Sunday, November 27, 2011

Week of October 3 2011 : More Pumpkins

Here is a photo of Nathaniel posing with his pumpkin. It reminds me of the classic photo of a father and son posing in a snow covered corn field with the son's first buck. Now I understand what is so significant about the photo. It's not the deer (or pumpkin), it's the magic of sharing time, sharing smiles and sharing success.

His first hunt was a disaster. He sat in the pumpkin patch then cried and screamed. The sound really echoed through the valley. All the neighbors were out for their evening walk and witnessed the tantrum. Good photo opportunity gone bad.

Now onto his third pumpkin hunt and the experience shows. He didnt settle for a pumpkin along the edge of the corn field. He walked all the rows once then he returned to the biggest and orangest pumpkin of all.

Week of September 26 2011 : First Pumpkin

Here is a photo of Francie claiming her first pumpkin. Last Halloween she was 3 months old, and not very mobile, so her first attempt to hunt a pumpkin was a bust. What a difference a year makes. Now she is very mobile!

For Nathaniel, this was a rare moment of unprompted sharing. He patiently coached Francie to pass on the small pumpkins and the green pumpkins. He guided her along the edge of the pumpkin patch until he found one worthy of his little sister.

She still doesnt understand why we want to go hunting for pumpkins. All she knew was her brother pointed and screamed when he saw this pumpkin. So she instinctively cradled it and claimed it as hers. Whatever this strange orange thing is, wow, it must special.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Week of September 19 2011 : Squashed Truck

Here is a photo of Francie dancing in the squashed truck. Hey I am excited about the Blue Hubbards too! The photo doesnt show much of the recently squashed tail gate. It will rust quite a bit during the winter. Soon it will look more like a farm vehicle. Hopefully for Christmas I will get spongy rubbers to fix up the bumper just right.

The Blue Hubbards were a success again this year. Each year hubbards have the same sales pattern. We take bring them to the last four markets. Many people look and show interest the first two weeks but very few sell. We drive to market, and home from market, loaded down with hubbards. BAAH. But the last two weeks of market, suddenly these turn into the best sellers.

It's a big squash and its a big commitment. Even the 'small" hubbards weigh around 6 pounds. But the taste and texture are worth that commitment. Its a unique experience of sweet and nutty and dense and creamy.

So as I am loading the squashed truck for final market, I always make sure to leave several behind so we can enjoy all winter long, too.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Week of September 12 2011 : Tradition

Each summer, I fall at least weeks, if not months, behind our blogging schedule. I try to post weekly during the market season and monthly during the off season. As harvesting chores demand more time the first non essential chore to be sacrificed is blogging. I am not a talented writer and during peak season I dont have time or energy to compensate for lack of natural ability.

So each year, it is tradition, after the season is over, to review notes and catch up on the posts. That's why there is such a disconnect between topics and dates. Field grown tomatoes and November? Factor is a ten week lazy delay and it makes sense.

Here is a file photo of our Sun Sugar cherry tomatoes out in the field. These are the tomatoes that won the Best Tasting Cherry Tomato contest at the Geauga Fresh Farmer's Market for the second year in a row.

We grow as many heirloom varieties as possible but the ultimate measurement of our varieties is taste. We grow the varieties with the best taste even if it is a hybrid. Everybody has different opinions and preferences so 'best taste' is a hard decision. So we are particularly pleased when market customers agree with us.

The Sun Sugars are an interesting variety to grow. They have good growing characteristics, except they require more pruning than typical cherry tomatoes. When picked at early ripeness they have a slight classic tomato taste mixed with a sweet taste. As the fruits vine ripen though the slight classic flavor is replaced with a sugary taste. We dont push our luck to far, as fruits tend to drop as they ripen.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Week of September 5 2011 : Sweet Beans

Here is a photo of the base of a Blue Hubbard squash. The mature squash weigh about 20+ lbs and the plants are also very large. For perspective, the drip irrigation line is 1" in diameter and the vine is at least twice as large. Notice the bark! The leaves measure 18" in diameter and the vines measure 20' in length.

These plants certainly have a prehistoric, giant-size scale to them. All we are missing are the dinosaurs. We grow squash along the edges of the sweet corn rows and let the vines meander among the stalks so the squash dont waste too much space. Let's just say, 20 lbs squash do not fetch a premium at market.

