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Agrarian Harvest

Wholesome. Organic. Experience. All about our farm, food, and organic, small farm life.

Is Plastic Organic Friendly?

With the farm clean-up being close to finished for the year, it gave us time to think while we were pulling plastic row cover. To understand what we were doing, part of our clean up consist of mowing down the froze plants, pulling up all the plastic row cover and filling dumpsters. As I’ve always thought of myself as an environmentally friendly person, this practice is bothering my conscience. We are just a small farm. If all organic farms are using plastic row cover, I can’t imagine how many tons of plastic row cover is going to the landfill from Organic farms each year.

The USDA Organics programs allows for the use of plastic row cover as a method of weed control, but up until this year didn’t allow the use of biodegradable row cover. This doesn’t make sense to me and I’m having a problem saying it is okay to put down thousands of feet of plastic that is going to wind up in our landfills. I don’t feel we are doing the world justice being Organic farmers if we are going fill up the landfill with plastic just because the Organics program says it is okay.

I know consumers are conscious of how their food is grown and I’m now wondering if it matters to the consumer if their food is grown environmentally-friendly also. As a farmer, I feel it matters, this farm won’t be using plastic next year. At this time, we are looking into getting biodegradable row covering, which is newly approved by the USDA Organics program, and planting rows farther apart to mow the weeds between rows.  Ultimately, we feel it is important for consumers to know their farmers and their practices, not just look for the Organic symbol.

 

December Happenings:

  • The farmer spends this month drooling over the seed catalogs while the kids go through toy catalogs. He writes a list of what he wants to grow and diagrams how and where to plant everything.
  • Then we discuss what or if any changes need to be made for the next year’s growing and marketing season.

“Off-Season” Work

Fall was way too short. It felt like we had a week of Fall and then went straight into Winter. Maybe it’s because the farmers markets are over, we’re exhausted and quickly go into hibernation mode. But, most likely, it’s the weather. It got way too cool too quick for this warm-weather-loving- body. We’d prefer our fall consisting of three months of 70 degree days. Most of our days are now cool and blustery; and it’s snowing while I type this. With all the leaves off the trees, looking bare and cold, it give us a chill  just looking out the window. But out we must go, there is work to do still.

Since the our growing season is over for the year, we will be spending our days in the field doing farm clean up. This consist of mowing the froze plants, pulling up the plastic row cover and tilling the plant debris into the soil. And the chore of pulling hundreds of t-post out of the ground that were used to stake the tomatoes up. Then there are tasks that need to be done before seeds can be planted for next year like replace the plastic on the cold-frame and, possibly, put another cold-frame up.  

There is also planting to do, believe it or not. It is time to plant garlic. It has to overwinter 20160729_224038in the ground to be ready to harvest by July or August next year. So, hopefully, the weather will hold out, meaning no snow . . . . but since that is already happening, maybe the ground won’t freeze hard as a rock just yet. We are trying to brace ourselves for winter, since we keep hearing that this winter is forecast to be worse than last year. We are just not ready for snow and cold and neither is the farm. Really . . . . we could skip winter this year or spend the whole winter on a warm beach.

November Happenings:

  • Besides the farm clean-up, we look forward to Thanksgiving and eating lots of warm, delicious food.
  • We still have winter squash, pie pumpkins, onions, dry beans, honey, eggs, pork by the cut, beef by the cut, whole chickens, and whole ducks for sale.
  • We are taking orders for whole or half pigs. The butcher dates are set and have limited quantity of pigs available.

Feeling the Change

I live by the seasons. Really,  I didn’t give much thought to the seasons before I was a mother. I just lived day to day wanting everyday to be a summer day that I could lay in the sun reading a book. Then I became a mother and discovered the seasons of motherhood; the season of newborn, season of milestones, toddler season. I now feel I’m in school-age season; feel like I’ve been in this season for a long time and now realize I’m about to enter the season of having a teenager. I once had a friend tell me, “It’s just another season of life; it will pass.”

