The first self-harvesting CSA in Belgium started 15 years ago after our colleague and neighbor, Tom, saw this model in the Netherlands (which is even more densely populated than Belgium). While it’s not a model for everyone, for many it is access to a large vegetable garden where someone else does the work and they get to harvest.
I love having people come to our field, chatting and seeing their pleasure in the vegetables. I also appreciate how being able to harvest oneself also increases the engagement and investment from our CSA members beyond the financial aspect. They come to understand what it’s like to have to put on rubber boots and warm clothes to come harvest leeks in January.
I started farming during university on urban organic farms. After graduating in 2018 with lots of student debt, I looked for jobs that pay well above minimum wage. I realised quickly it wouldn’t be sustainable for me to farm full time physically or financially, but I still wanted to include it in my lifestyle in some way.
My farm-to-table food business, The Conscious Kitchen, started somewhat serendipitously with people on Facebook asking for freshly prepared meals. I started cooking for them, and they told their friends.
If your farm sells in multiple markets, as mine has in the past, you’ll inevitably have to answer the question at some point of which channel to sell your best products in, and at some point you might also need to decide whether or not to add or drop a market? My current farm used to sell CSA shares and also do restaurant deliveries. We made the decision about five years ago to stop delivering to restaurants, but not before considering multiple angles, and even calculating that our restaurant sales were actually contributing more, as a percentage of sales, to our bottom line. If the restaurant sales were contributing more, why did we choose to drop that channel?
There’s nothing sustainable about sustainable farming when it comes to personal maintenance. The hours are too long, demands too time-sensitive, and physical requirements exceed healthy levels — especially in the summer heat.
I had been a farm manager for more than 10 years when I decided the lack of sustainability in my farm life needed an alternative management approach. I spent most of the previous 10 years wishing for more hours in the day and was convinced that everything was top priority and had to be done first. Ultimately, I felt I was not achieving or accomplishing anything.
Part of our scaling up process was figuring out how to deal with weed control. We knew wheel hoeing the whole farm was not sustainable unless we hired a horde of college kids. We first tried laying black plastic (with and without a plastic layer), but ended up with too many weeds on the edges. Then we tried burning holes in black woven landscape fabric and planting into the holes. But it was challenging getting those little statice plants to grow up through the holes and keeping the holes weeded. So we looked to the cultivation practices of larger growers for inspiration to see what we could bring back to our farm. We were only planting 2-3 acres when we chose to go with mechanical cultivation.
The seedlings that you have tended so carefully in the warm, humid greenhouse will soon be planted out in the field, where they will be exposed to wild temperature swings, wind, rain, and brilliant sunshine. It’s a tough transition for the plants, one that can set them back severely unless you take the time to harden them off. Hardening off means introducing young plants gradually to the harsh realities that await them outside.
The south-central United States is a region historically characterized by erratic weather. Dry Arctic air sweeps down the plains to collide with warm, humid Gulf air. Hail, straight-line winds, flooding, drought, and even tornadoes are a part of life, including farm life. It is notoriously challenging to predict the weather here. People in Oklahoma like to quote native son Will Rogers: “If you don’t like the weather in Oklahoma, wait a minute and it’ll change.”
One sunny fall day, laughter and happy chatter filled the air at our Oregon farm, Oakhill Organics. Bluegrass musicians played on our farmhouse’s covered porch, and my husband Casey took customers on tours through our fields. Between the music and tours, people were invited to taste bites of many different varieties of roasted potatoes and vote for their favorite. Every guest got to pick out a pumpkin to take home and carve.
One of the keystones of organic growing methods is crop rotation. On a market farm growing many different crops, it can be a real puzzle to figure out effective rotations. Over the past couple decades I’ve worked on a number of market farms and set up rotations for numerous conditions. I’ve also modified rotations as things have changed for one reason or another.
I wrote about the mysteries and complexities of soil microbiology and why it’s vital to care for the incalculable number of microbes below our feet in “Soil: A living, breathing ecosystem” in the January 2022 GFM. An entire ecosystem exists within the soil and is in constant flux — eating, breathing, communicating, and adapting to environmental stresses. If conditions are less than ideal, the symbiotic relationship between plants and microorganisms is compromised.
If you market as organic or grow using organic methods, regardless whether you’re certified, the USDA’s organic rule-making process affects you. Customers have an expectation of what organic means, and they likely associate those expectations with you. That’s why learning about organic rules and how they are created can benefit your farm and the movement.
Farming an acre of vegetables in Wilton, Ontario, Evan Quigley has always aimed to bring the highest quality and consistency to market with a keen eye on profitability. Evan has achieved high quality and yields with a combination of techniques and careful management at The Kitchen Garden farm.
Knowing a few tricks can make a big difference in seed starting, and it saved our larkspur crop. We’ll give you a rundown on some of the basic seed starting concepts, and then tell you a few tricks we’ve learned.
Agriculture is expanding in the subarctic and arctic of Alaska and Canada as temperatures in those northern latitudes rise two to three times faster than on the rest of the planet. Crops are started earlier and remain on the ground longer. In Whitehorse, Yukon, farmer Sarah Ouellette harvested field herbs and greens in the latter half of September, a time when freezing temperatures historically already would have knocked out the plants. In Inuvik, the northern most point in western Canada, 200 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle, Raygan Solotki had chickens running around in the fall because it’s warm enough now. Solotki is executive director of Green Iglu, a nonprofit expanding agriculture far north by installing geodesic greenhouses.