Words from the Transplanted Farmer
Shawn here. I wish I could say that I am as nestled in at Mano Farm as the red cabbages and lettuce heads that we planted back in November. I know I will be soon - especially now that we’ve kicked off the CSA’s 2014 growing season - but transitions are hardly ever short and sweet. It’s been eerie taking a “winter” break from CSA picks during 85-degree weather. The last couple weeks have been marked with daily overhead watering somewhere on the farm, as our maturing leafy greens always rejoice in it, and I daresay I’ve altered my own walking routes for a midday dousing.
Aside from keeping the weeds at bay, we’ve been using this time to take down the circle garden fence and muse over how the space can be repurposed in ways that will make upkeep easier and production higher. Three fig trees that have made the journey with me from Sulphur Mountain will be joining the existing trees in the circle garden, and six pomegranate trees will be planted along the roadside. With the help of good friends and a trailer, I have also been able to relocate my small greenhouse on the land, and if the weather ever allows, I will be raising a small amount of seedlings inside - although in this heat it seems like it’d do more harm to young plants than good.
In a couple weeks, I will be turning under the small patches of rye and vetch cover crop that Quin planted in the fall in anticipation for late January planting. It is exciting to think about this process. I’ve always understood that it was the most efficient and healthy way to incorporate fertility into the soil - that is, turning live plant material under the soil and allowing it to break down, encouraging a thriving microbial population - but I’ve never been able to use this method because I did not have a tractor. In my earlier days of farming, I would cart expired plant debris to the perimeter of the garden, layer it into compost piles with animal manure, water and turn it repeatedly, then pile it back into the wheelbarrow and back out onto the beds many months later. This proved to be too physically taxing and time consuming to continue for the scale of food production that I was aspiring towards, so I eventually transitioned to incorporating fertility solely through the use of bagged amendments purchased off-farm. We will still be doing a fair amount of this, as most farmers must, but being equipped with the tools to effectively and systematically till-in green manure that we grow here on the farm is hugely beneficial and a vast improvement to my own prior farming methods.
I may have begun this, my first ever newsletter for Mano Farm with a complaint about the weather (really, what did you expect?), but I will conclude it with expressions of gratitude. I’m so very honored to have been invited to join the Mano Farm community, and have received nothing but encouragement and resounding support from everyone since my arrival in the fall. With the passing of each day, I am constantly reminded of why I took the chance I did by coming here - that is, to learn, to excel and to be nourished. Sometimes for growth to continue, we must first uproot ourselves.
I’m beyond pleased that so many members from Mano Farm and Sulphur Mountain have chosen to continue receiving our delicious vegetables - your commitment to supporting our farming efforts is inspiring. Lastly, I’m feeling lucky all the time to be working alongside Quin, who has not yet tired of pushing me to succeed as the new farmer for Mano Farm’s CSA program.
Please enjoy this week’s assortment of leafy greens and citrus, and do peruse the handpicked selection of recipes that accompany this letter. As always, do not hesitate to contact me if you have trouble identifying any items in your weekly shares.
Thank you for your support!