Winter On the Farm!
Updated: Jan 2, 2019
Winter represents a much needed rest from the hyper-busy growing season, but living on a diversified market farm doesn't mean work stops.
At Season's End and the Turn of a New Year.
After the last boxes have been delivered and we bid our CSA members farewell til spring, there are a host of end-of-season chores that must be addressed. Heather has taken back her Fridays to ready our home for the Sabbath hours, the boys are already back in school, and our volunteers have retreated into their own winter preparation routines.
November brought an new set of challenges for me to be sure. It found me prepping for winter and and getting squarely prepared for facing the first rush of spring. Instead of racing the harvest clock to Friday deliveries, skipping lunch to cultivate the gardens, or planting new plug-flats for transplanting out in the field blocks, my chores shift toward putting the gardens to bed by pulling up landscape fabric on select crops; mowing down frost killed crops; broad forking, harrowing and spreading silage tarps on fallow ground to prevent winter erosion; sowing a winter cover-crop of Cereal Rye to build soil tilth for next season's crops; tightening up the high-tunnels for the gusty winter gales (it's no picnic having to lace up a high tunnel in 20 mph winds with a 10 degree wind chill); winterizing the irrigation system involved blowing out the mainlines, bringing in all the drip-lines, the overhead feeder lines and winterizing the pump to ensure that it doesn't incur damage from freeze/thaw cycles. I enjoy living on a farm, there is never a lack of things to do.
A large portion of the end of the season was spent breaking and preparing new ground for next season. As many of you know our farm serviced 46 CSA members last season. In 2019 we are planning to add an additional 30 members bringing next seasons total to 76 members. I spent a good portion of December organizing our barn in preparation for the increase in production. We're adding another wash-station to reduce a bottleneck in our harvest workflow. With the addition we'll be able to wash 2 separate crops at once, spin dry our salad mixes twice as fast and increase efficiency by adding wheels to and from our walk-in cooler trips.
Tool storage and organization is also on the winter docket. With the increase in production we are looking at hiring help for next season. Organization is key to keeping our efficiency high with the potential of added players on the field. An indoor potting bench with a vacuum seeder will certainly boost efficiency, along with a centralized "go-to" for radios, charging batteries, harvest knives and commonly used cultivation and planting tools. I'm excited to think of how much more productive we'll be by having everything labelled and located in one place.
Winter is also a time for us to rest and recover. It allows for my mind to relax from the flurry of the growing season's ever-pressing demands, clearing the slate in preparation for the new season ahead. We spent the holidays reconnecting with family, catching up on some routine home maintenance, and taking time away from the farm. We took the boys to Chicago on the South Shore Line last week, and hooked up with Wayne Watson (one of our farm volunteers) at his winter haven on Randolph Street. I am not a city boy - big shock. It's nice to visit, but even nicer to be home.
As the New Year turns we start looking at our 2019 Membership Campaign for the season ahead. Lots of new plans there also, new website, signage, business cards, swag and the like. After we've kicked of the new season's campaign we turn the bulk of our attention toward our game plan, where our farm is headed in the new year, and planning our crop rotations and task calendars for the coming season. There are multiple layers of complexity to attend to, making good food possible to our eating community. We enjoy doing it, and serving our customers, but everything in due time. A much wiser man than myself put it this way "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:" and with that I'm off to my next purpose. Wishing you the blessing of the Creator's presence in your heart and your home this New Year.