As people tied to our climate and weather patterns, we like identifying with our bioregion. We grow vegetables in the Piedmont region of Virginia. This is more descriptive than simply saying we grow vegetables in Virginia.
(This nifty campaign for “Piedmont grown” is great, though it is a North Carolina project and hasn’t yet caught hold in Virginia. It doesn’t differentiate between chemical versus organic growing practices, and remember that organic agriculture is still around 1% of all agriculture in our country. Regardless, we appreciate it and welcome it in Virginia one day.)
Here today is a picture of what it’s like on a Certified Naturally Grown, highly diversified farm like ours in this region at this time of year. Prepare yourself, because the bottom line is that things are manic.
We told our crew yesterday: “This is it.” This is the all-out, marathon-at-a-sprint-pace wildness that, in March, we told you would happen eventually. We start off the season slowly. It is cold. The crew is new. We ease into cultivation work. Harvest days start small. And now it is late May. Buckle your seatbelts and hang on tightly until September. That’s when we will all next get to take a deep breath and sit back a bit.
What makes it so manic? The next three and a half months are packed with every task that we do: There is still seeding of trays (though not at the same level of intensity of early spring) as we start plants almost all year long. Prepping beds for planting is constant and demanding. (We use our big tractor and our walk behind tractor, plus buckets and shovels, for this.) Laying out irrigation lines. Transplanting new crops into beds, done by hand. Maintaining the crops currently growing (trellising, weeding, managing plant health with constant soil and tissue testing, then foliar and ground feeding…). Following ecological/biological practices for our Certified Naturally Grown status is a more management-intensive process than the alternative conventional/chemical farming, but the benefit is in the soil, plant, human, watershed, and wildlife health.
Harvesting – currently four or five days per week for at least part of the day. Two days per week all day long. Packing and setting up the pick-up for CSA members and market customers at six different locations each week. Ripping out the remains of plants that are now done so that the bed can be planted with something different, which wraps our cycle back to the beginning.
Work starts at 6 am, or 7 am at the latest for at least some of us, and soon all of us. Training up our crew on the nuances of each new crop. Hearing their amazement at the fact that as soon as they become familiar with a certain crop’s specifics, that crop is finished and they must learn a new one. We challenge their brains with the details of the more than 50 different things we grow. There are different seeding techniques, planting dimensions, ways to tell it is ready to be picked, picking method, washing method, packing method…
Summer has not yet officially begun but our kids said yesterday that they are looking forward to when it snows again. Hold onto that thought, kids. You’ve got a good while yet to wait.
But the challenge in this farm system is also the motivation and the reward. Growing so many different things and constantly rotating through our cycle that starts with seeding and ends with putting produce in a customer’s hands – this is what makes it demanding but also what makes it possible for us to support our family completely from our farm business. Most farms in this country, as we have shared before, do not serve as the only – or even primary – income for a family. Our schedule and to-do list is demanding but it allows us to put full attention on the management needs of the farm. This means the kids have to share their life with their parents working a lot of hours, but this is tempered by the projects they think of and work on around here. Currently in the works is a small-scale, children-led job of harvesting the rye that is growing as cover crop here.
They intend to process it and have both rye flour and rye-chocolate-cookies for sale. Don’t hold your breath on this one, folks.
For our children, the learning is in the process, not the result. For us adults, we aim for both learning through the process and delivering you amazingly delicious, nutritious, Certified Naturally Grown produce as a result. Thanks for appreciating it. We’re fine to go full speed for the next few months – this is the life and work we have chosen. And we’re also dreaming a bit about a trip to Florida this winter. It’s a good time of year to dream.
Our photos are always, unless noted, from the past week. Today, all pictures are from this morning. This is a live update for you!
Available for Market Share CSA members to choose from this week: Basil, Bok Choy, Chard, Collards, Cucumbers, Garlic Scapes, Hearty Mix, Kale, Lettuce Heads, Lettuce Mix, Microgreens, Radishes, Salad, Spinach (traditional and Asian), Summer Squash, Turnips …and Pepper Jelly, Fermented Jalapenos, naturally leavened Hearth Baked Bread. PLUS Plants: Dill, Basil, Parsley, Tomatoes, (variety details on ordering page).
Recipe Suggestions: see them cataloged on our Recipe Page
2015 Market Share CSA Members: Reserve your selection online to pick up on Saturday, May 30 at our farm, at the Brandermill Green market, or at the South of the James market.
**Anyone may order select goods from us, through Fall Line Farms, Richmond’s online farmers’ market. You can use discount code “broadfork” to earn a complimentary 6 month subscription.