Sweet Beet Blog & Newsletters

2016 Outlook & Owls

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]What does a vegetable farmer do in February?As the 40 mph icy gusts scream across the open fields, we’re hunkered down in the farmhouse. The woodlot provides a little shelter from the wind, but our hilltop is one of the windiest spots around. We live outside during the rest of the year, but what do the farmers do in winter? They plan: Huddled around the farmhouse table, we’ve been looking at last year’s successes and failures and thinking about what we’d like to achieve in 2016. For example, we’ve taken a few years off of growing potatoes and winter squash, and we’re looking at how to incorporate them into our crop rotation this year. We’re also looking at how to use our limited acreage more efficiently while continuing our cover-cropping ‘green manure’ practices to keep feeding the soil. We will also be using row cover to organically combat some of the pests that can affect growing. Row cover is a thin, translucent fabric that helps deter flea beetles which make those tiny little holes in some greens. It is also another safeguard from potential deer damage.
We have also been listening to the owls in the woods at night. It was mating season for the owls in January. Year after year the owls have returned to our small patch of woods. They have become our signal to the start of good new things to come for the each year. This year, like every year, we have so much to look forward to, to problem solve, and to revel in. This is what those great horned owls sound like and have to say about this year on the farm.
Hear their calls here: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/sounds/Owl_GreatHorned_Duet.mp3
.[/vc_column_text][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/1″][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]Certify
2016 is the year that we plan to become officially ‘certified’ organic. Now that we are landowners, we can tie the bow on our long-term investment through USDA organic certification. A piece of land has to meet a variety of standards to receive organic status, including 36 months of continuous organic management. We’ll reach that milestone in August, and plan to certify soon thereafter. There’ll be a big party, indeed!
Organic certification is just a label, to be sure, but it’s a label with trust, and it lends credibility and authenticity to our farm and farming practices. Organic certification is a holistic status, one that encompasses a philosophy of soil and land management. The organic farmer is not certified simply by which chemicals she does or does not use; rather, she is encouraged to farm in harmony with nature and her neighbors.
Right now, we are completing farm-system plans, seed lists, field maps, and more in anticipation of this summer’s certification. It’s an exhaustive, but worthwhile, process.

New projects this year include-

Laying hens: We’ve got 50 Black Star, Red Star, Barred Rock, Pearl White Leghorns, and Rhode Island Reds coming in March. (Yes, baby chicks get shipped via U.S. mail, right to the Montrose post office!) They’ll get their start in the barn, and then move to their new home in a mobile ‘eggmobile’ in the woodlot, where they’ll peck at fresh grass, grubs & bugs all summer. We’re building the eggmobile from an old wagon frame and figuring out a plan for keeping the chickens safe from predators. Eggs should start rolling in sometime around September 1.

Strengthening the windbreak: We are planting more trees this year to combat the strong winds. Part of our plan is to create an ‘edible windbreak’ for future crops, including elderberries, hazelnuts, serviceberries, seaberries, highbush cranberries, mulberries, and more. Non-edible trees & shrubs include: hackberries, swamp white oak, red splendor crabapple, quaking aspen, red osier dogwood, black locust, golden willow, Black Hills spruce, et al. We’re purchasing many of these trees through our county soil & water district’s tree program, which provides tree seedlings to everyone at very affordable rates. Check it out for yourself, and plant some trees this spring!

Finishing the pack shed: Last year, we put a lot of work into our veggie wash and pack area in our shed, and we’re planning on finishing the job this year with interior framing & steel; insulation; and some functional doors.

High tunnel: We’re putting up a high tunnel this year, which is a greenhouse-like structure that allows us to grow crops into the fall & winter. This will open a lot of possibilities for extending our season into later markets, and protecting our crops from potential herbicide drift. We are funding this project through a matched-savings initiative in the Land Stewardship Project’s Journeyperson program. Groundwork will start in early spring, and we should have the tunnel up and operating by mid-summer for fall markets.

Members of the Crow River Sustainable Farming Association (CRSFA) met in January to tackle the task of recreating our local food system. Through good discussion over great food, we devised a strategy of marketing the Crow River region as a destination spot for farmers and local food enthusiasts. Imagine the potential of small, locally oriented farms, butchers, mills, processors, restaurants, wholesalers, food hubs, grocers, and more – right here in our region. It’s an inspiring concept, and a notion that is becoming a reality little by little.
The CRSFA is doing good work, and they need more volunteers and voices at the table. To find out more about getting involved, visit www.sfa-mn.org/crow-river

And, of course, we’ve been growing and getting to know little Albin. He’s six weeks old now, and cuter than ever. He’s a happy baby with a couple of happy parents.