The seasons of the year and motherhood do pass, sometimes all too quickly and sometimes slower than we would like. But then when you look back you wonder where the time or days have gone. How did it go by so fast? Our summer was like that. There was so much work to do and so many markets and deliveries to make, we didn’t know how we’re going to make it through the days. We wondered how we were going to manage until October and not collapse from exhaustion before the first frost and life would slow down again.  And now looking back, I’m wondering where my summer went. How could it be gone already? I’m feeling sad . . . .  I want summer back! Just like I want back the seasons of early motherhood. . . . . it’s just gone too fast.

We are feeling the change from summer to fall. The nights are crisp and cooler, days are cooler too, plant production is slowing down, kids are back to school, the pumpkins are turning, the wheat fields around us have been thrashed, early potatoes have been dug, storage potatoes are being dug and silage corn is being chopped. And the hopes or fears of first frost are in the air. It’s definitely the feel of fall. A welcoming season with the colors of orange, red and yellow, cups full of warm drinks and the smell of pumpkin spice in the air.

DSCN8786

Welcome Fall . . . . .  the slow-down season for us. My new favorite season.

 

September & October Happenings

  • Harvest winter squash & pumpkins
  • Most of the produce will slow its production or stop producing altogether. It will soon be the last of the corn, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, melons & basil for the year.
  • Our first frost, then the tomatoes & peppers will done for the year also.
  • Farm clean-up: weeds to be mowed & row cover to be picked up

Update: Help Us Be Farmers Again

We have had amazing, positive response to our  post, Help Us Be Farmers Again. We thank everyone for their responses and trying to help us figure out a better way for marketing and distributing produce. We appreciate all the feedback we are hearing. We know there has been some concern and worry among some of our customers also. We would like to share our plan with you and say please do not worry. And a special thank you to all those that are now coming to the farm to buy and working with our partners at Freshocal and Kraay’s Market & Garden.  

At this time, we plan to continue to be at the Ketchum and Hailey Farmers’ Markets. We will also continue to do wholesale deliveries in the Wood River Valley.

In the Magic Valley, we will be cutting down on the days we will be at the Twin Falls farmers’ market. We are planning on being there, the first and third Saturday of the month. However, this month we won’t be there on the third Saturday, but will on the fourth. Watch the Twin Falls Farmers’ Market facebook page or our Agrarian Harvest facebook page , we post on there if we will not be there. Even though we aren’t at market our products are still available, everyday of the week, either by coming to the farm to buy on Mondays or Wednesdays (4 pm to 6 pm) or order and pick up or get it delivered through Freshocal (freshocal.com).

We are a dynamic, intensive farm. We are trying to get that work/ life balance figured out. Balancing family life, production and marketing is a huge challenge and not just for us. After visiting with other farmers, we found that is a very common theme during the growing season that farmers struggle with: the demands of the farm, demands of the consumer, and demands of the family. We don’t only like to farm but also to think outside the box and try new things. We wouldn’t be growing produce for a living if we didn’t think outside the box and want to do something different than “normal agriculture”. So we don’t want to worry our customers, only to inform of issues that may not of been seen or thought. We are honored to be your farmers and to have your help and support making sure everybody’s need are met in the farm to consumer relationship.

Help Us Be Farmers Again

This blog was started to write about farm life and happenings on the farm. Honestly, I’m finding that very hard to do lately. Here is why . . . . .

When we set out to be farmers that grow produce years ago, we never saw ourselves where we are today . . . . on the road four days a week going to farmers’ markets, delivering and paying an employee to do the farming. Our purpose was to grow organic produce and get it in the hands and mouths of as many people as we could without leaving the farm. Our vision was to be a family working happily together to grow, eat and sell organic produce. We are no longer a family happily working together . . . .  we are exhausted and spend our days crowded in the car . . . . we aren’t even doing the farming anymore!

