So much has happened since Ellen’s last newsletter update. Fall whizzed by, winter arrived in full force, and spring weather shortly thereafter (within the past week). This year has brought many firsts, notably weather related – a dramatic hurricane (hurricane Irma) interruption at the start of planting season, river floods, abundant icicles, frozen ground. Through adverse and at times completely uncomfortable weather conditions, we have continued to move forward – we have rearranged our cropping map to accommodate saturated soil early in the season from the flooded Withlacoochee river, covered and uncovered acres and acres and greenhouses full of vegetables through many hard freezes, made greenhouse heater repairs in the middle of freezing nights, and more. The elements most in our control are the abilities to sow seeds and keep planting, and in times of uncertain and damaging weather, we do. We spent the days and weeks after the hurricane seeding like crazy, recruiting help of family and neighbors to prep the fields, replant the crops, and start hundreds of thousands of delayed seedlings. We ran the farm off of two generators for a week. Our fantastic and unstoppable farm crew worked extra hard six days a week for several months to catch up, with smiles on.
As daily operations were back on schedule and resumed to a steady pace, we got right to work following through with our plan to build 6 hoop-house structures totaling about 13,000 square feet. We call the houses “caterpillar tunnels” because they are long and narrow. They cover rows of crops and protect them from rain, stressful UV and a bit of cold. So far this season the tunnels have protected our gorgeous crop of cherry tomatoes and heirloom tomatoes (in abundance now!) and a vigorous early-spring planting of sweet peppers that we expect to begin harvesting in about a month and a half. This past week we erected the final tunnel over our first spring planting of cucumbers and beans. This tunnel will help keep those heat-loving crops warm until we are free from risk of frost. We have experienced frost as late as the end of March, so we always have to be prepared to protect the fields until that time.
Due to the hard work and dedication of our farm team, almost all of our crops this season have grown exceptionally well, and bountifully! We have been through more frosts and hard freezes this winter than ever before, and have thankfully avoided any major crop damage. Many of you have noticed the vibrancy and abundance of our offering this year. We are so pleased to share the plentiful fruits and vegetables we have harvested from the farm. We have enjoyed some of our most abundant and delicious crops ever. Notable bumper crops have been: cauliflower, ginger and turmeric, head lettuces, carrots, leeks, kale, and tomatoes.
Over the past three weeks, the farm has received over four inches of steady, soaking rains. With the additional moisture, a couple perfectly temperate weeks, and the lengthening daylight hours, the plants began their return to vigorous growth. New successions of cauliflower are heading up, lettuce is filling in huge and heavy, carrots are perfectly sweet, the first potatoes have sprouted, sugar snap peas are climbing their trellising (readying to set fruit), strawberries are loaded with flowers and green fruit, and so many more welcome signs of spring. The farm is glowing and humming with life and activity. We are now just a few weeks away from the first summer squash, cucumbers, and beans of the new year.
The first of our spring flowers began blooming in our high tunnel two weeks ago, and last week they began blooming in the field. We planted three times more flowers than ever before for the spring, so get ready for some real beauty! The spring bloomers are some of the most special and fragrant flowers we grow – tulips, ranunculus, anemones, poppies, snapdragons, fragrant stock, sweet william, bells of ireland, and many more. They all last forever in the vase and are only around for the months of February and March.
We will be at our busiest pace for the next several months. We will continue planting crops for the next eight weeks, and will be harvesting heavily for the next four months.
As always, thank you to all of our wonderful customers and farm members. Your continued support of our farm humbles and enlivens us. We are grateful for all of the wonderful people that prioritize local and organic vegetables in their lives, and who have made our produce and flowers a staple in their homes. We so appreciate the positive feedback on our work – and as Ellen likes to say… you ain’t seen nothing yet.