Friday, February 22, 2019

February Farm Update

By Andrea Yoder

Happy February!  It’s hard to believe another month has passed us by since our last farm update, but here we are approaching the end of February.  Despite the slower pace of winter, we’ve actually had a lot going on over the past month.  Here’s what we’ve been up to.

Polar Vortex Sunrise on January 31, 2019
First, we’re happy to report we survived the Polar Vortex of 2019!  For those few bitter cold days, our valley was eerily quiet and still.  I have to admit they were also several of the most gorgeous, sunny winter days we’ve ever experienced!  The skies were bright blue and totally clear.   The sunrises in the morning were gentle as the sun woke up and shined a rosy smile upon our valley. The trees were so cold we could hear them cracking and moaning in the crisp, bitter cold morning air.  Before the cold set in we made sure the animals had extra bedding in their shelters and the cows got some of their “chocolate” hay to encourage them to stay inside the barn for shelter and warmth.  We made sure furnaces were working, drained any water pipes not in use and were diligent about doing frequent checks of employee houses as well as the packing shed.  All in all, it wasn’t so bad and we realize others in the region experienced much colder temperatures than we did.

Snow Mountain after clearing snow this Thursday.
I’ve lost track of just how much snow we’ve actually had throughout the month, 4-5 inches here, 6 inches there….the bottom line is it’s really starting to pile up!  As we started this week, our snow piles looked more like snow mountains and on Wednesday we got another 5 inches.  While we all enjoy a good snow  day, it has made it difficult to get our winter work done.  Nonetheless we’ve tried to make the most of our days and the packing shed crew and office staff have been working their way down the winter to-do lists.  The packing shed crew did a thorough top to bottom cleaning of the shop and lunch area….wow what a difference!  Everything looks much brighter and we love clean!  Nearly all the greenhouse flats have been washed and sterilized.  The potting soil arrived at the end of January and we have three big bags thawed out and ready to go.  We had hoped to start planting in our first greenhouse earlier this week, so last week the crew did a thorough cleaning of the nursery and finished setting up the heat table system on Monday.

Simon checking the water temperature as he sterilizes seeds.
Our plans didn’t quite play out as we had hoped for this week.  On Monday we received a couple big wholesale orders, which we are grateful to have.  Everyone shifted gears and we worked hard to wash over 1,000 pounds of burdock, a few bins of sunchokes, along with a few cases of radishes, turnips, and shallots.  Now that the orders are filled, our focus is back on getting some seeds planted!    This morning Simon set up our super high-tech (ok, not so high tech, but it works) seed sterilizer to hot water treat our onion seeds to remove any seed borne diseases.  We are happy to report we were able to start planting this afternoon!  Beatriz, Moises and Gerardo are enjoying a sunny day of greenhouse work.  They filled and pre-watered flats in the morning and Gerardo started planting this afternoon!  It was so refreshing to walk into the greenhouse after lunch and smell the wet potting soil!  It will take awhile to get all the onions planted and then we’ll need to move on to celeriac, leeks, lettuce, kohlrabi and more!

Snow falling on our Curly Willow & Fantail Willow Hedgerow 
This month’s crop report will be brief.  We’re happy to report the deer fence around the overwintered spinach field is upright, intact and doing its job to keep the deer out.  The spinach is nicely insulated with all this snow, so lets all cross our fingers and hope we have a good harvest this spring!  Last fall we were also able to lay the reflective plastic mulch and drip tape for this year’s onion field.  We put a deer fence around it as well to keep them from tromping across the field poking holes in the plastic.  Very soon we need to get out to the field to trim our willow hedgerows, but all of this snow will make it a bit of a challenge!  I have to say, the fantail & curly willow trees look pretty cool against the white backdrop and add some texture to the landscape!

Mike changing one of the tractor tires.
We’ve also taken advantage of winter down time to get some tractors repaired.  One of our little IH Super C cultivating tractors was hauled to a shop last week for repair.  This week the two Allis Chalmers WD 45 tractors that pull harvest wagons got new tires.  Thank you to Mike & Mark from our local Cenex station for helping us with this repair project!

Andrea spent several days this week visiting some of our buyer partners in the Twin Cities and scouted out our two new CSA sites including The Power House at St. Louis Park & Roseville City Hall!  Kelly  & Gwen continue to process CSA orders and have been working hard on getting our promotional materials up to date, putting together this year’s CSA calendar, and a whole host of other tasks!  We’re still working on finalizing our Thursday CSA route in Madison, but we’re almost finished!  We’re happy to have added new sites in the DeForest/Windsor and Waunakee areas.  We also have new sites on the northeast side of Madison as well as one on Sherman Avenue and another near Monroe St.  We’re excited to be partnering with several business locations as well.  Some locations are for employees only, however we do have several that are open to the public including one in Middleton!  Thank you for your patience as we have been working to put together all the logistics for this new route.  Now it’s time to fill the truck!

Promo materials we have been working on.
We still have plenty of shares available and would like to ask you for your help in spreading the word about CSA within your communities.  From past experience, we know that some of the most meaningful “advertising” happens when CSA members share their CSA experiences and encourage other people in their community to consider connecting to a farm.   We have a variety of materials we can send to you if you’re willing to help us extend our reach to your community.  We’d be happy to send pull tab posters, sign up forms, informational brochures/cards and we have New Member Coupons as well.  These coupons entitle a new member to receive $15 to $25 off their order and the referring member will receive a $20 coupon!  Just let us know and we’ll put together a packet of information for you.

Photo from
There are a couple of events coming up as well.  On March 5, Fairshare CSA Coalition is hosting a Food & Farms Film Festival.  They have a pretty good lineup of films including the new Local Thirty documentary featuring Andrea Bemis!!  For those of you who follow along in my Cooking with The Box articles throughout the season, you know I have an affinity for Andrea’s blog, Dishing up the Dirt.  I’m really hoping to be able to meet Andrea in person so we can geek out about growing, cooking and eating vegetables!

On March 17 we’ll be attending the Fairshare CSA Open House, now called the Find Your Farm event.  If you live in the Madison area, we hope you’ll stop in to say hello.  This is a great event to share with anyone who may be considering joining a CSA but hasn’t yet made the commitment.

That’s a wrap for this month.  In case you’re wondering, we’re only about 10 ½ weeks away from the first CSA delivery week!  Keep that in mind as we gear up for another winter storm this weekend!