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Agrarian Harvest

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

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Wrapping up the Year

It was another busy year, as usual. We did not have an employee this year and adjusted our farm accordingly. We only sold at one farmers’ market this year and that was plenty. Farmers’ markets tend to take an inordinate amount of time.

It felt like an odd growing year with things ripening later than usual and not producing as abundantly. The heat of the season usually means summer abundance. But this year, we didn’t seem to have the heat early on and in turn a lack of abundance of anything. Some weeks this summer, we had a hard time filling the orders we had, leaving none or very little for the farmers’ market.Then there was the usual annoyances like aphids taking out the kale and squash bugs killing the zucchini and summer squash plants.

The drip irrigation system proved to work well, allowing us to harvest while we were irrigating. It took us two full days to harvest enough to fill orders for the Wood River Valley and to take to the Ketchum Farmers’ Market, then another two days for product for the Magic Valley. Since we were harvesting so often, the dip irrigation was very helpful. We can irrigate and harvest the same days and not be wading in the mud. Before we had to schedule our irrigation days at least two days before we had to go into the field to harvest. A challenging fete when we are in the field four days a week and half the time we were still harvesting in the mud. We still had lots of weeds between the rows because of the rain we had early in the growing season. But with no corrugates between the rows, it was easier to walk and mow between the rows also.

On to our solar power project, it didn’t quite meet our expectations. We didn’t calculate enough watts for our anticipated needs for the solar panels that were installed. So the solar isn’t generating enough power to cover all our usage to date. This means a power bill and a solar payment.  In the spring, it may be necessary to evaluate our production and possibly add a panel or two. This has not gone exactly as planned, but you never know until you try.

Overall, it was a good year. So far we are enjoying our slow, calm winter days. But maybe . .  just maybe . . the farmer has had too many winter days already. He is currently mapping out what to plant where and ordering seeds. By Spring, he will be planning on farming 5000 acres and planting every variety of every vegetable there is seed for. Somebody help me!

Does Organic Mean What You Think it Means?

When we started farming, we followed the organic rules for years before we actually certified. The first and second years of certification were very simple. The third year was very irritating. They decided to audit our winter squash; asking how many acres we had. Guess they are not used to dealing with small producers and also did not read the application documentation that provided the information they were asking about.  I told them that we had 200 plants. They said that they could calculate that out. They asked how much we harvested. I showed them my sales records. They then asked how much I had stored. I told them that I only harvested what was sold. Anything left over after frost became pig food. They wanted to know how much the pigs ate. I answered honestly and said I did not know. This was a big problem for them. My records were not audit-able according to them since I didn’t weigh every squash left in the field. Should I have lied and said some random number of pounds? They issued my certificate in spite of my failure to weigh every rotten squash that the pigs ate. Multipurpose ground like cropland and grazing is too complicated for inspectors or their expectation of farmers is industrial.

Since I started certifying organic, my inspection was done in the spring and all of my fees were paid before July. This allowed me to apply for assistance with certification prior to an October 31 deadline. This year I was inspected in late summer and did not receive a bill prior to the October 31 deadline and will not be eligible for the assistance. That will cost this farmer around $700; that’s a lot of tomatoes. My certifying agency claimed that there were a lot of new farms wanting to certify and our inspection was late because they wanted to get the new facilities done first. So to the back burner I go, behind the mega dairies and corporate farms looking for the big money.

Another item of concern this year is that the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) voted to allow hydroponic and aquaponic production into the Organic program. This means that soil is not required. If soil is not required the plants can only get nutrients from the farmer. There are no healthy soil microorganisms, no fungi, no bacteria, no beneficial life forms to help release micronutrients to the plants. If the nutrients are not provided in the system they cannot end up in our food to nourish us. There are also no microorganisms or adequate sun exposure to breakdown or compete with harmful products or bacteria. Yes, beneficial bacteria and fungi in the soil can protect us against harmful organisms.

So what does the Organic Label mean to me? At this point, I am in limbo. Most of our customers know who we are. They know our practices and are welcome to come inspect anytime they want and would likely buy from us even if we dropped our certification. We are after all a very small farm. At 17 acres, we actually consider ourselves market gardeners. Our production can be large enough though that we need some larger outlets like restaurants and grocery stores. These customers typically look for the Organic Certification when paying our prices. Their customer do not know who we are and thus depend on a third party verification that we are following acceptable methods of food production. But do the consumers actually know what Organic means? Do they know that their product may be raised in a chemical soup provided by a hydroponic system?  Do they know that broad spectrum chemicals like Neem oil that are approved for use as an insecticide in organic production?  Do they know that farms (big farms) can petition to get chemicals accepted because their system is broken and they want to resort to a chemical to “fix” their problem?

At our farm, we have had infestations, some were fixed by an army of lady bugs and others resulted in destroyed crops. We are diverse and learn to roll with it and try to use crop rotation and plant selection to avoid future problems. When you are a mega farm in a mono crop system, you are not as agile and go back to the bottle at the first sign of stress.

We want to call out consumers. What do you think of when you purchase food? Are you looking for the best price? Are you looking for nutrient density? Are you looking for pesticide-free? Are you looking for humane animal husbandry? Do you care about the people who grow your food?  Do you want to know the farm your food came from or is it just the labeling that matters? Does your food come with a warranty?

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

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!

