The Law of Inertia (week 3, 4 & 5)

Posted on 15 Jun 2017

Hi Friends & Farm-ily,

We hope this newsletter finds you all doing well!  Thank you to all our amazing CSA-ers for your support,  encouragement and positive feedback in the Facebook group, in-person and through emails.  It’s been awesome to see what everyone has been making with all the bounty the past month!  

It’s been a busy couple of weeks on the farm.  Every day seems to be more productive than the last and we find ourselves working 12-16 hour days 7 days a week (though we’re trying to take a half day to rest if we can).    We’re not the only ones though!  Many of the farmers we follow on instagram and our fellow farmer friends are all in the same boat.  These are some long almost-summer days for us farmers.  When the to-do list is growing ever so long with irrigating, trellising, endless mowing, preparing new ground (fertilizing/amending, tilling, making beds etc), seeding new successions of crops, planting all the things, weeding all the things and of course, harvesting all the things!  As the to-do lists grow we feel better (mentally and physically) than we have compared to any other season.

Although the work days are still long, we do feel like we’re moving in the right direction this year as far as workload goes by dialing in our systems, building infrastructure and investing in tools that help to get the job done and ultimately improve our quality of life!  I thought it would be fun to share some of the improvements we’ve made over the last few years as we’re pretty excited about how they are all coming together for us this season!

New farmer to farmer podcast:  Click on the link to give it a listen: http://www.farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/workinghands

First, we are REALLY excited to share that we had the incredible opportunity to be invited back for round 2 of the Farmer to Farmer Podcast with Chris Blanchard.  This episode(#123) takes place 18-months after our first interview (#40) and we discuss many of the big changes we have made on our farm.  We believe the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is making a huge difference in the lives of farmers and consumers. Click on the link to give it a listen: http://www.farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/workinghands or find it on iTunes as episode #123!

From the Farmer to Farmer website, “In this episode, we revisit Jess and Brian Powers at Working Hands Farm, eighteen months after they were first on the show on Episode 040. Since the fall of 2015, Working Hands Farm has gone through some significant changes and phenomenal growth on their property in Hillsboro, Oregon, just outside of Portland on the north end of the Willamette Valley.

Jess and Brian have gone from raising four acres of vegetables in 2015 to eight acres now, and have expanded their on-farm CSA to cover 48 weeks of the year – all with just the two of them, plus the recent addition of a part-time employee. In the past year, they’ve gotten out of the livestock business to focus on their produce business, standardized their farming operations, and made significant investments in machinery and infrastructure on their farm. We dig into all of these changes and the rationale behind them, as well as how the changes are helping them to face the extreme wet-weather challenges they’ve faced this year.

When I interviewed Jess and Brian the first time, it was clear that although they were working insane hours, they found ways to emphasize and build their personal relationship, so we also come back to how they’ve continued to nurture their love for each other alongside of their professional and business development.”

The rainy and cooler Spring has been awesome for growing lots of spinach and broccoli, other summer loving crops like the summer squash are growing slowly but surely!

We’ve made some transitions, investments and adjustments on the farm the last few years that have helped to make farming more sustainable (over the long haul) for 2 people.  Having the red pole barn has been one of the best investments we’ve made on the farm.  It’s been a dream of ours to have our wash/pack, cooler, pick up and winter storage area in the same building and now that we have it we are asking ourselves how we ever managed without it?!  It improves efficiencies ten fold, gets the produce chilled quicker and provides a nice area for our awesome members to pick up in!  Having a building with concrete floors means we can use things like pallet jacks and carts with wheels to move things too and fro which has made the lifting part of harvesting a lot less tiresome.  Before when we were moving produce from the cooler (in the middle of the farm) to the front pick up area and back and it was easily 8+ times that we were lifting all the produce… now it’s just a fraction of that amount and most of the time it’s being rolled on a cart!   (*Farmers could be called “professional material handlers”)

Weed management.  “Weed the soil, not the crop”  We’re really dialing in systems on the farm that get us ahead of the weeds rather than swimming in them… weed management is one of the number one things on the farm… without it there is crop loss and damage, harvest gets slowed down and so does washing and packing.  This season we’ve been getting a lot of weeding done with our Kult Kress Finger Weeder Cultivating implement (you can see it in action here:  https://www.instagram.com/p/BUzUJjHlYFN/?taken-by=workinghandsfarm)  The idea is you operate the Finger Weeder about 5-7 days after transplanting before you can ever really see the weeds (you might not be able to see them but they are there!).  The beauty of this implement is that the fingers go right around the plant and get all the “in-row” weeds.  Each cultivating sweep has it’s own gauge wheel which is awesome for our more “hilly land” (not perfectly flat) and it moderates it’s own depth as you fly down the row.  We’re still getting used to it and trusting ourselves (and our eyes) but so far the results have been amazing.  The crops have really never looked so clean.. which means harvest goes quicker (you don’t need to pick through the weeds so to say..), the plants are healthier because they are no longer competing with the vigorous roots of weeds and ultimately the farm is a much more productive place!    There’s still plenty of other things to do by hand but we feel really grateful for the small farm community that we have and all their helpful feedback when it comes to making big investments like these!

Finger weeded vs. not yet weeded, prepping new beds for the next succession of crops, arugula on point!

We’re also spending less time  “hand planting”… and by less I mean we’re no longer planting 8 acres by hand with the stand and plant !  (See video here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BGqUeMxlhgA/?taken-by=workinghandsfarm)  I honestly have no idea how we even physically accomplished this but we did!  Planting the whole farm by hand last year was not the plan… but when plans change you reroute and figure it out.  Way back in the fall of 2015 we decided to finance a John Deere 5075e (they have a great program for farmers at 0% interest for 5 years).  One of the perks of these tractors is that it comes with a creeper gear that would able us to use a “waterwheel tranplanter” on the back that dibbles the hole and fills it with water which means less stress for the newly transplanted crops and the farmers knees/backs.  It is “slower” than hand transplanting but less taxing on the body which means you can plant for hours without feeling totally pooped so ultimately you can get twice as much done!  (here’s a video of Becca and I planting corn: https://www.instagram.com/p/BT5E0LilRFc/?taken-by=workinghandsfarm)  The new tractor arrived last spring but the creeper gear was not installed.  We patiently waited and after almost a year of waiting for John Deere to produce a creeper gear as was promised, for our 5075E they decided to not produce one. It was a pretty frustrating process but it also provided us with a great opportunity to start over.  Last winter we found a tractor that would better suit our needs through John Deere WITH a creeper and it’s been a total champ this season… especially in such a rainy and dreary spring.

Row spacing!  Besides having the creeper gear we were able to get skinnier Ag. tires on the new tractor which has allowed us to have uniform bed spacing that matches all the other equipment (finger weeder, bed shaper etc)… meaning the spacing between rows, the bed shoulders, the pathways are all the same and you can run the transplanter or cultivator down it with ease (without tinkering or adjusting too many things).  There’s less guessing and less room for error when everything is always set up at the same spacing!  It’s a small but very amazing detail that is makes farming super efficient!

