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.

Now we’re waiting for the lamb! Not complaining, only waiting. March has been a particularly cloudy month. This is the month we begin planting in the greenhouse and have already filled two hoophouses with spring share vegetables. Those vegetables are green and beautiful but could sure use some sun! This is March, I have not forgotten where I live. I know the sun is up there somewhere.

The rhubarb, chives and sorrel out in the fields are looking beautiful. The rhubarb was weeded yesterday, the chives and sorrel raked. Yesterday David and Jesse were driving tractors back and forth for ten hours, spreading rock minerals on the fields.

We hear new birds every day and our resident Sandhill Cranes are noisy as ever as they stake out their territory.

The farm is relatively quiet and peaceful as we gear up. We find indoor jobs on these rainy days and look forward to the promise of sun on Saturday, no April fools I hope.

Barb

Lettuce and onions in the greenhouse.

Tomatoes in the greenhouse. In two weeks it will get planted into the hoophouse alongside the Spring Share vegetables.

Little spinach in the hoophouse.

Spring Share in the hoophouse. As soon as the sun shines these plants will grow very quickly.

 

Wow, we’ve been growing food for the community for a generation. Our kids are now in their 30’s – we were in our 30’s when we started this farm. Members used to bring their kids out, now their kids bring out their kids! We (David and Barb) started growing organic food when it was a new concept, now organic food can be found in a wide variety of places. This farm has been an integral part of the CSA movement and we have witnessed its growth and acceptance into thousands of households. Twenty three years ago CSA needed lots of explaining, today it is nearly a household word. When we started our farm people would ask us if we thought CSA was a fad. We always emphatically and without hesitation said ‘no’. How can a concept that connects people with the source of their food, the land that it is grown on and the farmer that grows it be a fad?? It all makes too much sense and over the years we have seen how much people have embraced the connection with their food and the land. The C in CSA stands for community and that C becomes more and more important in our fast-paced world. So thanks for embracing Community Supported Agriculture and everything it stands for. We love growing your food and hope to see you on the farm this season!

Barb

First tractor

1994 was a big year for our family. We moved from Madison’s near east side to our farm. Our first tractor and three proud farm kids. Becky, age 9; Jesse, age 13; Eric, age 11.

All in the family: Eric, Jesse, Jonnah (Jesse's wife), Becky, Felix, David and Barb Perkins

The entire family now farming together: Eric, Jesse, Jonnah (Jesse’s wife), Becky, Felix, David and Barb Perkins. Jesse and Jonnah’s children, Paavo and Mischa, are not pictured.

As the crew bags garlic in the packing shed for the final delivery of 2016, I am in the office compiling harvest data from this season so next season’s planning can begin. The planning for 2017 begins by looking closely at what we planted and harvested and delivered this season. That will be a basis for next year’s plans. Enough? Too much? Earlier? Later? Some things we have control of, other things we don’t, so we need to be in control where we can be. I will have the seed order placed by the end of the year. That means all varieties and quantities decided. Along with figuring how many seeds of each variety we need, I also lay out the greenhouse, transplanting and direct seeding plan.

There are 7 of us working through next week. Then we go down to a skeleton crew of everyone whose last name is Perkins! (Barb, David, Jesse, Eric, Jonnah) These Perkins’ keep the farm running over the winter. Jonnah is in the office managing 2017 sign ups, Jesse is busy with the seed potato business, Eric does odd (and necessary) jobs, Barb and David prepare for next season. And all of us get to go on vacation!  Thanks for all of the support you give to the farm. This farm only exists because of you! Happy winter time and see you next season.

Barb

Here are the folks that grew your vegetables. Jonnah, Jesse, David, Barb, J-Mo (Eric), and Nasta just sent off the last delivery of the year!

Here are the folks that grew your vegetables. Jonnah, Jesse, David, Barb, J-Mo (Eric), and Nasta just sent off the last delivery of the year!

Becky and Abigail washing crates in the cold, wet packing shed. Thousands of crates and containers get washed and sanitized at the end of the season. All the little details that are part of farming.

Becky and Abigail washing crates in the cold, wet packing shed. Thousands of crates and containers get washed and sanitized at the end of the season. All the little details that are part of farming.