We’re firing up the greenhouse in March. CSA registration is open. Spring is soon..[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”1563″ img_link_target=”pretty_photo” img_size=”500 x 500″][vc_column_text]Winter winds on the farm. You can’t see them, but their there!
[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”1571″ img_link_target=”pretty_photo” img_size=”450 x 450″][vc_column_text]Certification Process: Spending a lot of time with spreadsheets to help us organize our seeds, field plans, and crop rotations.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”1564″ img_link_target=”pretty_photo” img_size=”400×400″][vc_column_text] Re-use and Build: The old wagon we are using for the base of the traveling chicken coop has seen better days, but it still has good tires, and ok steering. Perfect to reuse for a chicken coop. To add: floor, walls, roof, and varmint proofing!
[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”1583″ img_link_target=”pretty_photo” img_size=”400 x 400″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Village mentality gives spring a new meaning

Full Speed Ahead!
These past weeks have been wonderful for digging, plowing, and cultivating in the fields! We are enjoying all of the beauties of spring on the farm. The lilacs are like fireworks and the woods canopy is filling in the blue holes of sky each day. Asparagus pops, currents cluster with flowers, and the garlic is stretching above its winter mulch. The days have grown a lot longer, too, which allows us to work later with all of the veggie plants, trees, and seeds we need to get into the ground.

It was an extremely early year to get into the fields. We have not been in the fields this early since 2012 – making it a great spring! Though it was dry for a good chunk early May, it has been wide-open for planting, and the soil is a dream to work in. The winter’s light snow cover, in addition to the windy spring and below-average rainfall, caused the soils to dry up sooner than usual. Snow was off of the fields in late March. It also helps that our farmland sits on the highest land in the surrounding area – a little hilltop of sorts. We get hit with the wind but the water runs away and does not gather!

Also with this early spring meant that transplanting started earlier. We started transplanting the last week in April, which is absolutely ideal, time-wise. Crops planted included: Brussels sprouts, spring broccoli, cabbage, herbs, onions, kale, fennel, napa cabbage, bok choi, and more. Besides the cool-season transplants, we have also seeded all cool-season seeds including: carrots, peas, beets, radishes, arugula, turnips, mustard greens. We also started a permanent perennial herb garden next to the barn, which we look forward to enjoying for years to come. Almost everything is out of the greenhouse- with exception of the peppers, eggplants, and some succession rounds of cucumbers, zucchini, and the fall brassica seedlings that we will get in late June.

Perennials and Teamwork
Nick and I have become experts in digging holes – good, wide, saucer holes for many perennial food varieties and fruit trees. In all this spring, we’ve planted about 50 apple trees, about 20 cherries (mostly trees, some bushes), six pear trees, 30-some rhubarb plants, and even some table grapes. The early spring has given us plenty of time to get many perennials in the ground. The reward in the years to come will be beautiful and tasty! It’s great to be able to think long-term now that we own our own piece of land.

We couldn’t have done all the work without the help of some wonderful CSA members. Thank you to Kelly, Addie, Mitch, Allie, and Chase, who all pitched in on a nice Saturday afternoon in April. Everyone worked together and worked so well as a team! It took about two hours to plant, water and rake all of the new bare-root apple tree varieties. Nick and I spent parts of the winter designing the orchard, choosing varieties, rootstocks, pollinating varieties, location, etc. Apple-wise, we have about 10 different varieties- Zestar!, Liberty, Sweet Sixteen, Haralson, Snow Sweet, Keepsake, Frost Bite, Northern Spy, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Centennial Crabapple (edible) and Chestnut Crab (edible). Varieties range from early, mid, late season, and edible pollinating crab apples. We chose mostly trees that have a Geneva-type rootstock, which has been developed for disease-resistant crops and are hardy to our climate. This is a big help in our goal to cultivate an organic orchard without use of sprays. We look forward to beautiful springs of fruit-tree blossoms in the healthy orchard.

