Genesee Valley Organic Community Supported Agriculture

Notes from the Farm - January 1999
By Elizabeth Henderson

1998 has been a very different and challenging year for our farming activities. Starting over again has given us the chance to redesign, to learn from past mistakes and from recent discoveries. It is exhilarating, though tinged with anxiety. There has been a lot of negotiating to do to define relationships between Greg Palmer and me as partners, between our farm and the GVOCSA, between us and Doug Kraai. The moral support and practical help provided by members of the GVOCSA has been truly wonderful, and made all the difference in our capacity to get through this year in good spirits.

Looking back at our work plan, we have accomplished most of what we set out to do. We have signed a five-year rolling lease with Doug Kraai, Greg and I have a partnership contract, and agreement on the division of property at Rose Valley is within reach. While we appreciate the many suggestions of names for the farm, Greg and I have settled on - Peacework Organic Farm, which somewhat punningly expresses the essence of what we are up to, and has the same initials as Politics of Food, the GVOCSAs parent organization.

Over eleven acres of beds lie under cover crops of rye/vetch, oats or straight rye, and a mulching of snow, ready for use in the spring. With the help of an extraordinary crew, we mulched ten of the beds with hay from very old round bales. Six of us pushing together were able to horse the 1000 pound bales into position on the beds and then unroll them like a long carpet. In April, we will be able to rake back the hay and plant, even if the ground is too wet for a tractor. We have also mulched the hundred or so ornamental and flowering plants Lila Bluestone brought us to create gardens in the spring. We planted 40 pounds of garlic seed at the usual time in early November. Then in mid-December, David offered us 35 pounds another grower had failed to pick up. Planting that late is certainly taking a chance, but the ground was still warm and loose. On December 16, with sun peeking out from the clouds and temperature in the 50s, Greg and I placed the cloves in the soil, pulled out grass plants that had started to grow in the unusual warmth, and hoed and raked two inches of soil over the garlic. With luck we could harvest 400 pounds or so of garlic next summer.

On the construction front, we completed the greenhouse (except for electrical wiring and installing a furnace), a large cold frame, a storage cage for root crops, and a walk-in cooler. A great deal of work remains to be done to complete the renovation of the barn as a packing shed-storage area. We have built in drainage for the wash area, poured cement to repair the big hole in the floor, spread rocks we picked from the fields as a first layer for a drive-thru ramp, and painted the metal roof. We still need to build sliding doors, replace two old and shaky pillars, install lights and switches, set up a water system, create some new windows, and build in shelves and tables. We can do some of this work through the winter in warmer spells. Any helpers will be warmly received!

Another big project for this winter is my move. With the generous help of my father-in-law, Harry Henderson, and coaching from CSA members Janet Laird and Melinda Knight, I have managed to receive a mortgage from the local bank, and am purchasing a small house which adjoins the field where we planted the garlic, diagonally across the road from the greenhouse. It seemed too convenient to pass up! I will be calling on all of you who signed up to help with Lizs house. Since I never unpacked while at Rose Valley, unpacking will be sort of a surprise party, reacquainting myself with stuff I havent seen for over 10 years. I vaguely remember many books in Russian, some lovely paintings, my mothers furniture... Look for notice of a house-greenhouse warming sometime before spring.

By the way, Harry Henderson, author of A History of African-American Artists, will be speaking at the Memorial Art Gallery at 7:30pm, Tuesday, February 23. His talk is in conjunction with the exhibit on Self-Taught Artists, many of whom are African-American. I guarantee, you will learn some new things from Harry. He has spent 25 years collecting materials and doing research on this topic, and is a lively storyteller. I have been listening to his stories for over 40 years and he still comes up with new ones!

On New Years Eve day, I sent the final proofs for Sharing the Harvest: A Guide to Community Supported Agriculture back to Chelsea Green, the publishers. The first pre-publication review in the Fedco Seed Catalogue is a rave. The book will be available in the spring of 1999 and sell for $24.95. The story of the GVOCSA weaves through the book. I quote many of you. Photos by Marilyn Anderson and drawings by Karen Kerney illustrate and embellish upon my text. We can purchase copies in bulk and sell them to make some money for the CSA scholarship fund.

During the month of January, Greg and I will be making plans for what we will plant in the coming season, pouring over the Veggie questionnaires many of you filled out, and ordering seed. We would like to figure out a way to offer some choices for the weekly shares. We are looking for two interns to work with us from late March through November. With four other central New York organic farms, we are starting a cooperative training program so that the interns from all the farms will have the chance to tour the farms, learn about the various farmers specialties, and have the support of a group of peers. Please let us know if you can think of any candidates. We promise long hours, low pay, but lots of learning about organic farming.

In February, Greg, Doug, Gregs wife Ammie and I will be participating in a 3 day training in whole farm resource management. This will give us an excellent opportunity to plan for our whole, which includes Crowfield Farm, the GVOCSA and Ammie and Gregs land in South Butler. In early March, I will be one of the keynote speakers at the Upper Midwest Organic Conference in Wisconsin, talking about building regional, sustainable food systems and the party of the local. Late in March, we will crank up the greenhouse and start planting. Please note the plant order form in this newsletter if you would like to purchase plants from us.

Greg and I are looking forward to the coming season. We hope to provide you with fresh, nutritious and tasty vegetables in just the right amounts. Thank you once again for trusting us as your farmers. We wish you all a peaceful and productive winter!

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