Much more appealing are edamame, also known as sweet beans. In past years, we always grew the Shirofumi variety with great results. This year, buying this seed was difficult if not impossible; every seed company I checked was out of stock. I assumed I waited too long, however, other growers also complained this seed was out of stock. Hopefully next year seed will be more plentiful.

We switched to the Butterbean variety. It is never safe to reach conclusions after one growing season, and certainly not after a growing season as miserable as this season. But so far I am not impressed with the variety. Whereas the Shirofumi set mostly three beans per pod, Butterbeans set two beans per pod.

The taste was good, though. We had several repeat customers, and usually customers bought multiple pints. These customers had such a gleam in there eyes as we discussed how they would prepare the beans: boil or steam, how much salt, appetizer or snack?

But most customers dont realize how much work a pint of beans require. Traditionally edamame is sold on neatly clipped stalks to retain moisture. But customers want value added, pre-picked pints which is labor intensive. I would cut the plants in the field then carry them to the processing shelter where I would pluck beans and drink a few beers. That is why I like to grow edamame!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Week of August 29 2011 : Scare Eyes

Here is a photo of Nathaniel helping rotate the scare eyes out in the sweet corn fields. He is carrying the new yellow eye out to the field. Soon he will carry the black eye in from the field. Notice the purposeful stride and intense stare. This job was getting done right!

Late in the season, flocking birds congregate around corn fields and scavenge the field for bugs and worms. Unfortunately they also quickly learn that, with just a few pecks, they can shred open the corn husks and eat the kernels.

Damage is worse during hot, dry seasons as birds aggressively search for sources of water. Once the birds establish an eating pattern, it is very hard to break that habit. So it is a wise investment to spend a little time now to prevent this bad habit from forming later.

Various scare tactics are available and each offer varying degrees of success. My favorite, of course, are the propane cannons which are very inappropriate for our farm. The only appropriate tactic are the scare eyes. This tactic is effective ... the trick is to rotate colors and positions every few days.

Nathaniel likes to ride on my shoulders as we walk through the rows. The neighbors cannot see me; what they can see is a 3 foot short toddler with shaggy red hair carrying giant eye balls floating above the 7 foot tall stalks. Kinda scary!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Week of August 22 2011 : Shoes or Canoes?

Here is a photo of a Vegetable Spaghetti Squash. Also in the photo is my Grand Mother's cleaver which is very useful to cut the squash and also useful for perspective. It is a large knife and the squash is even larger!

One of the side effects of having quality produce growing in the back yard is determining what to do with the harvest. When the harvest is large and exceeds our family's needs, the excess unquestionably goes to market. But what about the earliest of the early, the over achievers, that one fruit or vegetable that miraculously ripens before the rest of its kind? Eating the first of the season is a special thrill. But selling the first of the season is our goal, too.

Sometimes those are the beginnings of interesting household conversations which is to say tense negotiations.

After bringing this squash in from the fields, I headed towards the scale to measure it's weight and assess it's quality. Laura turned on the oven and reached for the cutting board and cleaver.

These negotiations were not tense. She had the cleaver so she won.

Actually the whole family won. She turned the squash into focal point of the most amazing dinner. It's one of the many reasons winter squash is really exciting (even if this is still summer).

Friday, September 2, 2011

Week of August 15 2011 : Skunk Works

Here is a photo of our elusive skunk. It's all grainy and inconclusive just like an "authentic" Sasquatch or Loch Ness Monster photo. I know I am not alone when I work the farm after dark. As I pan my headlamp across the orchard I always see eyes glaring back at me. But our skunk is different. When I am out snapping ears, he is working the fields with to me.

Unlike raccoons, skunks cannot climb corn stalks very well and are not smart enough to bend the stalks until they can reach the ear. Our skunk sometimes works an older stand to scavenge ears as stalks break naturally. Other times he is much bolder as he will work the same stand I am working.

He follows my movements and waits for me to drop an ear. The first time I went back to retrieve a dropped ear and it was not there, I called it a mental mistake and attributed it to fatigue. The second time it happened, though, I stopped and listened. Just a few rows away, masked by night and fog, our skunk was shucking husks and nibbling kernels.

Thankfully our skunk is well mannered and observes proper sweet corn stand etiquette. There have been no spray downs.

So far the only evidence the skunk exists are nibbled ears and a grainy photo.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Week of August 8 2011 : Geauga!

