Saturday, January 30, 2010

I thought it was appropriate to post this picture from 2003 or 2004 that our friend Dave took, since we bought a tractor today! We haven't had one since 2000. We have relied on horses for the most part since then.

We'll be doing a lot more now that we are as modern as 1977, I think the year of the tractor is.
I will get a picture of the new toy up as soon as it arrives.....

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Some FAQ's about our farm and CSA

I have received some similar or related questions from some curious gardeners as well as people that might be interested in the CSA we are offering this season.

First off, I am afraid that some people may not be able to find or figure out the link to the brochure for the CSA. If this is the case, I would be happy to email one to you directly. My email address is: answer those FAQ's:

What does the black irrigation tape do?

The black irrigation tape is what we use to water all of the crops in our high tunnel (greenhouse). By using this kind of irrigation we are able to reduce the spread of diseases and rot that are common when growing cool season crops like lettuce and arugala. It is helpful also for when we grow tomatoes in there for disease reduction. By keeping the water dripping onto the ground next to the plants, you reduce the chance of fungal cells or bacterial cells getting spread by water hitting them with force and bouncing up on the plant or to other plants nearby.
Why go organic if you're not certified?
This is an excellent question. My husband and I started farming and worked in health food stores in the years before anyone ever heard of organic certification. I am sure people were getting certified back then (I am talking within the last 12 years, not decades ago). It just wasn't really an issue and then the government got involved and tried to establish rules and regulations that would need to be followed by EVERYONE regardless of the size of your farming operation. That meant that a huge corporate farming operation would have the same certification requirements and fees as the small local farmer. This seemed like an extremely unfair practice to many of us that were involved in the organic/health food industry. This does not even get into the things that are allowed in the USDA certification classification of organic. Things that we just would not allow on our farm....Sewage Sludge For Example. To us it is more important that you know your farmer and his or her practices and their ethics, rather than see a label on a product. I have heard this phrase repeated by several people lately: Local is the New Organic. It is true, really. A greater impact can be made in the vertically integrated food model for our economy, health, and environment by buying locally. Just because you are buying organic milk from the grocery store for example, doesn't mean that the company really upholds your ideals. They may have the same or higher rate of infection, but those cows are taken out of production and go to a conventional milk processing set up. They may be feed organic feed on a feed lot, with little or no access to grass or clean pasture. They are not allowed to give them injections of growth hormones, if they are producing organic milk. The milk that is certified organic travels thousands of miles to get to us here in Missouri and is ultra pasteurized. That means that it retains far less nutritional value than milk produced here. I would much rather buy milk from my local dairy farmer that feeds their cows locally purchased/raised feed, allows them access to pasture that might have fertilizer applied every year or so, allows him or her to make a living or maintain their family farm while still working another job (as most of us have to do), and know that it didn't require hundreds of gallons of fuel to get from California to Here.
Great information on organic certification:
Attra Organic Farm Certification
What kind of soils do you use?
We go back and forth between mixing our own soil mix that included mixing peat, vermiculite, and perlite. We used this method for about 10 years. Other times would use the standard potting mix that is available at most garden centers. This is not considered organic, however because it does contain a wetting agent that is traditionally considered a non-organic ingredient. This past year we used Miracle Grow's Organic potting soil mix. It contains some fertilizer, I believe. We started using that as a matter of convenience, but is by no means an economical choice for large scale seed starting. A note: When you start your own seeds using a mix of peat, vermiculite, and perlite that you mix yourself you will need to establish a fertilization program. We always used fish emulsion. You mix it up with water according to the label for the size of your seedlings to be careful and not "burn" them with too much nitrogen. You can purchase fish emulsion in quart and gallon, and I think 5 gallon sizes. Fish emulsion reeks! so you probably want to look into something else to use as an indoor fertilizer, unless you find the smell of rotten fish guts appealing.

Some other general CSA FAQ's:

How many people do you hope to sign up for this CSA farm?
Our goal is to have 10 people minimum sign up and a maximum of 15 for the season. Right now, we have had about 3 seriously interested people contact us and have had a lot of traffic on the website. It is early and people are just now thinking about fresh produce.
Do you have an idea if the crops grow as planned (not great but not bad, just average)of how much produce that each full share would buy($725)?
In years past, when we grew for some friends in the St. Louis Area and they would meet us at the Clayton Farmer's Market they were paying the same amount and would get 2-3 walmart grocery bags full of produce. Of course it depends on the vegetables that week and how bulky they are. A typical week included: two pounds of tomatoes, a bunch of basil, greens (collard, chard,etc.), 5-6 cucumbers, 5-6 zucchini and other summer squash, 2-3 pounds of potatoes, 2 pounds of greenbeans, and 3 or 4 peppers. The variety will change, depending on the stage in the season. Early season would be heavier on greens and salad mix, radishes, beets, peas, carrots, spinach.
I don't know how much you plan to plant vs how many people invest in it?
I am planning on planting a large amount regardless of what the CSA does, we have a few wholesale contracts that we will grow for instead or in addition to the CSA. The CSA would not be feasible for us if there are less than 10 families signed up due to processing/packaging/delivering, etc. If you sign up and pay, and we don't get the 10 families we need, you will be completely refunded by late February, early March.
What would be my expected/estimated return of veggies be?
The goal is that you will not to buy produce that is available around here from the store and can build the majority of your meals around the produce we provide. In our household it is me and my husband and our 1year old daughter. We are a family with two small kids and we would eat this amount easily, but most of our meals are heavy on veggies.