First harvest of carrots, making uniform beds with Brian’s custom bed shaper and the garlic is almost ready to harvest!  

Brian’s bed shaper.  For those of you who don’t know this about Brian – he is a tinkerer at heart.  He has a mind for finding solutions and has a natural ability when it comes to building, constructing, and fabricating.  He is very mechanically inclined.  He is self taught (farming has a way of making you learn a lot about yourself) and it’s been awesome to see him learn and grow over the years.  Every year when it comes to projects to move things forward or make things a little bit easier for us he does it with more and more ease.  Less doubt and more trust!  When our tiller was acting funny last summer he decided to fix it up and turn it into a “bed shaper.”  The bed shaper provides us with a perfectly flat 48” raised bed by listing the sides 4-6” – this helps with drainage and soil moisture.  It also gives us a flat surface that allows us to plant, seed and cultivate more precisely.  It has a roller that increases capillarity in the soil so it holds onto more moisture.

Our first part-time employee!  As we’re getting our systems dialed in, this Spring we took the plunge and hired our first ever employee back in March!  Becca is a native oregonian who has spent the last two years working on CSA farm in Eugene.  She started with Rogue Corps and has now found her way to Working Hands as our very first crew member.  Community and health are really important to her.  She’s been working part-time on the farm a couple days a week and we’re excited to achieve a bit more balance with an extra set of hands.  We’ve accomplished a lot on the days that she’s here… irrigating, transplanting on the waterwheel, harvesting, hand weeding, harvest bin washing and tray filling for seedlings.  It’s amazing how much faster things can get done when there are 3 sets of hardworking hands.  Beyond that, we’ve loved having an employee here as it’s helped us to stay focused and come up with a more detailed weekly/daily plan which has led to us being really productive!  It’s nice to have someone around with new and refreshing energy and who is super excited to be farming.

Overwintered walla walla onions make for a nice treat in spring, scapes!, and our next round of brassica crops!

So, as the to-do lists grow we feel better than we have compared to any other season.  The systems, efficiencies, tools and know-how are truly helping us to work smarter and not harder.  Farming is real physical and mental work and the systems and efficiencies we have the more time there is for a better work-life balance.  Now we just have to figure out how to get away from a day or two (it’s been 4 years since Brian and I have left the farm together for more than 12 hours)  😉  But with all things in this giant farming puzzle I have no doubt that we will figure it out…

And perhaps our largest change and decision we made this season was our decision to get out of the livestock business to focus on our produce business.  There was a multitude of reasons for the decision that we made for our farm…  our limited amount of land was a big one (with the herd growing and thriving.. we would have doubled the herd this spring with all the calves set to arrive) – especially since it floods annually (in a wet winter season like this past winter the pasture was flooded from Thanksgiving until March) which means less food early on for the livestock.  From the perspective of veggie growing, we are in our 5th season on this piece of land and in order to grow organically in a sustainable way and to practice good crop rotation (to keep bug, disease pressure down etc) with our vegetable crops we needed more space to let areas of our farm “rest” or lay “fallow” while breaking new ground elsewhere.  We are also working towards achieving a better work-life balance and it’s really important to us at this point in our life to have more opportunities to spend with family and friends (it’s been farm, farm, farm the last 8 years…) and focusing our efforts on one profit center on the farm made the most sense to us especially with the interest and demand in our main season and winter CSA.  We deeply miss the animals but feel as though the timing was right to make this decision.. we found an amazing farm in Washington that purchased all of our livestock and raises animals in a way that is congruent with our beliefs and values.  So now they have a 1,000 acres or so roam and graze and we have new fields that we are able to rotate our veggies into.  We encourage our customers that have supported these small aspects of our farm to check out Cascade Farm cascadefarm.com (their current model is shipping orders via fedex).

The next round of carrots (3,000 ft) are up after flame weeding, celery in the sun and trying our hand at dry beans for the Winter CSA!

We’ve got some big pushes ahead!  This past weekend Brian & I planted out an acre of winter squash, carving pumpkins and decorative gourds.  This coming weekend we’re planting out our melons, lettuces, kale, a third succession of sweet corn, broccoli, summer squash & cukes.  We’re also beginning to seed, plant and prepare for our Fall and winter crops and are even planting our first winter crops of the season – brussel sprouts, kalettes and leeks!   So, keep your eyes open for details about our 2017/2018 Winter CSA in the coming month!

The goats!  We’ve been keeping those goat-ers busy mowing our lawn and chomping back some invasive himalayan blackberry.  They’ll be making their way up to the front of the property soon enough!

Enjoy the bounty!

 

With kind regards,

your farmers

Jess & Brian

dirty hands, clean hearts

Bringing the Bounty Home (csa week 2)

Posted on 25 May 2017




“Jess taught me that cooking and eating isn’t something you do after all the other needs of the day are met it is something that you do so you can meet the needs of the day. She taught me that eating well is a matter of priorities.” – Farmer B

Hi Friends & Farm-ily

CSA Week 2 is here and over the next few weeks everyone will be getting into the groove of the CSA (including your farmers!)  Making more home cooked meals, feeling more confident in the kitchen, being open to trying new veggies!  We decided to keep the encouragement high with some helpful tips for CSA success.  These aren’t all the ways to be successful as each person’s journey is there own but eating well, preparing food at home, being conscious of our own food journeys, and staying inspired and curious about nourishing ourselves, our families & friends is what it’s all about.  If anything, reading through these tips should encourage you and make you feel great about the choice to sign up for CSA and be a part of your local farm!

Reminder: Second CSA payments are due by June 1st (in one week!) Check out the email ‘Reminder: Final CSA Payment Due by June 1st’ for more details!  

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Newsletter & Recipes.  First and foremost, read the weekly newsletter and emailed recipe pdf each week!  There are lots of farm updates that you don’t want to miss out on.. as well as some tried and true recipes and suggestions from your farmers on how to prepare your weekly share.  We love growing the food but it’s just as important to us that you are eating and preparing the food and therefore have a life changing and positive experience!

Egg cartons, Berry Boxes, Rubberbands etc.  For all those who purchase WHF eggs, please save up your WHF egg cartons for us and return them (WHF egg cartons ONLY please). We also reuse all berry boxes (1/2 pints, pints, quarts) and rubberbands so you can return those as well.  We are a thoughtful farm in terms of minimizing waste and reuse what we can.  There will be a place to return these items by the sign-in sheet.

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The first tomato sighting, the peppers before they were planted last week and this week’s stand of arugula!  

Meal planning.  This is a great way to utilize each week’s bounty.  For those who have their meals planned each week you know that planning goes as follow: collect your CSA, pick recipes, make a list and then purchase complimentary groceries.  With CSA the idea is to start planning your meals after you pick up your share.  If meal planning seems overwhelming, start with just a few planned meals a week.  This change in the process means cooking with what’s in season, and it’s a good habit to get into to eating better and feeling great. Pro tip from farmer Brian: Try preparing a meal that will provide sufficient left overs the night before you collect your CSA.  This way when you arrive home with your share you have time thoughtfully break everything down and store it without anyone getting hangry!

