Ringing in the New Year means it’s time to think about getting yourself signed up for a CSA! The freshness and taste of veggies grown right here in Montgomery County can’t be topped! And Mile Creek Farm is certified organic to boot! Here’s 22 of the 24 weekly shares that we delivered last year.
Treat yourself to weekly or biweekly deliveries from May 29 to November 6. We all know vegetables are good for you, and we think our vegetables taste great too! Sign up is now live! https://csa.farmigo.com/join/milecreekfarm/2018csaseason
CSAs of all sizes exist all over the country. Some have less than 50 members while others have a membership reaching in the thousands. Some run year round and some are less than 20 weeks long. Some are multi-farm while others are single-farm sourced. Our 200 member 24 week season single-farm sourced only CSA puts us pretty much in middle of the spectrum. We like this size, especially having the season extension add on that we’ve had the past 2 years, which helps bring in additional income.
One of our goals for the farm is to help create a vibrant rural economy and to that end employ people year round. We are getting closer to that goal and this year we ran payroll a month longer in Spring and a month longer in Fall. We were able to employ Audrey and Ricky from mid February to mid December. They had a major hand in every vegetable that went through this farm from seeding, to planting, to weeding, to harvesting to cleaning!!
We meet Audrey at a farm workshop we gave while she was working on an organic division of Fulton Farm, The Happy Box. That meeting led us to recruit her when the program at Fulton’s closed. We were lucky she came with Ricky! A common thread I see among organic farmers is they often have a passion for art and Audrey and Ricky are no exception. In fact they meet through their art. They are also animal lovers and in addition to caring for pets at home, have rescued several wild animals.
It’s wonderful they came to us with prior experience on an organic farm and we’re looking forward to having them back next season and help them gain more specialized skills like tractor operating. I also hope they get to experience some exciting animal encounters and perfect weather!
Farm improvements are endless and during the season we accumulate a large to do list, all of which must wait until winter. We have to take care of fall clean up before we can delve into projects. We’ve blown out the irrigation lines so there is no water in them which could break the lines upon freezing. We’ve gotten the remaining plastic and drip tape out of the fields and pulled up the tomato and pepper stakes.
We are glad to have some late season help this year to get lots accomplished while it is still mild outside and keeping 2 crew members on for November and December has allowed us to start in on several projects. We are giving our greenhouse a major makeover. After 9 years, the greenhouse floor is finally getting a layer of gravel installed. Ben spent all day on the tractor bringing loads of gravel in the bucket to Audrey and Ricky who shoveled and wheelbarrowed an even layer of gravel all throughout the greenhouse. Next we’ll lay out landscape fabric. This floor should be nice and flat and reduce water buildup and suppress weeds. We are also totally rearranging the table layout and hope to end up with a clean space that keeps our greenhouse starts healthy and lends itself to an organized flow to maximize productivity. Ben’s been thinking about the greenhouse since spring so it feels good to tackle the beast! Both our plants and our crew spend a lot of time in the greenhouse and good management starts here.
We love that this time of year we are still providing customers with tasty organic food but aren’t too busy to take steps to get ready for next year. Winter always goes quickly and our plate is full with projects just like the greenhouse. Maybe this year we’ll actually get everything on the winter to do list done!
We are glad to be able to extend our season for the second year in a row! At farmer’s market folks are surprised that we are still harvesting out in the open fields and not in greenhouses. While the vegetables we are still harvesting have some cold tolerance, we do need to protect them. When the first cold snap comes, we drag all the row cover we have out to the fields and cover what we can. This lightweight fabric gives the crops underneath a few more degrees of warmth. So far everything has survived a couple low 20s nights. Eventually the constant freeze and thaw will wear the plants down too much and effectively render them inedible. But for now we continue to enjoy the harvest!
We hope this week you get to share your vegetables with family and friends. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Week 24 already?! This year has gone by faster than any of our previous years farming. I like to think it’s because as we become more seasoned farmers we stress out less. I’m certainly sore and tired, but I don’t feel as mentally drained as I have in years past.
Over all we think this year went well. We had our share of disappointments but we also had major successes. We had a couple rounds of successful melons and we able to distribute more cantaloupes and watermelon then ever before. Our raspberries had their first year of major production. We learned a lot about managing and harvesting them and hope to give even more weeks of raspberries next year. We grew new crops successfully such as Brussels Sprouts, romanesco and rutabaga, adding even more diversity to the farm shares. We grew some of our biggest cabbages and best cauliflower ever.