We have become traveling salespeople and delivery drivers. People now expect to be delivered to, for everything, including food. When a farmer leaves the farm most days of the week, he is no longer a farmer. When a farmer is off the farm, the farm work is not getting done. So how are we supposed to be growing food when we are having to leave the farm to deliver it and sale at farmers’ markets four days a week? We aren’t! We have to pay a H-2A employee to do the farming because it’s very hard to find people in our community that are willing to come to the farm to help do the work to grow the produce that they want to buy. So if we are on the road doing sales, markets and delivering most days of the week, are we still your farmers? We don’t think so. Our hands aren’t in the dirt doing the growing anymore. We help with harvest, but we are no longer able to tend the plants and be on the farm as our vision started. That is not what we want to be.  We want and need to be the ones on the farm doing the work. Therefore, consumer need to be willing to go to the farm to buy food or have a sales and delivery service deliver, which we have found for you (details below). We don’t want to be doing three farmer’s markets a week, we would prefer to only harvest what is needed.

Now let’s talk farmer’s markets for a moment. What is a farmers’ market? It is suppose to be a location where farmers come together to sell their food directly from the farm. It is more than just a couple of hours off the farm to sell my goods, it’s full days . . . . the markets have rules that require us to be there two hours before market starts and we have to unload a whole 16 foot trailer of produce instead being able to sell out of our trailer or vehicle.  Here is a huge issue we have with farmer’s markets, we never know how much is going to sell or how many people are going to be at market each week. So we harvest as much as we can and end up with waste! So it is a waste of our time to harvest it and now the excess produce is thrown out or fed to the animals. Farmers’ markets would be great if it was just a couple of hours to do the sales and if we didn’t have to set up a mini grocery store on the street. Honestly, farmers’ markets are exhausting, they aren’t geared toward or convenient for the farmer and we end with too much wasted produce.

We feel we have turned into a mini grocery store on wheels. That is not and never was our vision or purpose for farming. Farmers need to be on the farm growing the food. We would love to see all our customers come to the farm to buy, but we also know that is not feasible for some. So we are very happy to now offer our products through delivery services in the Magic Valley and the Wood River Valley. In the Magic Valley, you can buy our products through Freshocal,  freshocal.com. You order on their website, we harvest just for you, they come to the farm to get it and deliver to you. Freshocal  In the Wood River Valley, you can order through Kraay’s Market & Garden, kraaysmarketgarden.grazecart.com . You order on their website Sunday and Mondays, we harvest, and they deliver on Wednesdays.  Kraay’s Market & Garden  This is a dream come true for exhausted farmers that are trying to find a way to be farmers again.

We may be willing to do one farmers’ market a week, but anymore than that and we are not farmers anymore. We need your help to be farmers again. Our plea to our customers is to come to the farm to buy from us directly or buy through one of the above marketing and delivery services. So try it, let us know what you think and help us figure this thing out. If you have any trouble ordering any of our products from Freshocal or Kraay’s, please let us know and we will help you.

We can’t keep going at the pace we have been of constant traveling to deliver and do markets. Something needs to change. We are setting out to figure this thing out, we want to go back to our roots . . . . our original vision and purpose . . .  to be your farmers, we want to do the growing for you and not pay someone else to do it. And where do you find farmers? On the farm! Please help us be farmers again!

For those of you that already come to the farm to buy and pick-up CSAs, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You share the same vision and purpose with us. You are allowing us to be the farmers we set out to be.

Heat of the Season

The weather is heating up and so is our growing and market season. We are going to three markets a week (Twin Falls, Ketchum, & Hailey). The foot traffic at the markets is also increasing, which is good. That means less produce waste from market that is fed to the animals, which we like, the less waste the better.  We also have CSA pick-up and delivery three days a week. If you are doing the math, that means three harvest days a week, sometimes four which only leaves us with one day of rest. But most weeks we can’t even call it a day of rest because there is still work to be done: animals fed, irrigation water to change, and lots of projects that need to be done, which usually take priority over resting. That’s the life of a farmer, there are no days off or at least not very many of them.

