So, it’s late February here on the farm and the weather looks nothing like spring being just a few weeks away. But in truth the farm is already kicking into gear with seed trays hanging out either under lights or in the germination chamber getting ready to set out in the nursery..and I mean farmhouse kitchen area that for the past couple of decades doubles as my nursery. While it’s still pretty inhospitable for these little babies out in the tunnel and without lots of protection I like to kinda be a helicopter plant mom..So I keep them close and watch over them until they get a little bigger and can stand the ups and downs temperatures of the tunnel house. I am in no rush..I want happy, healthy plants.
Next up will be to get the tunnel house beds planted. First go in the sugar snap peas, lettuce and spinach. Than our first field planting bed with be the carrots. It all starts filling up pretty fast once the days get longer and warmer sunny days. The first CSA FarmBox is scheduled for May 14th. this season. So we have some time to get ready for y’all. If you are new to the CSA FarmBox program this is a great time to watch some of our videos and prepare yourself for your coming FarmBoxes.
Shareholders, Are you ready to kick this spring CSA season off? Our First pickup is this coming Saturday, May 1st. 11-2pm here on the farm. These beautiful butter lettuces are just waiting to go home with y’all. Remember these early spring butter lettuces are really delicate and just need a little extra care. Once you get these butter lettuces home..and please get the home at once they don’t like the heat of the day once they are cut. You need to go ahead and take them apart and gently wash the leaves and put them in your salad spinner to dry. You can then place the lettuce into a bag and refrigerate. These lettuce don’t need much to dress them and you can easily over power them. So just a little oil and vinegar is all your need.
You will start seeing lots of greens in your shares over the next couple of pickups..tis the season. Mustard greens, collars, kales, spinach and Asian greens along with salad greens. I know after your 2nd. pickup it gets to be a lot and
can seem overwhelming. It is a good time to search out recipes for to try. These are the very first crops of the season and when you eat in season you will find your body responds. These greens will help get your body out of that carb heavy winter food load..they are full of iron so that helps get your blood flowing. So enjoy them while they are here…in another few weeks those FarmBoxes start getting very colorful with those summer crops.
Over the past 20 years of growing one thing remains the same and that is planning is the key to a successful CSA season. There is a lot of prep that goes into farming before the batch of seeds are happily planted in the seed trays. The first I have to do is consult my crop rotation plan which is a 3 year plan I use to move crops around the field to help keep our soil healthy and not having the same family of crops year after year in the same beds keep the pest guessing as well. Next is the crop plan for that years CSA shares. We bounce between how many CSA Shareholder we can supply each year by our crop rotation plan. Some years we can add a few shares more and some years we have to reduce how many shares will have available that season. It is all about moving things around.
Now that we have all the information we know how many seeds and plants we will need to get our season started because we know what our target harvest amounts will be. Our seeds get planted in their cell trays and popped into our germination chamber and into the greenhouse once they come up. Other seeds will get directly planted into the ground. Our first crops to be planting in the early spring are carrots, onions and peas. Once the temperature gets a little more suitable for growing spinach, lettuces and greens get planted our..we will continue planting every week there after until early July. We take a little planting break for a couple of week than back at weekly planting until early October.
With these really cold days and nights here in February my farmhouse turns into my heated greenhouse. I have seed trays going under lights all over the place. In a couple of weeks a lot of those cool season babies can make their way to the protection of the tunnel green house. But they are still too small for those really cold nights. For now I am enjoying walking by my baby heirloom tomato plants and catching the slightest scent of summer coming from them..I am in my element.
Here’s the deal. In all my years farming nothing brings more excitement to our shareholders than the arrival of the tomatoes. It’s true! I have folks start asking about the tomatoes in early May. Something about those fruits that stir people like nothing else when it comes to locally grown goodness. The tomato season begins in July..for all field grown..not greenhouse but ripe on the vine in the bright sunshine here in Middle Tennessee. We start seeing the cherries and small tomatoes first then come the big girls the heirloom slicers that taste like summer..looks like summer and yes..once the tomatoes arrive it is summer! This next pickup is one of those tomato pickups. The first of the season besides the little guys we sent home last pickup. The sun is high in sky and it is heating up which brings on the bountiful harvest of those queens of the farm. Right now I have 3 different varieties of heirloom slicing tomatoes. Black Krim , Purple Cherokee and Mortgage Lifter these are my favorite large heirlooms. I also have some medium size tomatoes growing along with our sweet corn down at my families farm where there is lots of farm land and Mark and I have 2 acres partitioned off for our organic crops that need lot’s of space like the sweet corn and over flow like winter squash or crop rotation when we need to rotate crop beds here every 3 years. We have some lemon boys and canner tomatoes and paste planted there.The sweet corn is still a little bit from being ready to harvest..but that is okay…because there is plenty to love in your FarmBox this next pickup..
It’s been a few weeks now of these spring FarmBox pickups with all the beautiful lettuces and greens that are in season this time of year. There is a reason behind how nature designs what our diets should consist of during the seasons. We are coming out of the carb and protein laden winter months and our bodies need to detoxify and lighten the food stores from the winter. These greens which are the earliest of crops are designed to do just that. If you eat more in season you will find your health improves and connects more with your local environment.
We are in the swing stage as i like to refer to this time of year where we are in-between the two seasons. The closing of spring and the beginning of summer. This is a real confusing time in the field. The spring crops are pumping and they feel the season change long before we humans do which makes them want to produce and set seed. The earlier summer crops wants to wait to grow to make sure the weather is stable..So things speed up and things slow down. It makes planning CSA pickups really difficult for a couple of weeks for sure. But, I want you to know..that is all part of a CSA and what makes these programs so great. You will never be more in touch with what nature is providing in your area than in a CSA. You will also find that your diet ebbs and flows more within those parameters of your FarmBox.
So we are swing into the summer season in the next couple of weeks..what does that mean for your FarmBox? It means you will start seeing some beta carotene (Color)! Again as our diets are meant to be the introduction of texture and colors and sugars..yes sugar crops. Our bodies need these for energy to battle the warmer..much warmer weather. Carrots, beets, squash, peppers will be sharing space in those FarmBoxes. I know you are as ready as I am for those. While these crops are a couple or more weeks away we still have to deal with those spring crops some of which are just now coming into their full glory. Cauliflower’s, broccoli, Kohlrabi, Swiss Chard, mustard greens and asian greens and salad greens are all still on the menu for the next pickup. After this next pickup..we will take a break from the pickups for a couple of weeks and come back when the beta carotene crops are ready to go. The good news includes a more stable bi-weekly pickup schedule. And of yes..flowers will be making showing off a little..so flower bouquets:)
I will leave you with this..You have made it through for the most part of the spring season..You have had tons of salads I know..me too. Just hang in there with me another wild pickup schedule and things will settle down and we will celebrate Heirloom tomato season!!