How to stride ahead.   This is a great video showing the simplicity and ease of processing veggies when first bringing them home.   Oh, the practical pleasures of eating.. of just how washing or soaking the greens, pre-roasting/cooking, & storing veggies can make for many more homemade meals in a busy week, increase the longevity of the produce and make cooking enjoyable (as it should be!) And as one of our tenured CSA members said, “Make friends with your knife, cutting board, sink, dish towel, salad spinner, stove, and oven. They aren’t instruments of drudgery, they are keys to liberation. The time you spend prepping and cooking food is time to think and be present in the moment–“mindfulness” is a free benefit of CSA membership, so take advantage and enjoy it!”

Storing the veggies: Root veggies (beets, carrots etc) and other bulb veggies (radish, turnip, kohlrabi, onions, fennel etc) all have leafy greens attached.  Make sure to cut the greens right where they meet the root and store them separately so that they stop drawing moisture out of the veggie through the process of respiration (if your carrots, radishes, beets etc get floppy.. now you know why).

Our bagged greens should keep wonderfully during the week in the “Bio-Bags.” One feature of the BioBag is that it “breathes” without leaking. This unique benefit allows excess moisture to evaporate, which keeps fruits and vegetables fresher, longer. For other items, it’s important to prep bunched greens and lettuce heads by washing, chopping and storing them in a tightly sealed container with a moist paper towel or try washing them wrapping them in a moist towel/paper towel and putting them in a bag.  Otherwise the refrigerator has its way with them and sucks out all their moisture… leaving much to be desired.

Anenomes from Even Pull Farm, rows and rows of carrots, sage hedge makes us happy + the bees too!

Getting your fridge ready for fresh goodies!  Take the time the night before to make space for a new box of goodies, and to take inventory of any veggies that would love to be used up in a ‘end of the week’ stirfry, curry, soup, roasted veg, kale chips, smoothies, or green pesto!  Making vegetable stock is always a happy solution for extra veggies – rough chop them, simmer them in a few quarts of water (a cup or two of veggies to one quart of water) for 30 – 40 minutes, and you have stock. Strain it, freeze it, and so versatile!  Flavorful, rich in vitamins and minerals..

Save those “scraps”!  Save the stems from the kale, collards, chard, spinach, the thick stalks from the broccoli, the ends and peels of carrots, tops of peppers, radish stems etc… Wrap up the scraps as you accumulate them (a pyrex or a bag with a moist towel works) and stash them in the fridge.  At the end of the week you can make a delicious stock.  Some folks make a gallon sized bag of “stock items” and freeze it for later… Check out this helpful blog post with all the details! Or, try out this recipe by Tamar Adler for Garlicky Leaf Stem and Core Pesto!  Or, as one of our awesome members pointed out – make a quick pickle out of the stems (chard, beet, kale, collard stems etc)!  Pickled stuff is delicious with all meals.

Eat More Veggies!    Add or double the amount of vegetables in your meals!  See how many different vegetables you can pack in to what you’re already cooking.  Eat the most tender greens and veggies first!  For breakfast try a simple sautee with greens & garlic, biscuits, with eggs, in a quiche, simple salad or veggie pancakes.  Drink your veggies!  There are so many great veggie smoothies out there – whatever you have give it a go!

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Baby winter squash cotyledons are adorable, Brian prepping beds and beds and beds, tulip power.

Enjoy eating new vegetables!  One of our greatest examples of this is the amount of people who grew up on boiled to death beets.. or worse, canned tasteless beets.  When people try the beets from the farm in a new way (roasted, in a salad, as burgers or even in brownies) they change their minds and there are so many things that contribute to that.  Mostly, it’s the openness of trying something new or trying something in a new way.  Branch out and explore your palette and see what tastes great to you.  You have your farmers to consult and a wealth of resources at your fingertips so don’t hesitate to be inspired!

Join the Working Hands Farm CSA Member Group on Facebook.  The WHF Facebook Group is a safe place (a private group) for current Working Hands Farm CSA members to share recipe ideas, kitchen prep successes, food preservation ideas etc!  Check your email (titled, ‘WHF Member Page’) for the link and instructions on how to join!

Get inspired by Seasonal Cookbooks & Recipe Blogs.  Check out our Farmer Approved List here: https://workinghandsfarm.com/2016/05/16/whf-farmer-approved-cook-books-food-blogs/

Freezing and canning.  Our Week 4 newsletter from a few season’s ago is full of helpful information and places to start.  Some suggestions include: The Fermentation Bible:  Wild Fermentation – by Sandor Ellix Katz, Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round, Ball Blue Book of Preserving etc. Don’t forget that although you’re enjoying your veggies now there’s something satisfying about saving your extras for later in the year!  We are on our last dozen jars of homemade tomato sauce and can’t express how lovely it is to pop open a jar of our summer tomatoes!

Last week we caught a swarm (check out the videos here and here), the brassica block sizing up and evening planting sessions.

Eating in season!  We live in such a fertile part of the US and should relish in all the wonderful things that grow where we live.  Waiting for those first seasonal crops can be hard after a winter of root veggies, brassicas, soups etc but everything tastes that much sweeter (because it’s fresh, in season and grown just down the road in the dirt & in the open air!)  It’s easy to enjoy the conveniences of the grocery store (that’s what it’s there for) but we tell ya that waiting all winter and spring for that first seasonal vine ripened tomato is the best thing for ya!

As your CSA farmers, throughout the 28-week season we provide you with the most nutrient rich, organic, thoughtfully-grown, fresh picked & seasonal produce!   We strive to grow produce according to the seasons and to the best of our abilities.  To introduce you to new varieties of veggies & include delicious ways to prepare them!  To encourage you to enjoy your time in the kitchen, be playful and to have fun.  Each week that you pick up your bounty we pass the torch to you.  We’re a part of each others food journey and we look forward to hearing week to week about what you’re cooking, what was eaten first and what you really enjoyed.  It completes our food journey here on the farm to hear and see how the hard work is being utilized and enjoyed!

Despite the waterlogged spring we are happy with the diversified first two weeks of shares.. carrot power! #growbabiesgrow

Thanks again for all your support and we look forward to sharing in the bounty with you this season.  We leave you with some of our tenured member (Hazy Katz) tips for CSA success!

With Kind Regards,

Your Farmers

Jess & Brian

Here we grow 2017! (CSA week 1)

Posted on 16 May 2017

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Chard sparkling between sun showers, spring/winter clean up on the farm and the first broccoli sizing up!

Hi Friends & Farm-ily,

Let the 2017 Spring harvest season begin!  We are so happy and appreciative of all your support and encouragement over the last 5 months (since our 2017 season started).  Our Spring, Summer and Fall CSA has been months in the making and we look forward to the season beginning and to celebrate with our first harvest this week!

