2016, September

Farm update – 9/5/2016

Our chickens appear to be trying to make up for the current veggie shortage by laying lots of eggs – so if you are in need of a dozen farm-fresh eggs, just let us know!

This long weekend we focused a lot on catching up on things that have fallen by the wayside these past few months while the farm has commanded so much attention, like repairing a fence and replacing gates that were taken out by a fallen live oak several months back.

However, we made sure to continue making forward progress on the fall farm too. In addition to tractor shopping (stay turned for more!), we also picked up some lumber to construct raised beds to add to the field. All of the produce we grow for ourselves in our “kitchen garden” comes from raised beds, and we learned during the spring season this year that certain things really do grow better in raised beds than in the ground. Carrots and beets definitely prefer the deep, loose soil of a raised bed.

Another set of crops do equally well in raised beds or in the field, but are easier for us to tend to if they’re in raised beds. Low-growing greens, like lettuce, are pretty shallowly rooted, but having a ledge of a raised bed to sit on makes harvesting so much less back-breaking or knee-deadening.

The raised beds we’re planning now will be 12 feet long by 3 feet wide, 36 square feet. Our field rows average 36 feet long, so each raised bed will replace one field row, but in a much more consolidated space. The narrowness of these raised beds is designed specifically for ease of harvesting greens, so that you can easily reach to the middle of the bed. As we continue to expand the raised bed portion of the field, other beds will be wider for crops that require more space. ¬†For example, we generally plant two rows of potatoes in a raised bed, so a bed that is 4-5 feet wide is much more accommodating. And because both rows are offset from the center of the bed, it is unnecessary to be able to reach into the middle of the bed.

However, we will also continue to plant many crops directly in the ground in the field. Crops like kale, those that require protection from insects, will still be best planted in long linear rows which can easily be covered with the greatest organic farming invention ever, floating row covers.

We ran through a complex algorithm to figure out what and how much to plant for fall. We compared records of what we took to market each week in the spring against records of what actually sold. We also analyzed the revenue generated by each crop compared to the amount of space it took to grow. Using the spring garden as a guide, we will expand the square footage of items that regularly sold out at market and had a high revenue to space ratio, including Hakurei turnips, carrots, beets, and lettuces. Some crops, including broccoli and cauliflower, performed much worse in the metrics we analyzed, but no crops are being eliminated from the spring/fall roster due to poor sales performance. In the case of broccoli and cauliflower, these are vegetables that take up a lot of space relative to yield, can only be harvested one time, and generally cannot be sold at a price high enough to justify their space and time requirements. However, they add to the diversity of farm, and are things we genuinely enjoy growing and eating. For crops that fall into that category, we plan to plant the same amount of those, or less, for fall as we grew in spring. However, there are certain spring crops, like snow peas, that simply can’t be grown in the fall, so their return will be much anticipated for spring.

The full line up of fall veggies includes:

  • Arugula
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots, several varieties
  • Cauliflower
  • Collards
  • Kale
  • Lettuce, including loose leaf, romaine, and bibb varieties
  • Peanuts, two speciality varieties I can’t wait to harvest
  • Pumpkins
  • Radishes, including watermelon radishes, which are nothing like regular radishes (radishes are probably the single most maligned crop grown this year, unfairly in my opinion!, so I feel like I have to put a good word in for watermelon radishes)
  • Spinach
  • Squash, summer and winter varieties
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Swiss chard
  • Turnips, including the much-loved Hakurei; a new variety, Scarlet Queen; and the traditional purple top

Hopefully you’ll find some of your favorites among this list. We sure are looking forward to a bountiful fall season, and to continuing to provide high-quality, organically grown produce for our local markets.

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