Field Notes: February on the Farm

February Farm Field at Good Heart

Early February brings the whisper of spring and a whole dumping of snow.  That small spring whisper comes in with the sun, stretching a little longer into each day.   Meanwhile, gusty wind whips up our hillside and creates a snow vortex between the hoop houses.

Despite what the fields look like, inside the greenhouse spinach and lettuce begin to grow again in the lengthening days, and winter-sown carrots bide their time as they slowly sprout in the hoop house.  [Note: what’s the difference between a hoop house and a greenhouse?  A greenhouse is heated.]

Winter greens at Good Heart

While more and more farmers in Vermont are selling year-round, we take a break in January.  A month off to regroup and revision is an important part of keeping balance in our lives.  Of course, the work doesn’t completely stop—we might not be selling produce, but we are creating field maps, ordering seeds, chipping away at building projects and doing the less flashy, but equally important, work of financial projections.  When February rolls around, we shift gears back into wholesale mode and CSA prep.

Here’s our February Farm to-do list:

  • Weekly harvest and delivery of spinach and mesclun mix
  • Finalize the crop maps and create a seeding schedule*
  • Inventory seeding supplies and order propane for the greenhouse (make sure we’re ready to go come March!)
  • Order soil amendments and cover crop seeds
  • Marketing: create flyers & brochures for our CSA
  • Attend the NOFA-VT winter conference
  • Organize the Farmstead 5k, our February fundraiser for subsidized CSA shares

*we don’t start seeding until mid-March.  In north-central Vermont, we’ve found that this start date gives us seedlings that are sturdy, but not root-bound by planting time.  

I’m inevitably leaving out the little things, as our days constantly fill up with office work and planning.  In between it all, we prioritize play-time, taking long snowshoes in the forest with our dog, and spending un-scheduled days with our 3-year-old-son.

Are you planning on growing a garden this year?  Here’s a few things to do to get ready for spring:

  • Order Seeds: we recommend High Mowing Organic Seeds, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and Fedco Seeds
  • Plan out your garden beds: this can be as simple as drawing out rectangles and squares denoting what crops will go where.  You can plan out successions to ensure a continual harvest all summer long.
  • Gather your supplies, but don’t start too early!  I know, I feel the whisper of spring, too, but starting your seeds too early will leave you with stressed out seedlings that are ready to be transplanted weeks before the outside conditions are appropriate.
  • Read!  This is the best time of year to read up on gardening, from seed catalogs to books.  Here’s a short list of recommended reading for organic growers (gardeners and farmers alike):

The Lean Farm

The Garden Primer

The New Organic Grower

The Market Gardener

The Backyard Homestead 

 

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