Barb


Yes, it has been a very rainy season. And vegetables are happy and thriving! The rain pattern has been a bit unusual. Small isolated storms have been passing through and popping up. Where they hit and how much rain they drop is extremely variable in a relatively small area. We did not get the 4+ inches of rain Sunday night, as the west side of Madison did. We got less than 2 inches. For that we were thankful. We did get more rain Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

Vegetables love water. They need water to grow and thrive. We have deep, rich soils on this farm that can absorb lots of water. We have a lovely wetland and stream where excess water finds it way. It is very, very unusual to have standing water in our fields. While the vegetables and weeds are happily growing, the people and mostly the vehicles have a difficult time getting into the fields to work. We do more walking and use vehicles that hopefully won’t get stuck, like tractors. When we aren’t harvesting vegetables we are pulling weeds! Rubber boots and rain pants get lots of use.

Barb

Looking down at my boots as my feet slowly sink into the wet soil; harvesting salad mix.

Salad mix harvest. We waited until Tuesday morning so the ground could firm up a bit. Not only is it hard to walk in such muddy conditions, it is not good for the beds of vegetables.

After lettuce head harvest we turned to next week’s bed to rid it of weeds. Weeds will out-compete the lettuce heads and cause the lettuce to stretch towards the light. Weeds also inhibit air flow, causing rotting leaves at the bottom of the plant. And weeding is so satisfying!

Cabbage harvest. We were able to use the tractor to transport the bins of cabbage. The tractor could easily get through the field after the rains.

Over the course of the past 23 years we’ve work hard to develop Vermont Valley Community Farm into a thriving certified organic vegetable farm and CSA. We have learned and grown and changed and consequently have a lot to share. We had the opportunity Wednesday to share our knowledge and experiences with a group of international farmers, representing six countries. Their areas of specialty were diverse and they had many interests and questions in common. We talked about business practices, community building, connecting with CSA members, nutrition, marketing, sustainability, family business, efficiency practices, equipment, financial sustainability, and much more. It was a little over an hour, but could have been a day. This was such a vibrant group of interesting and interested farmers. It was fun and rewarding to pull myself out of my daily grind and share what I do and what I know with this like-minded global community of farmers.

Barb

The Nuffield Scholars from Australia, Ireland, UK, Brazil, New Zealand, Netherlands

Garlic scape harvest. A scape gets snapped off of each garlic plant. This helps the plant put more energy into the bulb and gives us another edible part from the plant.

Kohlrabi harvest. The plant is pulled, the root snipped, the leaves removed. Then we take them to the packing shed to wash.

Salad mix, fennel and kohlrabi. Everything is so lush and beautiful with all of the rain we have had.

Whether this is your first season or your twenty-third, you are what this farm is all about! Twenty-three years ago, before most people knew what CSA was, David and I started this farm. We strongly believed in the concept of CSA and wanted all of the food grown on our farm to go only to our CSA members. We didn’t know if this was possible, but we gave it a try. We didn’t know if it was possible to make a living growing organic vegetables and distributing them through our CSA but we wanted to give it our best. We quickly got our answer as memberships increased each year. We wanted a connection with our members, something people generally don’t have with the person growing their food and with the farm where it is grown. This is why we give you many opportunities to come out to the farm during the season. We hope to meet you for the first time or see you again. We hope you enjoy the food that comes your way. And we always welcome questions or comments along the way. Happy season #23 from Vermont Valley Community Farm!

Barb

Monday morning. Harvesting rhubarb from our quarter acre rhubarb patch. That’s a lot of rhubarb!

Tuesday morning. Harvesting spinach. We pinch off leaf by leaf. Yum.

Tuesday morning. Scallion harvest. My view as I sat on the ground trimming roots.

Early Wednesday morning. Salad mix harvest. The sun is just rising in our valley.

Monday afternoon. Weighing and banding rhubarb.

Wednesday afternoon. Washing and trimming fresh garlic.

Yesterday was a gorgeous warm, overcast day as we harvested the last of the greens for the Spring Share. We experience beginning and ending three times as we prepare for, plant, harvest and deliver the different shares we offer. We divide our growing season into three seasons in order to give you, our members, choice. Early season greens, main season a bit of everything, late season roots.

Along with completing the harvest we also transitioned the hoophouse from a bounty of greens to a tomato house. The tomatoes had been planted alongside the greens, but not until we had all of the greens out and all of the weeds out and all of the trellis poles up could we see the impact of this transition. Then we layed the drip irrigation alongside each row of tomatoes. The tomatoes get watered from below and the greens got watered from above. The last thing we did before walking out was turn on the irrigation. There are already tomatoes on the plants!

Thank you so much for participating in our Spring Share season. You may not know this, but ALL of the vegetables we grow on this farm are delivered to you through our CSA (except potatoes which we also grow for our seed potato sales). Let your friends know that we still have CSA shares available for the rest of the season.

Barb

The last harvest from one of our hoophouses (the one we call “The Colossal”). The crops pictured are sauté mix and arugula.

Abigail and Eric harvesting lettuce heads between the rows of tomatoes.

Tonny and Eric (J-Mo) harvesting fennel.

