Thursday, April 19, 2012

Improving our soil

This is the third year that SEEDS Farm has been producing happy diversified vegetables, eggs, and meat.  It's also only the third year that the soil has been out of conventional farming techniques that robbed it of much of it's nutrition, organic matter, and proper structure.  That means that the soil still needs a lot of improvement!  Last year there were A LOT of harmful insects and weeds in the field, this is one indicator that the soil needs improvement.  Healthy soil will be full of beneficial insects and not as weedy... and boy, would we LOVE to have more good bugs and less weeds!  Also, healthier soil will, in turn, produce healthier plants that are more nutrient dense.  So, we have established that improving our soil quality is a high priority at SEEDS Farm.  Improving soil is a long and committed process and we're in it for the long haul.

The first step to improving the soil is to get a soil test!  We are actively working with a local company that only takes soil tests and assists farmers in developing a plan for improving their soil quality, Midwestern BioAg.  Steve is the representative that we have been working with and he's been fantastic so far!  Midwestern BioAg's mission is to educate the farmer about soil quality, not just take a test and tell them what to do.  Learning how to decipher a soil test has been a fun and challenging experience.  We're definitely moving in the right direction.

A few main steps that we will forever take now are to add compost, add manure, and cover crop!  About a month ago we rototilled the field, broadcast oats by hand (thank you many interns!), and then covered them up by running a cultivator through the field.  The oats are now a few inches high and next week we will till them in, let the field rest for a few days, and then spread 3-5 tons of composted manure blended with a fertilizer mix and some other necessary soil ammendments to 3 acres of land.  Whew!  Improving the soil is a lot of work but well worth it!

Monica rototilling the field to prep for planting our spring cover crop

Monica, Dayna, and Greg checking out the soil

All of the St. Olaf interns and Carleon Mentees helping spread oats by hand!

Each year we will continue to actively improve our soil and watch the birds, bees, worms, and more happy bugs flock to the field.  We will continue to educate ourselves about the importance of soil health and the steps needed to improve the soil, we hope to be stewards of the land and be available to assist others who too decide that soil health is a top priority.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Children's Garden

We are so excited to be developing a Children's Garden this season that will continually evolve for years to come.  We're starting out this year by building it in a 50'x50' space in the field and it consists of several raised beds.  The intention is for it to grow whimsical and funky and change over time with the many hands that will be tending the beds and soil.  So much learning and so much fun and expression will take place here, it's all very exciting!

We've purchased seeds for the Children's Garden (CG) that are fun and different such as fuzzy tomatoes, mini chocolate bell peppers, Tom's Thumb peas, and so forth.  The first plantings in the garden will take place at our Spring Celebration on May 5th.  This is a party that is hosted by both SEEDS Farm and Laughing Loon Farm where we will give farm tours, eat good food, meet neighbors and friends, and get the Children's Garden started!

We will be connecting with a 3rd grade classroom from Greenvale Elementary School that will aid in the CG.  First the SEEDS Farm Manager, Monica, and two of the spring interns, Lara & Gabe, will be teaching a lesson about the importance of compost at the school and then a week or so later the students will take a field trip to the farm to plant seeds and transplants in the CG (with the help of some compost, of course!).  SEEDS Farm will also be working with Bridgewater Elementary students who are part of their summer program throughout the season in the CG.

Oh, and of course all of our lovely Community Farmers who have kid's will be working in the CG every single week!  It is so neat to offer their kids the opportunity to take ownership over a piece of the farm.

The Children's Garden would not be possible without the help of one of our very dedicated volunteers, Daron.  He is out in the field several days a week offering his expertise (& tools!) to the venture.  Wow, are we thankful for him!

We hope to see you out at the farm soon, and bring your kids!... SEEDS Farm has the perfect spot for them to dig in the dirt~

The beginning phases of the SEEDS Farm Children's Garden

 Bountiful basil in the greenhouse

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Greenhouse

Last season we built a 30'x60' greenhouse and wow is it filling up fast!  We're sharing space with Laughing Loon Farm, and between the two of us, we'll be spilling out of the greenhouse in the next couple of weeks here.  Good news is that everything is germinating and growing strong.  A while back we planted all of our onions and leeks, we moved onto broccoli, cabbage, kale, greens, herbs and now we've even planted our heat loving plants such as eggplants, peppers and tomatoes (and oh soooo many more in between!).

The greenhouse is fantastic because we can control the heat on the inside, when it's below 60 degrees the heater kicks on and warms the space, when it's above 80 degrees the vents open and the fan blows.  Very cool.  Back in February we built a whole lot of tables with the help of several volunteers and interns.  The tables consist of cement blocks for supports and 16' cattle panels for the table.  They're working out quite nicely, they're very stable but noooot completely flat so there's some high and low points.  But, hey, the plants don't seem to mind too much!

Here are some pictures of our greenhouse and lovely seedlings this year:

We're already hardening off our broccoli raab and some kale for early spring planting...

Here we are thinning out the seedlings, that's a full cup of micro basil, yuuummm....