I rather enjoyed seeing the fields with their green and brown remnants of last year’s growing season. With a hefty half foot of snow encapsulated by a sheer layer of ice, it’s hard to accurately recall what was under there before, and strange to imagine what will be under there after the snowy carnage. This is the type of weather that makes farm chores death-defying, driving an absurdity, and office work pertinent. The farm’s thinking cap goes on when winter settles in; it’s time for us to plan for the growing season ahead. Everyone knows farming is a lot of work, but it can take a lot of organizational skills as well. And math abounds. For example: we aim to have 26 weeks of head lettuce and we need 250 per week. We plant out 600 at a time and they last for 2 weeks in the field. That means we need to schedule seedings and plantings (what we call successions) for every two weeks starting April 1st. We grow at least 2 dozen crops that require successive plantings and most require a bit more figuring than the lettuce! There’s seeds to order, supplies to plan for, fertility plans to make, hiring to do, and lots of crop planning! This is all done pre-season, of course, so then the farmer can act like the country bumpkin they are during the growing season, because once June hits, all analytical thinking hits a roadblock. Come June, it’s time to just ride the wave.
This is the week when the vegetable farm season of 2014 officially begins. We’ve been tending crops in the high tunnel all winter, and selling the remaining storage carrots and other roots, but this week we’ll sow the first seeds of this year’s crop. Cleaning out the nursery is always an arduous task that is richly rewarded with the joys of sunlight and seeds and soil. In the greenhouses in February, the temperatures reach 70 degrees on a sunny day. For a farmer, getting your hands in the soil while all the earth around is completely enveloped in ice is the equivalent of most people’s Florida vacation. The combination of dirt, sunshine and water in the greenhouse enthuses the farmer’s spirit with the same urges the seed feels: time to grow!