A Glimpse into the Life of a Market Farm

by: Sara on 02/22/2013
Posted in: Gardening

Today's blog post comes from Pam Dawling, the author of the recently released Sustainable Market Farming, Intensive Vegetable Production on a Few Acres. Pam is also a contributing editor at Growing for Market magazine and has been farming as a member of Twin Oaks Community in central Virgina for over 20 years.

Now the writing of Sustainable Market Farming is behind me, I can focus more on my day job – growing food for the hundred people here at Twin Oaks Community in central Virginia. www.twinoaks.org

Seedlings in the greenhouse in early spring. Credit Pam Dawling

We’ve been starting seedlings since late January, and the greenhouse is filling up with flats of lettuce, cabbage, kohlrabi, spinach, scallions and broccoli. We’re eating our way through the lettuces that grew overwinter in the compost in the block-work greenhouse beds, and shoveling out the compost to fill our flats. All our seedlings are grown in 100% home-made compost. We screen compost to fill the beds in September and transplant lettuce there in October. When we need the compost for the seedlings, it has mellowed nicely and has plenty of worms. This beats buying-in bags of compost, or chipping lumps off a heap of frozen compost outdoors in January!

Because of the cold weather, we haven’t yet moved any seedling flats out to the coldframes, and it’s already getting hard to move around, with the greenhouse packed to the gills. But let’s not complain about the bounty of so many plants! Spring is an exciting time of year, full of new growth and new potential. Working in the greenhouse with tiny plants on a sunny day when it’s cold outside is a special treat.

Our greenhouse and traditional coldframes. Credit Kathryn Simmons

Outdoors we have been having bad luck with the weather. More than half the days we have crew shifts scheduled, it rains, has cold winds or both. The soil is too wet to till, so we just have to wait on that. We have spread compost on all the early beds for crops before the end of March. Usually by now, we would have sown some carrots and fava beans, transplanted some spinach and prepared the beds for transplanting onions. Alas! Not this year!

We’ve started pruning blueberries, a pleasant job that doesn’t involve getting our hands in cold wet soil. We’ve also started weeding and spreading compost on the asparagus patch, a good job to do with a crowd, as it takes a while to work along those seven long rows. Our asparagus is permanently mulched with old hay, so there’s no chance of getting bogged down in mud.

As for the bigger picture, I’m thinking about climate change and how we can continuously adapt to whatever happens. I’ve been writing about this in Growing for Market magazine. www.growingformarket.com




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