Prairie Harvest Farm will not be offering CSA shares for the 2012 growing season. I struggled with this decision, but it's clearly the right one. At least for now.
It currently isn't viable for me to continue operating a CSA in a region that is just beginning to recognize the importance of wholesome, locally grown food. As a small scale vegetable grower, it's been a tough thing to make a go of financially as well as in terms of labor. As much as I love what I do and am encouraged by those of you who seek out fresh, organic, locally grown vegetables, I've decided that I can't feasibly continue to operate the CSA alone. It's too much for me as one person. It's a very sad decision, being that I feel there's a serious lack of wholesome, organic options in this region and that I'd be leaving a fairly sizable gap. I've been honored and proud to be able to provide you with quality, local veggies under the CSA model these past three years and I'm sorry to close this door. I can only hope that as local and organic food becomes more of a priority, other passionate vegetable growers will be drawn to this area to meet the growing demand. It's certainly an important role, perhaps more so in a region dominated by large, conventional agriculture, but it's also a challenge for small farmers as land prices are very high and start up costs often prohibitive. Please continue to be advocates for local, sustainable agriculture so that locally grown vegetables continue to be an option in this region.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Well, here it is the end of August and I haven't made time to update the blog since late June. Figures. The growing season takes up so much of my energy and I am generally not in the mood to share stories from the farm.
When the CSA season begins in mid-June I begin writing and sending out weekly email newsletters for the shareholders, so perhaps that is the other reason that the blog becomes neglected. (That I am getting my fill of composing newsletters with farm updates/recipes/share contents/etc.). I'm sorry if any of you non-shareholders are missing the occasional updates that I post here. I will try to post slightly more often (and then more as the season slows and I can breathe again as winter approaches).
Weeds are always an issue and sometimes there are areas that need attention which are too large to hoe or weed by hand, but too small to get the large tiller into. So, a good walk behind tiller is essential. Both for keeping weeds down in paths but also for bed preparation. While the tiller I purchased last year does a good job of tilling, I found myself pushing it along more than I would like. (This was my mistake, having purchased a tiller with counter-rotating tines.) It's difficult for a tiller to walk along under it's own power while being pulled backwards by the rotation of it's tines. While tilling is certainly a physical task and shouldn't be just a walk through the park, it should not leave bruises. And the old tiller did (picture me pushing it and holding my weight on/against it all at the same time), which did a number to the pelvis region, particularly whenever I'd hit a rock. In any case, it was time to look for a more suitable tiller. I knew what I wanted (but couldn't afford new). I also knew that they were difficult to find used (probably because they're about the best of the best in terms of walk behind tillers for market gardening). So I began a thorough search. Bid one up on ebay (which would have taken a six hour drive into Wisconsin to retrieve), became frustrated that those I found on craigslist at a semi-affordable price were on either the east or west coast, searched through used implement websites and began to semi-religiously check craigslist just in case one was posted in this region. I was pretty persistent in my search and finally it paid off in the form of my very own BCS tiller.
BCS tractors (as they're called, because they are a machine with many attachment options; not just a tiller), are Italian made. They first arrived in the United States in the mid-70s (as imports and were named Mainline tractors). In the early '80s BCS began selling in North America. They are still sold here, and there are many different models, options, and attachments. These are great machines.
I was lucky to find an older BCS, imported and sold under the name Mainline. It has a 10 hp Acme (gas) engine, 4 forward speeds, 1 reverse speed, a differential lock, individual hand brakes, and electric start. This particular tractor also came with a 45" sickle mower, a 23" tiller and a snow blade. The handles can be flipped from one end of the machine to the other (depending upon what implement it's running). The handles can also swing to either side at a 45 degree angle so that you don't walk on what you've just tilled. BCS tillers are gear driven, so no belts to worry about. So far I've been very impressed by this machine. I don't have to push it, it runs quietly, and it tills really well (faster tine rotation than any other on the market). It's going to be such a lifesaver this season.
Update: it HAS been a life saver this season. I originally typed out this post back in mid-June when I found the tiller. It's now the end of August and about time I 'publish' it. The tiller has been wonderful. I replaced the solenoid (for the electric start) so that I didn't have to tap it with a pliers to get it to fire, and Jeff freed up the hand brakes for me. (Haven't used them yet anyway, since typically when I want to stop it's because I'm shifting gears or some such thing, in which case I use the clutch.) I'll have to get a picture of it posted one of these days. I feel very fortunate to have found this machine and expect it will be with me for many many years.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
About a month ago we planted the beginnings of a windbreak on the west edge of the property. It will eventually have four rows; one shrub row, two conifer rows and one row of deciduous trees. We began by planting the two center rows, which are the conifers. We chose Austrian Pines, which have lovely coarse, large needles and a fairly thick and spreading growth habit. They are also very hardy, tolerant of many soil conditions, and relatively free from disease or insect pests. The trees we planted were from Bailey Nurseries, came in five gallon pots, and were already around 3.5 ft. tall. So, they are nice looking little trees.
The western property line runs 660 feet and with the spacing we chose, this allowed us to plant thirty-four trees in one line and thirty-three in the other. They are planted offset. That area is currently an alfalfa field, which we'll continue to cut until the trees are too large to easily maneuver around for baling. We planted them just after taking the first cutting of alfalfa, but before baling it. This was good timing; didn't have to crush nice alfalfa and could easily see what we were doing. Measuring out the property line and keeping everything straight was the hard part, digging the holes was quite easy thanks to a large auger attachment for the skid-loader. We'll be putting landscape fabric around them with mulch over the top to help keep weeds/the alfalfa from coming up too closely around them. We'll likely also do a bit of weed whipping and/or mowing around them to give them space and light for growth. They're looking great so far; receiving plenty of rain since we planted them a month ago.
Someday hopefully they will provide some wind protection from the west as well as a bit of a sound barrier from the train tracks that run far too close to this property. Here are a couple of photos of the process...
Monday, June 27, 2011
No, not ripe tomatoes....sorry to disappoint you.
Even still, an exciting discovery; the first small tomato fruits of the season. They've been there for a few days now, and as of today the largest was about the size of a walnut. The first fruits are always exciting. The largest developing tomato is on a variety called 'Big Beef' and is planted in the high tunnel (yet without plastic). Just think how fast they'll grow when I finally get the plastic installed! I'll try to get a photo of the little guy tomorrow if I remember.