One of the most asked questions I have heard as a full-time farmer is; “what do farmers do in the winter?” I usually reply with my list of winter tasks; write a crop plan, order seeds, hire farmers, fix tractors, catch up on sleep and more. I talk a lot about the different seasons of being a farmer, what happens in my days-what they feel like. It’s a question I am comfortable digging into and describing at length. But today, I was asked a different question; not what do the farmers do in the winter, but what does the farm do in the winter. I appreciated this question for the way it understands and implies that the farm is its own living organism. I see the farm as an endlessly growing and changing and living being. This living organism is many things; it is the community that builds within and out of the boundaries of these fields; it is the farmers becoming stronger and smarter growers- learning and understanding the ways to nurture crops to their fullest potential; and it is the soil—thriving and building in order to grow healthy crops; roots reaching deep into the earth to pull nutrients to the surface for the most healthy and delicious vegetables.
To answer the question on this day of what the farm does in the winter, I thought about the fields themselves. Right now, we are spending time planting cover crops—the plants that will hold the soil in place for the winter—protecting it from erosion and establishing roots that will enhance and maintain soil structure for next season. Some cover crops are selected because they make nutrients available in the soil for the plants to access next season. Some are selected because they are good for suppressing weeds. Some are chosen because they will die when the frost comes, providing an ideal and easy place to plant early spring crops into. Whatever our motivation—we farmers want to provide our fields with structure and growth so that we can rest easy this winter, knowing that the fields are covered in crops or seeds, that are helping to build, or at the very least, not loose, the precious top soil over the windy, stormy winter months.
|the fields ready to be seeded|
If I were a field at Powisset Farm, I would hope for snow to come and cover me, insulating me from the cold, protecting the rich soil from erosion. I would dream about the spring crops that will thrive in such an inviting soil, and rest through the winter without the tractors disturbing my slumber. And I would watch the farmers in the fields, spreading compost over thin layers of snow, hands cold. Or peer at them through lighted windows, curled up in comfy chairs, planning for the season ahead.
Maybe what the farm does and what the farmers do are similar, we rest, knowing we have done all we can for one season. And thanking our winter season for the needed break.
What do you imagine the farm does all winter?
See you in the cover-cropped fields,
Meryl (on behalf of the Powisset Farm Crew)
Two Weeks remain for the Summer CSA 2012!
This week and next week are the last two shares of our Summer CSA! You can expect to find more greens, roots, squash and the last of the summer fruits (peppers!). If you are interested in signing up for a winter share (November-February, one pick-up per month), let us know! Otherwise, we hope that you will share in another farm season with us! Next season’s sign-ups will begin March 1, 2013!
There will be an end-of-season farm report coming out by the end of October to articulate the value of your share for the 2012 season. We will also be providing you with a short survey in the hope that you will let us know what we did great and what could use improvement!
What’s in the share this week:
Up in the barn: Lettuce, carrots, beets, butternut squash, sugar pumpkins, radishes, leeks, choice of cooking greens and more
Out in the fields: kale, chard, husk cherries, hot peppers, corn stalks**
Pick-yer-own corn stalks are back! Would you like to decorate your home with Powisset corn stalks? Bring your own clippers/loppers and cut away! Take as many as you want.