Flow of the CSA.  Over the next few weeks we will all begin to get into the flow of pick ups, harvests, seasons, you name it. Spring is a great time to adapt-to and learn new habits, to eat seasonally and fresh. We remind you to be patient, to be excited and to enjoy the ride.  There are so many decisions that one person must make everyday – a daunting task at times – revel in those food choices your farmers and the changing of the seasons are making for you each week.  Get creative & be inspired.  Ask questions & be open – you’ll be surprised what you might find as the season unfolds.

Enjoy all the benefits of eating fresh (picked THAT morning), eating seasonally, and local (your local farmer, Brian and I, need the support of our community)!

Your farmers will be at the pick up this week from 3-5pm!  Whoop whoop!

Morning sun, afternoon crop walks and the first irrigation of the season!

The wee-farm goat greeters! The goats should be back upfront in the next few week’s!  The “Lost Boys” are currently mowing our backyard and eating back the Himalayan blackberry hedgerow around the farm’s periphery.  We should be able to get up some permanent fence once the weather gets better in the coming week!

Farm Pick Up Time.  Farm Pick Ups take place on Tuesday & Wednesday from 3:00 – 6:30pm (please double check on your assigned day). Note: Bi-Weekly share members pick up their produce every other week throughout the course of the 28 week CSA season (a total of 14 shares). Bi-Weekly members will pick up their share on weeks 1,3,5,7, etc… or 2,4,6,8, etc… depending on your assigned CSA start date.  

It’s important to pick up between 3:00-6:30pm on your assigned day (and not a minute before) as it’s just the two of us and we harvest most everything fresh that morning so your farmer’s need the time to harvest, wash and set up the pick up area.

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I spent an afternoon helping out my dear friend and fellow farmer Beth at Even Pull Farm last week (she broke her hand) – harvesting flowers was a blast!  800 tomatoes planted last week and the last variety of overwintering cauliflower ready for this week’s CSA (it was started 10 months ago!  Plants are amazing)  

Parking. There is a nice big parking area for a convenient and stress free pick-up.  Please park facing the new pole barn as this will help to keep a consistent flow of traffic which will help to keep children crossing the parking lot safe. Park thoughtfully as folks tend to come in waves and the parking will fill up fast!  There are also children and families who will be moving from the pick-up area to the parking lot so please drive slowly.  We are located on a busy country road so please be patient coming and going from the farm (oh the pros and cons of living on a main country road!)

Pick-Up Area.  The CSA Member Area is now located in the RED POLE BARN through the white French doors. We’re super excited to have our wash/pack, cooler and pick up area in the same building this year.  It improves efficiencies ten fold, gets the produce chilled quicker and provides a nice area for our awesome members to pick up in!  Having a building with concrete floors means we can use things like pallet jacks and carts with wheels to move things too and fro which has made the lifting part of harvesting a lot less tiresome!  Over 5 years ago all that remained on this property was a dilapidated old barn that was covered in 12ft tall blackberries and the old farmhouse by the road.  We are breathing new life into a very old and forgotten farm property so you will see it become more and more beautiful as the seasons and years go on… Thank you for growing with us and for being a part of this process.

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The Spring greens are always such a tasty treat, 1,000’s and 1,000’s  of transplants going in the ground and some baby arugula germination..

The Pick-Up.  Please sign in before grabbing your goodies.  You will enter the member area and move counterclockwise, packing your own share with the allotted amounts of vegetables written next to each varietal.  Please bring 2-3 reusable shopping bags, a crate or some members even use a laundry basket to put your produce in. It’s nice to have a few bags for heavier items and a bag for bunched greens/more fragile items etc.

Pick-Up is also a great opportunity to meet other members and share over the common bonds of food, health and community!  If you are unable to come pick up your share from 3:00-6:30pm on your assigned day, you can either arrange for a friend, family member, colleague etc to pick it up for you. If you cannot find anyone to pick-up the share on your behalf please give us 48hr notice (emails are best).

Be sure to visit our FAQ’s for any other questions you may have:  https://workinghandsfarm.com/q-a/

Our first go at overwintering onions – looking good!, our newest addition to the farm: The Finger Weeder!, onions are growing fast!

Working Hands Farm CSA Member Group on Facebook!  An email has been sent out with instructions to join the Working Hands Farm CSA Member Group on Facebook.  It’s a safe place (a private group) exclusively for Working Hands Farm CSA members to share recipe ideas, kitchen prep successes, food preservation ideas, articles, resources etc. Check your email to join the group. Participation is highly encouraged!

CSA Farm Day, Pumpkin Day, Newsletters etc.  Throughout the season we offer opportunities to enjoy a CSA Member Farm Day, pumpkin pick day etc all on the farm.  Also, to keep our farm-ily connected to the farm, the seasons and what it takes to grow food locally we send a weekly farm newsletter so be sure to read the whole thing through! We post frequently on instagramfacebook to share in our day-to-day and to stay connected with people (as you can imagine we spend 99% of our time with vegetables and 4 legged critters ha!) All of these opportunities are a great way to see the farm, chat with your farmers, meet other CSA members in the community and enjoy the seasons on the farm.

 

The strawberries are coming along – slowly but surely (and always worth the wait!), more ground gets prepped and some dazzling blue kale!

Thank you again for all your support! It’s been a busy and super rainy Spring (the wettest in 75 years!) and there is much anticipation to get this season started.  We have another exciting season ahead with over 70 different types of vegetables and several different varieties of each (it’s never a dull moment on the farm!)  Your farmers have been working harder than ever to get the season started on the projected start date and have more variety in the shares early on!

Enjoy the leafy greens and cool weather brassica crops that you will find in the first few week’s of the CSA (the Spring seasons natural cleanse… after a Winter full of root crops and heavier foods).  The greens will be tender, delicious and untouched by the heat that summer brings.  Enjoy them while they are here!  The bounty will continue to grow and grow and grow as we near the longer, warmer days of Summer!  Thanks again for all your support and we look forward to sharing in the bounty with you this season.

With kind regards,

Your farmers

Jess & Brian

dirty hands, clean hearts

Wading it Out (winter csa week 17 & 18)

Posted on 17 Apr 2017


Here comes the rain… doo doo doo doo – it’s been the moodiest Spring ever..



Hi Friends & Farm-ily,

 

Whoo hoo!  As of last week, we’re officially SOLD OUT for the 2017 Spring, Summer & Fall CSA Season!  If you’d like to be added to our waiting list please fill out the sign up form here: https://workinghandsfarm.com/signupform/and we’ll email you should a share become available!  We can’t wait for the 2017 CSA season to start (see details at the bottom of this newsletter)! Thank you to all of our amazing CSA members both new and old who have signed up for the 2017 Spring and Summer CSA season!

Winter CSA Success!  This past week was the final pick up week of our second Winter CSA season and I know we’ve said this time and time again but we LOVE the Winter CSA!!  We, your farmers, THANK YOU CSA-ers!  Thank you all for your continued support through all the seasons.  You are all CSA rock stars and we are proud to be your farmers!  