Lakewinds Organic Field Fund
In March, we received a generous grant from Lakewinds Co-op. We are building up our farm and establishing our place as a farming operation- now more then ever. We spent the later part of January putting together a grant proposal for our future wash-pack- and storage shed that we have been building this May. There is an existing pole barn that we are converting into our packing and washing area on the farm. We poured a concrete slab with floor drains last week - it was a barn raising event! Our friends and family came to help out on a Saturday morning to pour 16 yards of concrete! It was a fun time. Thanks to the hardworking amazing friends who came and helped- we couldn't have done it without you! We are currently moving/rebuilding our walk-in cooler to this new space just in time for the first harvest come early June! Working members Claire and Paige deconstructed it with me and got it loaded for its short distance journey to the freshly poured concrete slab it will sit on top of! As the summer goes on we will continue to work on the space with framing some walls and getting washable siding on the walls. It’s a lot of work but also very exciting, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the co-op’s generous support. Thank you, Lakewinds! You can learn more about the Organic Field Fund at this link:http://www.lakewinds.com/community/loff/

Windy Maintenance
Over three years ago, on the day we day we finished the greenhouse, a fellow farmer told us, “Now you’ll have something to think about every time the wind blows.”
Most windy days, I cringe at the heavy gusts that I can feel blow against the windows. Even though I am comfortably set up for the night, reading and ready for sleep, I can't help but think about the greenhouse. How it is holding up? The first thing I do after a major wind storm is check the greenhouse for loose screws or potential damage we may have gotten after the storm, making sure that the structure will maintain its strength for the next round of storms or winds. This past April has been consistently windy – strong, gusty winds. One Sunday’s gusts were strong enough that just enough screws popped loose to send the north wall flapping off its sidewall. We quickly buttoned up the damage and put a temporary ‘band aid’ on the plastic with the help of Nick’s dad, Paul. We spent the following Saturday (a beautiful, calm day) totally replacing the side rail boards and tightening up the plastic. It’s amazing how much of a difference that made. The greenhouse is good as new. And we sleep better because of it, too.

Our Soil, Our Home
As many of you know, this is the first year that we’re growing veggie crops on our new land. So far, it has been beautiful soil to work in. It’s deep and loose, and lighter than the soil at our previous farm, which is nice for hand-planting and getting the crops rooted. The best news for us is that the light soil requires little if any rototilling. This is beneficial in so many ways, because the roto-tiller can really deteriorate the soil’s structure with the way it churns the soil. We may just till the top couple inches to get a good seed bed for some of the planting.

Every night as Nick and I are spending the last couple hours of sun putting together the farm, I simply smile. It is such a great feeling to look over and see the house. For the past five years, home has been just some place where we slept and ate, while we farmed at a different location. Now, we both feel the satisfaction of living where we farm. It’s simple, but incredible. We find ourselves working with the sun until it tucks in – satisfied and fulfilled.

From Microbiology to Mentors

[vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]The weather has warmed, and what a welcome change. Doesn’t this spring feeling just put an extra kick in your step and another feather in your cap!? Hope you’ve been able to enjoy the ‘long’ days and the nice temperatures.
Spring started on the farm last week, too. We fired up the greenhouse, and the hot water system is warming up the floor and incubation chamber. We use a hot-water boiler system to provide in-floor heating for our greenhouse from March through May. It creates a much more efficient and predictable heating environment for our plants during the often-tumultuous spring weather patterns. A hot water heater that we salvaged from Craigslist provides heat for the antifreeze-and-water mixture that heats the greenhouse via 600 feet of PEX tubing in the floor. This keeps the structure at 60 to 70 degrees – beautiful! Amelia started seeding herbs and celery last Friday, the 6th. Today we start onions! Seeds are in germination chamber and will be sprouting over the next week.

Rail Travel to La Crosse, WI for MOSES
I wrote part of this newsletter from the seat of the upper level of the Boomer Car on Amtrak bound for La Crosse, WI. The train takes a winding, but direct path right through the Mississippi River bluffs to La Crosse, and then onto Chicago. Last time I was on the train I was 10 years old visiting family in Chicago. My grandfather was a car distributor for Burlington Northern in St. Paul from the 1960’s through the early 1990’s, so I have always had this romantic vision of trains. They reopened Union Depot in St. Paul this past year, and it is a beautiful place to see – it’s funny to think that this timeless piece of architecture has been closed for all these years! The Amtrak is a great way to travel, and not cramped by any means.
I went to La Crosse to attend the Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) conference. This annual event is a great opportunity to learn and become inspired about the next steps and directions for our farm. February is the time of year when we set goals, and each year we keep adding onto what we’d like to see change. At least one of us attends the MOSES conference each year for the past six years – it’s a great place to connect and re-connect with our farming peers and mentors and get ready for spring!

