Greetings from a bustling, green and yellow and brown, soon to be pink and purple farm! Ahh, green. This year we have the visual advantage of growing cover crops all season in the fields right outside our windows. (Last season the cover cropped field were the ones that run way back to the West - out of view of the house and distribution shed.) The winter rye is sooooo green right now, it is almost unbelievable. It puts that plastic Easter grass to shame. Where the soil is tilled flush next to the rye the contrast between green and wet dark brown is "a spring tonic for the soul" as my farming mentor, Robert Perry once put it. It truly is. I look at those colors and feel the pace of my body quickens along with the farm. Energy! It's out there.
Paul and I have been taking turns with field work - spreading compost, chisel plowing, discing. There is a bulk of work ahead of us before the summer CSA begins. Can you believe that only this past week did we plant the first crop in the ground? By the time all of you start coming here we will have planted almost all of the crops for the year - about 17 acres worth of fruit and vegetables. That's a lot of planting to get done in the next 7 weeks. Plantings not all we're doing right now either. There's seeding in the greenhouses, renovating the passive tunnel, planting the tunnels, transplanting all of the plants in to the fields, irrigating, cultivating (farm speak for weeding with tractors), covering and uncovering seedlings with row cover, oil changes, making old cultivation tractors run, advertising, setting up electric fences, seeding spring cover crops, and and and... Around February I really cannot imagine how we will do it all over again, but the light comes back and somehow that mile long list that's sat around all winter haunting us is suddenly finished. Its happened enough years in a row now that we can kind of plan on it, even though in February that seems fool-hardy.
The other morning I chiseled in all of Woods Field 1, 2,3, and 4 that were dry enough. Woods field, strangely enough, is the field that runs along the woods parallel to Rt 96. That whole field is slated for a spring bare fallow. "Bare Fallow" means tilling a field, letting the weeds germinate, and then tilling it again to kill the flush of weeds. This is repeated until we feel we've done some serious damage to the weed bank (the weed seeds hanging out in the soil, just waiting for conditions to be right to germinate). A bare fallow - sometimes called stale seed bedding - greatly reduces the amount of seeds in the weed bank, making conditions right for a fairly weed-free field the next time that field is planted. The idea is to weed the soil, not the crop. This makes a lot of sense because to "weed" a field by bare fallowing just takes a couple of passes with a big tractor and 12 foot disc and no precious cash crops to avoid ploughing down, rather than a bazillion back and forths with a tiny cultivating tractor in a field of cash crops. Finicky, time consuming work versus big engine, sun setting, 12 foot wide satisfying swaths of total weed eradication.
So, as I was saying, Woods Field is slated for a spring bare fallow. After the fallow - probably ending around the last week of May, we'll plant a quick summer cover of perhaps buckwheat. Lovely white flowers and a favorite bee food, but smelling like, most unfortunately, cat pee. After the buckwheat we'll put in either oats and peas or rye and vetch in preparation for 2011's cash crops. As you can see, we use the off year, or the year not in cash crops, to reduce the weed bank and do a bunch of soil conditioning in the form of cover cropping. All of this makes the cash crop year much smoother and sort of loosens everything up. The Sweet Land crops that you feed yourself and your family are grown on soil whose health we take VERY SERIOUSLY. We basically farm twice as much land as it takes to grow just the vegetables. This, quite reasonably, require extra time and money. Last year we spent around $2500 just on cover crop seed. Money well spent when you consider each little seed's roots taking hold in the soil, growing and establishing a small micro-climate of soil biology that wouldn't have existed other wise. Those roots grow and grown, creating stable soil aggregates that aid in water retention and aeration. Then, once the crop (lets say rye) grows to be around 5 feet tall, we chop it down and disc the whole vast swaying mass into the soil. Biological activity explodes! A feast for the wee beasties! An those wee beasties, living their life, pooping their poop, reproducing, dying and decomposing, are what makes your food bursting with health. It's aliiiiive!
On a business note we have PLENTY of shares left for the summer. Tell your family! Tell your friends and neighbors! We'll take 'em all! All this bustling action bring lots of spending. Spring is the time of year on a farm to spend! So, your sign up now helps greatly.
Another very important development here at Sweet Land: The Piggery - www.thepiggery.net - will be distributing their CSA shares here at Sweet Land Farm on Fridays once the summer CSA starts. The Piggery shares will be available during our normal Friday distributions from 1-8pm. Check out there website if you haven't heard of them. They have an absolutely superb product. You can also see them at the Ithaca Farmer's Market (I'm not sure when they start going there). You can sign up for their shares via their website. Get one quick if you want one, they are popular!
On another CSA note, High Point Farms, LLC is now accepting members for its June thru Nov. Meat, Egg and Cheese CSA. Each share is once a month pick up at High Point ( just North of Sweet Land) or in Ithaca at a Tioga Street location. For More information visit: www.highpointfarms.net Share Space is limited! Join NOW!