My last couple of reports were from a very sleepy and quiet Stearns Farm. Now the farm is wide awake! The greenhouse is overflowing with seedlings that will be planted in the field as well as sold at our annual roadside seedling sale. Volunteer and shareholder work hours have begun, and the farm was bustling with activity this past Saturday morning. We got so much done! Our little fleet of tractors are often out in the fields these days, working to catch up on field prep.
This past week marked many firsts for my crew and me. We finished covering our cathedral high tunnel, which will be home to our first planting of tomatoes in just a couple of weeks. We got our first seeds and transplants into the ground. Katie and Ken, our assistant growers, did some of their first tractor work of the year. Two sweet shareholders brought us our first pie and cookie treats of the spring. We even found our first killdeer nest of the season, a sure sign that the farm is in full swing.
In terms of weather,we’ve had the typical unpredictable New England spring. In early March, we had some very warm weather. After that, it has been pretty cool and wet, and then it snowed and the temps dipped down low….and it rained and rained…until it didn’t rain significantly for almost a couple of weeks. Last week, after weeks of it being too wet in the fields, I was suddenly thinking that we were going to have to start irrigating. Luckily, it rained on Friday evening and Saturday morning, just in time to water our most recent carrot seeding and cabbage and beet transplants.
In general, when it comes to tractor work, you don’t want the soil to be extremely wet or extremely dry. Sometimes you just need to go in and get it done, for sure. But working the soil when it’s too wet isn’t great for soil structure and thus soil health. When it’s too dry, the cover crop and other plant material that you are trying to incorporate into the soil won’t break down, or the disc won’t sink down into the soil deep enough to be effective.
This is one of the things that I love about farming: the challenge of timing work just right, while weighing different priorities like soil health, the upcoming weather, the needs of each crop, the skill sets of crew members, and so on. There is always a different configuration of factors keeping me on my toes.
I look forward to meeting more of you out in the fields or in the greenhouse this spring planting season!