Genesee Valley Organic Community Supported Agriculture

Notes from the Farm - March 2000
By Elizabeth Henderson

Spring is in the air! While the fields hibernate, we slow down on the farm. Greg and I cut back in our work time to two or three days a week, and short days at that. Our main form of exercise consists of digging out the greenhouse after heavy snowfalls. As the days grow longer and the temperatures rise above freezing, our work schedule starts to accelerate again. By mid-April we will be up to full time again. Ammie will have wound up her work for NOFA-NY so she can join Greg and me on the farm. I am as happy to get back out to the fields as I was to escape them in December!

A lot of winter farm work looks more like an office job. We review all our crop notes from the previous season to evaluate what grew well and what poorly, and then plan our rotations. We pour over seed catalogues, make field plans, and order seeds. Our seed bill this year is a little smaller than last year because of the seed saving we were able to do. Filling out our annual organic certification application takes up many hours. With the Core decision to expand to 200 shares, we needed to calculate carefully how many beds of each crop we will have to grow for an adequate supply. We have set aside eight beds for the asparagus plants we started in 1999. By growing onions three rows to a bed, instead of two, and mulching them, we can grow more but still save space.

We plan to begin distribution on May 18, two weeks earlier than in previous years, by using a hoop house. Like a green house, but without a heater, the hoop house will be 22 feet wide by 96 feet long with trickle irrigation. Just a big piece of heavy plastic stretched over metal hoops, the hoop house protects the crops from wind and warms up the soil enough to extend the season. We will plant it with lettuce, spinach, oriental greens, arugula and cilantro. Those first two weeks, we should also have garlic greens, chives, oregano, rhubarb, radishes and water cress grown outside. As soon as we harvest the early hoop house crops, we will replace them with greenhouse started eggplants, cucumbers, basil, and peppers so that they will also be earlier than usual.

Another important winter job is recruiting interns. We list our two openings with the Northeast Willing Workers on Organic Farms program and with Alternative Technology Transfer for Rural Areas. We require a farm visit for all applicants so that we can spend some time getting to know them. This year, we have had several good applicants, and more continue to apply. So far, we have made a commitment to one man, Melvin Bud Ross. Bud comes to us with a solid background in greenhouse work, landscaping and extensive reading in organic agriculture. His family lives near the farm, so part of his pay will be in the form of a share for his parents household. If all goes well, in a year or two, Bud may be providing some of his own crops to the GVOCSA.

Our other big winter activity is learning more about farming. This winter, Greg attended a 3-day workshop in advanced organic vegetable production. He came home bubbling with new ideas. We both participated in the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) conference on Taking Charge of Our Seed Supply, where we learned a lot about this complex and essential part of food production. I ran around a bit too much giving workshops and presentations in Illinois, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York. I also attended the annual meeting of the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture. This dynamic gathering of 100 representatives from 80 farming, farmworker, consumer, church and environmental organizations from all over the country worked on a policy agenda for this year and started designing new initiatives for the 2002 Farm Bill. I have been co-chairing the Campaign organic committee with Michael Sligh of the Rural Advancement Foundation International, the non-profit which has been responsible for informing the public about the Terminator Technology. At an awards ceremony, the Campaign honored Michael and me for our work on this committee. My plaque reads: To Elizabeth Henderson In Recognition and Appreciation for Her Outstanding Leadership as Issue Committee Chair - Uncompromising Dedication to and Effectiveness at Uniting Diverse Interests In Support of Small Farmers. I feel truly honored to be singled out among so many outstanding contributors to the movement for a sustainable food system.

The heavier snow fall this winter, while more trouble to drive through and shovel away, makes the water situation better this spring than it was last year. Greg, Ammie, Helen, Bud, and I are looking forward to another good year of growing food for your tables. We truly appreciate your continuing support for our farming! Please join us, if you are free, for a dance around the May Pole and a potluck supper, Sunday, April 30, from 2-6 pm at Peacework Organic Farm. Help us dance in the new season and assure fertility and abundance!

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