Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Farm Strong

Today was exhilarating!  Not only did we plant some transplants today but we broke in a new toy. The waterwheel transplanter.  I have been hearing about this implement for two years; it's all Matt talked about to make transplanting so much easier and less time consuming.  Last year, our mechanism for transplanting was a lot of work for two people. We were fortunate to have Matt's parents down a couple times to help during the beginning of the season.  Bringing all the trays of plants out to water and transplant into 150 foot row beds was very timely.  At some point in the beginning of the summer I was literally on my hands and knees planting with Juniper in my big belly just to help Matt get those plants in the ground on time.
The Water Wheel Transplanter

Now don't get me wrong, I find much therapy and strength through mind, body and spirit working with my hands on the farm however, sometimes you just need to get some work done.  Typically a farmer will hire workers to work the fields but since we are such a small farm starting out,  we are not able to hire those workers.  I was talking with Matt today about are future plans and what we would like to see as a sustainable farm for us and our community.  We definitely want to work towards a more sufficient way of a working farm without the use of petroleum, without the use of tools requiring such 'unsustainable resources' and it is very difficult when you are first starting out especially without knowledge and experience with animal husbandry.  We do plan to start slow with a couple cattle and some chickens.  I speak for myself when I say the overwhelming aspect of raising animals versus vegetables raises a little anxiety for me.  First of all I follow a strict vegetarian diet which is another story and second, my life taking care of animals doesn't extend further than my two cats which have officially transitioned to being outside cats. 

Matt using the disc harrow to work seed into soil for a cover crop

So I enjoyed our day with the family using the water wheel transplanter for the first time.  It was more like a ride than work and I appreciated the hour it took to plant three rows of vegetables to start, but we do a lot of other manual labor for the two of us on the farm that make up for all the bells and whistles. You will find muscles you never knew existed and as for me, watching Matt work makes me want to work harder every day. For those of you unfamiliar with a waterwheel transplanter I should briefly describe its purpose on the farm.  In the picture you can see the attachment to the tractor which has a holding tank for water, two wheels that make holes in the rows with precision, two seats and grates to hold the transplant trays.  The transplanter saves time, it adds the right amount of water to the ground where the plants will be planted and it measures precisely the space between each plant that you need.  It also holds about 8 trays of transplants to be able to grab as you are going down each row.  Honestly, I feel like the majority of my time last year was walking with trays to each row and when you are walking an acre or two away, the water wheel transplanter is definitely superior.

Monday, March 10, 2014

One Month Until Market....

My how time flies and next thing you know a month has gone by! We were working in the greenhouse at the beginning of Febuary starting seeds for germination to get ready for transplanting. It's now March and the weather is hinting at spring. We should be transplanting our plants as soon as the ground is warm enough.  Fortunately our greenhouse is warm enough to house the babies along with a couple of hand made rows that have been seeded with Arugula and Radishes.  We did transplant some lettuce heads and spinach already and it is amazing how they took right away.
Seeding with block system
Ready for Transplanting

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The farmer's market season here in Wilmington, NC is from April until late November this year. We are set up at two of those markets; Poplar Grove on Wednesdays from 8AM to 1PM and Downtown Riverfront Market from 8AM to 1PM. We are very excited to start the season since it is our second year farming but this year we are a little more established and things on the farm are already looking more organized than last year.  Which is a funny statement considering all the things going on behind the scenes in these coming weeks to get set up. 

There are some major differences in last year's setup compared to this year. We were renting a couple acres last year from a gentleman in Rocky Point to grow vegetables.  This year we have our own land to work but we plan to continue using the rented land for a little while which houses our greenhouse and shiitake logs, along with a few rows of garlic and strawberries.  Matt has been toying with ideas on what to grow on the rest so we can dedicate most of our time at the new place. 