If you made it to this point! Congratulations, you have a lot of endurance as a reader and/or are very interested in local foods, veggies, and farming and I welcome you to send me any additional comments or questions you may have to me at One more thing, we don't have a tractor and have farmed with horses for the past 10 years, but are at a philosophical crossroads. We could get more done in a shorter period of time with a tractor, but....but...but....more on this next time.

Planning, ordering, drooling

I have been having so much fun meeting new people lately. I have been getting the kids involved with a homeschool group and have met and re-met some great folks. This has been great for me, since I have been in front of the computer for the last couple of years for over 40 hours a week working. I was teaching online and wrote a textbook and now both are ended or coming to an end. I was extremely upset about the online teaching ending, but I truly believe it is a blessing in disguise. I have gotten some perspective and motivation to regroup and establish the CSA. If the CSA doesn't have enough members (ideally 10) to make it run, then the produce that is being grown will be ready for the commercial accounts we have already.

I ordered seeds today and should have ordered them sooner, of course. You never seem to be on time as a farmer. Either too early or too late. That goes for seed ordering, planting, weeding, getting the fencing up the keep the critters out, getting the irrigation set up, you name it.

The early batch of seeds that will be started as soon as they get here includes: broccoli, cauliflower, chard, cabbage, cilantro, parsley, kohlrabi. We have grown all of these before and have had much success with them. I have bought organic seed when possible and have peppered in some different varieties. For example I will be growing a lovely purple cauliflower along with the standard white one. I also ordered seeds and had some in the freezer already that will be planted out in the field under a low tunnel as soon as the ground thaws and dries out a little. Those seeds include: snap peas, beets (golden and red striped), radishes (long fancy ones), kale, spinach, carrots, lettuce. A low tunnel can be created a variety of ways. Johnny's now sells a contraption that will allow you to bend your arches so you can use them to support your plastic or row cover.

I am so excited for this season...and am starting to drool just thinking about the early stuff.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

CSA Registration Form

You copy and paste the above link and use the menu bar to print it off.

CSA Coming Soon!

For those of you that are interested, we are seriously considering having a CSA this year. A CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. The idea is that a group of families purchase "shares" in the CSA early in the season or before the growing season starts. This helps offset the costs that the farmer has at the beginning of the season in terms of seeds, plants, fuel, general farm upkeep. The families in return get local produce delivered to a predetermined location each week for the growing season. The families and the farmer share in the risks as well as the bounty of produce that comes with each growing season.
Most CSA's offer anywhere between 6 and 10 different items each week for about 24 weeks. Depending on the time of the season the variety may be more or less. For example, in early May a family might expect to get a delivery that is heavy on the cool season veggies like greens, lettuce, and radishes.
I plan on being able to offer a wide variety of produce that is organically raised (although we are not certified). More about certification in a future blog.
If you would like more information, feel free to send me an email at, or check back at the blog, where I will post some more details when it is more finalized.

Some of our Red Choi with the black irrigation tape running down the row.

This is Andy answering a question from one of our attendees.

Me, standing in the high tunnel discussing how we harvest and what we have planted.

Back in the groove...or at least trying

We have had many things happen since the last post in November. We have harvested about 100 pounds of lettuce since November. Unfortunately our last harvest was a bust. I picked 20 pounds of lettuce and then we had a snow/ice storm that made it impossible to get the lettuce to it's destination in Columbia.

On December 17, we hosted and ran a workshop for University of Missouri Extension. It was a high tunnel workshop that was catered by a local caterer and farmer, Les Witte. Les and Beth Witte run Brush Creek Farms and Catering about 3 miles from us. The meal consisted of all locally produced foods. There was delicious pork, scalloped potatoes, salad (our lettuce), and a berry crisp. There were over 70 people in attendance and there is a wait list of about 30 more people that would like to come to repeat of it in the upcoming months.

At the workshop Andy explained the economics and engineering of the high tunnel, while I gave a tour and demonstration with the lettuce inside the tunnel. We got coverage from our local paper, The Gasconade County Republican, thanks to our friend Dave Marner. He put some great pictures in the paper the week after Christmas.

I am now working on getting the greenhouse up and growing again after the hard hard frost we had for the last week. Temperatures are supposed to be in the 40's, which is promising. The Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce is looking the worst of all varietiesout there with some rotting and burnt tips. I cut it back and it will hopefully get looking a little nicer.

I will post some pictures from the workshop next.

Enjoy the warm balmy weather everyone!! As my friend Cari would say "40 never felt so good!"