March has been a very interesting transition month as we have gone from paper to plow. Over the winter most of what we have done is research: whether that be attending farm conferences, surfing the web, pouring through books, questioning farmers or working with extension agencies. We drilled a couple of wells and purchased some equipment including our tractors. Tested our soil, familiarized ourselves with irrigation and composting techniques. We studied the life cycle of bugs, benefits of cover cropping, etc… We also waited for the soil to dry out a bit. March has been a month of action and here is where we are.
Firstly it has been great for Norman’s Farm Market to be apprenticing with Denise Sharp of Sharp’s Farm who is growing all our transplants from seed in her greenhouses. Denise is an encyclopedia of horticultural knowledge and field experience and Jeff and I have thoroughly enjoyed our meetings in her sunroom with its panoramic view of the farm watching the waterfowl down at the pond and discussing our seed order. Jeff and I are like sponges, trying to absorb every word on a meandering track with Denise and learning all kinds of details. I write profusely trying to capture every word, “…The shade of the spent melon vines help keep the fall broccoli planting cool and get established it also gives you an extra crop on the same plastic mulch..Planting alyssum in the picker’s lanes at the end of each row is easily stepped over and attracts beneficial insects. It’s like a lounge where they can wait for dinner.” Our core staff of Anne, Torrey, and Yamileth have been apprenticing with Denise, planting seeds, thinning trays, and learning the ropes of the greenhouse. I find it to be a symbiotic relationship.
Meanwhile down the road at our new farm we had the pleasure of taking our plan from an 8 ½ “ by 11” sheet of paper onto a 10 acre plot of land. It is as if the tractor and chisel plow become the pencil drawing out our grid of soon to be vegetable plots. One of my favorite books from this winter was Elliot Coleman’s “New Organic Grower”. His method in laying out a 5 acre farm in 10 individual ½ acre plots on a 10 year rotation of cash and cover crops, inspired us to develop our own method. Our area will be made up of 24 or so ⅓ acre plots, each one with thirteen 200’ rows. Developing a pattern of rotation which takes into account all kinds of factors including timing, nutrient requirements, impact on the soil, etc… is a thought process you can get lost in. It feels like you are solving a puzzle and creating some kind of composition at the same time. It’s like soduko meets songwriting. This year will be a work in progress but we feel good about a solid well thought out plan as a blueprint for us to go off of. I’ve been warned that mother nature doesn’t necessarily think too much of plans though, so ask me in a couple months how closely we are sticking to it.
Coming up over the next few weeks we will be raising our first barn; as well as chisel plowing and discing our fields. We will layout our irrigation and lay plastic mulch. We are aiming for late March for our first direct seeding. We will be planting arugula, spinach, lettuce, kale, tatsoi, mizzuna, radishes and carrots. Our first transplants are scheduled for the week of April 10 and will include broccoli, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, head lettuce, and scallions. Stay tuned for more updates.