Elaine Ingham
Thursday at the MOSES conference, I spent a eight-hour day in a soil biology workshop with research soil scientist Elaine Ingham, who has spent her much of her life studying soil microbiology and the living soil. Growing on new soil on our farm this summer, I knew this discussion would be more valuable than ever, and help transition our farm’s soil to healthy soil for organic growing. Our goal is to get the soil biology balanced so we can have fertile, healthy, and independent soil. Overall, soil biology everywhere has been thrown out of whack because of conventional farming practices. I knew that our farm’s soil has been managed conventionally– with synthetic inputs, sprays and herbicides, which kill all of the soil’s natural bacteria and fungi- good and bad. Elaine Ingham was a great teacher and a definite rabble rouser in the soil biology word. She is a soil biologist who views soil as a living organism and with our farming practices can have our soil living and independent within this year!
So, what’s the difference between soil and dirt? Soil has living organisms and life! Dirt has no life in it. Most of what you see when you’re driving through the countryside is dirt. We’re working to create more soil! Elaine familiarized me with these living organisms and even with what they look like under a microscope! I can identify certain fungi and bacteria under the microscope, along with nematodes and microscopic organisms! Ingham says that really the only thing that we want to add to soil is healthy compost with the correct ratios of bacteria and fungi. She went through describing tilling practices over many years, along with herbicides killing off bacteria, good and bad. We can return our soils to health that is need for our organic practices! From the large farmer to the small home gardener, we are told by many that we need to add nutrients to our soils. We talked about the proper way to make compost, what good and bad compost looks like, productive rations of bacteria and fungi in our soil, and much more. There is a complex food web of fungi, bacteria, nematodes, protozoa that are part of a system which can ultimately create soils that promote healthy plant root and plant systems without any other amendments. Ingham’s work is amazing and for any of you who are interested, I recommend you check out the link below for a starting place.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2H60ritjag Listen to it while you make dinner with your veggies some night. You may understand some thoughts and life, your farmers, are trying to build in our soils! This is good for everyone to better understand soil!

Aside from soil science, I also investigated and studied case studies from other farmers for solar energy. Acquiring and running on solar energy is one of our “someday” goals. It would be a big-buck project, initially, for us, but we know that we want our “someday” to be soon. I also spent time at a session to find out more information about the Food Safety Modernization Act bill which will be finalized this fall, and will affect us as farmers. We’ll spend more time discussing that bill in future newsletters. Finally, I also spent time at a workshop examining pack shed design. This is important because Nick and I are planning construction of a new washing and packing area at our farm, and are looking for all the input we can get. We plan on sharing our design and construction logic with other farmers in the future.

Congratulations to our farming mentors
Our mentors & friends – MOSES organic farmers of the year, Greg and Mary Reynolds!
The MOSES organic farmers of the year are our friends Greg and Mary Reynolds from Delano. They are a very humble and deserving couple who are very progressive thinkers in our local food and farming community. Greg is currently the moving force in the effort to adapt local seeds and educating others to do so. This is a huge recognition in our Midwest region. Greg teaches by doing and I am lucky to have been able to work alongside him at his farm for multiple years. Greg believed in me as an aspiring farmer, at a time in my beginning farming where many other farming elders were more critical than wanting to teach. As an independent thinking woman newly transplanted to a traditional farming community, this is something that I really needed. During my interview for the job, I gave Greg a two-page list of everything that I wanted to learn on his farm, and he said “We can do that.” Greg is an amazing teacher, farmer, and friend. Thanks, Greg and Mary, for all of your work! See more here: http://www.agriview.com/news/crop/farmers-cultivate-seeds-soil-with-eye-on-climate-change/article_5b7bf062-04a8-5d98-af5b-ef161917b902.html[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”1145″ img_link_target=”pretty_photo” img_size=”300×300″][vc_single_image image=”1144″ img_link_target=”pretty_photo” img_size=”300×300″][vc_single_image image=”1133″ img_link_target=”pretty_photo” img_size=”300×300″][vc_single_image image=”1139″ img_link_target=”pretty_photo” img_size=”300×300″][vc_single_image image=”1137″ img_link_target=”pretty_photo” img_size=”300×300″][vc_single_image image=”1148″ img_link_target=”pretty_photo” img_size=”300×300″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