We are busy . . . and about to be in the middle of the busiest part of our season and the heaviest harvesting; when the majority of our produce varieties are ripe and ready for harvest and market. Which means lots of heavy totes and boxes to be carrying, loading then unloading and lots of phones calls doing wholesale sales and customer relations. In the next couple of weeks, we expect to start harvesting cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, okra, fennel and new potatoes. Then soon after that: green beans. This is the heat of the season for us, when the real work begins. We start our days at dawn, we are going all day, and we don’t stop until dark. We are still tired when we get up in the mornings. We just get up and keep moving.

So if we don’t return a call, text or e-mail promptly, know that we will get back you. We don’t have hours to sit and chat or answer phone calls at all hours like in the off-season, but we do have minutes here and there. You are important to us. You are the reason why we do what we do. It is important to us that you eat wholesome, real food.  You keep us motivated to keep moving when our days are long and we are feeling weary. So do your shopping from your local farms. Just by showing up with your smiling face, you are motivating a farmer to keep up the hard work that he/she is doing.

We may have a lot to do, but we really do love this time of year. The sunshine, the smell of the great outdoors, the produce and all the meals we get from it, the sunsets, sounds of all the animals and insects, and people we get to interact with all week long. We hope you are eating wholesome, real food. If not, come see us, we can change that!

Farm Wife Garden & Necessities

I have my own garden and growing space. I call it the farm wife’s garden. When a farmer and his wife both like to grow plants and have different ideas of when and how to plant and what to plant, you need your own spaces. Or at least that is true for us. The farmer has control of most of the farm and I get the yard and my own gardening space. In my garden, I get to design it the way I like (it’s my work of art, my masterpiece), plant what I want, but I also have to feed the family and be able to do all of our canning from my garden.

In my garden (the farm wife’s garden), I’ve been doing a no-till growing method and mulching a lot with wood chips and straw. Last year, the garden didn’t produce very well and the quack grass took over. Reluctantly, I decided I would need to till again this year. I spent a couple of days scooping poop out of the chicken house and hauling it to the garden. I spread a generous amount of chicken manure on it and then attempted to rototill with our small walk behind rototiller. It kept getting bound up on the grass. Before I could even make one pass the full length of the garden, the rototiller die! Apparently, the grass was too hard on it and broke a piece that drives the tines. So we reverted to the tractor and big rototiller. It wasn’t able to get through the root mass either so we hooked up the renovator to break through the grass roots and loosen it up. Then rototilled. We waited a week to let the grass roots that remained to start to grow again and then tilled again. . . . .  wait two more weeks and till again.

After this experience, I have a new appreciation of tools/equipment that are needed to make farming easier . . .  or in my case large gardening easier. If you are new to small farming or just thinking of doing it, here is what I consider necessary tools and equipment: shovel, hoe, small tractor to operate rototiller, mower/whipper, renovator and plastic layer. A shovel is a must and used for so much on a daily basis. From irrigating, to dig holes, scoop soil to dig weeds out or just chop weeds down.  A hoe (hoop hoe preferable, in my opinion)  for planting and weeding; used a lot for weeding unless you cover your whole planting area in plastic. And a tractor and small implements to work the ground with ease, quicker and with less muscle aches. And our new piece of equipment this year is a plastic layer, a purchase I thought could wait until next year  but the farmer insisted it was a need this year. I now know he was right. We have laid so much plastic so quickly and the plastic is so tight and neat on the row; much better than doing it by hand with a shovel. I am very happy with the farmers new toy.

plastic layer
This is the first row laid with the plastic layer. The beds are firmer, more uniform, easier to plant in & the wind can’t pick up the plastic. The rows on the right were laid by hand using a shovel to throw dirt on the plastic. The difference is amazing!

