We’re Back! Spring has sprung and the opening of our 37th Season is just a few weeks away. I’m starting to feel those pre-season jitters like I do every year. Sitting on my front porch in my Adirondack with an iced tea and waving at neighbors feels like a front-row seat to the parade of joggers, dog walkers, and strollers against a backdrop of cherry blossoms. There’s a jovial spirit on the street and anticipation towards the growing season foreshadowed by the hum of lawnmowers and the smell of gasoline mixed with freshly mowed grass. So I open the top on my jeep and head out to the farm.
Spring On The Farm
Work at the farm starts kind of slow in March but turns into a full gallop by May. We’ve recently started plowing, setting up irrigation, weeding, and feeding perennial crops such as strawberries. We’ve also been refamiliarizing ourselves with crop rotation, taking inventory of growing supplies, and ordering diesel.
At the farm, I find Franklin and Chalo hard at work weeding the blackberries and raspberries. It’s startling how efficiently they progress down the row as I compare the stark comparison of the befores and afters. Shortly thereafter, I find my brother, Jeff, on the tractor mowing, trying to get ahead of the fast-growing grass and dandelions. We are met by our farmer, Fredo, and we discuss the pros and cons of investing in a pre-owned zero-turn mower and a gator to get us across the farm without having to drive our cars down the tractor rows.
Transplanting From The Greenhouse
We hear a box truck coming up the driveway, so we head over to meet Nathaniel and son of Clay Hill Farms, our greenhouse grower responsible for all our transplants this season. Yesterday afternoon we received our initial order and this week’s weather forecast is perfect for planting. We received about 20k yellow and red onion plants which are the lion’s share of onion needs for this season. I was surprised to hear how much fussier red onions are than yellow from a grower’s perspective, requiring twice the nutrients. No theories as to why.
Additionally, we received our initial succession planting of lettuces (red, green, and romaine), beets (red, gold, and Chioggia), kales, and cabbages. For those unfamiliar, succession planting refers to the method of planting the same crop in intervals to ensure a steady supply each week.
For instance, we will plant about 1500 heads of lettuce every three weeks. In an ideal world, we would harvest about 500 heads per week starting in about a month. Of course, mother nature will have something to say about ideal worlds. Sun, rain, heat, cold and extreme weather are all factors that can accelerate, decelerate, and contribute to the success or failure of a quality harvest.
Opening Day Is Coming Soon
We are excited to begin again at the markets as well which we are planning on opening daily around May 1. While Eris and I perused annuals and perennials at American Plant last Saturday, I started thinking of them as metaphors for our high school and college-aged summer crew whose emails and applications start cropping up in sync. I love that Norman’s Farm has become an institution for students passionate about the environment, food, and/or just saving a few bucks for college and travel.