Here is yet another photo of our sweet corn. BUT this week was a special week for two reasons. First, at the Lake Farmparks Farmers' Market, we presented a talk named "No Butter Needed" and answered any questions related to growing and buying sweet corn. Second, at the Geauga Fresh Farmers' Market we participated in the market's Corn Celebration. Not as spectators but as vendors! For us to finally participate in the market is gratifying. And to bring one of our best stands to sell at the well publicized event was very special.

While preparing for "No Butter Needed" I relived all the early child hood memories that have shaped my views of farming and market stands. A common memory plays out like this.

My dad and I were out running various weekend errands when he would spot a road side stand selling sweet corn. We would stop and ask a few questions: what color of kernels, when was it picked, and how much for a dozen. Sometimes we walked away with a dozen and sometimes without a dozen. I never really understood the decision process because the answers were always the same (yellow, this morning, too much).

But what I really, really never understood was what happened after we did buy that perfect dozen. We hurried home, immediately boiled some water and cooked the ears as soon as possible. But we did not eat just yet. First we rolled them in butter then sprinkled them with salt. Then we ate the corn and commented how wonderful it was.

That was the bizarre, confusing moment. What was flavorful, the sweet corn or the butter and salt?

So, as a grower, I vow to grow corn so flavorful that no butter is needed.

Finally, one of our watermelons appeared in a photo in a blog post reviewing the Geauga market:

So cool ... even if you have to scroll all the way to the very last photo.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Week of August 1 2011 : Oops.

Here is a photo of the first wave of broccoli and cabbage. I field set the third and final wave transplants this week ... the temperatures were in the upper 80s and humidity even higher. So it seemed ironic to be working cool weather crops.

The cabbage is mostly heat resistant. Well formed heads will set and the flavor is not affected. However, let's just say, the outer leaves dont present the best appearance. The broccoli is not heat resistant. The plants look fantastic but well formed heads are not possible. The florets are very sparse then immediate shoot up to seed.

Hopefully the intense heat subsides and we can bring the perfect crop to market.

The beets and carrots are a very different story. We make no effort to get to early spring market; we focus on summer and fall market. So I planted the beets and carrots later in the season to time harvest beginning in September. Unfortunately the planting coincided with dry and hot weather. In my attempts to thwart these forces I covered the soil with white row covers.

The theory is good however I neglected to leave an air cushion between the soil and row covers. Instead of shading and cooling the soil I inadvertently warmed it. Cooked is a better term. I measured the soil temperature at 125*

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Week of July 25 2011 : Market

Here is a photo of our new location at the Lake Metroparks Farmers Market. Wow. This photo was taken towards the close of market. We sold out of everything except cucumbers and summer squash.

The market is still located at the Farm Park, however, has moved from the gravel parking lot to the paved entrance to the main building. The transportation and unloading logistics are a bit more complicated since there is no room for trucks or trailers. But that is a good trade for increased foot traffic and pleasant landscaping.

Notice the green umbrella. My beloved pop up canopy fell victim to high winds. Last weekend we set the canopy to practice our setup. We should have practiced our breakdown too. Later that afternoon, I noticed dark clouds and high winds rolling in. After I removed the anchor weights but before I could collapse the canopy, the wind gusted.

The good news is I was able to hold on. The bad news is I landed 50' feet away. The rest of the bad news was the tent collapsed itself. Permanently.

With three days to market it was time to scramble. And scramble we did. Now notice the cinder block counter weights. Those were deposited in the river courtesy of the spring time floods. This incident was an example of translating nothing into the solution of a major problem.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Week of July 18 2011 : Squash

Here is a photo of winter squash. Blue Ballet mini hubbards are on the right and Vegetable Spaghetti are on the left. For perspective, the sweet corn on the right is 7' tall. These are some monster plants. And the New England Hubbards (not picare even larger.

Growing large plants are very different than small plants. Seeds and rows are spaced much further apart. Large vining squash seeds are spaced as much as 3' apart and rows are spaced 6' apart. It's hard on the mind's eye to see one seed growing into a plant consuming so much space. But it does in a shockingly short amount of time too.

Another difference is tolerance to insects and weeds. It seems insects, particularly cucumber beetles, are attracted to squash more so than any other crop. In fact hubbards are grown as trap crops for more profitable cash crops. Control is necessary particularly while establishing the field. Fortunately many organic insecticides are available. The catch though is these controls require direct contact with the target pest and cucumber beetles are active at night.