This time last year I was about 5 months pregnant so I was slowing down a little with what I could and couldn't do however, I would like to toot my horn and say I helped erect that 90 ft greenhouse with Matt.  While I was working full time at the herb shop that meant that Matt was pretty much on his own with all the work to do to start up the farm.  So on my days off I would help with whatever I could, seeding, transplanting, watering....  I want to stop here so I can give our appreciation to Matt's wonderful parents and friends for coming down to help.  If it weren't for them, this farm wouldn't function.  It's amazing what four extra hands can do.

 Matt always says that no one knows what farmers lives are like except other farmers. Now I know why. There is always something to be doing, fixing, seeding, planting, watering, cultivating, ordering, and I certainly cannot forget the hoeing.  At first cultivating the rows are not on my desired to do list but once you start it's a very meditative act.  You can lose yourself in thought and next thing you know an hour has gone by.  Not to mention your it gives your arms a good workout!

So, we are hard at work trying to settle in on the new land, work two vegetable farms, and raise three children.  We have many, many ideas that may just come to fruition so stay tuned.....

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Great Expectations

It's official. Farming season is here. Well it's always farming season on The Farm, however we are celebrating our first official year on our new found family land.  During the month of February we have been working in the greenhouse starting our seed selection for the spring and seeding out vegetables to get ready for the upcoming local farmer's markets.

Before I get into the laborious yet wonderful life we live, let me introduce our farm and how we got here. Matt and I both come from different worlds you see, we came together at this particular time in life to do what we feel is one of the most important things to be doing.  We believe growing fresh and nutritious food for people and their families is our purpose. Teaching what healing properties that food can have on your mind, body, and spirit is a connection that cannot be denied.

We met through our local CSA two years ago.  Matt was working for a local farmer who was the only certified organic farmer in the area. Each week one of his tasks for the farm was to deliver boxes at the co-op for paying members to pick up.  I had been one of those customers for about 4 or 5 years while educating myself on the dynamics of our food system and the importance of eating fresh, organic and local food.  For those of you who are unaware of what a CSA is, it stands for community supported agriculture and I have written a little more about this type of local exchange between farmer and community in my previous blog The Conscious Kitchen.  If you are interested in learning more, feel free to check it out.

A former marine turned farmer, Matt is now on his new mission in life which he refers to as 'sword to plow'.  He was reading agriculture books and learning about farming in Afghanistan.  He decided he wanted to change his life after he left the Marines and help heal the earth by interning with a couple different farmers and learning different techniques for our way of life.  Attending conferences and classes influenced by biodynamics and spiritual agriculture, he realizes this is a life long journey where you will never stop learning.

I on the other hand, have no expertise in farming other than taking care of small gardens, even then it has always been trial and error. After going to Atlanta to attend the Living Foods Institute I knew my job was to help people learn how to heal using the power of food.  I wasn't sure what kind of job I wanted so I taught classes here and there, trying to promote my own business The Conscious Kitchen.  My whole world revolved around cleansing and healing using food as medicine.  I took a job helping manage a little mom and pop herb shop, thinking I could have some influence with helping people.  It was the best paying job I have ever had and I miss it dearly. Now my job is my family and this farm and I never thought everything I ever dreamt of would be coming true.


Grandma Cindy and Bella in the field

Our ethics, visions and goals for this farm are similar in that we both desire the most fresh, clean and wholesome food for our bodies and the families that eat it.  We don't believe in spraying poison on our food and then eating it. That just doesn't make any sense.  This is our second year farming on our own so we are newbies however our intentions are noble.  We envision many families visiting the farm although it is a working farm, we still feel it is important for people to see where food comes from.  Our plans will unfold as we grow and the farm will evolve as it is supposed to. As of this moment we are getting ready for the farmer's markets with hopes to put a roadside stand out for the freshest food available.

These are our radishes not a google image. Yum

Feel free to check in occasionally to see how we are doing and if you have any questions or comments please write or better yet come see us at the market! Try our arugula, it's the best arugula I've ever tasted.  I could be a little biased though. 

Thanks for visiting our page!
Matt and Stephanie