The cold, crisp morning air of the past week brought a bite that gnawed at exposed skin–ears, fingers, and nose. It also brought with it the first sighting of a small group of three valiant geese flying north, signaling a turn of the season. When we look at our asparagus, we can almost feel the crowns yearning to be set free from their winter darkness, to emerge green, and reaching for spring-time skies. Soon, spring will be upon us – so we hope.
This week, we kept busy with seeding more spring and summer crops, upgrading a hoop-house, and doing improvements in our vegetable wash and prep area. In between the farm work, we savor the moments to read novels, agriculture reports, and books on race and culture. In the photograph above, new broccoli seedlings stand tall and proud in the propagation house. In a few weeks when the soil in our fields dries out & and we are able to add compost and build raised beds, these new broccoli plants will be transplanted. So will many other spring and summer crops. For now, it’s a seeding, watering, maintenance, and waiting game – with the weather a big player in it all.
It’s hard to imagine the leaves in the photo above being those of a future artichoke plant, but they are. From it’s center, the main stem will develop, which will give life to several branches, with several fruit on one plant. Last year we did a trial of two (100 foot beds) of artichokes, and had above average success. Our CSA members were ecstatic about them, and recipe ideas of dips and blanched artichokes ensued. We’ll do some soil amendments for this year’s crop and increase production to about 5 beds – which means more roasted artichoke dips! Below, we are harvesting spinach and Swiss chard, which you can find at Ellwood Thompson’s this week.
A few online news articles that we liked reading this week included a photo essay of women farmers, who gathered at an event called Women Feeding the World: Farmers, Mothers and CEO’s, hosted by the University of California Davis. One featured farmer is Noel Makete, a scientist at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute. Her expertise is in vegetable post-harvest. She feeds the world by developing new ways for farmers in developing countries to produce, store, and sell vegetables. As a farming couple, we are drawn to the lived stories of other farming couples, as in this beautiful one in the ongoing Female Farmer Project by photographer Audra Mulkern. Enjoy!
An intriguing new yet-to-be-released documentary film, claims that conventional farming in America could be modern day slavery. The film, Food Chains, aims to make a connection between consumers and modern abusers. The filmmakers point out that “the abuses farm workers endure are seemingly unimaginable in the 21st century. Women are harassed and sometimes raped. Men can pick 4,000 pounds of fruit over a 10-hour day, piece by piece in 98 degree weather, and receive paychecks for one third or one fourth the federal minimum wage.” They encourage stronger pressure on the government and agriculture corporations, to create the economic and legal changes necessary to eradicate this exploitation. Food Chains is a stark reminder of some of the pitfalls of commercial, industrial farming, and that the price of tomatoes produced from that system, includes the abuse suffered by farm workers.
As always, we are delighted by the work of The Lexicon of Sustainability, and especially by their most recent video collaboration with PBS. The video, Know Your Baker, features a baker, a miller, and a farmer, and explores the lexicon of wheat – whole grain or white – and how it’s produced. Click on the image below to watch the video. And if you want to buy some of the best bread in Richmond, visit our sweet friends Evrim and Evin Dogu at Sub Rosa Bakery in Churchill, and be prepared to be swooned by bread and pastry. They use a few Virginia grown grains, and are working with some of the best millers in North Carolina to acquire identity preserved grains.
Be well, eat healthy, and be kind to yourself and others.