My name is Alex Young, and I am originally from Salt Lake City, Utah. Currently I live in East Troy, Wisconsin and attend Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (MFAI). At MFAI I am participating in the New Farmer Foundation Year, an educational program that focuses on biodynamic, sustainable and organic agriculture. Through this program myself and the other students are exposed to all aspects of a sustainable farming lifestyle with a curriculum that is both experiential and theoretical. A bulk of the day to day activities take place on site at Stella Gardens where we are running a CSA under the direction of Shawn, second year farm management apprentice, and Janet, Farm and Food Education Director. Other educational opportunities include the Whole Farm Workshop Series, more than 30 classes that cover all aspects of a farming life. We also benefit from cooperative instructors, regional farmers who introduce students to their farming operations. Cooperative learning opportunities include beekeeping, an apple orchard, an urban garden program and a diverse animal based farm.
This week, May 25-30, represents a significant change in the season for us. Harvest Time! Our CSA begins this week and members will be coming to the farm to pick up their shares in a farmers market style setting. Basically we lay out all of the weekly produce and members walk along and pack their own boxes or reusable bags. Due to this significant change my blog format will also change. Instead of listing what is growing every week I am going to attempt to list what is being harvested. I will post updates every week above my day to day activity log, hopefully by Tuesday night, which will give CSA members a heads up on what produce they will be receiving.
Monday: Today was officially the first harvest of the season! We harvested lettuce, chive, oregano, rhubarb and pac choi (more will be harvested on wednesday morning). After harvesting, I picked up the 5320 tractor and worked on tilling several passes in Field A and tilled the Children's Garden in preparation for the tomatoes, eggplant and chard that will be planted this week. After lunch, I switched out the rotovator for the water wheel transplanter and we planted a bed of lettuce and beets.
Tuesday: Rain is in the forecast for the next couple days, so this morning was crunch time to get all the soil work done. I worked on tilling down the wheat cover crop in the hoop house. I also used the riding mower to mow down an old perennial bed in the Main Garden and mowed the weeds in Spin 3. After moving Spin 3, I used the roto-tiller again and began prepping beds for the next two plantings of Arugula. This afternoon, Mara and I went to our weekly cooperative instructor Bob at Ela Orchard. While at Ela Orchard we filled up the hay wagon with hay and mulched underneath some of the younger honeycrisp apples. I also was able to bottle feed the new lambs some formula which is always fun.
Wednesday: We finished up the harvest this morning, in the pouring rain(but it always worth it for fresh vegetables). We harvested mustard greens, arugula, asparagus, chard, more lettuce and hakurei turnips (definitely up there with my all time favorite vegetables!). After the harvest it was up to the greenhouse to start planting the second succession of summer squash, head lettuce, and start more pea shoots. After lunch we worked on setting up for the first CSA pickup, which was a great success.
Thursday: Today was still too wet to work in the soil, so I broke out the weed whacker and cleaned up the edges of the hoop house. Shawn and I also put the zippers on the end walls of the hoop house(now we finally have doors to get inside). Next, I got out of the rain and went to the greenhouse to plant the next succession of chard and transplanted the tomatillos into a larger plug tray. After lunch I cut stinging nettle and comfrey to make "tea" out of that we will use as foliar spray's throughout the season. After that Janet and I noticed that the local Canada's Geese population had decided to go to town on our lettuce. To try to salvage what was left of the lettuce we put up a fence around the fields and we'll see if that works. I also set up a huge rat trap that will hopefully catch the gopher or whatever is eating the other lettuce beds.
Friday: We finally finished the hoop house this morning and put the plastic on. The rest of the day I worked on weeding(with the scuffle hoe) the spinach. salad mix and mustard green beds. Shawn, Kirsten and I also mulched the aisles between the zucchini and summer squash with straw. At the end of the day other interns involved with CRAFT, Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training, arrived for the orientation weekend here at Michael Fields.