April Photo Journal Report

Wally’s Field

We planted alfalfa, wheat, and mammoth red clover yesterday before the sun went down- just in time for a nice soaking from the next days of rain. Soon it will sprout and be a blanket of green! Nick is smoothing out the wheat seed in the grain drill(left phot0. Alfalfa seed in grain drill (right photo). This is the first planting that we planted on our new home farm! The soil will love it.


Vegetable Fields

The couple week have been great for drying out the soil. The winter rye cover crop that we planted last fall is making the fields look green! (pic below) The vegetable field is still to wet to work with the tractors. Our test to see if the fields are ready to work – pick up a hand full of soils and squeeze and if it stays clumped up in a ball it is still to wet to work (see photo below)….but it is close! Garlic and Rhubarb is poking it head out of the ground!



Seedlings in the greenhouse are ready to get out into the fields. Still seeding weekly rounds of head lettuce, succession planting of kohlrabi, Swiss chard, and . We are starting to re-pot peppers, tomatoes and eggplant into larger cell trays!  The  seed trays are letting us know that winter is over.



Lambing in Barn

Happy mothers and babies in the barn. Most of births take place in early morning hours, rise and shine…all the new life. A lot of little boy rams this time around!

Shop Tune-ups

Getting the super C tuned up. We moved around the tractor tires for our bedding system! Getting greasy in the machine shop. The biggest learning curve for us on the farm- tractor engines and everything related, but we are getting it all worked out. Field ready! Our old sugar beet seeder is getting set up for three rows per bed.

Mark your Calender for Scheduled Farm Events

Saturday, May 17 Member May Social! On Farm Come meet the Farmers and get a tour of your farm! See the tractors, lambs greenhouse, and  find transplants for purchase. 9:00am to 12:00pm. We would love to meet you talk about the season up ahead. If you have any questions you would like to ask us in person this is a great time. There will be lambs to visit and see, we will give you a tour of the field and greenhouse to! We look forward to sharing the adventure in growing food. You are making the local food movement happen! Come for a part of it or make a day of it. Saturday, May 31, 2014Member Work Day/Potluck-Picnic- On Farm – 10:00am till 1:00pm ( Farm work/Lunch)

Bring a lunch, and blanket to picnic with others! Field work Starts at 9:00am, Lunch around noon. Bring good work shoes, garden gloves, and proper attire for the weather. Note weather permitting.

Thursdays in May- Transplant Sale Buffalo Online Farmers Market 4:00pm-7:00pm.  Stay tuned for more info.

Saturday, June 28, 2014 Member Work Day/Potluck Picnic- On Farm – 10:00am till 1:00pm ( Farm work/Lunch)Bring a lunch, and blanket to picnic with others! Field work Starts at 9:00am, Lunch around noon. Bring good work shoes, garden gloves, and proper attire for the weather. Note weather permitting.

Saturday, June 26, 2014 Member Work Day/Potluck PicnicOn Farm – 10:00am till 1:00pm ( Farm work/Lunch) Bring a lunch, and blanket to picnic with others! Field work Starts at 9:00am, Lunch around noon. Bring good work shoes, garden gloves, and proper attire for the weather. Note weather permitting.

Sunday July, 27, 2014 Farm Beginnings Tour Date- Organized by Land Stewardship Project- Time of Day TBA

Saturday, August 23, 2014 Member Work Day/Picnic at the Farm! 10:00am till 1:00pm ( Farm work/Lunch)Bring a lunch, and blanket to picnic with others! Field work Starts at 9:00am, Lunch around noon. Bring good work shoes, garden gloves, and proper attire for the weather. Note weather permitting.

Sunday, Sept 26, 2014- Member Fall Social- Time TBA


Spring Time = Peace Signs

We dug out the snow drift that surrounded the greenhouse  a couple weeks ago.  It felt so good to get inside the greenhouse and see the large back pile of potting soil that we unload back in November, still there right where we left it. By the end of May, the pile of soil will have be gone  replaced with an carpet of green transplants blanketing the floor of the greenhouse. The greenhouse was 70 degrees when we walked in on that -2 degree day.  We have turned on the boiler system to get it warming up and running smooth for keep the sprouts at comfortable 70 -75 degrees.  We have started the  onions, celery, herbs, and some flowers things by  the beginning of next week. We usually start the first week in march, but with temps getting so low at night we waited a week to get rock and rolling.

