Thursday, March 25, 2010

Doing It Again

"Standing in the middle of nowhere, wondering how to begin, lost between tomorrow and yesterday, between now and then. And now we're back where we started. Here we go 'round again, day after day I get up and I say, "I better do it again""

Each spring brings the beginning of a new farm season. Tasks from previous years need to be repeated. The wheel turns and events repeat themselves. There is a sense of stability in the repetitive nature of farming, a sense of reassurance in the renewed beginning of a new season. And while all of this is true for Farmer David there is a different sense of anticipation, excitement, and trepidation in that Farmer David is establishing a brand new farm. Just as you plant the seeds that will grow into plants, David is 'planting' and establishing his own roots with Z Food Farm.

As it is in other endeavors, getting things accomplished at a farm always seems to take longer than one would like. This has been especially true in putting the parts together for the green house (more details and pictures about the green house will be in the next posting). Be that as it may, there has been movement forward at Z Food Farm. A tractor has been purchased. Seeding has started. A mail box has been posted. And there has been progress in the building of the green house. There is a little over two months to go before market season starts and there seems to be so much that still needs to be done. In the spirit of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, there is only one way to go, 'Further'.

If you are going to grow stuff you need to plant the seed in seeding trays with the proper soil mix. Here David is mixing up a batch of soil. There are various components that go into the soil mix- peat moss, vermiculite, lime, greensand, and a couple of other things.While traditional fertilizers can not be used in organic farming, the basic peat moss can be enhanced to provide good growing conditions for the newly planted seeds.

(NOTE- A big shout out of thanks to Farmer Matt at Cherry Grove Organic Farm. Matt, knowing that David's green house would not be finished in time for the beginning of seeding, offered David space in his green house. Also, in a variety of other ways Matt has provided David with assistance. David is greatly appreciative of all that Matt has done for him.)

Once the seeds have been placed in the trays and covered with the soil mix they need to be watered. It sounds obvious, and it is, but the process of watering can not be taken for granted. At all stages of growth, from the initial seeding to the time when the seedlings are planted in the ground, the trays need to be thoroughly watered. While David is doing this initial watering by hand, Farmer Matt has a watering system within his green house that saves an amazing amount of time. David will be installing a similar system in his green house.

This is the first days seeding. While this may not seem to be all that much, these trays are full of bunching onions. Each cell contains 5-6 seeds. One reason for so many seeds per cell is that not all of the seeds will germinate. Another reason is that these are onions that will be harvested and sold in bunches rather than individually.

Here it is, Farmer David's first tractor. It is a Ford 1710. This particular tractor was built in 1986. The tractor was refurbished and is in great condition. Long may you run.

And here is Farmer David peering into the future, contemplating what adventures lie ahead. Needless to say the hope is that the adventures, while challenging, will be surmountable. Go forth young farmer.

That's all for now. Next posting will detail the putting up of the green house. Until then healthy eating and peace to all.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Prairie Wind

I tried to tell the people but they never heard a word I say
They say there's nothing out there but wheat fields anyway
Just a farmer's wife hanging laundry in her back yard
Out on the prairie where the winds blow long and hard

Z Food Farm may not be on a prairie, it is in Lawrenceville NJ, but wheat fields and a farmer's wife hanging laundry does convey a pretty picture. At this time things at Z Food Farm are moving along at a steady pace, but in truth it is the calm before the storm. In the calm Farmer David has been making some purchases. Among them- produce crates, components for his soil mix, the various parts of what will be his irrigation system, a green house (hoop house) and a tractor. David has also ordered his seeds (which took an extensive amount of time to do) and they have started to arrive. He's also been working on the paperwork for organic certification. The approaching storm is the green house needs to be built, a deer fence needs to be put up, and seeding needs to start. At this time the putting together of the components of the green house has been somewhat delayed by (dramatic pause) the weather. Yes fans of farming, it is early March and already the weather has had an impact on things. Those of you in New Jersey might have vague recall of those snow storms that dumped record amounts of snow on the area. Well, when you have snow on the ground it is challenging to get into the fields to build anything. However, within the next week construction of the green house will commence and once that has been accomplished it will be full speed ahead. It is hoped that the snow is not a harbinger of weather challenges in the coming months. If you recall from last farm season the rainy weather of June had a significant impact on the entire season. Hopefully the coming weather will be kinder to all farmers.

Michael Pollan, in his book, "In Defense of Food" offered a rule to those interested in healthy eating and the importance of healthy sources of food, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants." Well, Mr. Pollan has expanded on his rule in his most recent book, "Food Rules - An Eater's Manual". If you are interested in reading more about this, apart from buying the book, you can go to an article/interview in the New York Times (Jan. 8, 2010) by Tara Parker-Pope: Pollan Offers 64 Ways to Eat Food&st=cse

An influence on the work of Mr. Pollan is the work of Wendell Berry. To close today here is a quote from an essay of Mr. Berry's from the most recent book containing his essay's "Bringing It To The Table - On Farming and Food", "Eaters must understand that eating takes place inescapable in the world, that it is inescapably an agricultural act, and that how we eat determines, to a considerable extent, how the world is used."

Mindful, happy, and healthy eating to all.

Here's Hule exploring her new farm. It is her farm. She allows Farmer David to think it is his.

Before the snows came, Farmer David borrowed a tractor with a mowing attachment. Cutting the growth will make it easier for the soil to be turned as part of the seeding process once spring finally rolls around. Thanks to Farmer Kelly of Cherry Grove Farm for the loan of the tractor.

In this picture you can see how high things had grown.

This is what the field looked like after the mowing.

The moss will be combined with compost, a soil, and other ingredients to make up the soil mix in which the seeds will germinate in the seeding trays.

On the left side of the picture are 'hoops' that will support cloth that will be placed over the plants in the field. The cloth will create a 'hot house' effect to help promote the growth of the plants. Center front you can see some ground cover- this plastic will be placed on the raised beds and once the plants are in the ground will aid in the suppression of weeds. Center back and right are components of the irrigation system. Think of a dripper hose that you might use to water flowers or shrubs in your home garden.

Peace and good eating to all.