We need to continue to build our soil fertility and had major problems in fields that are compacted and depleted of nutrients. Yields in our tomato, peppers and sweet potato field were not close to what they should have been. These fields will get a rest next year and be sown solely to cover crop. We continue to struggle with sweet corn but will keep trying as it is heavenly. And we found ourselves too busy in August to keep up with the greenhouse seeding– giving us a current lettuce, spinach and salad mix shortage.
The good news is that all of our problems are solvable. We’re gearing up to have a bigger crew next year which will help us keep on top of weeding, planting and seeding. We are to the point that we have bountiful CSA boxes for 24 weeks even if we have a crop failure or two and that’s a really good place to be. Over the years we’ve built up our equipment arsenal and added much needed infrastructure to the farm. With every acquisition the farm gets more productive and after 10 years of farming here we are beginning to fine tune our craft.
Since we began our farm we have been committed to growing healthy food in healthy soil. Of course we are only one side of the equation and we couldn’t do what we do without the continued support of our customers. We realize that buying into a CSA is not as convenient as shopping at the grocery store, and it is with this in mind that we would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank all of our CSA members for supporting our small, family-owned organic CSA!
Downing Land (variety developed by Downing Fruit Farm, red and yellow, mild and sweet), 20/20 (another apple developed by Downing Land. cross between Rome and Granny Smith, green tart and crisp) and Winesap (dark red, tart)
We have gotten at over 4 inches of rain in October which has added a layer of stress to our already demanding occupation. But this week we were able to breathe a sigh of relief as we got the first crop of 2018 planted- garlic! Getting to plant it this week was totally off our radar as we had gotten half an inch of rain on Monday. But we watched the beds Ben had hilled for the garlic dry out steadily all week and by Thursday evening it seemed like they might actually be dry enough to till and plant. Could we actually plant on Friday before the next round of rain? Friday is usually a market harvest day but considering the cold and wet 10 day forecast we made the decision to prioritize planting garlic over harvesting for market. We gave ourselves 2 hours to harvest whatever we could for market and then it was garlic for the rest of the day. While Ben spread fertilizer and tilled beds, the crew and I cracked garlic into individual cloves which then get planted. By 2 o’clock we were planting and by 6 o’clock we were done. And just in time, too, because it started to rain what would turn out to be another 3/4 inch.
This is the last week for some of our biweekly members. Thank you for your support! We hope this experience opened you up to new vegetables or vegetables you thought you didn’t like and had you making creative and delicious meals. We hope it won you over and you’ll join the CSA next year too!
I see the hashtag #cantstopwontstop over the internet and that was certainly us this weekend! With rain in the forecast on Monday we had a substantial to do list to get done before then. After being at market from 7 to 3 we put in another 4 hours of work. Ben hilled the beds that will house our garlic, completing the first step of garlic planting. We had too much other stuff to do to actually plant the garlic but hilling the beds will allow them to dry out quicker and hopefully we’ll be back to the project shortly.
The jobs that took priority over garlic were harvesting the sweet potatoes and seeding cover crop. On Saturday night I got drip tape and plastic mulch out of the sweet potato beds so we could use the potato digger and dig the beds a second time, unearthing potatoes that got buried the first time. We had harvested some sweet potatoes last week but the yields were really terrible so we wondered if some potatoes were still buried. We switched the crew’s day off and had them come in Sunday. Ben double dug 11 beds of sweet potatoes revealing what we suspected: that about half of our crop was still in the ground! He left the potato collecting to us and went off to get 2,000 pounds of cover crop seeded.
Seeding winter rye and hairy vetch over 12 acres before the rain was huge. This practice is crucial to soil building and having productive crops. We’re setting ourselves up for success next season. Ben finished seeding with the cone spreader at dusk. We gathered the final bed of sweet potatoes by tractor light. By barn light I moved 1,000 lbs of sweet potatoes from the trailer to the storage room and by tractor light Ben lightly disced over the 12 acres he seeded to bury the seeds for good germination. It felt so good to have a truck full of empty seed sacks at the end of the day. It also felt good (or as good as a back ache can feel) to have collected 33 more bins of sweet potatoes. (By the way, the sweet potatoes now cure to sweeten up and will be in the final 2 boxes)
We (barely) stayed on top of family duties as well, squeezing a birthday party and Cub Scout obligation into the weekend. And we managed to remember halfway through Saturday that it was our wedding anniversary! We’re in the final push, eager for a break, but also determined to close out the season in good condition.