The Winter Bounty.  We started our Winter CSA journey on November 28th and we’ve made it all the way to the middle of April! Our expectation for the Winter Shares was 8-10 items (dependent on weather) in each weekly share.   Over the course of 18 weeks we had 11-17 items in each weekly share.  We were also impressed with the variety of veggies we harvested through the winter months – most weeks we had more fresh picked produce than storage veggies which is amazing (even in the coldest and darkest of winter days)!   To top it all off, it was an average of 450lbs per share which comes in around $1.52 per lb of produce.

So many different kind of goodies in the winter shares…Arugula, beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, cilantro, collards, garlic, greens mix, italian dandelion, kale, kohlrabi, komatsuna, leeks, lettuce heads, onions, herbs (thyme, oregano), pac choi, parsley, parsnips, purple sprouting broccoli, pumpkins, radish, rapini, radicchio, romanesco, rutabaga, scallions, shallots, spaghetti squash, spinach, sweet potatoes, swiss chard, storage tomatoes, turnips, winter squash and more!

Becca & I weeding the garlic, Brian prepping beds before the rains and finishing up our planting of strawberries (almost a mile!)

We’ve been through just about every bit of weather you can experience this winter… hail, sleet, ice rain, torrential down pours, SNOW (more than once and 12 inches!), high winds, frigid temps (12 degrees for successional days)… and through it all we always had food to put on the table.  Brushing 12” of snow off the 4 high tunnels for 12 hours overnight was definitely a low point but we survived it all and have grown through the experience and believe it or not LOVED IT every step of the way.  We’re just crazy about growing vegetables and this kind of winter weather is invaluable for us farmers to learn and grow from.

We are so excited to learn and grow for the next winter season!  Keep your eyes and ears open when we launch the 2017 Winter CSA Sign Ups later this summer!  We’ll be starting Fall and Winter veggie starts in the coming months (we’re always thinking ahead…!)

This extra wet Spring/remnants of Winter just doesn’t want to quit and it’s been the wettest   and coolest Spring we’ve ever experienced as farmers.  It’s one of those Springs despite having plans you’re just doing things as the weather permits.  We’ve been working hard and paying close attention to the soil conditions, soil temperatures, forecasts, etc and really making the most of the milder days.  At times we’re having to plant in less than ideal conditions and flying by the seat of our pants so to say… planting in between storms and being extra flexible based on the morning forecast.

Part of the bed prep process, drop spreading lime and our custom fertilizer blend, getting those transplants in the ground, and prepping more beds/covering with heavy tarps before the rains.. 

For the past few weeks, after CSA harvests, Brian and I (with the help of our amazing new tractor with creeper gear – finally!) had ourselves a few planting date nights and planted out 4,000 row ft just the three of us (tractor totally counts) in the evening sun. Brian had spent two days last week prepping TWO new 200ft x 200ft blocks in the upper pasture (!!). Everything was set to go and we were able to plant 3 beds but then it rained just enough to dampen our plans. So the next day we looked to our upper gardens and sure enough one of them had the most perfect texture. After another harvest, we planted another round of brassicas and decided to make 12 extra beds for future direct seeding. We covered them with 6 mil plastic tarps (from Home Depot) for stale seed bedding/occultation and secured them with tons of sandbags. It made for a really long day but we were energized by the endless possibilities ahead… and we think our futures selves will thank us when there are more veggies to be sown!  #bringonthesun #wereready #sundancespring#thebestlaidplans #flyingbytheseatofourpants  #signsofspring  #gotime

We’ve been prepping a lot of beds all at once when we get our chance and the beds that we aren’t able to plant in that same day we’ve been covering with the plastic tarps to keep rain off of them for better planting conditions.  It’s worked great for us so far and is getting us by!  With our tractor/transplanter set up last week alone Brian and I were also able to plant 1,800 row ft of kale, 600 row ft of collards, 1,800 ft of cabbage, and with Becca’s help we were able to plant 1,200 ft of beets, 1,200 ft of chard, 900 row ft of spinach, 1,200 ft of lettuce  & 1,800 row ft of strawberries.

We’ve be busy soaking up the last few days of sun before the forecasted day of rain…  In the last 72 hours thanks to some more mild weather Becca, Brian & I were able to plant the remaining strawberries (4800 ft.. almost a mile of strawberries) and 2500 ft of greens (spinach and chicory varieties).  Yesterday, Brian and I planted 3,000 ft of brassicas (cabbage, kohlrabi, mustards, cauliflower) and this morning Brian has been preparing almost a 1/2 acre for a few upcoming epic plantings of onions (7,200 row ft) and potatoes (4,800 row ft).  Our windows of opportunity to plant have been slim compared to years prior but we’ve been making the most of the the time we have and it sure feels good to keep things rolling forward.

So keep all those fingers and toes crossed for us and do as many sun dances as you can!

Driving the new tractor with Becca and Brian transplanting on the back, spring radishes and Brian filling up the compost spreader!  

The planting and seeding continues.. last weekend we started our first curcubits (cucumbers, summer squash, zucchini) in the propagation house as well as a bunch of greens and other goodies!  Our first round of sweet corn will be started in just a few days… the first succession of tomatoes & basil will be planted in the high tunnel…. things are about to get real!  It’s hard to believe it’s already the middle of April.. pretty soon harvest will begin again and a whole new adventure awaits!  #keepswimming #endlesspossibilities

WHEN DOES THE SPRING/SUMMER/FALL CSA begin?  Our estimated start date for the season is the week of May 16th – so it could be as early as then but as the seasons vary the CSA may begin up to two weeks after our estimated start date.    Due to the extra wet Spring we’ve been having it has left the soils cooler than usual which means the plants are growing much slower than we’re used to.  This could mean that we might be starting the CSA a touch later than planned… but anything can happen so stay tuned!  We’re working hard to make a mid-May start date happen.. now it’s just up to ol’ mother nature (more sun = warmer temps = faster growing plants!)

We’ll send everyone an official start date email during the first few weeks of May!    


Gloucester and Ahab are the kings of leisure on the farm and this high tunnel is all prepped and ready to go for Spring/Summer!

We look forward to seeing and meeting all our Spring/Summer/Fall CSA Members next month!  We’ll be in touch with updates about the start date etc.  In the meantime, follow us on Instagram Facebook to keep in touch with our daily happenings on the farm.  Here we grow!  Whoo hoo!

With kind regards,

your farmers

Jess & Brian

dirty hands, clean hearts

Sun Dance (Winter CSA Week 13, 14, 15, 16)

Posted on 30 Mar 2017

REMINDER:  First CSA payments are due by THIS Saturday, April 1st!! Check out the email titled ‘First CSA Payment Due by April 1st (next Saturday)’ for more details!