This last week so much snow has melted. I would say that most of the fields in the area are half covered with snow and the rick black soil is warming up fast and melting the surrounding soil. Mud is everywhere.  Mud boots are my daily fashion, they go everywhere with me. The lambs from the Feburary lambing have a spring in jumps and play all day long with each other.

Long term Planning Update at Wally’s Farm

Wally’s farm has been treating us well over the winter months. No big surprises or anything breaking down in this cooler weather. Planning on putting a new roof on in the spring and insulating the attic and the 2nd floor once the weather starts getting its act together.

We printed off maps of the 10 acre property to help us do some future planning. Maps have been sprawled out all over the living room floor the past couple weeks.  Nick and I both love maps.  From our  geography and architecture backgrounds, we  enjoy investigation and research work of mapping.  As farmers we plan  and using it as visual aid. We are brainstorming how existing buildings will be used for specific farm tasks, where perennial fruit, veggies, shrubs and trees  will be planted, where is the best place to have field roads in the annual vegetable fields,  where future irrigation well will be located, where we need utilities( such as electricity and water), future hoop house for season extension, location for wind break, ect.  It is a long list of things, but we know that it is important to think through what we envision for this farm to help us make smart decisions during  the process.  It will take many and be costly to do all these things.
The 5 acres of north section has about 4 acres of mid-late maple and oak growth  that provides shade but is still somewhat thinned out on the  north west  corner of the property. Winter winds find their way to rumble through  the rest of the acreage. We will be  adding a little over 100 trees to the windbreak including: white pine, white spruce, and swamp white oak.  There are shade tolerant trees and shrubs that we will be dispersing throughout the existing maples and that will  create more levels of a canopy and diversity. We will be planting hazelnut trees, elderberries, dogwood, stag horn sumac,  and juneberries. Most of the following are all edible plants too! Which is exciting to think about being able to forage for those in the wooded landscape once they are mature. It isrealistic to know that the wildlife will get to them with more easy and convenience and enjoy them probably even more than us, good old biodiversity. On the north east slope is up for consideration as the location of a small apple orchard (50-60trees) or perennial fruit.  We are going to see a season through before we plant in all of the trees. We need to see how much shade is the other neighboring trees and outbuilding effect the north slope location. We have not seen the spring and summer through at Wally’s, see what patches of plants that will pop up here and there. The other option would be on  the south half section of the farm south on the west side of the barn.  Click on the maps on the right to view full size images of ariel photos of the farm that have concept idea markings.

The south side has older out building including a the barn and old livestock shack, both at one time had electricity and water, it is not been used for years. We will be doing some work in early summer to get it back up and running. There are old fuses that we will replace with junction boxes, along with many other little surprises we are sure off.  We see the older live stock building being revitalizing for use as the harvest and pack shed.  Farm members will be able to pick up their shares up here when we move the vegetable fields over to the farm in 2015. South of the pack shed we will be building hoop houses or high tunnels for season extension and growing into the winter months.  Our goal is to grow primarily greens (spinach, tatsoi, kale, ect) for those cold winter months for as long as we can ! Considering there is access to water electricity,  the barn would act as a wind break from the north west winds, we figure this would be a great place for the hoop houses.  We will have about 4 acres in annual vegetable production  for a majority of the southern section.  We will be planting alfalfa and clover in the future vegetable fields and then cut it and disc it into the soil. Along the western edge of the south section property line we will be planting small shrubs and trees to separated the neighboring fields.

Caring on Traditions: Barn Quilts

Holly and I have been working together on design a barn quilt over the past month. Admiring the culture of quilt blocks throughout our county road travels, we wanted to add to the charm, and make own for  the big red barn at the Neaton farm. We both have an appreciation for quilting. My grandmother taught me how to quilt when I was a teenager. Together we  made a large quilt for me to take away to college.  We did all that work together that summer before I left for school. Holly loves enjoys quilting also. The project is more of a layout and construction then anything after the design is choose. I enjoy it immensely, it is the design build/geometry lover in me!

