November 12, 2020

I don’t think that even a farmer could complain about this week's weather in good conscience…..well, maybe I shouldn’t under estimate our abilities as an industry…..  I, for one, loved it!   In my opinion It could stay this warm until April and then start warming up again…..some parts of global warming could be positive.

We have made some additions to our online store and will continue to add products as we figure out logistics and where to source them.  New to the site are Schoolhouse gluten free granola, brownies and muffins.  We have also added some pre-organized boxes for a quick click and go.  So far they include a juicing box, greens box and harvest box with a breakfast box to be added soon. 

Carrot Ginger Juicing Box. Order by 5pm.
November 12, 2020

This bit of warm weather will extend our spinach season a few weeks and will add some size to our last planting of carrots (planted about August 15th)  Without it they would mostly have been just a bit too small to bunch.  We will continue to pull and bunch these carrots until freeze-up and then quickly gather a stockpile to use through the months of December and possibly January.  If kept cold and dark they won’t know the difference between being in the field and being in a cooler.  Carrots (and several other root crops) are biennials which means they grow a storage root the first year, go into dormancy over winter and then send up a seed stalk the following spring.  They are perfectly suited to sit cold and damp for extended periods of time.  That is why we are able to store them.

While we are one the subject of carrots I might as well give a brief overview of what our carrot production season looks like.

By this time of year I have already spoken for the 2021 growing season seed, if I don’t do this I risk not getting what I need.  So we are already locked in on the carrots that you will be buying right through June of 2022.  That commitment so far into the future is part of what puts farmers at such a disadvantage in the marketplace.  We are committed for a full 18 months before the next level of the marketing chain assumes any kind of responsibility and in many cases farmers don’t see payment for another six months after that…..that can be grey hair inducing.

We usually plant our first crop of carrots in late March or early April.  It depends completely on when the soil is ready to work.  On our sandy soils it is usually a day or two after the snow is gone.  We have, on a number of occasions helped the snow melting along by grinding peat moss into a very fine powder and modifying our hay bale shredding machine to deliver a fine dust to darken the surface of the snow and accelerate melting.  It is so effective that we have applied peat moss to half of a field and planted carrots right next to snow that was still 18 inches deep.  I’m not very good at sitting and watching opportunities slip away when there is something I can do about it and I guess this is an example of the result.  I originally got the idea when I heard that they were using soot for the same purpose in Russia.  I sure din’t want soot on my fields so I came up with this alternative.  Be careful if you try it though.  A tiny bit to darken the snow is good but too much will create an insulation layer that will actually slow the snowmelt.

Once the first planting is in we will cover it with a 52 foot x 1000 foot “floating row cover” (a porous material similar to the Bounce fabric softener sheets but thinner and up to 60’000 square feet in size; the product we use weighs only 19 grams per square meter).  We generally get three years use out of each cover.  The magic happens when the reduced airflow at the soil surface allows the soil to warm to 20 degrees Celsius or better and lose much less heat at night.  It also reduces evaporation (evaporative cooling is a very powerful force that can reduce soil temperatures greatly) which helps retain soil surface moisture.  The most important thing for a germinating seed are temperature and moisture.  It works so well that I have witnessed a cold snap that left exposed soil frozen solid four inches deep on a sunny day with a high temperature of only minus four Celsius.  The soil temperature under the cover was 21 degrees Celsius!

Once the first planting is in we wait to see crop emergence and then seed the second planting; this time with no floating covers.  When the second planting emerges we plant the third and so on until about the first week of July when, because of slower growth at the tail end of the season, we push the plantings closer together so that fresh supply stays consistent.  The result is usually 14 or 15 plantings per season ending about August 15th.  We plant the winter storage carrots about July 25 so that they are just barely fully mature by late October.  Conventional carrot producers plant all of there crop by June 15th and then rely on fungicides to keep the plants healthy until harvest because it is much easier to get carrots to germinate in cooler weather (we often have to use a bit of irrigation to get good emergence in the summer months).  Our perfectly timed late planting allows us to grow our carrots with absolutely no use of chemicals, and quality as good as, and sometimes better than, what commercial growers can achieve.

Now think about 15 plantings of carrots and multiple crops (anywhere from two to 25 plantings) and the result is over 500 “management units”…..more grey hair and high level management requirements without the high level pay….See how I did that?  I’m not complaining about the weather; I’ve switched my complaint to financial compensation (that’s big corporate speak).  

Enjoy what’s left of the warm weather and...
Keep eating your veggies.