September Farmer Updates from the Field
September 30, 2021
September 1, 2021
This past week we had our first Burlap Dinner of the season. During this event, the vegetable team had the opportunity to share about Low Till Vegetable production systems. These systems illustrate the connections between agriculture and conservation and are part of what initially drew me to Rock Bottom Ranch.
Large-scale industrialized vegetable agriculture often uses tractor implements to plow and till the soil, which cuts, disrupts, and inverts the top few feet of soil to prepare a (visually) clean and fluffy bed to plant into. Although this system seems to present soil ideal for planting, over time, mechanical tillage can increase soil compaction, bring weed seeds to the surface, and disrupt soil ecology and structure.
On our ⅔ of an acre of vegetable production, we primarily use permanent beds and hand tools to prepare our soil. These practices provide a variety of conservation benefits including maintaining the health of the soil food web. This includes a vast city of microorganisms beneath our feet which aerate, fertilize, and cycle nutrients through our soils, ultimately benefiting the entire ecosystem. We are continuing to learn and develop our systems here at the ranch in an effort to steward the land responsibly and get food into the hands of our community. Thank you, as always, for being a part of that community.
-Hannah Pike, Vegetable Apprentice
One of our Burlap Dinners this season at Rock Bottom Ranch.
Hannah Pike talking to guests about our vegetable production systems at one of our Burlap Dinners.
September 8, 2021
Although we have officially reached September and I can no longer ignore the imminent arrival of fall, the continuing abundance of these weekly boxes is a welcome reminder that this growing season is still in full swing. This past week, we held the second of our Burlap Dinner series, the topic of which was Hoop Houses — a topic that allowed us to illustrate the beautiful crossover and connections between our livestock and vegetable productions here at Rock Bottom. We shared how these structures function not only as greenhouses to extend our growing season and provide protection and trellising structures for our veggies, but also as a winter vacation home for our laying hens and protective, mobile housing for our broiler chickens and turkeys throughout the summer.
Each house has its own unique qualities that we are able to manipulate to our advantage, and they also provide a space to continue growing seasonally appropriate veg throughout the winter such as frost-sweetened carrots, kale, and spinach. Not only do these structures act as a bridge between seasons, but also a bridge between seasonal crew members. Hannah’s beautiful mention of this while sharing with our guests about our Rolling Thunder greenhouse was an “Ah Ha!” moment for me, and helped to alleviate some of the sadness of starting to near the end of this growing season, by bringing to light that the work we are doing now is already contributing to the abundance of the 2022 growing season. The spinach that we have already started in our seed start house will be transplanted into this greenhouse, and it will be the same spinach that will be harvested at the beginning of next years’ apprentices time here at the Ranch, just as we harvested winter spinach when we first arrived here last March.
Farming is a beautiful cycle of transformation and transition that we share with past and future farmers, and the life-giving abundance connects us all.
-Hollis Vanderlinden, Vegetable Apprentice
Hollis Vanderlinden showing the CORE Hoop House during a Burlap Dinner at Rock Bottom Ranch
Broad-breasted White Turkeys outside of their Hoop House at Rock Bottom Ranch.
September 15, 2021
We have officially hit the time of the year when I am dragging myself out of bed in the dark. In the summer the bright mornings greet me and pull me up, ready (after a few cups of coffee of course) to jump into the action the season calls for. As the nights get longer, my body starts to slow down and ask for more rest.
But even as I am slowing down, the work hasn’t quite slowed yet. September is full of final big pushes to get tasks done. Winter and early spring crops have been seeded, meat chickens have all been raised and are in the freezer, turkeys are about to join them. Storage crops are starting to come out of the field. But with each thing we check off the list, it’s done till next season. This month is a celebration of the culmination of months of work.
As the light and the work shifts, so goes my mind. My thoughts get reflective. More and more of my notes start with “for 2022, what if..?”. I have excel spreadsheets to quantify and compare aspects of this season, to gather data to tweek systems for next year. It’s almost time to dream big.
And personally, fall has always been a season for reflection. Often in farming, fall feels like a clif over the unknown, seasonal job contracts are ending, and farmers are thrust into job and housing searches. The question of “What’s next?” looms over each celebratory task completion. Transition forces contemplation. Even with its challenges, this seasonal and cyclical awareness is an aspect of farming I hold dear.
– Mariah Foley, Agriculture Manager
Potatoes, ready to store for winter.
September 22, 2021
Yesterday we woke up to our first hard frost of the season. While we had been prepping for it, both mentally and physically for over a month, it still felt like a shock to the system. The night before as the sun was setting I rushed out to the garden realizing it was my last chance to harvest flowers. With buckets full of zinnias, black eyed susans, and marigolds I said goodnight to the garden, fingers crossed and hoping that not too much would be obliterated the next morning.
Last week during the Farmer Panel, Ray, one of the livestock apprentices, put to words something I have been grappling with this season: farming changes your perspective on death. It’s not that we farmers become more comfortable or desensitized to death, but that each day we practice finding peace with the cycle of life.
As our vegetable season comes to a close, and we say goodbye to crop after crop, our team has fallen into a conversational habit. Upon remarking that a variety of plants is dying, one of us will say: “well it has been producing for a long time and has given us so much food,” which is then met with: “its tired, it’s time it gets some rest.” Obviously, there’s a lot of poetic justice in this exchange and in farming as a whole. And yet, walking through the garden yesterday morning, I couldn’t help but hope out loud and in my heart that by some unlikely maricle everything survived the 26 degree temperatures.
So here’s to fall, frost, and the harvest moon.
– Juliette Moffroid, Vegetable Lead
The Vegetable Crew at Rock Bottom Ranch (Hannah Pike, Hollis Vanderlinden, Juliette Moffroid, L-R).
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