Hi Friends & Farm-ily,

Let the sun dances begin!   We hope you all have been doing a little sun dance each day for your farmer’s.  There is some hope of relief in the 10 day forecast (we really need like 5+ days of sunshine in a row to dry out all the fields).  Planting the very first of our Spring and Summer crops are on our minds as we near our first projected field planting date of the season this weekend.  All our fingers and toes are crossed!  Strawberries, kale, broccoli, kohlrabi, cabbage, lettuce, spinach, beets, chard, chicory, peas etc are all ready to make their transplanting debut!  Carrots, turnips, cilantro, peas, favas and more will be direct sown in the dirt!   Once things dry out a bit it’ll mark the first week all winter and Spring that we are able to get into the garden and plant and seed like mad farmers… and we can hardly wait!  

Before planting can begin there is field prep that needs to happen… Spring marks the time in the season where we can finally get out there to lime, fertilize and compost the farm.   Last year my folks were out here visiting and my Dad helped us make some huge pushes to prepare the land.  Where we mow old crops, pasture and cover crops and begin the transition for planting crops.  This week is shaping up to be a big push for us.. it surely is an exciting time on the farm!   So keep thinking all those sunshine-y thoughts for your farmers… we’re ready to go!

Fun little note: Before we switched to market style CSA pick up we packed and distributed all our CSA shares in our very own cedar crates that we made by hand. Hard to imagine our Summer Shares fitting in there now but back then it was such an accomplishment to have a crate brimming full of goodies. Even our Winter Shares (pictured above) are a touch too big to fit like they once did 8 years ago. A sign that slowly but surely we are growing better each year. It’s good for perspective and important to give yourself a pat on the back every once in a while. Life is just too darn short, enjoy it everyday! #simplereminders#bekindtoyourself #workinghandsfarmcsa#dirtyhandscleanhearts

 

Purple Sprouting Broccoli lookin’ awesome out in the field, starts are ready to be planted, the overwintered swiss chard shining in the early Spring sunshine… 

We have some exciting news.. we hired our very first employee!  Becca is a native oregonian who has spent the last two years working on CSA farm in Eugene.  She started with Rogue Corps and has now found her way to Working Hands as our very first crew member.  Community and health are really important to her.  She’ll be working part-time on the farm a couple days a week throughout the season so let’s give a big warm welcome to Becca!   Whoop whoop!   We’re excited to achieve a bit more balance with an extra set of hands and we look forward to seeing what this season brings!

At the end of last week, we couldn’t plant so we did the next best thing and that was clearing the fields so we’re ready to go once the weather changes.  Earlier in the week, Brian & I had removed all the tomato trellises, t-posts, the first of the drip tape and landscape fabric.  On Thursday, Brian & Becca worked double time to clear out  the remaining fields of drip tape, agribon row cover, sandbags (over 7,500  lbs!) and landscape fabric.  In what we thought would take at least a few days they finished it in 1!  I was able to push through a pile of business paperwork, tax stuff, emails (all the exciting parts about running a business!) and it was really awesome to divide and conquer.

Last Saturday, we made a huge seeding push in the red barn.  We mixed soil and filled over 200 trays and got the next round of broccoli, cabbage, beets, chicories, greens, bunching onions etc seeded.  We made a huge push on Celery and Celeriac (over 5,000 seeded!) and it feels good to get some of these major crops that we only plant once a year seeded.  They are all now in the propagation house where it will take anywhere from 2 (for brassica seeds i.e. broccoli, cabbage) to 14 days (for celery, celeriac) for these babies to awaken.  Since our propagation house is passively heated by the sun (we don’t have a heater) it too will benefit and quicken any germination with some sun in the forecast!  Having three sets of hands on deck really made all the difference – it’s the first time this season where we’ve been caught up on all our seeding!

 

Gloucester & the ladies of Chateau Poulet soaking up some rays and seeding all the things over the weekend!

Know your farmers, know your food! The Spring, Summer and Fall CSA is drawing near and we have less than a half dozen shares left for the 2017 CSA season!  Help us get those last few shares filled by spreading the good word because it makes all the difference. As a farm-ily member once said, “keep your friends close and you farmers closer.”

3 Steps to Signing Up:

1  Read all about the 2017 CSA season

2  Fill out the CSA Sign Up Form & Member Agreement

3  Mail or drop off a Check or Make a Payment Online to reserve your share

We can’t wait for the 2017 growing season to start! Thank you to all of our amazing CSA members both new and old who have signed up for the 2017 Spring and Summer CSA season!

Brian tending to our first beds of carrots, notes from our members that make us smile, overwintered parsnip season!  

Winter CSA Reminder: Winter Weekly Share Members: we have just two pick ups left for the Winter CSA Season (last pick up for Tuesday Members is on April 11th & Wednesday Members on April 12th).  Winter Bi-Weekly Share members: there is one pick up left!  Bi-Weekly Members 1,3,5, 7  will pick up on April 4th/5th and Bi-Weekly Members 2,4,6,8 will pick up on April 11th/12th.

Spring Eggs!  The ladies of Chateau Poulet have boosted production and we have some extra dozens available for Winter CSA/Spring CSA members beginning next week  (they tend to sell out quickly!)   Our flock of hens are raised on fresh pasture as well as an Certified Organic, non-GMO feed (no soy, no corn) made in the Pacific NW by Scratch and Peck – a local feed supply that we are proud to support.  All dozens are $9.50 each.

If you’re interested in purchasing eggs throughout the early Spring months (before the CSA begins in May) please let us know your pick up day preference as well as how many dozens you’d like (a dozen per week or 2 dozens every other week etc) and we will confirm availability.

Be well, do all the sun dances, and root your farmers on!  It’s officially game time!

With kind regards,

your farmers

Jess & Brian

dirty hands, clean hearts

 

 

Practicing Patience (winter CSA week 11 & 12)

Posted on 2 Mar 2017

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“I used to imagine him
coming from his house, like Merlin
strolling with important gestures
through the garden
where everything grows so thickly,
where birds sing, little snakes lie
on the boughs, thinking of nothing
but their own good lives,
where petals float upward,
their colors exploding,
and trees open their moist
pages of thunder –
it has happened every summer for years.

But now I know more
about the great wheel of growth,
and decay, and rebirth,
and know my vision for a falsehood.
Now I see him coming from the house –
I see him on his knees,
cutting away the diseased, the superfluous,
coaxing the new,
know that the hour of fulfillment
is buried in years of patience –
yet willing to labor like that
on the mortal wheel.

Oh, what good it does the heart
to know it isn’t magic!
Like the human child I am
I rush to imitate –
I watch him as he bends
among the leaves and vines
to hook some weed or other;
I think of him there
raking and trimming, stirring up
those sheets of fire
between the smothering weights of earth,
the wild and shapeless air.” – ‘Stanley Kunitz’ by Mary Oliver

Hi Friends & Farm-ily,

Welcome March!  Spring is certainly in the air and hopefully the whole March comes out like a lamb rings true.  The last week has been so nice with the intermittent sunshine and tiny rain showers.. it’s given the soil a chance to dry out a little bit and lake WHF has been reduced to a pond.  Looking ahead, the 10-day is looking awfully soggy again and we keep crossing our fingers for a dry stretch at the end of it or that it won’t amount to much.  There are strawberries and onions to plant this month followed by our first main crops (kale, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, beets etc) for the Spring/Summer CSA season.  The soil has to be dry enough to plant so keep your fingers crossed and say a little prayer to the sun gods above!