Weed control is necessary but less urgent than with smaller seeded crops. After primary tillage in the spring, the first flush of weeds quickly invades the field. Squash are planted later in the season, after these eager weeds are destroyed with light cultivation. Once the squash are established, they easily shade out any later emerging weeds.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Week of July 11 2011 : Sweet

Here is a photo of a frog on tasseling sweet corn. I am still amazed at the little creatures that congregate around the micro ecosystems of the farm. Some are good, some are bad but interactions between the plants and creatures are complex and fascinating.

Experienced growers can understand soil profiles by monitoring weeds. Growers can also learn a lot by looking for clues offered by the bug populations. I understand how to interpret the various beetles and caterpillars but still not sure how to interpret frogs' presence. At least its evidence the fields are nasty-cide free.

The sweet corn is really growing well this year. Planting was late but emergence was nearly 100%. There is sufficient mid summer moisture to minimize plant stress and ensure good kernel set. The night time temperatures have been consistently over 70 degrees so the ears are maturing very quickly.

The first stand is past the silking phase; pollen shed is complete and the silks are browning. The second stand is beginning pollen shed. The remainder of the stands appear to be exactly one week behind each other. Looks like maturity schedule was perfectly planned. OK, I admit, luck has a little influence too.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Week of July 4 2011 : Victory (?)

Here is a photo I am particularly proud to share. It is a few rows of peppers. For me though it represents several victories.

First, I accepted that I need to trellis peppers. Pepper plants are brittle and stalks will snap under average fruit load. Late summer thunderstorms hasten the destruction. Here the stakes are set every third plant and sandwiched between two strands of twine. I think this is called the San Diego string type trellis.

Next, I accepted that black plastic mulch is not sufficient weed control. Holes need to be cut in the mulch to set the transplants. I am not a surgeon ... so the holes are larger than necessary which promotes weed growth. This year I mulched the plants with leaf humus to prevent the opportunistic weeds.

Finally, I am actually using the irrigation / fertigation system. Rather than turning on irrigation when the plants begin to droop, I planned out an irrigation and nutrition strategy. The result is the plants have a lot more vegetative growth and almost no fruit lost to blossom end rot. Green plants look nicer in the field, sure, but the benefit is the leaves shade the fruits and reduce sun scald.

I wont declare victory yet but the peppers are poised for their best finish ever.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Week of June 27 2011 : Scouts (plural)

Here is a photo of Nathaniel and Frances scouting the green beans. On this day last year, we had one scout. The next day our second scout was born. To celebrate her first birthday, she put on her best crawl and scooted out to the fields.

Nathaniel planted his very own green beans. Each night when I get home from work, he is waiting in the drive way for me. Then we walk to his beans and work the patch together.

Now that Frances is mobile, she too shares in the fun. This is special for many reasons ... one of which is this is the only thing he shares with her.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Week of June 20 2011 : No Vacancy

Here is a photo of the nest boxes, two rows of winter squash, and the edge of the sweet corn field.

The nest boxes have been busy all spring. The Peterson box in the foreground has already fledged 5 Eastern blue birds. While the parents raise the young in the refuge of the apple trees another pair is building a second nest.

The NABS box is the background contains a tree swallow nest with 7 hatchlings. Blue birds are very charming but tree swallows have personality too. They are such acrobatic flyers. They really put on an air show as they pluck bugs from mid air to feed 7 hungry beaks.

Obviously the winter squash still have some growing to do. Now that all the seeds are sown all we need to do is give them plenty of space and time to do their thing. As the summer grows on we will show you just how exciting winter squash really are.

The sweet corn is all planted too. Since the first stand was delayed a few weeks we had to rapidly adjust our production schedule. Usually we plant eight stands and harvest late July through mid September. This year we consolidated three stands; two early stands and one late stand were rolled into mid season stands. As a result we will have only five stands but each harvest will be larger.

The added bonus is we wont have to fight late season earworm pressure. Organic control techniques just cant quite keep up with the intense pressure of the last few seasons.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Week of June 13 2011 :

After the main season transplants were set in the field, we focused on direct seeding the cucumbers, summer and winter squash, and sweet corn.

The cucumbers and summer squash were planted nearly two weeks later than scheduled. Although the warmer days of June and July will help compensate for some of the cooler days of May, the delayed planting means the initial harvest will still be delayed at least one week.

The winter squash was planted nearly on schedule. Since these are late season, storage type vegetables there is less of an emphasis on early harvest. The concern is these squash typically have such long maturities (110 days is common) and these maturities have to be reached before the first hard frost. If the first hard frost occurs prior to full maturity then the long term storage qualities are compromised.

