Although the infamous Food Drought occurs during March, there’s still a lot happening in the orchards and fields. Here are some pictures of the various things that are in Spring bloom for you to enjoy. (Originally posted in March 2013)
Community Supported Agriculture, whether receiving a share or going to a Farmers Market, is the best way to ensure a farm like ours thrives and continues to provide a place for natural organic diversity.
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April and May are the months when many crops are seeded or transplanted in preparation for the upcoming main season. There are also many crops on the verge of being ready for harvest. Take a walk with us through the fields to see what’s coming up.
Thank you for taking this walk with us. We hope to see you on the Farm this Saturday, May 7th for the Season Kick-off of our Farm Stand, and on Saturday, June 4th for our first Strawberry U-pick of the Season.
Taylor’s Crop & Field Notes:
The farm is particularly alive and green right now, thanks to that lovely warm rain we had a few weekends ago, and though it may still technically be winter the tempo these past few weeks is definitely starting to pick back up with the fields and orchards awakening early from the unseasonably warm weather.
We have large blocks of Romanesco cauliflower, rainbow chard, green garlic, and crunchy carrots coming on strong. I can’t believe it, but the early Chandler strawberries are not far off. The apricot branches are swelling – ready to burst into life in the next couple weeks. The tractors are working hard to prep fresh new beds for spring crops, and we are direct sowing seeds of spinach, radishes and various varieties of mustard greens.
We are all trying to relish these last few weeks of winter around the farm before things launch back into high gear for the start of main season CSA deliveries in April. Weekly restaurant, retail and wholesale deliveries have been on hiatus, and will begin again the first week of March.
During the seasonal CSA delivery break between winter and main seasons, we welcome you to come stock up on plenty of produce at one of the 3 year-round markets we attend: Santa Cruz Downtown on Wednesday afternoons; West Side Santa Cruz Saturday mornings; or Los Gatos on Sunday mornings.
The main CSA season is just around the corner…and it’s shaping up to be a great year ahead.
Laura’s news from the greenhouse:
The warm weather we’ve been experiencing over the past couple of weeks has really helped speed things along in our greenhouse. Many of the seedlings for our staple crops (chard, kale, lettuce) are already being planted out into the field, and even the first of our spring specialty crops (summer squash and onions) are beginning to poke their heads out of their trays.
We’ve been embarking on a number of improvement projects to our greenhouse area as well, with a thorough cleaning of all our equipment, additional irrigation, as well as building some new structures to help improve the efficiency of work-flow with our vacuum seeder. We’re also trialing some new varieties of seeds, so keep your eyes peeled for things you may not have seen from us before. Good things lie ahead for us this season!
The farm’s winter fields are a patchwork of cover crops and winter veggies. Take a walk through them with us and see all the changes. Click on the highlighted text to reach related previous posts.
Take a walk with us around the farm to see the changes from the recent three days of rain.
The season’s first rainmaker is predicted to approach the Central Coast this Friday and Saturday. Although no more than 1 inch of rain is expected to fall, it is enough to give us some drought relief. After almost six months of harvesting every single day, we are tired and dream of slowing down a bit during the hopefully rainier months ahead.
With the exception of a few more rows of Fuji apples needing to be picked, our apple harvest is done for the season. Soon all the apples going into our shares (mostly our sweet Fuji’s) will be taken out of cold storage. After this next rain the strawberries and tomatoes will also officially be done, plowed back into the soil with a winter cover crop planted in the fields to rest and recharge the soil. The only fruit still being harvested for awhile longer are the pineapple guavas and, starting in December, our Meyer lemons should fully yellow to be enjoyed in our shares.
Since crops are turning their energy inward to form seeds or store their energy in roots or trunks, winter is a good time to sow slower growing root crops that store in the ground over several months. The winter shares are a wonderful opportunity to enjoy both the nutrient dense earthy flavors of many of the root crops we grow (parsnips, celeriac, carrots, beets, and turnips), as well as the unique crisp textures and sweet flavors brassicas develop when temperatures drop into the thirties during the frostier winter nights ahead.
When the rain finally starts falling I will walk the farm to breathe a sigh of relief, surrendering to the inevitability of the more sinister decay of the farm’s crop lifecycle. The rotting windfall apples and tomatoes on the ground, I recognize, are the secret of fertility and the regenerative power of our earthly existence. I wish you all a spooky and safe Halloween!!
With only 5 weeks left, our 2014 CSA Season is quickly drawing to a close, and with impending rains (we hope soon) the Farm is in transition mode.
Tuesday, in anticipation of Wednesday night’s rain, the farm was abuzz with activity. By 7 o’clock in the morning our “Mudder” (high clearance tractor) was out in the field, Juan and Clemente sowing a large block of carrots, cilantro and spring onions. With shorter days and colder weather ahead of us, these seeds will take twice as long to develop into a harvestable crop – I expect January or February of 2015.
