Back to School and Other Resolutions

Today the farm looks more like the Arctic Circle or the North Pole with blustery wind chills below zero sweeping the snow across frozen fields of white. It’s hard to picture the transformation about to occur. Monday morning we have surveyors staking the property and contractors sinking fence posts so by this time next week our much awaited deer fence should be complete. Blackberry and raspberry plants have been ordered as well as a really cool swing arm trellis system to protect our plants against freezing, create better air circulation, reduce sun scorching, and make harvesting super efficient. Seed for this year’s vegetable crops is piling up as I check them in sorting into two piles: one destined for transplanting in the greenhouses at Sharp’s Farm, the other going straight to ours for direct seeding. Although it’s the dead of winter I realize that work in the greenhouses should begin in just a few weeks.

Perhaps what I am most excited about is my first day of class as I go back to school to the University of Maryland, College Park for a certificate in Sustainable Agriculture. It’s a strange feeling like going back in time to the campus of my formative years where I lived and studied some 30 years ago. It’s a stirring feeling of new horizons and renewing my commitment to continuing education and growth. This is an exciting time for agriculture with new approaches such as regenerative farming and carbon sequestration, understanding soil biology and the role of microorganisms, fungi and root systems and their contribution toward the structure and health of the soil.

A week or so ago I attended the 20th Anniversary Convention for CASA’s FutureHarvest. CASA stand’s for the Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture and one of their missions is to train tomorrow’s farmers. In attendance was a nice balance of scientists, academia, and producers. It covered the gamut of experience from founders of the movement to up and coming newcomers and students. There were workshops hosted by some of my favorite farm authors ranging from the highly entertaining and knowledgable Ellen Polishuk discussing how to be a better boss, to Pam Dawling getting down to the nuts and bolts and nitty gritty of cover cropping and green manures through the calendar year, to Dr Ray Weil who literally wrote the book on soils. The Lewes Farmers’ Market presented research on how to increase sales at market while testing theories and tracking results at their own farmers’ market laboratory. Every meal included food from local farms and provided a chance to catch up with or meet new producers to commiserate about last season or get excited for the next. For dinner I joined Woody Woodroof and the Red Wiggler Community Farm crew who I’ve known about for years but never met face to face. I’ve always admired their “farming as therapy” mindset.  I’d really like to thank executive director, Dena Leibman, that took the time to show me and introduce me around to many key participants (Dena is a good customer at our Jones Mill Stand, btw).

So that’s about all for now. It’s going to be an exciting year so please join us for the journey by signing up for the CSA and shopping at the stands. If you see me around town make sure to say hello and ask about the farm, school, or what we’ve got cooking this year. We are looking forward to having everyone out this spring for a hayride tour, to volunteer, picnic or pick-your-own. Cheers!