This is my first real farm update for this season, what a relief the time is finally here!!! It's no surprise that springtime around the farm is busy- let me fill you in on a little bit of what we've been up to!!
We've been working in the greenhouse every day, designing a new pig pen that we'll build next week, picking up trailers and new equipment, supplies, and LOTS of dirt!!!
We moved into our farmhouse here almost exactly two years ago! For those who are new with us this season I want to give you some background on where we come from. We've been offering CSAs for 8 years but only 2 of them have been here in Oak Park. Going into our 9th year offering CSAs this summer!!
We lived in town in Big Lake and rented fields in Big Lake, Elk River and Zimmerman- I always joke we sprinkled seeds wherever anyone would let us. We rented fields in 3 separate cities at the same time. Being a first generational farm, we didn't have land or equipment. It's taken many years to acquire & we still have more to go!
Moving forward, two years ago we found the perfect place. Here in Oak Park we have enough space to operate our produce farm and CSAs & we were even able to add pigs last season!
This season we're raising twice as many pigs. We only sell our pigs to our CSA Members, no one else is able to buy them. Just as you're committed to us, we are committed to you and will do everything we can to always put you first! We currently have a waiting list for our pigs (we sell in halves and wholes, not cuts) and if you'd like to get some more information or get on the list to be notified when we have availability, please visit this link. Scroll to the bottom of the page to the form where you can enter in your name and email. Here is a picture of our new-to-us trailer and our barn kitty!!
Oh, did I mention that my baby chicks hatched over the weekend?! :D
Ben is such a sweetheart, always "going with the flow" when I get a hunch to try something new. Before moving here, I had never had chickens. Living in town in Big Lake that wasn't viable.
Our first Mother's Day here at our new place guess what my present was.... CHICKENS! Ben went and got me a handful of chicks and a friend actually contributed with a couple fun specialty breeds. A few of our chickens even have feathered feet!!
This is the second year we've hatched chicks out! We had a couple dozen eggs in there but found out that the majority of the eggs I got from a friend weren't fertile. The reason I got her eggs was simple- because they're pretty chickens, lol! We selected lots of blue, green and nice brown eggs to hatch out. They'll likely be half hens and half roosters so we'll keep the hens and give the roosters to a friend who will raise them up to butcher.
Many of you are probably wondering when fresh eggs will be added to Brown Family Farm's offerings. Let me tell you- I'm listening!! We're trying to figure out the space we'd need and the number of hens we would need to have to supply Add-on Egg Shares. We'll need to build or modify some infrastructure to house hundreds of hens before we can try to add eggs to our offerings. Just know, it's on my radar and I hope in the future we can find a feasible way to raise that many chickens!! :D
*A trend you'll notice for the season is how I constantly remind myself, one day at a time. Life is big and full of fun surprises, but we are only human ;)
Here at the farm, we change a few things every year to make it more of our own, updating spaces and altering things to fit our farming endeavors. Our place was an alpaca farm before we bought it, so there was a lot of fencing we took down and some big changes we made right away. Turning the back shed into the Pack shed for example (where we do all of our CSA packing, produce washing etc), building a walk-in cooler, building a greenhouse, and many more fun projects!! **I say this with the greatest enthusiasm & sincerity. I love building, creating, organizing & day dreaming!!
LIFE IS GOOD.
Every day we are adding more and more goodies to the greenhouse! We are (quickly) filling up the greenhouse!
We start a lot of the seeds in the germination chamber and then move them to the greenhouse. The germination chamber has a metal pan with water built into the bottom of a structure that kind of looks like an empty shelving unit with panels on the outside. The heating element sits in the water and creates condensation and humidity which helps the plants germinate faster and more evenly. It's our way to ensure the best results when starting many of our plants!
The garlic is up! The only problem is that part of the patch is underwater. The rows are hundreds of feet long so we'll lose some, but it's not a failure by any means. They might dry out enough to survive anyways, but the current state is that we've got some standing water in that field. This is our FIRST season growing garlic and we're excited to try out some different techniques for drying and cleaning it. Unfortunately we aren't sure if we will have enough to add to your CSAs this season as we might need to use all of the garlic we harvest for seed. We'll keep you updated on how it grows & turns out!
Let's talk about the terrible weather we've had, you know, the winter that lasts forever!
The weather is not great but it hasn't really set us back much because right now everything is still in the greenhouse. This is normal for this time of year! We never plant anything this early for a risk of frost or damage to the plants. Some of the spring varieties can handle a frost but it doesn't matter because we never plant this early. So while this spring is mentally holding us back, it certainly isn't holding anything back in the greenhouse where it's nice and warm around the clock!!
These are all romaine lettuces!! These are 128 count plug trays, meaning just in this picture you see here, there are about 2,000 heads of romaine right here!!!!!
The plants aren't behind, but the field work is definitely behind schedule. Ben has been pretty anxious about not being able to get out into the field. It is SO MUCKY. In the last few weeks we've gotten over 6 inches of rain. We aren't complaining... especially after last season's drought, but it just makes the spring field preparation a little trickier.
A lot of farmers around us raise the traditional corn and soy beans, hay for cattle etc., and talking with several neighbors we're hearing they're behind on planting too, but there isn't anything they can do about it because you can't take a tractor out and rip the field to crap (making more problems anyways). So we're all in the waiting game right now but this week of sunshine and no rain will certainly help dry out the fields!
We made maple syrup this year and used this food grade container to hold the sap before we cooked it down. Unfortunately, this year's sap turnout was not great. The syrup tastes great but we were only able to make a dozen jars from what we gathered. The overnight and daytime temps are supposed to swing about 30 degrees for the best sap production. This year it stayed so consistently cold that they didn't run like they usually do. It's OK though- next year we're ready to make A TON. We've got all the equipment, now all we need is more sap to cook down to make syrup! ;P
Well, I think that's enough for today folks! As you can see- the farm never stops moving but we wouldn't have it any other way!! I look forward to sending you more updates this spring with reminders of all the treats you have in store this season!!! Thank you for joining our CSA, we are looking forward to sharing a summer of goodies with you!!
Stay well friends,
~The Farmer's Wife