Small Family Farm CSA

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Small Family Farm
Below are current issues of The Weekly Dig Newsletter, from Jillian Varney, owner of the Small Family Farm. Stay up to date on what's happening on the farm!

"Spring, Spring, Spring", sang the Robin

Farmers are forever optimists.  We have hard seasons, but we survive them and spend our winters recovering from them while dreaming of Spring and rebirth and renewal.  Alas the Spring arrives and the farmer is filled with a renewed sense of hope and anticipation.  Something primal comes alive from within and we are motivated not only by making payments and doing our jobs, but by the ancestral urge to produce food, to build community, use our bodies, and to have a relationship with the land that we live and work on.  There is a feeling that swells from within bigger than wants and wishes that I have a hard time even putting words to.
 
Spring has arrived and the farming season is in full swing.  As we drop tiny, difficult-to-even-see seeds in these humble blocks of soggy soil mix while NPR blares on the radio and friendly, casual conversation takes place amidst the warm, moist air.  Meanwhile acres of potential are quietly coming alive.  I can almost smell the tomato leaves while we seed tomatoes.  I remember harvesting broccoli last summer in a field of blue while we drop the broccoli seeds in the cells.  I remember lovely evenings of weeding onions with friends last summer while we move onion trays around in the greenhouse.
 
It has been a dry Spring.  We’ve had Springs like this before, but maybe not quite this dry.  We’ve gotten maybe 3/10th of an inch of rain since the snow melted in March.  We’re watering our first plantings of radishes and turnips to make sure we have them for the first few CSA boxes.  We are already talking about upping our irrigation game.  It’s difficult to advance in the world of irrigation on a farm like ours where the fields are contoured and on a hillside.  We don’t have nice, flat, rectangular fields that are all connected in cute little strips.  Our farm has fields that come in all shapes: some like semi-circles to follow the contour of the hillside. Some are somewhat triangular due to the roads around them.  Some fields are on the other side of the hillside, far from our well and across the easement road, quite difficult to get water to.  We have 11 different ‘fields’.  We give them numbers, which makes it easy for field planning.  None of them are the same shape or on the same slope.  So upping our irrigation game is tricky.  Buying a giant ‘gun’ that sprays water over an entire field means huge investments in equipment, pipeline, and digging a high-capacity well which might only be effective for 1/3 of our fields.  We’re pretty sure this is not the rout we would like to go. 
 
But dang, this is Wisconsin, if it would only just rain. Like for a half an hour, just a steady rain.  Not a downpour, just the kind of rain you want to get out of, but not run from.  We might get a good, satisfactory, soaking inch in that time that would hold us over for about another week or two. 
 
(Big Sigh)
 
The good news is that we’ve had years like this before and we’ve always been able to pack bountiful, nutritious, glorious boxes of vegetables for 20 consecutive weeks.  We’re getting water to our crops with the sprinkler systems, pumps and water systems that we do have.  It just turns farmer Adam’s beard a new shade of grey every time it happens.  Our full crew of helpers start the first week of May.  Our CSA membership has been sold out for weeks.  Dry weather is generally good for vegetables.  The wagons of transplants are full and ready for transplanting and look mouthwatering delicious.  We have recharged internal batteries and a warm south wind that will carry us a long ways into the season before we begin to question our sanity.  Ahoy!  Up with the anchors and let the ship sail in the blowing wind! 

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Tuesday, March 9th, 2021

Spring on the Farm

Winter unofficially ended on our farm this week.  The snow is beginning to melt.  The maple sap is running.  The birds are singing (loudly!)  Onions are being seeded and there is smoke coming out of of the greenhouse chimney.  It is beginning to look, sound and smell like Spring everywhere!

At the end of every growing season we enter the winter season feeling completely drained of energy and enthusiasm for farming.  We're ready for winter in every sense of the word and we go inward on a deep level.  I sometimes even worry if our passion for what we do will become restored.  All systems are completely shut down.  But we order our seeds and we make our field plans.  We repair our equipment and we market our shares.  And as if by some miracle, with the thawing of the ice, our bones thaw as well.  With the dripping of the sap, like an I.V. into the veins of the farm itself, we come alive again.  Even our passion and love for what we do is restored.  I feel excited again for another growing season in a way I could not imagine the previous fall. 

I am hungry for cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and even zucchinis sound like a luxury right now.  Tender spring greens excite me crispy spring radishes are motivating to me.  Sharing the experience of a growing season with a community of CSA members like you breathes life in our efforts in way no other vocation that I can imagine could.  Even after 16 years of CSA farming, I'm still in love. Like a good marriage, it works for us.  

CSA shares are selling faster than ever before with less marketing effort.  We're preparing for a strong growing season.  We're lining up our crew of workers for the season, filling up the fuel barrel, greasing up the equipment and repairing all that is needed to keep the farm alive and strong.  

New this season we are offering Flower Shares!  We have a friend of the farm, their name is Buho, who will be growing a variety of flowers here on our farm and providing a limited number of Flower Shares over a 5 or 10 week period.  If Flower Shares interest you, sign up soon for one as there are only 13 left to sell.  They are very limited.  I'm excited to have flowers growing on the farm!  

We are also making plans to go 100% solar on the farm this summer.  We had an 7.5 kw system installed in the fall of 2014, but we put in a walk-in cooler and grew our farm business in the summer of 2016 which increased our electricity usage.  This summer we will install an 11.56 kw system which will make our farm 100% solar powered going into the future.  We will be working with Ethos Solar out of Viroqua, WI.  We're very excited about this!  

Our three children are growing taller and smarter every day (ages 3, 6 an 9). We have a new yellow lab puppy on the farm, Leche, who is 10 weeks old.  Puppies are a LOT of work, phew!  He's very cute, which helps with forgiveness in all of his "puppy behaviors".  Sadly we lost our old farm dog, Mugzie after 12 years this winter.  Leche has big shoes to fill as Mugzie was an all-star farm dog in every way!  He had a pretty good life here on the farm and we're so thankful for our time with him. 

I wanted to send an e-mail just to stay connected and let you all know that we're excited for another growing season! I say it again and again how honored we are be doing this work.  We feel fortunate and privileged to have such a strong community of supporters like you that keep us doing the work we love.  

Sign Up Season is in full swing!  Sign up to reserve your CSA Share for the 2021 growing season now if you haven't already!