Thursday, November 17, 2011

Slowing Down

Late fall abundance, pre-frost
 Hard to believe that Thanksgiving is a week from today. Things have simplified considerably, especially after we finally got a killing frost a few weeks back. It was a strange moment before then when we had snow before we had even had a hard frost. We still had sunflowers blooming the morning after the big storm until the next night which was cold, clear and sub-zero. That ended the run for the summer crops. We've been having quite a lot of warm weather since then though and much of what was left in the ground is frost hardy and still chugging away. We are starting to see the end of more and more things though. We just harvested to last of our beets and scallions and there's not much celeriac and cilantro left out there. This weekend we have three Thanksgiving markets which will hopefully take a big dent out of what's left. With our onions, butternut squash and other storage crops it's still a really nice selection and we're hopeful that folks will turn out for these markets and clear us out.
snow capped arugula, morning of October 30th
Some things we still have in abundance. We're tempting fate a little bit with our last planting of carrots. We've only harvested about a quarter of it and guesstimate that we still have about 600 pounds in the ground. The 10 day forecast keeps us patient though. The longer they're in the ground and exposed to cold temps the more sugar they'll store up. Winter carrots are really a treat--so sweet. Washing that many carrots is a daunting task to have on our radar, but it's been going well doing about 200 pounds at a time. When we finally cleared the last of the 'bolero', our late summer variety, there were some real monsters in there. We weighed one in at just over a pound and then had some post carrot washing, slap-happy fun with the camera. 

We got some excellent news this fall from the Mass Dept. of Ag Resources. Back in June we applied for their MEGA grant (matching enterprise grants for agriculture program). It's one of few grants that we've come across that actually seemed like it was designed for us. It is a program to assist new farmers in making capital investments and providing technical and business mentoring. We were selected and have started the process by meeting with our mentors to show them where the farm is now and what improvements we're hoping to make. Eventually we'll work together to plan how best to continue investing in our business and they'll match us dollar for dollar. That's awesome. We're like kids in a candy store: electric fencing, irrigation, spin spreader, wheel track cultivator, potato digger, disc harrow.... We're glad they're going to help us prioritize and decide.
The Van   

One investment we went ahead an made this year was a market truck. It was impossible to get all of our produce, tents, tables, flowers and assorted market necessities into our little pick up come July. We borrowed Steve's minivan (Thanks Northstar Farm!) for a couple of weeks before we bought the Ford cube van pictured above. It was a bit of a desperation move involving a last minute bid on Ebay, but it's proved to be a really solid vehicle and a great investment. It's even diesel, so when we have the time and money we can convert it over to run on waste vegetable oil like our 240D which we converted with my dad several years back. We've always wanted to deliver our veg running on veg, and ideally, get our tractors switched over as well. I know, I step at a time--it's an exciting possibility though.
looking ahead
As we've started to slow down we've been spending a lot of time reviewing the season with an eye towards changes for next year. The picture above is of the lower field, which we did not grow vegetables in this year. We did manage to open up the ground and get a rye/ vetch cover crop planted to start building soil health and vitality for next year. Our hope for a long time now has been to have enough land to use a longer crop rotation. And there it is. A field that was not cropped at all this year ready for next year. It's satisfying to see and has us pondering what mix of crops we want to get into the plan for next season.