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

 

 

Another Year

It’s a new year. The time of year when people are making resolutions. I have never liked the word “resolution”, but a word I can focus on is goal. A goal is something to work toward. It gives you ambition to put all your effort into achieving it. So we have goals on this farm. Our goals for 2017 are:

  • To keep doing what we do; grow Organic, wholesome produce
  • Grow more produce to provide our community with wholesome produce
  • Continue to make a living at it
  • Take care of the soil
  • Learn to live with quack-grass

 

We would like to work toward our goals with plans. Our plans for this growing season are:

  • Produce CSA
  • Meat CSA  (something new we are working on)
  • Being at more farmers’ markets. We are planning on adding the Ketchum Farmers’ Market to our market schedule this year.
  • Planting more acres of produce

At this time, we don’t have a plan on how to live in harmony with quack-grass without it causing us headaches.  . . . . but I’m sure we will figure it out.

 

We are excited for all that 2017 holds for us.  We would also like to thank all of our supporters for choosing to support local in 2016. We are looking forward to growing for you in the new year.

 

First Frost

We had our first frost last week, signalling the end of the growing season. We had plans of covering all our tomatoes with a cloth cover to protect them and keep them growing later into the fall. But the plants had slowed way down on producing, the wind was blowing (which would of made it extremely had to keep them covered if we could of got the cover on), and we were extremely tired. So we didn’t cover anything, which means no more tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers or zucchini. However, we did pick everything on the plants before they froze. We do have lots of peppers available if you want to freeze any or to freeze stuffed peppers for a quick healthy meal this winter. We also have 6 cases of tomatoes left mostly romas and san marzanos.

In the weeks to come we will still have kale, swiss chard, celery, carrots, small onions, sugar pie pumpkins, winter squash, parsley, oregano, rosemary, sage, eggs, handmade soap, laundry detergent, chicken, pork and beef.

The first frost and fall also means the end of farmers’ market season. The Hailey Farmers’ Market ended with the last market on October 13th. The last Twin Falls Farmers’ Market is on October 29, which will consist of a harvest festival too with lots of fun activities for kids. Although, the markets are ended doesn’t mean we will disappear until Spring. We will still be making regular deliveries to the Wood River Valley and Twin Falls. You can email or call us to put in an order and we will schedule a delivery time with you. You can also have your email added to our mailing list and we will keep you up to date on what is available and when we will be planning delivery dates in your area.

 

 

Falling Back . . . Slowing Down

Are we ready for the fallback time change? No! We like the days of longer light. I honestly cannot believe that summer is over already. It feels like we just celebrated the 4th of July and now it’s September! We are ready for the slow down of the harvest season and that is what fall brings for us, a slow down. The produce is feeling the effect of the shorter hours of daylight and cooler temperatures. The few zucchini plants that are still living and the melons have slowed their production down significantly. The only plants producing abundantly still are the tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and kale.

The one thing we hope will increase in production in the fall are the duck eggs. The ducks have started laying and we have  started our daily duck egg search. We have found eggs in the driveway and backyard. Since our ducks are free range and get to roam the farm and yard that gives us large search area so far. So, this fall, we plan to learn about ducks laying habits.

There are things we look forward to in fall that comes with the changing of seasons besides the slow down of work. We look forward to the changing colors of fall, the smell and taste of pumpkin and settling into a school routine again. There is something about the changing of seasons that allows us to look around, breath deep and take everything around us in. Along with seeing the beauty of it all we start to think, talk and plan for next year. What will we plant, how much and what will next year bring for us? The possibilities are endless.

 

 

Flurry of August

August has to be the busiest month of the whole summer. I can’t remember ever having a calendar that had a blank day in August.  I have heard it said that August is the month of timelessness. The produce is producing at max, so there is more harvest than normal, more varieties of produce are producing and needed harvested in August, and everything  from apricots, peaches, tomatoes, green beans to pickles needs to be canned, jammed, dried or froze. It is also the time of year when we need to start to think and plan for the school year and then there are all the birthdays and BBQs planned in August. There are so many days in August when my head is spinning and I scream, ” Aaahhh, really, how do we do it all?” On those days, I take a few deep breaths, start with one task at a time and drink a few beers. Everything gets done in long run and all is okay . . . . .. or the produce I was suppose to be canning for winter starts to go bad and I feed it to the pigs or chickens, I have enough canned from last year to last the winter. Right? ? ?

Here is what has been keeping us busy on the farm in August:

We have a wide variety of producDSCN7728e that is producing well: seeded watermelons, muskmelons, cantaloupe, green beans, swiss chard, kale, bell peppers, serrano peppers, chile peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, slicing tomatoes, Sun Gold tomatoes. The san marzano and roma tomatoes are slower to come on but are slowly starting to produce. Our carrots are doing amazingly well this year and we are happy to have baby carrots with or without tops available. The garlic and onions have been harvested and cured, we have  been cleaning and getting it ready to sale.

Last year, our melons grew and produced well. We also had request for melons that we didn’t have so this year we decided to plant many more melons. It has been incredibly surprising how many melons the plants are producing and we have harvested the last tDSCN7722wo weeks. We have had a mountain of melons to sell at the farmers’ markets. They have such a sweet aroma and can be smelled from several feet away. And the smell is nothing compared to the taste. Yummmmm!

Unfortunetly, our eggplants are not producing yet. The plants are big and beautiful, but there are only a few blooms and they aren’t making eggplants. This is very unfortunate since my mouth is watering for eggplant parmesan and baba ghanoush. We are hoping they will start producing abundantly before frost. They better hurry, I’m thinking we are going to have an early frost this year. And our beets rotted in the ground so no beets this year.

I know this season will wind down all too soon. Then it will be cold and I will be dreaming of summer again. In all the busyiness there is lots of joy to be had.  I really do love summer and all that goes along with it. I even enjoy canning, and yes, I do get enough canned, jammed, dried or froze to last us the winter. And at the end of an exhausting day, there is nothing like having a beer while sitting on the porch gazing at the moon and stars and listening to the insects. Cheers!

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