Over the past few years I have developed a huge interest in winter squash. It is such the uncool, nerdy vegetable on the farm. But during those cold winter months, long after all the flashy summer vegetables have disappeared, there is always a hip-to-be-square squash ready to provide you with a warm and hearty meal.

This year we boosted our winter squash production for the Geauga Fresh Farmer's Market. And recently we received a call from the market manager asking if we would provide blue hubbards for a sustainability initiative dinner that will be hosted at Lakeland College this fall. We are so excited someone shares our interest in winter squash!

We are growing three varieties of hubbards. Of course, we grow the classic New England strain which weighs in at 20+ lbs. Too often we sell these as alternatives to Halloween pumpkins rather than as food.

We also grow more marketable baby strains which weigh in around 4 - 6 lbs. We have always had positive reviews of the Blue Ballet variety. It is unusually sweet for a squash. Now we are trialing the Blue Magic variety too.

And we grow Honey Bear acorn, Metro butternut and Vegetable spaghetti squash to round out the classical offerings.

Trust me, I am not eager for the arrival of fall. But I was thinking of recipes as I planted these seeds!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Week of June 6 2011 : Empty

(Here is a photo of the portable greenhouse. Most people will see Nathaniel attempting pullups in an otherwise empty greenhouse, but my mind's eye still sees the 512 transplants waiting desperately for satisfactory field conditions.)

The greenhouse truly saved the season this year. Earlier this spring my off-farm employer sent me to Atlanta for a week. This was great professional opportunity except the cold, wet and windy conditions were less than ideal for starting seeds.

An extra layer of plastic was placed over the greenhouse and weighted down with cinder blocks. I left for the the airport and hoped the seedlings would survive 5 unattended days despite the 40 per hour wind gusts.

Thanks to the greenhouse all seedlings survived. Yeah! Some plants were a bit spindly but very much alive and healthy.

The peppers, eggplants and tomatoes were the first wave to be transplanted. The cantaloupes and watermelons part of the second wave. Transplanting was successful and vigorous new growth is already evident.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Month of May 2011 : Positive

Here is a photo of our Mallard ducks. We are so familiar with each other that even at a range of 20 feet, they dont even look sideways at me. The cover crop was flailed but plowing and shaping the beds is not happening any time soon.

Today (May 29) just annoyed me the wrong way. After months of cold and wet, the past few days were finally warming and the soil finally drying. The radar was clear. Time to change the "PAST DUE" status columns to "DONE".

The rotary plow was hooked up to the tractor. The engine was revving and together we worked over the fields. The fields were plowed. The transplants were outside on the greenhouse benches soaking up the heat and sun.

Another check of the radar. Still clear. Plenty of time to visit at the hospital and say HI to my dad before continuing with the work.

On the way home, though, the lightening light up the sky. Hmm. What? By the time we returned home 15 minutes later the storm had raged through. The transplants were bobbling in water. And the Mallards were very agitated with the whitecaps out in the fields.

We promised we would stay positive but that is effective only for the month of May.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Month of April 2011 : Blossoms

Here is a photo of the sweet corn field. The cover crop in the foreground was flailed April 24; the background was flailed May 8. The apple trees are in full bloom. I gauge my field operations by the first tree in the fourth row. It is always the first to green tip, to silver tip and to bloom. This year is 16 - 18 days behind last year.

Of course April was a busy month just like every other month. But it was the first month that my hands actually were dirty. The peppers, tomatoes and eggplants were started indoors first and are already outside in the greenhouse. The cantaloupes and watermelons were started next and are still being coddled in the basement. These are fickle plants and heat mats really make a difference. The fall crops like broccoli and cabbage will also be started indoors but not until June.

The weather conditions are delaying field operations but I dont anticipate significant impact on target harvest dates. Even though transplant setting and direct sowing operations will be later, were are not missing many growing degree days. A day in late April is very different than a day in late May.

OK who am I kidding? I admit, I really want to be out in the fields now!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Month of March 2011 : Big

(Now I know why Nathaniel voted against the budget proposal to install drainage! Here is a photo of the Big Yellow Truck stuck in the Big Muck Puddle. He quickly assessed the situation and realized there was still enough muck he could get his left boot stuck too. SLURRPPP!)

This season is quickly gaining momentum.

The market season is all planned. We are participating in two markets this year, the Lake Farmpark Farmer's Market and the Geauga Fresh Farmer's Market. I know we tried this last year.

