Thursday, April 19, 2018

April Farm Update

View after the April 18th snowfall and new 
crew members below that we hope 
won't be staying around too long!

Well friends, if we had to choose one word to describe April it would be “Challenging!”  Over the course of the past forty years of farming, we are typically able to start field work and planting late March or the first of April.  Sometimes the weather is still cool and things grow slowly, but at least we can start marking things off the planting list.  Historically, April 18 was the latest date we started field work which means we’ve set a new record this year for the latest spring!  Here we are on April 19 with nearly a foot of snow (although it looks like it could melt fast)!  Back in March it looked like we were going to have an early spring and we pushed hard to secure appointments with the consulate in Mexico so our crew members could get their visas and return to Mexico by the first of April.  We are thankful to have 29 of our crew members back at the farm.  They are ready and willing to work and have helped us get caught up on our greenhouse work as well as tackle some big cleaning and repair projects.  Unfortunately, they’ve had to take some days off as there are limits to what we can do on days when it’s snowing, raining or just too muddy and cold to do what needs to be done in the field.  They’ve been advised to rest and take advantage of the down time as we have some long days of work ahead of us as soon as this snow melts!  In those years when we were able to start our field work earlier, it didn’t necessarily mean crops were ready much earlier.  As mentioned, things grow more slowly in the cool of the spring than they do when they are planted later when the day and night temperatures are higher.  It is helpful though when we can get things in the ground, even if they grow slowly, as it spreads out our workload.  Now we’re facing some long days and the time crunch to get it all done!

Head lettuce transplants in greenhouse
While we enjoyed some gorgeous sunny days and warmer temperatures in March, April has definitely proven itself to be wet and cold.  Last week we had 2.75 inches of hard rain accompanied by hail.  That was followed by about 8 inches of wet, heavy snow over the weekend.  Much of the snow had melted away, but now our valley is once again blanketed in white.  We know, all too well, that sometimes Mother Nature trumps us despite our best efforts to overcome weather challenges such as these.  There isn’t much we can do aside from being prepared to hit the ground running and put forth our best effort as soon as the snow melts away and we can get into the fields.  We’re preparing machinery, getting seeds ready and making sure everyone is ready to go when the conditions are favorable.  With a few warm, sunny days, the picture could change and we just might get a window of opportunity.

Herb Packs 
Our greenhouses are nearly full and the plants look really good right now.  The onions and our first plantings of broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, cabbage, kale and collards are residing in our cold frame greenhouse where they enjoy breezy days and chilly nights with temperatures dipping down into the 40’s.  Our goal is to keep them on the cool side to toughen them up and keep them growing at a moderate rate so they develop into strong, sturdy plants.  The peppers and celeriac plants were transplanted into larger cell trays last week and they look very good.  Earlier this week Leonardo, Lupe, Miguel, Pepe and Leon spent a sunny day in the greenhouse planting herb packs for you!  We are planning to deliver them in mid to late May so you can plant them in your own garden space or put them in pots on your patio and enjoy fresh herbs throughout the season.  Our pollinator packs are also looking really good!
Celeriac seedlings in the greenhouse

We were scheduled to plant zucchini this week, but we’re planning to delay that planting a week or so.  Zucchini grows very fast and when it’s ready it needs to go to the field.  We are hoping to transplant some head lettuce into our tunnel greenhouse next week, if the weather is a bit more favorable.  The goal is that we would have mini romaine head lettuce by late May, a few weeks ahead of lettuce that will be transplanted into the field.
Perky pepper transplants

French Breakfast Radishes
CSA deliveries start in just two more weeks.  What does all this snow mean for the start of our CSA deliveries?  Good question.  The early boxes may be limited in variety, but we’re hoping to fill them with delicious overwintered spinach, parsnips, sunchokes and ramps!  If you’ve been with us in previous CSA seasons you know that we often struggle to have overwintered spinach and ramps in our early CSA boxes.  Sometimes these crops come in early in April and are nearly done by the start of CSA.  We’ve even had years when we aren’t able to include ramps in May boxes.  Perhaps the silver lining in this year’s late spring will be that we get to enjoy the luxury of more ramps and overwintered spinach in our early boxes!  That’s not such a bad tradeoff!   Yes, the early boxes might be more limited, but we do have our perennial crops to rely on until we can start harvesting spring planted crops such as radishes, salad mix, bok choi, etc.  Some of those perennial crops include asparagus, sorrel, chives and nettles.  We will also have green onions that were planted last fall to round out the selections until the green garlic and spring scallions are ready.  This is the adventure of eating and cooking with the seasons.

This week we welcomed a new crew member to our team.  Gwen has joined us in the office to help Kelly and Andrea with a wide variety of tasks.  We’re very happy to have her on our team and look forward to teaching her the ins and outs of managing the many details of a vegetable farm!  On April 30 we anticipate our final eleven crew members will arrive for their first day of work.  We’ll be welcoming four new crew members to our team this year and are anxious to meet them. 

Our CSA numbers are still down and we still have plenty of shares available.  If you haven’t sent in your order yet, please do so soon!  We appreciate the referrals we’ve received and ask that you continue to share your CSA experience with your friends, neighbors and co-workers.  We’re looking forward to getting this growing season underway and thank you for your continued support of our farm!