Five hours later………No more vegetables or weeds! And the tomatoes are getting happily irrigated with the drip irrigation.

Another view of the tomatoes.

Rhubarb harvest in the smallest of our rhubarb beds.

As I drove around the farm today, I was completely taken by its beauty. The air is heavy, waiting for rain to fall. The spring green on the hillside is soft and gentle. And the fields are full of promise. The peas were standing in beautiful rows of bright green. The potatoes are under the ground, covered by hills. The plastic mulch has been laid, waiting for squash to be planted. The greenhouse is bursting with transplants; each week thousands of plants are transplanted outside and thousands more are started. So much new life, so much promise. I feel fortunate to be able to immerse myself in such a cycle of life.

Barb

The farm road into one of our fields. Ahead are peas and to the right under the hills of soil are potatoes.

The peas. These peas were started in the greenhouse and transplanted into the field. We do this to guarantee a solid stand of peas. If we plant the peas directly into the ground and then there is a lot of cold, wet conditions, many of the seeds will rot. (We are certified organic; we don’t use fungicide treated seeds as the chemical agriculture farms do).

Plastic mulch, just laid. We use plastic mulch for many heat loving crops. The plants get planted directly into the plastic. We mulch the bare dirt heavily with alfalfa hay. Irrigation hose runs under the plastic. The plastic acts as a weed barrier and holds the moisture in.

Rhubarb harvest for the Spring Share.

It’s 10:00. The trucks just pulled out laden with spring greens; a crew of 6 is out in the fields transplanting cabbage, Swiss chard, spinach, kohlrabi and fennel; David is on his tractor planting radish and turnip seeds, Eric is in the potting shed seeding popcorn. We packed 225 Spring Shares and cut 1,000 pounds or so of seed potatoes. The squash, watermelon and sweet corn transplants were moved out of their cozy warm germination chamber into the greenhouse and the salad mix transplants were moved into the area where we harden off the plants to prepare them for transplanting. Now what?

The transplanting will continue most of the day, the delivery drivers will pull in around 3:00, Eric will stay busy with farm tasks, David will likely be on his tractor all day, Jesse will be planting potatoes and Jonnah and I get to catch up on office work.

We couldn’t have been happier to see the sun come out yesterday and the soil begin to dry out and warm up. We spent a cold rainy Monday in the damp potting shed seeding all day. We spent a cold windy day Tuesday harvesting in the hoophouses. We totally enjoyed Wednesday as we continued harvest and started the week’s transplanting. It’s May on the Farm!

Barb

Watercress harvest. The watercress grows in a little spring fed stream on the border of our wetland. The most fun and challenging part of this job is figuring out how to set up the harvest to avoid stepping knee deep into muck. We’re not always successful, Sophal slipped off and filled his boot with water.

Washing tot soi. We all stand around the tub of ice cold water rubbing off dirt and removing bad leaves. Barb, Yun, Ryna, Eric (J-Mo), Neing, Phearo.

Sorrel harvest. Sorrel is a perennial and is one of the first plants to come up in spring. It’s cut, then washed and spun dry and bagged.

Harvesting Red Russian Kale, one of the greens in the sauté mix. Notice how the crew has to work around the tomato plants. We inter-plant tomatoes in our hoophouse alongside the greens. Once the greens are all harvested the house turns into a jungle of tomatoes

Today is the first Spring Share delivery and as I sit down to write this there are flakes of snow falling from the sky. I rub my eyes and look again, yup. OK, April in Wisconsin. The trucks have left the farm with an amazing assortment of greens. We do our best to work around Mother Nature in April, hence our hoophuses.  We have two lovely structures where we plant directly into the ground, so if it snows or freezes or rains like crazy outside, the crops are protected and happily growing. We don’t worry too much about cold weather, the tender spring greens can easily take temperatures down to 20 degrees and will make it through with only minor setback at even colder temps. They look fragile but are some of the toughest vegetables when it comes to withstanding cold.

We have also had some fantastic spring weather and have been able to transplant (plant the plants that we have grown in the greenhouse) onions, lettuce, scallions, peas and leeks outside. We have also seeded carrots outside. We haven’t had much rain, but have irrigated each time we have planted. Many times we have very different weather from Madison and other surrounding areas. Less rain can be better because we have the ability to irrigate. Too much rain can keep us out of the fields.

April is full of new life and is a super busy time on the farm. Let the season begin! Hey, it stopped snowing.

Barb

Harvesting salad mix. Yun carrying his full crate down the aisle between two beds of spinach. The isles are very narrow and we really have to be careful when harvesting. Note, we balance our crates on waste baskets because the rows are even too narrow to set down a crate. We maximize the valuable space in hoophouse.

Radish harvest. The largest radishes are pulled and set in the isles in bunches of 10. They can be easily counted this way. We harvest many things to a specific count.

Transplanting onions. A machine laid the plastic and another machine poked the holes marking where the onions should go. Two people walk ahead and lay down the onion transplants and the others follow and plant them.

Barb has a new role this season, driving the tractor for transplanting. I needed to watch the front wheel to keep it in the tire track as I sped along .1 mph. Not easy driving that slow.

Tonny and Phearo riding the transplanter and planting lettuce.

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