As soon as the tractor was freed up from doing the field sowing, Clemente and his team hitched up the transplanter and headed out to plant an acre of mixed brassicas (kale, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower). By mid afternoon, most of the crew was busy packing CSA shares in the barn, however when the wind picked up and rain clouds started moving in a group of us headed out with the tractors to get the butternut squash, curing in the field, loaded into bins and hauled off into storage. We had just enough time to get it all done before dark–always a good feeling to know the Winter Squash is dry and safe for the winter.
The last couple of weeks a lot of energy and attention has gone into preparing the strawberry beds where next seasons crop will be planted. Not a moment too soon since the nursery called to pick up the first 15,000 strawberry starts. The Chandlers are always the first ones and need to be planted right away. It is our earliest variety and we can, under favorable weather conditions, start picking ripe berries as early as March. In addition to strawberries, other popular spring crops we need to plant now are green garlic, fava beans, Brussels sprouts and onions. To ensure a steady harvest during the winter we’ve also been sowing and transplanting hardy wintercrops such as parsnips, rutabagas, cabbage, turnips, broccoli, and leeks. Less winter hardy crops such as all the salad greens will be grown under protective row covers and hoop structures.
Not much time to sit down, reflect and write – all our energy is focused on keeping up with the pace and intensity of the farm. It is as if Mother Nature is aware that these are the final weeks of summer. Galas are hanging ripe for the picking. The first block of winter squash (Delicata and Sweet Dumplings) is ready to be harvested. Everything is ripening and there are barely enough hours in the day to keep up with the raspberries, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and summer squash in addition to the usual staple crops of beets, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, leeks, and strawberries – to name a few. Now is the time we most feel the support of the team at play, and the smiles on our faces at the end of a 12-13 hour day are a mutual acknowledgement of this joint effort.
The “Naked Ladies” with their striking pink flowers (Amaryllis belladonna) are in full bloom, which is an early sign that summer is almost over. Knowing that shorter days are just around the corner, we are already preparing the fields and planting our fall and winter crops.
With summer vacations technically over after Labor Day, we invite you to extend that summer feeling a bit longer by joining us for another round of U-pick Community Farm Days the next two Saturdays – August 30th and September 6th.
Bring the kids to explore the farm; we have plenty of activities planned to go along with your harvest adventures – tractor rides, apple cider pressing, and farm walking tours. Now is the best time to pick and preserve the summer bounty to be enjoyed later during fall and winter.
Here on the farm we measure the end of summer when strawberry beds are prepared for planting and we stop picking tomatoes – with the typical extension of our coastal summer weather, the tomato harvest could last into mid-October. Hope to see you here on the farm to join the harvest effort.
While some crops, like raspberry and blackberry canes, remain in the same place for a couple of years, as the season progresses most crops are rotated through the fields. Take a walk with us to see the changes.
Be sure to mark your calendar and join us on Saturday, August 16th for a Community Farm Day and Dry-farmed Tomato U-pick. Come take your own field walk, and enjoy the Farm!
The waiting is over, our dry-farmed tomatoes will be in everyone’s share this week, about 2 weeks earlier than last year. If only we could dry-farm more of our crops we might not be so worried about water shortages during this current drought cycle.
Before the rise of dams and aquifer pumping, much of the American West practiced dry-farming. Today only a handful of perennial crops such as Olives, Grapes, and Apples are still dry-farmed on a limited scale. Along some favorable coastal microclimates farms like ours dry-farm tomatoes, potatoes, and sometimes winter squash. What’s special about dry farming is the ability to grow a crop by only utilizing the residual moisture in the soil accumulated during the rainy season.
This year the first field of Early Girl tomatoes was planted just before the last rains of the season fell back in March. Since then, 4 months now, no additional water has been applied to the crop. Key to dry farming successfully is to prevent soil moisture evaporation. This is done by tilling the surface of the soil, creating a layer of dry mulch that effectively traps moisture in the clay-rich subsoil.
The “Early Girl” is the tomato variety of choice for dry farming. It has a vigorous rootsystem that can tap deep into the subsoil.Dry-farming tomatoes is a technique perfected a couple of decades ago by Molino Creek, a farming cooperative situated in the coastal hills above Davenport in northern Santa Cruz County. We are fortunate to enjoy a similar microclimate here in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains in the southern part of the county. Under optimum conditions the plants, although stressed from a lack of water, will stay healthy enough to yield tomatoes bursting with flavor.
Although Early Girl’s were bred in France, tomatoes find their origin in the jungles of Central and South America. The Mayans called it “xtomatl” hence the name tomato. When the Spanish brought the first tomato to Europe the Church condemned eating tomatoes as a scandalous and sinful indulgence. The French on the other hand admired its sensuous appearance and were enticed by it, believing that the red fruit had aphrodisiac powers, and so called it “pomme d’amour” or love apple. Today, we probably couldn’t imagine anything more scandalous than not having tomatoes as part of our diet.