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....

Sunday, March 25, 2012

What's in store for 2012....

Hi everyone and welcome to a brand new growing season!  We're excited to be gearing up for our third year, and looking back, it's incredible how far SEEDS Farm has come in the past couple of years.  For starters, last year we built a 30'x60' greenhouse and a glorious root cellar. Both of these structures will be incredibly useful this year for starting our season with seeds in the greenhouse to extending the season with long-term storage for our root vegetables.

Well, for starters, I'm Monica, the new Farm Manager this season, and I am very excited to get the season rolling.  I come to the farm with experience running my own farm, managing a farmers market, and as an education and community activist.  We've already hired a wonderful family as our full-time employees, the Riley's with husband John, wife Jena, and two wonderful children, Matthew and Jane.  We have a crew of three interns from St. Olaf for the spring semester: Gabe, Lara, and Melina and a crew of three farm mentees from Carleton College: Anna, Sara, and Sophie.  It's been a blast getting to know everyone that's involved with the farm this season, the more the merrier!

This season we'll continue to share our land with the Rural Enterprise Center's, "Agripreneur Training Center", it's a wonderful non-profit that is focused on creating economic opportunities for rural Latino families.  You can learn more about their approach and their "Grow a Farmer" program here.

We are also excited to be sharing our land with a new farm, Laughing Loon Farm, that is run by farmer Dayna Burtness.  LLF grows wonderful vegetables that are sold at many restaurants in and around the Twin Cities, you can learn more about the farm here.

SEEDS Farm this season will be farming approximately 3 acres of tasty sustainably grown vegetables as well as raising some pigs and 50 laying hens.  We will be selling most of our produce to Bon Appetit which serves St. Olaf and Carleton Colleges and will also have a Market Stand on-site at the farm.  This year we'll continue to grow our Communal Farmer program, so every week many individuals and families will be logging work hours on the farm with the wonderful return of fresh picked good food.  There will also be some community garden plots, 20 of these plots are folks coming over from Faith Gardens, a community garden run by the Community Action Center.  Oh, and we're establishing a beautiful "Children's Garden" and are excited to extend our outreach and education opportunities for students of all ages (including us adults, one can never stop learning!).  And so so so much more... !

We've started our seeds, the onions are growing strong and eggplants and broccoli raab have just germinated.  This season's been unseasonably warm, it's wet outside right now, but as soon as we get a short dry spell we'll be out in the field planting some cool season crops already, these are our peas, radishes, spinach, kale, etc.
Seeds started in the greenhouse this season (mid-March)

So, come on down to the SEEDS Farm anytime!  And you can always reach me at our email,, please drop a line with any questions or thoughts/ideas or just to say "Hi".

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


So tonight is the first frost of the season. It came quite early, Sept. 14. Average for this region is beginning of October! A visitor this summer said to us 'may the frost come late enough so that you may reap the benefits of your labor, but soon enough so that you do not work yourselves too hard.' Well, I believe it's come a bit too soon!
We harvested in a frenzy today, picking all the crops that will not survive a light frost such as celery, eggplant, peppers, basil, cucumbers, tomatoes, melons and squash. The rest of the crops should be able to tolerate tonights frost. The, they're another story! We decided to make a quick run up to Jordan's Seeds to get some Floating Row Cover to put over the remaining green tomatoes. This will give us an extra 5 degrees of protection, hopefully enough for tonight. The green tomatoes should have a good chance of ripening with the sun predicted for next week.
In other news, last Thursday we had over 30 Carleton Footbal volunteers! You should have seen the field before and after-they made a HUGE dent in the weeds. You may ask, why weed now? The answer is because we do not want the weed seed in the soil for next season. Pigweed, the most prevalent weed at the farm, can stay viable for 20 years! Also worth noting is we delivered our first batch of fresh produce to the public schools as part of the Farm to School federal program. We are excited to be able to deliver fresh, healthy produce to Northfields kids.
We recognize it has been too long since our last post. This is because we have been very busy out at the farm building the root cellar, harvesting the summers bounty, and continuing working on the greenhouse. We are sorry for keeping you in the dark!
Below are some recent pictures of life at the farm:

Melons for St. Olaf

The watermelon cracked in the field, we just had to eat it

Harvesting carrots

I'm not sure if the goats like the hat or Abby better

Black cherry tomatoes
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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What do I do with all the veggies?!?! One pot meal

Many people ask me what I do with all the veggie-especially after a long day working and you want something quick and simple. Well, here's my idea of a quick, easy, and absolutely scrumptious meal-all in one pot!
After heading out to the farm, I come back with the bounty (above). Kale, eggs, corn, beets, zucchini, summer squash, potatoes, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, herbs.

I chop up those that take longest to cook and throw them in the pot first with some olive oil-potatoes and squash. Then I'll throw in the onions and kale as I finish chopping them.

I carefully chop the rest of the produce, taking care to avoid the cabbage loopers! An easy way to get htese out of the broccoli is to soak your head in cold, salty water. They'll float to the top in minutes

Can't forget the herbs! I chop up rosemary, oregany, thyme, sage, and basil (not all pictured...)

When the veggis are done, I move them to a side and throw the eggs on the other. Once they're done being scrambled, I'll mix it all together

Okay, I liked, one pot and one pan. I chop up the beets, cauliflower and broccoli to be roasted together. It just takes 5-7 minutes under the broiler. I like my roasted veggies sprinkled with goat cheese from our goats!

Can't forget the corn on the cob.
Eating this feast with a good can't get much better.

And dishes are a breeze!

Root cellar progress

Today the footings were poured! Below are pictures.
Right as we took the last transit reading, the cement truck rolled in. We got it done just in time...

The step footings proved difficult, but with the vertical column we were able to overcome the frost line under the exposed door!

And here comes the cement. We were able to direct the cement chute to the majority of the area, though had to shovel a lot of cement into the places the chute would not reach.

We will be ready for the class on Saturday when we will build the walls.

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