Something new for me this year is straw bale gardening. I have read and heard about it, but don’t know anyone who has done it. So I’m trying it with just a couple of bales because I’m afraid of failing again – like my no-till, mulch gardening method. I’m interested in watching plants grow out of the bales and cover the bale like a hanging basket. If you are interested in trying straw bale gardening too and are in search of straw, look no more. We still have Organic straw bales for sale.   Organic Wheat Straw

Enjoy your growing. And don’t be afraid to try something new! Life is one giant experiment.

June Happenings & Plans  

  • Finish Planting
  • We expect to have sugar snap peas, radishes, & zucchini ready this month.
  • Wood River Farmers’ Markets begin; Ketchum June 13th & Hailey June 29th  Farmers’ Markets
  • And daily weeding begins!

May Produce & Planting

May is the month of planting for us. The busyness of planting has already started and will only get crazier as the month goes on. Since the weather delayed our ability to plant all of our cool weather vegetables earlier in the spring, we are now in a rush to get every plant and seed of all our produce in the ground.

On the bright side, our first greens of the year are ready. Part of our kale has overwintered and we have been picking it.  We will do the first cutting of the early planted kale, spinach and lettuce at the end of the week! Last month, we had our first meal of the year that included our homegrown, wholesome kale. We sauted the kale with garlic, grilled steak kabobs with onions and bell peppers. It was delicious!! The first kale of the season is exciting to us, it is always our first greens of the season. In early spring, we are starved for greens, especially ones we harvest ourselves. And it is very exciting to think of our first cutting of lettuce and spinach too!! The first greens of the season always taste the best.

We tend to get caught up in all the work that needs to be done, so I have to remind myself and the farmer to enjoy the season and don’t stress, no matter how much there is to do. Do a little bit at a time and it will all eventually get done.  I’m a doer, a hard worker, and a pusher when it comes to getting through a to-do list, it’s not a race, although I feel I need to race through the tasks. I have to take a deep breath, lifting my face to the sun and smiling . . . . . . because the sun is shining and it is warm . . . . .  finally! So I will enjoy planting. And not think of all the weeding that will need to be done before long.

May Happenings & Plans

  • Plant, plant and more planting
  • Twin Falls Farmers Market starts Saturday May 13th, 9 am – 1 pm at Breckenridge Endowment Farm on North College Road.
  • CSA (full season) deadline is May 15th, this deadline does not include the partial season shares. You can continue to sign up for partial season shares throughout the spring and summer.         csa2017
  • Full season and Spring partial season CSA begins this month! We will email or call you with the exact date.
  • Meat bundles still available        Beef              Pork

 

 

Blow, Row Cover, Blow

Let the work begin. And that we have.

The last couple of weeks its been days full of working ground, laying plastic, planting cool weather vegetable seedlings, and then putting the row cover in place. In between the storms, that is. With the storms comes the wind. The wind can be annoying, frustrating and make our life on the farm complicated. We have had issues keeping the row cover in place with the wind whipping it around. The wind also tears it up or can just pull it off all together, which we have had happen within a couple of hours after we put it on. So we have tried the clamps only, sandbags only and have discovered we need to use a combination of clamps and sandbags along the sides and staking the ends down.  Yet, it always seems to weasel its way out of whatever we use so that it can blow in the wind. It just can’t resist to have its ends or edges fluttering and flapping like hair blowing in the wind.

Needless to say, we live and learn. Everyday is a learning experience on this farm. Meanwhile, we are trying to patiently wait for calm, sunny days. The wind can wear on a person . . . . . . . . and on row cover.

 

April Happenings & Plans

  • More ground work
  • Lay plastic
  • Planting cool weather vegetables
  • Our kale overwintered, is growing again and is ready to eat. Our first kale of the year is available in 4 oz, 8 oz or 1 lb bags.    Produce
  • CSA shares still available  Produce CSA
  • More pigs ready to for the butcher, we have pork and pigs available for purchase.   Pork

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