We first choose a block design. We choose the kayak design for its simple shapes that made a rounded layered looking ring- simple beautiful, yet Looking for particular shapes that may symbolize certain aspects of our farm, we found the kayak versatile and beautiful. Our color palette is originating for the smaller fertility symbol that Nick’s grandmother, Jackie, designed and crafted  over 20 years ago. We are painting two large 4×8 3/4″ think exterior plywood boards for our sturdy canvas. We are priming the boards and ready to finalize the design to start translating to the larger scale. We will show you the final process. We will be  making another barn quilt for  Wally’s new farm next winter, and hopefully by then we will have the process down. We would love to see other barn quilts throughout Wright County! If you have any particular designs you would like for a barn quilt at our new farm, let us know!

Marching Forward

We will be in the greenhouse regularly. If you are in the neighborhood feel free to stop by and catch some warm temps in the greenhouse and seed with us. If you come, mud boots and sunglasses are something that make the experience more comfortable!  Holly will be doing another round of  lambing again in April, around the 10th, it is quite a site to see!  We are planning a get to know your farm event in the second weekend of May. Keep you up to date on all of the future food! We have a hand full of shares still left. You can sign up.

We are so excited that the farm is alive with green again. So long winter hello spring!

Farmer Amelia

Wally’s Farm

In November, 2013, we bought a farm that we’re calling “Wally’s Farm,” named after the man who farmed and raised his family at this place.  Wally lived here from around 1941 until he passed away in spring 2013.  He took great pride in this farm, and it shows.

We weren’t exactly looking to purchase a farm this past fall.  That is to say, we knew we wanted to buy a farm someday, but we didn’t think that day would be this soon, thought we had our eyes peeled and ears to the ground for the right place.  Discouraged with high land prices in our area and less-than-ideal farms in our price range, we thought land ownership was in our distant future.

But, as luck may have it, we met Wally’s family, who were looking to sell the farm to the right buyers.  After a few meetings with them, and some long conversations at home, we sealed the deal just before Thanksgiving. It was a process that was meant to be.

Wally’s Farm is a ten-acre parcel carved out of a larger 120-acre piece that his family still owns.  There is a big, old farmhouse (built in 1910) with yellow siding that sits on the edge of a three-acre woodlot of mature hardwoods and a few evergreens.  We plan to start planting saplings this spring to add some new life to the woods.  It’s rare in this area to find a farm that still has a woodlot, and we feel fortunate for the windbreak, especially during this cold and blustery winter.
The house is a large, five-bedroom structure in great shape.  We went right to work after closing on the home, tearing up carpet, re-doing floors, painting, and removing wallpaper.  We are quickly making it a home again, and we have a lot of plans for future projects.

Besides the house, there are two big, nice sheds on the north side of the road, both built in the 1970s, which is pretty new for most farms around here.  They are in good shape, too.

A gravel township road divides our farm in half, with five acres on either side of the road.  It is a low-traffic road, and it doesn’t seem like it will be much of an inconvenience.

The south side of the road will be home to our vegetable fields and packing and washing facilities.  We have four-plus tillable acres of a clay-loam mix soil.  It sits on high ground and gently slopes southward.  It’s good, productive, Woodland Township soil – some of the most fertile land in the area.  Our plan is to plant a mixture of grasses and legumes this spring to feed the soil for a year before beginning vegetable production in 2015.  In the meantime, we will continue to grow at Nick’s parents’ farm four miles east of Wally’s place.

The south side of the road also has a wide lean-to, which faces south, into the field.  We plan on using this as a packing shed, where we wash and package the vegetables.  We may also move our  walk-in cooler in this building.  Next to that, there stands a large white barn, to which we still haven’t assigned a purpose. The barn has about 20 dairy stations, with a metal roof, and has been taken care of over its life.  Maybe we’ll get dairy cows – who knows!

More than anything, this farm gives us a sense of permanence.  While we have been farming in the area for five years, we were growing on rented land.  We have been moving our life around in boxes every other year or so so we could make our farming goals work. Owning land allows us a greater sense responsibility, of meaning, and of stewardship for that land and the surrounding community.  We feel incredibly fortunate and we are so excited to carry on the farming tradition at Wally’s place. Thank you to all of you who were part of the process and believed that this farm was meant to become the next chapter for families adventures in growing food for our community.