From Rob and Meghan at Riverland Farm:
The page has turned here on the farm. We are now in full fledged fall harvest mode.
Planting season has all but come to a close and weeding season is right behind it. Now with our focus narrowed we are able to put our harvesting hats on just about every day and get to work on bringing in the bounty. We just seeded our second to last planting of salad greens and spinach in the ground. We will cover these beds with “low tunnels” for harvest all the way into February. Low tunnels are very low tech structures consisting of bent lengths of
metal electrical conduit, row cover, and greenhouse plastic. They sit only a few feet off of the ground so you can just eek your way in there when the rest of the field is covered in snow (yup just as fun as is sounds!).
This past week we spent a good deal of time clearing up fields that we were no longer harvesting from and seeding them down to a winter cover crop. The cover crops we plant after the cash crops are finished enrich the soil by fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere, add organic matter, suppress weed growth, and prevent erosion. It’s one measure of the many that we do to care for this land. It is always a very comforting feeling for me when I see what was once an onion field…maybe a little weedier than we wanted it 🙂 transformed into a lush blanket of oats and peas. It’s a collectively breathed sigh of relief to see fields tucked in for the winter.. peace of mind that’s akin to tucking your child in for the night.
With much of our focus on harvesting this week we’ll start to make a dent in some of our storage crops. We’ll truck through as much of our sweet potato field as possible. Sweet potatoes are a warm climate crop and want to be harvested before a hard frost. Since we are on the verge of having that happen we’ll spend much of our time that we are not harvesting for the share, up to our elbows in sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes need to go thorough a curing process after harvest to allow them to convert their starches to sugars and sweeten up. During this curing period which is about a week we keep them in the greenhouse at about 85-90 degrees and high humidity. That said, you will likely see sweet potatoes in the share next week provided they are fully cured.
Aside from harvesting, another project that we’ll be working on this week is preparing the high tunnel for a seeding of winter greens. Last week we pulled all the pepper plants out. We still have some large rosemary plants growing in there that we’ll try to overwinter. The next steps for the high tunnel before actually doing the seeding are to spread compost, irrigate, and rototill to form beds. I like the work involved in growing in a high tunnel, save for the rototilling there are no machines involved. It’s a microcosm of what we do in the fields and the small scale of the work takes us back to our roots as a smaller farm.
By no means are we a large farm but as the years have passed we have extended our reach in the number of markets we are involved in, the number of acres we farm, the number customers we serve, and the number of employees we have on staff. The 7 years we have been here have flown by. There have been ups and downs, good years and tough ones. During these a myriad of people have put their stamp on this farm and helped shape and form it to what it is today. We’ve made incredible strides in improving the way we farm, learning how to better run a business, and increasing our efficiency by much needed infrastructure improvements. It’s nice to look back now and feel like we’ve accomplished some lofty things here. But I am reminded, with a smile, of a Barbara Kingsolver quote that mentally lifted me last week, “Whatever lofty things you accomplish today, you will do them only because you first ate something that grew out of dirt.” Perspective!
We hope you enjoy the things that grew out of dirt!
On behalf of the farm crew Dave, Christine, Jason, Andrew, Juan, Andres, Eduardo, Kristen, and Amanda and Cayden! (pictured below)