Spring is such a busy time on the farm, but what an amazing time it is. Spring means new life, new connections, new hope. Spring is the farmer’s muse.
In the Spring, specifically May, the greenhouse is our second home. The onions, leeks and celery we started back in March are now ready for hardening off in the hoop house (some are already there) and soon they’ll be in the ground. Transplanting is one of my favorite duties and I can’t wait to get started (ask me again in June and I’ll probably tell you a different story!).
Lately it has been feeling more like Summer than Spring around here. As I type, my thermometer reads 74 degrees. Jonathon and our first 2016 intern, Beth, have spent most of the day potting up (from little soil blocks to big soil blocks) peppers and tomatoes. As exciting as that is, the most exciting part of the day was bringing our new-to-us tractor home! Our first 2 seasons we either borrowed or rented a tractor, but this year we’re so happy to have our own. First up is mowing last year’s crop residues and then tilling that back into the soil, preparing the soil for bed prep.
This year we have been fortunate enough to hire 3 interns for the whole season – all of whom are women…farmHER power! Beth arrived last week, most recently living in Vermont after spending six weeks traveling and volunteering for the refugee crisis in Eastern Europe. She has been a big help! Next week we’ll welcome Paulina, who hails from San Francisco by way of Montréal, Québec. She just graduated from college and is ready to get her hands in the dirt again! And last but not least my friend Vanessa will arrive the first weekend of June from the Monterey Bay area in California. I met Vanessa while working in Oregon gaining my goat dairy experience earlier this year. We hit it off and when the opportunity arose to join us out here in North Dakota she snatched it! We’re thrilled to have the help as it is going to be a busy season.
We are roughly 7-8 weeks out from our first CSA delivery and have not yet met our member goal. If you’re thinking of signing up or know someone who is, please don’t hesitate! We’re thrilled with those who have committed thus far, but to get us to that first delivery in June we need more members!
And those who follow on our social media sites may be wondering what our baby goat count got to…in the matter of a few short weeks we welcomed 20 baby goats to the farm (Jonathon’s sisters’ goats included). Our kidding season ended about a week ago with the last set of twins, a doeling and a buckling, born to Mae, one of our first babies 2 years ago. It was an intense season for sure with all but 1 doe having triplets, but we’ve already sold 2 and have 4 more spoken for once they’re weaned. We’re planning to keep 2-4 does and sell the rest.
Unseasonably warm weather gets everyone excited for spring, but vegetable farmers get really excited. So excited that they start planting…
Although the beginning of March is our normal target date to start seedlings, we were eager to get going this year. Last week we seeded one of two varieties of leeks and three varieties of onions, with 4 more onion varieties to plant this week, as well as three celery varieties.
Farm activity has been pretty quiet until recently. I spent the month of January in Oregon working on a goat dairy. Learn by doing is our motto and learn I did. We don’t know the timeline, but we’re pretty sure we want to see my micro goat dairy dreams realized. It’s part of why we decided to come back to North Dakota after our trip in Australia. The local food scene is ever-changing, ever-expanding and we wanted to be a part of it. As I type this there are just a handful of CSAs and/or buying clubs. We don’t have many small dairies selling direct-to-consumer and we definitely don’t have any goat dairies. We hope to change that.
And that’s just one aspect of realizing our larger dream of a whole diet CSA. This year we’re excited to be able to offer eggs from our farm as well. When the grass starts growing we have plans to pasture the chickens, but for now they’re in our chicken coop. To begin with we won’t have too many layers, but hope to add more so that we may offer them to a larger chunk of our CSA members.
2016 will be an exciting year for us.
- We’re adding a few new crops to the CSA line-up: leeks, brussels sprouts and making a return from 2014 garlic and garlic scapes!
- Last fall at the end of the CSA season we constructed our hoophouse. This is really great news, because with our rushed relocation last year, we weren’t able to disassemble, transport and reassemble our hoophouse before the growing season started, so we went without. But this year after our seedlings get strong enough and the weather warm enough, we can transport them from the greenhouse to the hoophouse to harden off a bit before they can be transplanted in the ground. This opens up so much more space in our greenhouse allowing us to work more efficiently with our seedlings. We only direct seed a few of our crops, so it’s important to have our seedlings run smoothly from the grow lights to the greenhouse to the hoop house and their final home, the earth.
- We constructed the greenhouse in a rush last February, but weren’t able to finish it before the full onslaught of seedlings started. So after a supply run today, tomorrow we’ll work on finishing to insulate the greenhouse and get her fired up for those onion seedlings we started last week. They are eager for some natural sunlight!
- This week we’ll be starting baby greens and some specialty items for Terra Nomad Company. Last year they were a CSA member, getting a box each week like the rest of our members, with a few extra things each week. But once the CSA season was over we were still able to deliver late season crops and found this worked much better for the both off us. So in 2016 we’re expanding our offerings to them and planting specific varieties and crops to fit their needs. We love the whole crew and feel continuously blessed to work with them.
- We are also thrilled to be selling at the soon-to-be-opened Bisman Community Food Co-op! We’re focusing on a few crops for this first year, such as cantaloupe, winter squash, pie pumpkins, pumpkins, and any excess crops we have such as zucchini and cucumbers. Last year we had a few situations to get rid of crops (lettuce, eggplant, cucumbers, etc) that were ready before/after the CSA season as well as crops that we had way too much of during the season.
We are continually learning and it won’t stop – in just 5 short weeks we’ll have 7 does due to kid. Technically 5 of them are ours and 2 Jonathon’s sisters’, but nevertheless we’ll have plenty of baby goats to care for and cuddle! The seedling work has begun and won’t quit until the end of the season with our successional plantings of lettuce and similar crops.
Season 3 is shaping up to be a great year and we are thrilled with the support we’ve gotten so far. We may be excited for all the new opportunities 2016 will bring us, but the CSA is always first and foremost in our minds. Join our exciting food community! Full, Half, and Single share sizes are available in our three locations: Bismarck, Jamestown and Hazen.