But this year we have a different strategy. We will participate in one market at a time. We will be at the Lake market during the summer season focusing on sweet corn and other main season vegetables. Then we will be at the Geauga market during the fall season focusing on winter squash and storage vegetables.

It was a compromise that helps fill niches at both markets and preserves our quality of life. Our most important crop are our children.

Goodness the market stars lined up because I already designed the field rotation and planting strategy then ordered all the seeds! The indoor seeding / transplanting and outdoor direct seeding schedules are planned.

It all looks so easy on a computer screen. Its as easy as click! There you go. Big food.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Month of February 2011 : GO!

(Here is a photo of our cover crops and soil thermometers. The winter rye / hairy vetch mix looks good. The thermometers dont look so good; the glare obscures the 30*F temperature. So this season is a "go!" but it is not a "go now!")

Last season never really ended and the new season is already starting. The fall field cleanup chores then the winter planning now the spring work ... farming is a year round effort.

We accomplished many things during the winter. We read each and every page in the seed catalogs, we did the usual business planning and goal setting and we gave the seed starting room a tuneup.

First, we made grow benches. Using a laser-guided miter saw and a drill press, I transformed 1" x 4" and 1" x 6" lumber and carriage bolts into (over engineered) bench frames.

I wanted the classic expanded metal bench tops however availability and cost changed my mind. My alternate choice was Ultra Bench Dura Bench tops.

We built one indoor version and one outdoor version. The outdoor version is covered with electrical conduit and polyfilm; it is a green house on wheels.

We also bought Agritape heaters. These are seed starting heat mats with a variable thermostat. The mats are particularly useful for fickle seedlings like watermelons.

Because I love laser-guided miter saws, I also built an energy efficient(ish) germination box. This is a 2' x 4' wood frame with a foil coated, foam board insulation floor. The heat mats are placed on top of the insulation then covered with sand.

The insulation minimizes heat loss and the sand improves mat-to-seedling heat transfer.

We are ready for a good start.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Week of October 11 2010 : Closing Time

(Here is a photo of the field shrouded in mist. In the foreground are the cover crops just two weeks after seeding. In the background are the geese lurking in the shadows. And separating the two is nothing but twine ...)

This is the final week of market for us. We like to celebrate Halloween early so we dress the kids in costumes and take them to market too. Last year Nathaniel was a skunk ... appropriate but too realistic for our neighbor's dog. We learned our lesson and decided not to dress the kids as an enemy of something that growls or has sharp teeth. This year he was a farmer and Frances was a nubbin' ear of corn.

Right now I am wondering how we survived this season. Let's just say we experienced a labor shortage. Our collective efforts (and patience) were diverted to our toddler and new born baby. I estimate we operated the farm and attended market with 1/3rd of an employee.

We are really satisfied with this season. But we are really excited to see it go too. This year, there were NO season extension techniques used on our farm!

The most disappointing moment was realizing / admitting that we couldnt participate in the Geauga Fresh Farmer's Market. We were honored to be chosen as members of such a great market. Now that we have regained family stability we look forward to participating next season.

The most memorable moment also occurred at the Geauga market. We won the Best Tasting Cherry Tomato award.

The most pleasing moments were the return of repeat customers at the Lake Metroparks Farmpark Market. Customers raving about our sweet corn ... woo hoo.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Week of October 4 2010 : Little

(Here is a photo of Nathaniel turning the little compost pile. Its a little farm, so a little boy on a little tractor is a perfect match for the job.)

There are two ends of the continuum with respect to growing capacities. On the small end, there is Mom and Dad growing a tomato plant in a container on the driveway. On the large end, there are the multi-national corporations.

Market farms fall somewhere in between although even the large / successful operations are closer to the Mom and Dad end than the corporate end.

We fall into a particularly annoying spot in this little middle: the hard-to-get-supplies little middle.

If Mom and Dad want tomato seeds, they can drive to any hardware store or greenhouse or landscape center and buy tomato seeds.

If a multi-national corporation wants tomato seeds, they can call the headquarter's technology center who will bioengineer a customized breed.

Again, market farmers fall somewhere in between. We need a larger seed selection than the local hardware store but dont have the labs to develop our own seed.

This problem is amplified by strict organic production requirements.

A particularly annoying example is cover crop seed.

The internet solves the availability problem; we know where to buy cover crops. But how many sites charge a premium for shipping 25# of seeds? Then these same sites offer free shipping on large orders!

BAAH. It's the little middle syndrome.