A warm spring has had us busy in the field breaking new ground, preparing soil, building hoophouses, and planting tens of thousands of transplants. June begins the summer season including our first harvests, farm markets (we will be at the Neenah and Appleton Saturday Markets all summer) and the beginning of our CSA program.
We are proud to announce we are now certified organic! Applying for organic certification is no small task, but we decided certification was imperative for us to contribute to the integrity of the organic industry and standards.
Our farm’s ‘crop production’ footprint covers 2 acres. We were able to immediately certify 1.64 acres as it had been fallow for 10 years. The remaining 1/3 acre is “In transition to organic”. Our growing practices are the same throughout the farm. The distinguishing difference is the prior land use. Last year the transitional space was planted in corn seed that had been treated. After 3 seasons, the transitional acreage will be eligible for organic certification.
One of the benefits of being a new operation is the ability to set up and maintain the record-keeping necessary for organic standards. Our records, as well our full Organic System Plan (OSP), is available for view on our website. It includes a full list of our inputs, where we source our seeds, and descriptions of our growing methods and conservation practices. Throughout the season, we maintain records of our activities including planting, harvesting, daily field activities, observations, equipment use and more.
After submitting our OSP and required documentation, we scheduled an inspection. Our certifying agency contracted an inspector to come out to our farm. The inspector went through our application and OSP, toured our operation, and verified our seed sources and inputs. The process took a few hours.
After a few weeks, our reviewer called to settle the last two unresolved questions and the process was complete. We received the news of our certification shortly. This process will take place annually. Each year, we will submit our records and updated OSP and take part in another inspection.
Unfortunately, organic standards are being eroded as demand for organic food rises and companies rush to cash in on the false perception that organic food must be more expensive. There are some great organizations working to maintain the integrity of organic farming (see Cornucopia Institute), but as organic farmers, the integrity begins with us. There are many misconceptions about the meaning of organic certification and the extent of the standards. If you want to learn more about our practices, or understand the organic standards and industry a little more, please get in touch!
A Frosty Planting Adventure.
April and May were a temperature roller-coaster. The early dry sunny stretches allowed us to start working the soil and planting. We planted Sugar Snap and Cascadia Peas on April 15th. Today, they are almost 4 feet tall and opening new flowers every day. We had started a “very early” round of tomatoes and were able to get them in the ground in our first hoophouse on May 2nd. These tomato plants are gigantic and growing fast. Four days later we planted a full hoophouse of “early” tomatoes. Unfortunately, a colder than expected frost killed the entire second tomato planting! Even our kale, cabbage, and peas were lightly damaged that night.
After the tomato set-back we took the subsequent frost warnings seriously. A few too many hours moving tarps and row cover and a couple of hilarious frost-inspired contraptions later and frost-free season arrived with no further losses. A small outside planting of Roma tomatoes managed to survive 4 forecast “frosts” with no protection. After about 2 weeks looking really sad they burst out with brilliant green leaves and surprising growth. Rest easy knowing that despite the loss, we have over 1000 tomato plants in the ground.
CSA to Begin this Week!
Our first boxes will be harvested and delivered tomorrow! We currently have 34 households signed up and we will be delivering 21 boxes each week. In the past, we have managed CSA programs too large for our production capacity. This season we are already more flexible and better able to provide the abundance and quality of produce we’ve planned. The experience of farming well and distributing good food is rewarding, and we feel great.
Spring season is the time for sowing seeds. We were glad to work out a trade with Whitefeather Organics down the road to utilize their greenhouse space to start our transplants. With the exception of salad greens, roots, and legumes, most of our plants are seeded into trays and kept in the warm care of the greenhouse.
In May, we partnered with the Central Rivers Farmshed and Stevens Point Growing Collective to start additional plants for their Memorial Day Weekend plant sale. The Growing Collective utilizes Farmshed’s newly refurbished greenhouse to start their plants and run the sale. Proceeds beyond their supply costs are donated to Central Rivers Farmshed. The starts production and sale is entirely managed by volunteers. In past years, the sale has been sold out before the weekend was over. We decided to start and additional 900 tomato plants to contribute to the plant sale for a good cause. The sale was a huge success.
We had a great time meeting and working with fellow growers!
Neenah Market – Saturday, June 20-October 17 (no market July 4) – 8am-Noon
Appleton Market – Saturdays, June 20-October 31 (no market Sep. 26) – 8am-12:30pm
Downtown Appleton (Our stand will be located just next to Nami Moon Farm – in front of Charles the Florist and the Wooden Nickel)
Our final hoophouse frame is standing. The work of putting up hoophouses all spring added another level of complexity to the workload of seeding trays and preparing soil. Hoophouse #5, currently sitting on plot D2, now houses the last of our tomatoes and peppers, our second round of cucumbers, and companion marigolds and borage. The plants will love the extra heat and protection when we raise the final plastic!
A Note of Gratitude
Our first spring has involved many dawn-to-dusk work days and a lot of sore muscles! We are very grateful to the many CSA members, friends, family, and neighbors who have given us a few hours to help build, stopped by to check in, lent us a tool, and offered words of support. You have kept us grounded and smiling. We look forward to sharing more of our season with you.
Until the tomatoes turn red,
Hava, Oren, & Polly