Monday: This week began on a busy note, and we worked on planting until 8:30 tonight. First off, I worked on rotovating 5 passes in Field A, preparing the soil for transplanting. Next, I drove the tractor back to the North Farm and switched out the rotovator for the transplanter. I then proceeded to drive the tractor while Stephanie, Kirsten and Shawn transplanted lettuce. I then switched places with Stephanie and we planted a pass of celeriac. In the afternoon, we went to Ruth Zinniker's Farm for the first of a series of lectures/hands on training with biodynamic preparations. We then finished out the day by picking up the tractor and planting beets and calendula.
Tuesday: Mara and I went to Ela Orchard with Bob and helped move the electric fence to set up a new pasture for the sheep, we also helped bottle feed the new lambs. We then walked all around the orchard scouting for pests and scab on the apple leaves.
Wednesday: I had today off as rest day due to the busy weeks coming up.
Thursday: Todaystarted out with the students working on a variety of projects including scuffle hoeing all of our crops currently in the ground, and setting up irrigation/drip tape. In the afternoon, Mara and I went to beekeeping and helped Dan set up a nuke, used for splitting a hive before a new queen has hatched from a queen cell.
Friday: This morning I began by weeding an existing chard bed and then planted a new succession of chard between all the existing plants. After lunch all of us students packed up and drove to Mark Sheperd's New Forest Permaculture Farm near Viola, Wisconsin. I camped out on Friday night, drank hard cider and picked Mark's brain on a variety of agricultural topics.
Saturday: The rest of the students arrived in the morning and Mark gave us a very extensive and quite amazing tour of his 100 acre permaculture farm. We learned about the use of swales, pocket ponds and berms for slowing rainwater runoff and encouraging infiltration into the soil. Mark Sheperd also showed us the perennial crop species he focuses on including chestnuts, hazelnuts, apples, pears, raspberries, grapes, asparagus and so much more.
If you haven't already noticed this list of crops currently growing in the ground is cumulative. I chose list crops this way in order to give a good representation of exactly how many vegetable crops we are growing this season. I also am listing it this way in order to give CSA members an idea of what to look forward to this season.
Kohlrabi (White and Red)
Potatoes (Red Norland and Yukon Gold)
Radishes (red, white, purple and french breakfast)
Spinach (Space, Tyee and Bordeaux)
Turnips (Hakurei and
Mustard Greens (Red Giant,
Mizuna, Tatsoi, Mispoona and Komatsuna)
Pac Choi (Red Choi, Prize and White Choi)
Lettuce(Nancy, Outredgeous, Jericho and Rouge D'Hiver)
Swiss Chard (Bright Lights)
Onions (New York Early, Copra, Red Wing, Walla Walla and Cortland)
Monday: Asparagus picking started the day off in a great way! After that I moved on to planting the next successions of arugula and spinach, I also began shaping beds for more successions of both arugula and spinach. In the afternoon we met with Clarissa Hammond from DATCP,Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection, to learn how to trap and monitor insect pests for the Wisconsin Pest Bulletin (an online weekly publication of pest occurrences (weeds, insects of diseases that helps farmers monitor problems). We are focusing on cucumber beetles and cabbage loopers. After that meeting we participated in an instructional session on how to properly freeze vegetables, specifically asparagus.
Tuesday: Today started off as usual with the morning ritual of picking asparagus, Katie and I pick at the North Farm when we finish our greenhouse chores and everyone else picks back at Stella. The rest of the morning was occupied with a soap making workshop(goats milk soap to be exact). After lunch we moved on to shaping beds, weeding, planting, rototilling etc.
Wednesday: After the usual asparagus picking, both at Stella and the North Farm, all of us students worked with Tim on the hoop house(it's coming along and should be finished really soon). This Afternoon Mara and I went to Ela Orchard, with Bob, and worked on setting up pheromone lures for codling moths, the pheromones are designed to disrupt mating patterns. And as a huge bonus we found a lot of morel mushrooms growing under the apple trees!
Thursday: In the afternoon Mara and I went to beekeeping, with Dan, and inspected the hives at Stella and the North Farm. We split one hive and added a honey super to another. After that I worked on shaping beds for spinach and mustard greens. We finished out the day with a home brewing session, taught by John Hall, where we started making a Wisconsin Badger Amber Ale (an update will come in 4 weeks after the first tasting).
