We are in transition mode. This is the last box of the summer season with next week marking the beginning of the twice monthly winter boxes for our farm. This year we extended the summer shares from 20 weeks to 22, butting right up against the first week of the winter share. It seems a little hectic to go immediately one to the other, but it isn't as our membership, including Yearly Share members, drops in half, and there are fewer harvest days.
When we were researching growing organic vegetables a few years ago, we ran across renowned grower Eliot Coleman. He advocates for growing vegetables year-round. Through his writings we learned that the 43rd latitude where we live is closer to the equator than southern France and the Ligurian coast of Italy. We have the same day length and amount of sun that they do, and in those areas growing a winter garden is common.
Thanks to the warm water of the Gulf Stream those areas of Europe enjoy more moderate temperatures than here in Wisconsin where we "enjoy" masses of cold arctic air coming from Canada. But because daylight - not temperature - is the deciding factor on growing potential, we can still grow fresh vegetables 12 months a year with modifications. Those modifications include growing crops that can withstand (and sometimes thrive in) colder weather and protecting them from the harsh, drying winter winds.
This knowledge excited Bill and me because we wanted to grow most of our family's food and because it provided an opportunity for us to offer our members fresh, local, organic produce year-round! It means we don't have a winter break per se, but having both grown up on farms, we weren't expecting one. So it was decided that My Fine Homestead would grow vegetables year-round. And we have ever since.
The first year we covered beds of carrots, spinach, kale, and other greens under tunnels and in a small homemade greenhouse. Now we have a 30' x 72' greenhouse along with some smaller hoophouses, keeping our tunnel crawling to a minimum. Our knees thank us for that!
We are still fine-tuning the transition of those spaces from summer growing crops to winter growing ones but feel winter-grown vegetables have a permanent place on our farm for several reasons. We love that members can experience farming through the whole year's seasons with us. Ups and downs, exciting growth along with disappointing failures, moments of discovery and connection with the land, along with the drama of frozen water pipes. Who needs TV?
And for a more selfish reason, at least for me: living on a farm epitomizes the bigger picture of life. Dealing with everyday trials, life-changing moments, and the emotions they inherently bring seems possible because our farm grounds me. When I worry about my kids' future, the future of our planet -- heck, my future as my hair grays, my body changes physically in ways I don't like, and my mind seems slower to learn new tasks -- I am comforted by tasks like ordering and planting seeds, thinning carrots, harvesting spinach, sorting goats, washing eggs, crafting batches of soap, and labeling bottles of maple syrup.
Those jobs need to happen regardless of what else is happening in the world around me. I can move through the motions while my sub-conscious works through bigger issues and worries. I feel our family can manage and even thrive because that year-round stability makes us emotionally resilient even while providing physical nourishment.
Yet another reason we feel lucky to have CSA members who recognize the importance of supporting local farmers for a multitude of reasons.
We hope our farm also affords you some resiliency as we face this winter and the future together.