With apologies to those who ski – what a glorious December! Last week I was harvesting spinach in a t-shirt, the whole while thinking it was early May. The days have felt like borrowed time (hopefully not from next spring), and though I’d certainly enjoy some “indoor” time, I’ve been pushing on: tuning up our irrigation pumps and tractors, prepping the beds for next year’s early vegetables, and removing clutter from the sides of our greenhouses so that I can remove snow with a tractor when it inevitably comes.
Amidst all the December activity, I found time this week to attend the 3-day biannual Vegetable and Berry Growers’ Conference in Manchester, New Hampshire. It was humbling and reinvigorating to hear how fellow growers are innovating on their farms, and was heartening to observe how these successful growers want to share their ideas and solutions with their fellow small farmers (some of them the competition) in order to help everyone together succeed.
There were many amazing workshops: “Be courageous with your tine weeder” talked about how there will forever be another piece of equipment to buy after the last purchase, and so farmers should work to design weeding systems that utilize one or two pieces of equipment that perform multiple functions (like the tine weeder). “50 shades of grey mold: tomato disease management” was a provocative presentation of infectious and non-infectious diseases amongst tomatoes, and also helped me to tell the difference between cold damage and disease in early Spring. Put perhaps the best lesson of the conference came from “Honing in and finding your place” workshop, where David Liker of Gorman Farm stressed, “Farmers can hurt themselves real bad in the winter. Yes, we can cut ourselves with knives harvesting during the summer, but the damage we inflict on ourselves from poor planning during the winter can kill us.” The takeaway was to use the same tenacity to complete mental work in the winter as we use to perform physical work in the summer.
To be sure, it’s not just the conference that will improve our farm come next year. Your responses to our CSA and market-goer surveys also provided many insightful ideas on how to improve our farm from crop diversity, to CSA management, to farmers’ market management. Thank you all so much for your invaluable input and I’ll continue to review your thoughts over the coming months. Also, congratulations to Dawn Sibor and Brian Ritucci who were randomly chosen to receive free 2016 Spring CSA shares!
Lastly, for those interested in our 2016 CSAs, I’ll be first sending out an email to returning members in mid-January with the opportunity to renew. Returning members will have until mid-February to sign up, and then I’ll open up remaining spots to new members.
Thanks for reading and happy holidays!