The News from Windflower Farm
Greetings from Windflower Farm. Shorter days and cooler nights signal the start of the school year. Our farm staff is smaller by one this week. Mallory, who started here when she was 14, is off to begin her freshman year in college. Two other student workers will leave soon, but their schedules remain hazy. We’ll miss them when they go.
What’s in your share?
- Sweet corn
- Cucumbers (or squash)
- Cabbage (or eggplant)
- Lacinato kale (or lettuce)
What’s new on the farm?
Your basil was greenhouse grown because we were afraid that downy mildew would have killed it in the field. There is more to come. One goal will be to learn how to scale it up so that there is enough in the share for a batch of pesto. Your fruit share will be our own melons.
We have always farmed organically. Passersby know this because our fields are a little weedier than those absolutely weed-free corn fields in our neighborhood. That those fields are made weed-free by applications of a pre-emergent herbicide represent one of the differences between organic and conventional agriculture. We have a number of good tools in our weed management toolbox, but none are as effective as the herbicides used by my neighbors, and I find myself at times to be a little envious. In the past, we had worked with a group called Certified Naturally Grown for our organic certification. This year, we switched teams so that we would be certified under the national rule, which is more widely accepted, and we received our new certificate in the mail this week.
One of the key differences under this new rulebook is that so-called biodegradable plastic mulches are not allowed. It is suspected that they contain petroleum additives that are not good for soil health despite their use in Canadian and European organics. Only truly plastic mulches can be used in the states, and we’ll have to send any plastic mulches we do use to a landfill when we’re finished with them. This will certainly motivate us to try to eliminate those products altogether. Another key difference is that the paper trail required to enable a bonafide third party audit of an organic farm is substantial, and participation in the process has required us to make some changes to our record keeping system. Both of these changes – reducing the use of plastics and keeping better records – will make us a better farm business.
This week, we’ll wrap up our yellow onion harvest and begin on reds and shallots, vegetables that I enjoy growing and that our farm seems well suited to. Which brings me to a subject we are thinking out loud about. We have begun talking with other CSA farmers in the region about taking a more collaborative approach to producing what goes into your weekly shares. For the twenty years we have been a CSA, we have grown almost everything that we have sent. But we have come to believe that your shares (and our work lives) might be enhanced with a little selective vegetable crop swapping.
To that end, we are considering working with a small handful of experienced (and certified) organic farmers who would provide us with the kinds of vegetables that they grow particularly well, and we, in turn, would grow more of the kinds of crops that we do well and send those to their CSA members. We might grow more onions or tomatoes or squashes, for example, and trade them for early carrots or cucumbers or summer lettuce. In this way, we might more reliably offer to our CSA membership more of those vegetables that are difficult for us to grow. The benefit for us is that we’d eliminate a few challenging crops, enabling us to grow more of those vegetables we grow well. I share this because I’m curious to know what you think about this idea. Please feel free to drop me a line.
Have a great week, Ted