Friday: Today I started out by going to the greenhouse for my morning chore, and also picked asparagus while I was up there. After I returned to Stella Gardens I jumped on helping Tim with the hoop house (we finished the end walls and all that is left is to put up the plastic). I also worked on getting caught up and planted spinach, arugula, and mustard greens(red giant, mizuna, mispoona, and komatsuna). After lunch I worked along side Stephanie and planted radishes(french breakfast, red, white and purple) and kohlrabi. We also set up Reemay to help with the flea beetles.
Saturday: Today all of the students and many more community members went to the Zinniker Farm(the oldest biodynamic farm in the country) for a morning of dandelion picking. The blossoms will be used to make the biodynamic preparation 506(stuffed into pouches made from cow mesentery and buried in the soil in the fall). After the picking, all participants celebrated with a potluck lunch. The rest of the day we dug up the preparations(buried in the previous fall at the Zinniker Farm). These preparations included: 500, Horn Manure which is made by stuffing fresh cow manure into cow horns. 502, Yarrow stuffed into stag bladder and buried under ground. 503, Chamomile stuffed into cow intestine and also buried in a separate pit. 505, Oak bark stuffed into the brain cavity of a cow skull and buried in a stream bed. And finally, 506, which is the end result of a portion of today's dandelion picking.
Sunday: Today all of the students drove up to Sun Prairie to visit JenEhr Family Farm for workshop/field day on berry production. The event was put on by CRAFT, Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training, and focused on strawberries, gooseberries, currants and blueberries.
Monday: Today we started out harvesting asparagus at Stella Gardens and the North Farm, which is available for sale out of the walk-in cooler here at MFAI. We then continued work on the hoop house. In the afternoon I started out driving the Allis Chalmers G ( a small tractor used exclusively for cultivation or weeding ca. 1940) down to the North Farm. Next I hooked up the water wheel transplanter to the JD 5320 and drove it back to Stella. I then drove it in Field Block A while Katie, Kirsten and Mara rode behind and transplanted lettuce. I finished up the day by washing off the transplanter, driving the tractor back to the North Farm, and hooking up the potato planter for tomorrow morning.
Tuesday: As I mentioned earlier, today we planted potatoes, more than 4,000 row feet of them to be exact. The potatoes went in the Creek Field and took all of the morning and most of the afternoon as well. However, Mara and I continued our Tuesday routine and went to Ela's Orchard with Bob, our cooperative instructor. At Bob's, we set up a fence in order to move the sheep out to pasture, mulched the honey crisp trees that were planted last year, and began walking around the orchard, setting up insect monitoring traps and looked for signs of black scab fungus.
Wednesday: This morning started out with harvesting asparagus at Stella Gardens and the North Farm(this is starting to become a great morning ritual). The rest of the morning we worked on preparing and shaping beds for the weeks to come, including roto-tilling the area under the soon to be completed hoop house. The afternoon was split, some students worked on individual projects and the rest of use worked in the gardens. I worked on scuffle hoeing(probably my new favorite hand tool that is used for weeding) the beds of chard and spinach.
Thursday: Todaythings slowed down a little due to the rain, and Shawn, Katie and I went to the greenhouse and worked on planting rutabagas, tomatillos and starting peas shoots for our CSA members. In the afternoon Mara and I went to work with Dan, our cooperative beekeeping instructor, and continued our weekly recording and observation process. And as a special treat I found my first Morel mushrooms today, only 7 but hopefully more will come!!
Friday: Again asparagus harvesting started out first thing in the morning. After harvesting for a little while I drove the G down to Stella and cultivated my first two beds of lettuce. The afternoon consisted of a lecture on biodynamic preparations, and then more garden work. I worked on shaping beds for spinach and arugula, which will hopefully get planted tomorrow.
Saturday: It rained again last night, but we stayed busy harvesting and processing asparagus. After that we went out to Earth Care Suri Alpaca Farm and helped shear their alpacas, which was a very interesting and extremely informative morning (picture to come soon).