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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

As the growing season winds down

The temperatures are starting to dip. Trees are changing color. The pace slows down. The last crop to be planted in field today is garlic. This year I am experimenting with German White garlic as my first overwintered crop. Crops in the field are growing at a slow pace, which is good because as I harvest the existing crops, the beds will be cleared and put to rest for next year. Cover crop of winter rye is coming along nicely in small plots. The October air gives an indication that the peak growing season is coming to an end.

Say hi

Garlic cloves for planting
Prepped field for garlic sowing

2018 had it's ups and down. Spring was good with bumper harvests and good sales. I joined a new farmer's market in my own town and met a lot of local folks that stopped by at the market. It was also fun to connect with other local businesses and know them up close. In the market that I attended last year and continued this year, seeing customers who remembered me and came back to purchase more, was motivation enough to continue the market. Meeting new and old acquaintances at the market and the summer crowd eager to buy local produce is quite energizing.

From mid to late summer, after rounds of intensive planting and excessive rains, my soil's fertility decreased and crops started showing signs of nutrient deficiency and affects of unfavorable growing conditions. I missed the signs initially and kept planting in hopes of next round of good harvest. The harvests really hit a rock bottom and the unplanned changes affected my overall morale. Things did improve as fall came but weren't at a place that I expected. I felt like throwing the towel because I could not control weather conditions and it's affect in this profession. Then I thought, maybe I should reach the finish line this year and then rethink my plans for next year. There is a saying in farming "If you can observe and respond, you can farm". The saying now rings a bell. Additionally, I felt good that I farmed on a small scale. My expenses were less, and my losses were something I could bear with and recuperate in coming years, And I am glad I didn't purchase any heavy machinery this year in spite of wanting them desperately to improve efficiency of work on the farm. With the weather conditions and other limiting factors on the farm this year, any expensive machinery would have sat in the garage rather than being able to be put to use.

The one thing that I am putting to good use this year in my imperfectly built high tunnel. Even on the cold days and nights at this time of the year, the crops inside the tunnel outperform crops grown in the field. While I do not plan to do deep winter farming in this small high tunnel, I am experimenting how far can I extend the harvest in this structure. The shelter provided by a protected structure like high tunnel accounts for uniform growth of the crop. Out in the field, only the strongest and hardy crops survive. Cabbage, turnips, lettuce, radishes and other greens are still surviving good in the field. They take the warm days, cool nights and rough winds well up to a certain extent.

Spinach in high tunnel

The winter season will be spent planning for next year specifically building a plan to improve soil fertility and preparing ground ahead of next season. Some uncompleted projects from this year will also be finished in winter and early next season (building cold storage and efficient wash station) along with a lot of good reading. I am also adding a few more sales channels to the existing ones in 2019. As a small and beginning business owner, the task of finding the right market for your product is a huge undertaking that requires one to go above and beyond their zone and stretching their existing skill sets. A great deal of learning this year was knowing the sales outlets that are right for me and my scale.

Enjoy the cool season, prepare soups and don't forget to shop from your local markets. The best produce is grown locally and eaten seasonally.

Happy Fall

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