the farm the first day of Spring. As our house faces due south, we know it is Spring when the sun rises directly east of the facade. While we have global warming to deal with, hopefully humans can't change when and where the sun rises.



Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Stubblefield Bee Hive Activity

Tried to post this last week, but wouldn't work. But here is a look at what it takes to put beehives together. The Stubblefield's garage sounded like Santa's workshop as I approached. Thanks to all who helped build homes for Fair Share Farm's newest live-ins.

video

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Three Year Plan

Greetings from your farm - Farmer Rebecca here. With Spring in the air, Tom and I are busy preparing for the season ahead. The greenhouse is already filled to capacity with the spring plants that will soon be transplanted to the fields. The onions are growing rapidly and have already had their first ‘haircut’. We give them a trim to keep them from getting too top-heavy and to focus their energy on bulking up their roots. Broccolis, cabbages, lettuces and herbs fill up most of the rest along with the first tomatoes - the cherry and bush varieties. This week the onions are moving out to the coldframe to make room for more tomatoes, leeks, lettuces and peppers.

Tom alluded to our ‘Three Year Plan’ in the previous post. We spend each winter evaluating the season that has passed in order to plan for the season ahead. In reviewing our planting and harvest records, we noticed that in many cases we plant double the amount of crops we should need for 105 shares. Which raises a couple thoughts. One, we are stubborn. When it comes to member favorites like broccoli and berries we will do whatever it takes to produce them even if it means planting way more than we should need to. While that’s admirable, I suppose, it is not a long-term strategy. Instead our ‘Three Year Plan’ calls for us to increase the care each crop receives which we hope will lead to an increase in the overall productivity of the farm without increasing the amount of acreage.

The first step is to hire an additional farm apprentice to work with us in the fields. With another full-time member of the farm crew we will have more time to tend to the crops. A priority will be to spend this extra time adding more organic matter to the fields in the form of straw, hay and compost. Organic matter is the ‘holy grail’ of sustainable agriculture. In the big picture, every life form is dependent on the decomposed life that precedes it. Decomposing organic matter feeds the web of soil organisms whose excretions include nutrients in forms that plants can use. The decomposing matter and the organisms that feed on it create air spaces where roots can grow and water can drain, especially critical in the heavy soils of our region. Last season we learned a lot about how water with nowhere to go can affect crops. Even in a wet year, we found that beds with a layer of mulch did better than those with no cover at all.

If our theory holds true that increased care and organic matter equal increased productivity, we hope to be able to grow the membership from 105 in 2009 to 125 in 2010 and 150 in 2011. Additional CSA memberships will allow us to pay for the second apprentice and purchase of the straw, hay and compost without raising share prices. The extra income will also allow us to pay for farm improvements in the future by creating a capital fund. If our plan is successful we will emerge from the three years with an efficient and integrated farming system that is more sustainable and secure. With our new plan in hand, we are excited to get to work to make 2009 the most bountiful season ever. We welcome all of our members, friends, family and supporters to join us in this vision for a sustainable future built on care for each other and the Earth that is our home.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Winter Greetings

People often ask what we do in the winter. It seems that generally we can say that we work. The farm has been a work in progress since the day we arrived in November 2002, and it continues year round. As a city boy I had no idea the amount of care and upkeep a farmstead requires. What I thought might take 3 years is now going on 7.

While we take a respite from thinking about farming during the month of December, come the New Year we are focused on the future. This year that includes the normal things like reviewing the seed catalogs and ordering seeds, ordering equipment, soil amendments and other supplies, and getting ready for starting up the greenhouse in early February, processing membership deposits, meeting with the Core Group to discuss future plans, and getting ready for the sign-up meeting. It also includes the development of a 3 year plan (more on that from Rebecca in a day or two), and planning this year’s projects: bees, livestock (a few sheep), permanent irrigation piping, barn improvements, implement maintenance, a new blueberry patch, 20 more fruit trees, and two interns. We also co-taught a CSA Mini-School at the Great Plains Vegetable Growers Conference, and have been helping to establish the Kansas City CSA Coalition (www.kc-csac.org).

Our biggest project this winter however, has been our home remodel. We have been slowly converting our 1930’s farmhouse (originally built w/o running water or electricity), into a more open floor plan and modern home. We are excited this year that we will finish (at least 90%) our kitchen and dining room. We began painting on Sunday and are in the homestretch (not a moment too soon.)

While we were remodeling the kitchen, we were able to convert our utility room into a kitchen, with the stove and refrigerator stationed in the office. It gave us use of all the essentials, and cleared the kitchen so we could work unobstructed. We were even able to can, making orange marmalade with organic oranges mail ordered from Mission, Texas. About as local citrus as you can get around here.


Recipe: Orange Marmalade
6 to 7 quarts whole oranges
1-1/2 quarts sugar

- With a vegetable peeler, peel the rind off the oranges, trying to leave the white pith behind (see first picture)
- Put rind in a pot covered with water, bring to boil, turn down heat and simmer for 10 minutes (this removes the bitterness)
- Drain and coarsely chop the rind
- Meanwhile, devein, deseed and peel the oranges. With the oranges we had the steps were to cut the orange (from pole to pole) into quarters, set the wedges on their side and trim the core part, pick out the seeds, and then peel them (see second picture). You can coarsley chop them or leave them whole at this point, depending on the consistency you like.
- Put the sugar, rind and oranges into a stainless steel or enameled pot and bring to a boil, stirring frequently at the start
- Lower heat to medium and cook until mixture thickens, about 1-1/2 to 2 hours
- Pour into hot jars and process in hot water bath for 10 minutes to seal.