Our 2017 custom fertilizer blend arrived this week from Marion Ag – all 7 tons (14,000lbs)!   This meant that Brian spent the last few dry days drop spreading lime and compost on the first workable ground. Step by step!   Now, we wait for the sun so the soil can dry out and become workable (and practice patience!)  If we work the soil when it is too wet it will become cloddy and more difficult to transplant, cultivate and weed.  But some years you have no choice otherwise it will push back the start date of the CSA too far! Fingers crossed for 3-4 days of solid sunshine!!!

spinachshares

The greens are poppin’ in the prop house and the last few Winter CSA Shares…

In the meantime, we will be turning up soil in our 100ft high tunnels/covered space and transplanting a few crops and seeding in a few things in there. We are on week 12 of the Winter CSA, which means we have 6 more weeks to go (18 total).   We didn’t know what to expect back in December with this crazy winter weather but are so pleased that all the planning turned out even with the ups and downs and slog and extra hard freezes that the winter weather brought our way. It’s given us a greater perspective on farming and like we’ve said before… we’ve never ate so good through the winter, no matter what the weather!

The propagation greenhouse is really filling up with Spring and Summer starts. We have eggplant and peppers on the heat mats waiting for germination (they like the soil to be hot, hot, hot) and in the next few days we’ll be seeding tomatoes!   The fun never stops.. whoop whoop! It’s crazy to think that in 4+ months we will be enjoying the bounty of summer – tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, corn etc…

Since the weather has been a bit nicer, we’ve been busy making notes of all the varieties and crops that survived this winter.  You’ve got to give it up for the overwintering crops that survived the frigid cold we experienced. The purple Cape cauliflower from @adaptive_seeds that were produced by our amazing friends at  @pitchforkandcrow survived successional 12 degrees, no cover, snow, high winds, ice rain…. seriously awesome (bonus that they look like they are straight out of a comic book).  A big thank you to Adaptive Seeds.  All of your seed varieties that we grew through the winter (cauliflower, kale, turnips, rutabaga, lettuce, cilantro, arugula, winter squash, radicchio etc) shined in the coldest and darkest of winter days! We are so lucky to have a seed company that specializes in varietals that grow well in the PNW.

meandjean

Jean & I in 2008, the overwintered lettuce in the high tunnel, and the first round of italian sweet peppers are up!

THE BEST!  Last weekend my amazing friend and organic farming mentor Jean arrived on the farm for a few day visit. The picture above is of Jean and I way back in 2008 when I worked on her little organic market garden in Massachusetts where we became quick friends. She is like family to me and a strong, incredible woman that I look up to.  I’ve looked forward to sharing the farm with Jean for some time and to make a proper introduction to Brian. She was celebrating her 95th birthday with her daughter who lives in Victoria, BC and it was really special that we could all be together.

Jean’s smile alone draws you in. She has such exuberance for life. And her energy is contagious. She is heading back to the Cape next week to get all her seeds started and begin a new farming season. Such an inspiration! Farming keeps her going and she has such a genuine love for it (the only thing she can’t do anymore is push the walk behind tiller).. seeing her was the jump start we needed in such a soggy month (with record breaking rainfall!).  It’s amazing how much influence she’s had on my life and pursuing my organic farming dream.  I feel so lucky that our paths crossed 9 years ago.  And how special it is that I could share what Brian and I have built at Working Hands Farm.  Simply amazing.

csaday

Bunching onion harvest, CSA Day in February and bunching up the extra tasty spinach from the high tunnel!

Last Friday was National CSA Sign Up Day! According to Small Farm Central, the last Friday in February is the most popular day of the year to sign up for a CSA share!  Thank you to all those who spread the good word and to those who signed up last week!  – we are so close to being full for the 2017 CSA season!

Join us for the 2017 season!  With less than a dozen shares available (only a handful left!) for the 2017 Spring, Summer & Fall Season we hope you will join us for the upcoming season!  Read all about the 2017 season here: workinghandsfarm.com/csa

newpickup

The Purple Cape Cauliflower emerges, the new CSA pick-up area and the kale is beginning to form the seasonal treasure: rapini!

It was so fun to have our first Winter CSA pick up in the new barn this week.  It’s amazing how far we’ve come since we first moved to this property from the land we leased down the road.  Remember the white farmer’s market tents we had for pick up the first few seasons?  And then the semi-permanent pick up area farmer Brian made and now we’ve built a real live room with doors and windows and concrete floors.  We are so happy to have a wonderful space to share with all of our amazing CSA members.

We hope you all enjoyed this week’s veggie share and will see you soon!

With kind regards,

Your Farmers

Jess & Brian

dirty hands, clean hearts

radishanimals

February Momentum (Winter CSA Week 8, 9, 10)

Posted on 16 Feb 2017


sunsetkitty

“A seed is small but rich with possibility, like love, which is as humble as it is powerful.” —Pir Zia Inayat-Khan

Hi Friends & Farm-ily,

The first few weeks of February have flown by! Last week it also brought heaps and heaps of rain (over 5” in just a few days) which means our pastures are covered once again in the flood (Lake WHF is back!). Over the weekend we recharged our solar powered farmer batteries with all the sunshine. It brought a much needed respite from the rains and moss growing behind our ears 😉 The warmth of the sun and the promise of Spring has a way of invigorating the spirit!

February really is an exciting month on the farm as it’s a time for pushing many things forward on the farm.  After a few months of downtime and shorter days February always marks the beginning of a shift. Where there is less time spent planning and analyzing and more time chipping away at projects and getting the ball rolling! It’s building momentum.. when your heart and mind just want to dive in and the wet winter weather says otherwise. Winter farming can be a difficult shift for farmers… during the busy season we’re working from sun up to sun down and as we near Thanksgiving our work days are cut in half… and by December we’ve reached the winter solstice (the least amount of daylight of the year).  Less time is spent outside and just the slowing down of the physical activity can throw you for quite a loop (both mentally and physically). That paired with the weather and lack of sunshine can make for a feeling that can be challenging at times. But, boy, there is a direct correlation with the sunshine.. that gentle reminder that a new season is not that far away! February is the transition in the farming world where you are buttoning up the planning and feeling extra inspired by the momentum of CSA sign ups, seed orders, projects, to-dos… When February rolls around it means it’s time to implement the seeding plan, push projects through, tune up the ol’ equipment and really begin the new season!

garlicgreens

The last of the celery for a little white, the garlic taking in the sunshine and some sweet winter lettuce mix!

Soil tests, crop planning, seed starting, tractors, building projects and more, oh my! One of the first things we like to do in February is get our custom made fertilizer for the garden all set to go. The first step to soil success is submitting our yearly soil test to A&L Labs.  Next to seed orders this is seriously up there with some of the most fun things we do as farmers. How did we do?  What can we do better?  The challenges and possibilities that farming brings starts right here in the planning stages.   Our custom made organic fertilizer mix paired with the omri certified garden compost we use every season has really improved the soil over the past 4 years and it’s fun to see those previous seasons soil test results change in a positive way!

