Happy Winter! As we prepare to take a short winter nap it has been fun to reflect on LaFarm’s growing success.
A few highlights:
LaFarm mentored, trained, taught, grew and delivered more in 2016 than ever before. Over 300 student work hours, Over 40 dining hall deliveries, over 1300 additional pounds of produce were donated to area non-profits!
LaFarm is now housed in the NEW Lafayette College Office of Sustainability join us as we welcome the college’s first ever Sustainability Director and Sustainability Fellow! We look forward to being an even more sustainable, available and irresistible farm as we move into our green future!
Though we work on a tiny budget we are living in a value added world. This summer LaFarm focused on make the most of our harvest, as we preserved over 1000 pounds of produce in custom-made, small-batch salsa and pasta sauce. Want some? Look for it on campus in early 2017, or email and we can talk.
This year has brought many changes to LaFarm and its role at Lafayette College. Our communications will reflect that as our team refines and redefines how we all keep in touch. For now enjoy all our new-news here and keep an eye out for our annual report early in 2017.
“Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.”
Well, spring is here…but alas the farm work is still mostly being done inside.
We must work with a force so great as nature, and oh there is work to be done at LaFarm… even if we are stuck in the office as we wait for it to dry out and warm up out at our Metzgar Fields farm.
Julia was busy inputting information in our AgSquared crop management database about the average number of seeds per ounce for specific crops. These numbers are used to calculate our total seed order needs for the year so that LaFarm can grow as much fresh produce for the Lafayette College as possible.
Last year we grew over 1 ton of produce on our tiny but might 1/2 acre production garden. Go LAF!
Oh Winter! ruler of th’ inverted year…
A leafless branch thy sceptre, and thy throne A sliding car
…I love thee, all unlovely as thou seem’st!
from The Task, Book IV: The Winter Evening By William Cowper
Will you floss more in the new year? Or, as Julia Child called dieting, is it in your nature to ‘reduce’? In these days of resolving it is nice to step back and look with clarity at why we desire to reinstate order in the new year. Is it the recovery from overindulgent holidays? Does the new calendar year help us make changes that have been on our minds during the daily routine of the year before? Is it the hope of a clean slate?
In the cold zone 6B of LaFarm I like to see this time of year as a natural time to see underneath the wild summer growth of the garden. I like to take a look at the bones of the production farm and see what is, what worked last year and what could be in the new season. Whether you make (…errr, or stick to your own) resolutions or not, it is a truism that this time of year is a sound time to look under the overgrowth and attempt to tidy up or pare down.
In the garden this tendency to make resolutions manifests in many ways, one of which is in pruning. When the leaves are off the perennials, the roots are in a deep freeze and the beds are a blank canvas I can see how I want the garden to develop. This vision stirs the desire to plan better and embrace the ambitions that seem so impossible in the heat of summer. It is also a nice time to be reminded that a little cutting back now often leads to a bounty later.
This winter I was careful to prune the LaFarm apple trees in a stretch of weather free from forecasted warm spells, as pruning breaks the dormancy of plants and a warm spell can produce a false spring, taking a toll on production. (Thanks to the folks at County Line Orchard in Kempton PA, for that info).
I also looked to the Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening and the Mother Earth News article from Richard Korst, 1st published in 1976. My pruning strategy was to clear away dead branches, open the tree up for air and light and identify and strengthen the central leader of our young fruit trees. If a leader was not easily isolated I worked to train the tree to an open center form.
If you have some pruning to do this year, I hope this information helps. If you have done your pruning already lets hope for a good harvest in 2014. Here’s to a great new year!
Have you ever heard that veggies are sweeter if they have been harvested after a frost or light freeze? Better yet, have you tasted hardy fresh veggies touched by cool weather? If you have you know it is not in your head nor is it a myth. According to Lora Bailey from Kentucky’s Franklin County Cooperative Extension Service, “Cool temperatures slow the internal respiration of the greens, allowing more sugars to accumulate, making them slightly sweeter.” This is also true for carrots, and other cold tolerant root vegetables…they taste sweeter because they are ramping up the extra sugar.
True also is that most good farming and gardening takes place about a year before the garden grows. Check out this simple and great guide to succession planting. So as you plan your seed orders this year don’t forget your second successions and get some seeds to take your garden into NEXT winter!
We all want to grow healthy vegetables, but do you consider how important it is to ‘grow’ healthy soil in your gardens, too? LaFarm does a yearly soil test to see how our soil has improved or has been depleted after each growing season. The test results also point the way towards how LaFarm can best amend the soil in the coming months. Knowing your soil needs is a great way to apply the correct amount of the right micro and macro nutrients for your particular garden. Applying too few amendments may mean compromised crops and the slew of issues that brings. Applying too much or the incorrect amendments may mean wasted money or harmful imbalances in your soil. The Penn State Extension folks recommend testing your soil at about the same time each year, and to test regularly with no more than 3 years in between tests.
The 2012/2013 LaFarm soil test was done on a mild December day during a mild winter. This year the test was done on a rare thaw during our coldest winter in years. It happened to be the solstice on the day that we could get into the soil and take our sample, and I may be inspired by that to start a traditional Solstice Day soil test. What better a day to look back and plan forward than on the ‘birthday of the unconquered sun’? The soil test was done by the LaFarm manager and a volunteer, with the help of the Penn State Extension soil probe, a useful little tool for proper soil tests. When we get the test results back we will post them here. It is important to get your own soil testing envelope kit and follow soil sample directions carefully. You can test your soil any time of the year, spring and fall are often the most popular times. Get all the info you need to test the soil at your farm or garden here, on the Master Gardener site for the Lehigh Valley.
Soooo getting back into the garden is exciting, right? You’ve planned. you’ve dreamed, you’ve procured, and hopefully you have done some bed prep.
You may have forgotten how disheartening that first spring weeding can be, though, or blocked out the memory of the achy back that comes with planting the first round of spring onions. This is the time of year, too, when those over flowing baskets of tomatoes do still seem hopelessly far away. For a bit of inspiration check out this great video from the folks at Root Simple, a blog of urban homesteading. It is a four minute look into a year long community garden plot and to me it sums up all of the joy of having a garden of one’s own. Check it out: One Year of Gardening in Four Minutes
There are still a few spots available for the 2013 LaFarm season! Join the Lafayette College Community Garden & Working Farm and grow your own garden veggies. Our plots are available in 3 sizes, and the farm provides some tools, a sustainable water source from a gravity fed water run off system and super knowledgeable garden neighbors.