January through March are a flurry of activity down on the farm. With only one or two of us tending the tunnels and chickens over the holiday break, in a moseying and meandering sort of fashion, we all come back in various states of readiness to start the new year.
We plant our high tunnels in the fall to ensure a continuous supply of fresh produce through the winter months. Our weekly harvests resume right before we re-open to the public on the first weekend of the year. This season our winter lettuce and arugula did well, but unfortunately, we had the spottiest spinach germination we’ve ever experienced, and our kale was almost uniformly laggard in its development. We also experimented with an ultra-early planting of sugar snap peas. We started them in our greenhouse (three seeds per cell in 50-cell plug trays, if you’re interested.) After they developed enough to pull easily from the plug tray, we transplanted them into our minimally heated tunnel. Although the harvest has been small so far, we did successfully have our earliest snap peas ever! Honestly, I, Farmer Josh, didn’t think it would work. Add that to the list of reasons to always let people try new things, even (perhaps especially) if you have deep reservations. You can’t innovate if there’s no room for failure, and you can’t learn anything if you always assume you’re right. You should see some of these peas, the most delicious of spring vegetables, in the market soon, but so far, the harvests have mainly gone to our Spring Greens CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members.
Speaking of our CSA, our Main Season Veggie Shares are sold out! We’re honored and humbled that so many of our loyal customers are supporting us this season. This year will be the most members we’ve ever had, and we’re excited to continue expanding this program. If you’re not familiar with our model, you can visit wardensvillegardenmarket.org/csa to learn more and sign up. The CliffNotes version is that we have three veggie share seasons, where you sign up, pre-pay and pick up your produce at Wardensville Garden Market or the Freight Station Farmers Market in Winchester, Virginia.
- Spring Greens generally runs March-May and is exclusively offered to returning members due to limited supply.
- The Main Season runs from May through September.
- If you still can’t get enough fresh local, certified organic produce, our Fall Share can keep you stocked up from October through the middle of December.
If you missed your chance to sign up for the Main Season this year, we encourage you to sign up for a Fall Share; if you’re getting this newsletter, you’ll get more info on how to sign up when sales go live. Don’t want to wait? Got the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)? Holler at Farmer Abbye, firstname.lastname@example.org, and she can get you signed up before the big public push.
As our greenhouse has filled up over the course of these last few months, we’ve been wowed by the flowering of some of our experimental citrus trees. If you’ve been following us on Facebook and Instagram, you may remember this post about the reasoning and thought behind putting these trees in our greenhouse. We’re happy to report that the blood orange, pink variegated lemon, and satsuma mandarin are thriving and perfuming the greenhouse with a profusion of blossoms. The figs are just breaking dormancy, and the lime has been struggling but is finally putting on some new growth, but sadly our avocado died at the graft union. For our non-farming folks, a graft union is a small wound that is created when two plants graft, or come together, ensuring the plant’s tissues can grow together. You can’t win ’em all, but if we get to taste-test any West Virginia grown citrus this season, we’ll certainly call that a multifunctional victory.
In an effort to get ripe, delicious tomatoes into y’all’s gullets by June, we start our tomato plants in the bleak days of early January. We graft all of our slicing tomatoes to Estamino rootstock, which makes our plants more disease resistant and able to produce vigorously over the long high tunnel growing season. They’ll be going in the ground in one of our high tunnels over the next few weeks as the last of the winter crops are harvested.
Due to last year’s volcanic activity in Hawaii, the farm we normally source our certified disease-free, organic seed ginger was unable to supply us with Bubba Blue ginger, a variety that’s a proven performer for us. We’ve substituted smaller yellow ginger to try this year, and the plants are happily sprouting in the greenhouse. We’ll transplant these into our other high tunnels over the next few weeks as well, and they’ll continue their long growth cycle. We start ginger in February for harvest the following November, and this year, we’re hoping to harvest more than ever!
Our little baby chicks are officially all grown up. They’ve been successfully integrated into the flock, and all of them are once again rotating around the rapidly greening pasture. From April to October, our chickens are moved to fresh pasture weekly, where the fresh plants and insects supplement their organic, soy-free feed. These ladies are laying some of the most delicious, orange-yolked eggs around, so make sure you pick some up in the Market or on farmtakeout.com.
Some of the younger birds are just starting to lay. Peep this precious lil’ thing!
In between meetings, emails, freezes, and rains, we’ve been prepping beds like maniacs. We’ve opened up three new planting blocks in our lower field this season. That’s about 15,000 more square feet of growing space to bring you even more of some of our favorite crops like garlic, onions, sweet potatoes, melons, and more. We’ve planted our first outdoor spinach, carrots, arugula, and peas. We also planted out our first round of beets, but a frost got every last one of them before we got them covered up. Sometimes you take a risk and it doesn’t work out. It sucks seeing the time and energy wasted on a failed crop, but there’s no sense crying over frozen beet seedlings. Just take note of what you could have done differently, learn something, and plant more beets.
Well, I think that’s all the news that’s fit to print. Don’t forget to come find us Saturdays in Winchester at the Freight Station Farmers Market if you’re so inclined, and pop into our farmhouse Market Friday through Sunday for some of the best produce and baked goods around.
Peace, Love & Mineral Rights.
Fixer of broken toys and ripped pages. Tree-gazer + land lover. Shut up the wind is talking.
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