How did you welcome in 2013? I’ve spent the first days of this new year multiplying numbers and updating spreadsheets. That might not sound like an auspicious way to start a year, but since the numbers represent bed feet of growing space and the spreadsheets contain our planting plans for the coming season, I think it was quite a good beginning indeed!
As I reviewed our 2012 plans and field maps, extrapolating the space needed for each crop in the coming year, I remembered the excitement and trepidation with which we began our 2012 season. Diane and I had hashed and re-hashed our plans, but we knew from experience that Mother Nature has a great knack for messing with farmers’ good intentions.
And indeed she did. As you probably know, 2012 was a tough year for many area farmers. Michigan fruit growers lost much of their crop to spring frosts and the summer’s drought withered vegetable and grain fields. Because we could utilize the Buskirk family’s irrigation system to reach all of our fields, we were less affected by the lack of rain than many growers and were able to produce a nice diversity of yummy vegetables for our customers. In this we feel both lucky and grateful.
But of course, the year was not challenge-free. We struggled against several insect pests that wanted our vegetables as much as our customers did. Cutworms, squash vine borers, onion maggots, and aphids all interfered with our plans for our weekly CSA share boxes. Despite these voracious little munchers, we were able to provide our CSA customers with thirty-five different types of vegetables over the course of the season. We feel pretty good about that! In order to minimize damage from these pests in the coming year without resorting to chemical poisons, we’ll be rotating the crops they like into different growing areas and adjusting our planting and harvest schedules to try to make the plants unavailable during peak egg-laying or larva-hatching periods.
Some of our toughest decisions in 2012 revolved around the limitations of the growing space available to us. We ended up planting some crops in poor soil and leaving others, such as sweet corn, out of our plans altogether due to a lack of accessibility to adequate fertile ground. We’re happy to say that space is not going to be an issue in the coming year, since the Buskirk family has offered to let us use an additional one of their fields. The soil is decently loamy and fertile, but because it is low ground between woods, swamp, and a lake, it tends to be wet, sometimes even too wet to work. We installed drain tiles throughout the eastern half of this field this past summer and plan to tile the western part in spring in hopes of making it more reliable for cultivation in wet weather.
Managing our own labor and stamina was as much of a challenge this season as any insect pest. We truly love the work of farming, but there were days this summer when we felt stretched beyond our physical limits. In early fall, Diane and I asked our friend and neighbor, John Edgerton, to join our business in 2013. We were thrilled when he accepted our invitation. John’s agricultural values align with ours and he brings fresh and exciting visions to our project, as well as additional growing space on his farm. He’s also offered to help keep this blog space updated with more regular posts about what we’re up to in the coming year, so stay tuned for those!
Also stay tuned for information about 2013 CSA shares. We’ll be opening up share subscriptions to current members within the next few days and then to the general public later in January. We have thoroughly enjoyed growing and harvesting for our CSA customers and are particularly excited about continuing to expand this part of our business. To read about our 2012 season from a CSA member’s perspective, check out Kathy Jennings’ article in Southwest Michigan’s Second Wave: At harvest time a local farmer of one’s own is ideal.
Onward! May 2013 bring you joy, health, and deliciousness.