“If I grow good soil, I can forget about the vegetables.” – Nigel Walker

It brings a big smile to these farmers faces to see the land become more productive over time and to see things truly thrive (it’s members and farmers included) from season to season.   We look forward to feeding the soil and all of our wonderful members through our 8th growing season! Whoop whoop!

radicchio

radicchio rosso di Verona”the rose of chiogga”, castelfranco & radicchio di lusia & di chiogga, rosa verona tardiva!

Feeding and building the nutrition in the soil and rotating all the 70+ different kinds of veggies we grow around the farm is so important (in order to combat disease and pests etc and make sure there is the right amount of nutrition to meet the needs of the many different crops that we grow).   We also need to plan out our successional crop plantings in order to have food for our members each and every week! It seems like a crazy amount of information to grow so many different crops for over 150 households for 7 months (+ 5 months of winter CSA) of the year, which is why the systems we’ve created are so important for the two of us to run this ship smoothly.

We’re buttoning up the crop plans for the season and are really excited about the crops and varieties of veggies that we’re growing this year.  We’ll be rotating our garden plots this year which means we can cover crop some of the garden blocks at the front of the property and let them lay fallow for at time (fallow: adj.(of farmland) plowed and harrowed but left unsown for a period in order to restore its fertility as part of a crop rotation or to avoid surplus production). We’re really excited about the forward progress and the season ahead! With all the hot weather 2015 brought and the wild 2016/17 winter we’ve had this year we feel better prepared (mentally and physically) for whatever 2017 will throw at us. Nature waits for no one and the more experience we take on (high fives!) the better prepared we will be.

buildouttractor

spinach and beets have sprung, the build out begins and the new replacement tractor has finally arrived!

Tractor update! As you may recall last year we had a bit of a to-do with the new tractor from John Deere (Re: https://workinghandsfarm.com/2016/09/07/labor-days-csa-week-16-17/ ) We had bought our 5075e tractor in the spring of 2016 with the creeper gear being a part of it (it enables us to plant vegetables at a slow enough speed where it won’t burn up the tractor) and unfortunately they sold us something that hadn’t yet been manufactured. So, last fall we were told they would not be manufacturing it so it was back to the drawing board. We ordered the replacement tractor at the end of last Fall with a creeper gear and it has arrived this week! We are so excited to have the equipment that we need to grow better and improve the systems on the farm!  Strawberry plants will be here before you know it and it’s nice feeling to know the tractors are rearing to go!

 

Red Barn Build-Out. We’re pretty excited about this.. over the last two weeks we made progress on the red barn build out and built a 18×24’ coolbot cooler and a new CSA pick up area that will keep the produce even fresher in our insulated building!   It will also streamline our packing system to make everything more efficient and organized. The concrete floors will make it easy to wash/pack, use the pallet jack to move produce around and chill in the cooler and then when pick up time comes around we’ll be able to roll all the produce into the next room for CSA pick up. This means picking up 50lb crates of produce less and moving towards a much more efficient setup and system for the two of us. Washing, packing, storage and pick up will all happen in one location which will also save us from running produce around all about the farm on a daily basis. Pretty exciting stuff! #workingsmarternotharder

coolbot1

The first signs of purple sprouting broccoli, the finished coolbot – we just need to purchase the AC units!, gloucester soaking in the sun…

And in the midst of the season that lies ahead, we are over the halfway point of the WHF Winter CSA! We are seriously loving the winter CSA (no matter what ol’ mother nature brings) and already talking about growing and making plans for next winter. We really do feel that it’s an amazing addition to the farm to provide produce through the shorter days of the year all while providing income to the farm that will help us achieve some balance in the crazy months of summer. We are big fans all around – the best perk of all is eating delicious farm fresh veg in the winter! As winter members, you know that the weather is more variable than other times of the year. Crop losses can happen from a hard freeze, disease pressure, bugs, etc…  and many of these things are out of your farmers control.  As winter members, you’ve also come to appreciate and recognize just how resilient vegetables (and your farmers, toot toot!) are. We always strive to do our best and are more motivated than ever to grow better even in an anomaly winter like the one we’ve had this year.

The Hungry Gap. It’ll be fun to see what the rest of the Spring will bring!  It is February which is also the beginning of the “hungry gap” in the farming world.  The hungry gap is the name for the period in spring when there is little or no fresh produce available. When overwintered brassica vegetables such as kale and collards and January King cabbages “bolt” (i.e. run up to flower.. we also call this rapini!) as the days get warmer and longer and the first crops of the year are just being sown. On the farm we utilize the high tunnels and propagation house to get a head start on seeding our first crops of Spring (that’ll be ready to eat starting in mid-March through May depending on the crop).   It’s essential that we have these covered spaces to grow as it’s usually too wet to prepare soil for planting until mid-March. Most people are blissfully unaware of the hungry gap as the grocery store is always overflowing with produce from southern states and imported from southern countries from Feb-April. You can imagine what it must have been like before we imported produce in the winter… cabbage and potatoes, canned fruits and veggies, foraged greens… it seems like such a luxury now that we can grow and eat from the farm (or visit the grocery store) year round!

From the farmer’s perspective it really is such a wonderful experience growing food for our community through the winter. There were many farmers that came before us, who figured out the same things we’re figuring out now minus all of the equipment and efficiencies that technology has given us over the past 100 years…

We have some amazing “over-wintering” crops (like purple sprouting broccoli, radishes, cauliflowers etc) that are slowy beginning to show signs of productivity after 200+ days of growing (so cool) among other fun things like rapini from the kale, collards, cabbages and other root brassicas! We also have some amazing sweet meat squash from Adaptive Seeds and other fun winter squash varietals from Johnny’s Seeds and High Mowing Seeds to enjoy too!

sunscape

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Here come the first crops of the season, the sun after a rainstorm, there may be a flood outside but inside we’re irrigating!

Sign up for the 2017 Spring, Summer & Fall Season!  We are 3/4 of the way there to being full for the 2017 season.  A big thank you to all of our amazing CSA members both new and old!  Keep spreading the good word because it makes all the difference. As a farm-ily member once said, “keep your friends close and you farmers closer.”

Small farms are making a big impact! Keep up the great work everyone – let’s do it even better in 2017! #workinghandsfarmcsa #dirtyhandscleanhearts

3 Steps to Signing Up:

shares

Winter CSA Shares 8, 9, 10.. the bounty continues!

If you have any further questions about the 2017 CSA be sure to check out our FAQs section or send us an email.  We look forward to seeing you all at the start of the season!  Here’s to good food and the amazing community it brings together!

Stay dry out there and cross your fingers for some sunshine in the 10 day! We could all use some sunshine!

With kind regards,

Your Farmers

Jess & Brian

dirty hands, clean hearts

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