Community-Supported Agriculture for the Upper Valley of New Hampshire and Vermont
Spring Delayed, But CSA Signups Continue
March 24, 2014
How about this record cold weather! We haven’t boiled a drop of syrup yet, though our open house last weekend was a big success thanks to CSA members Doug Brown and Laura Stillson, who led a hike up to the lookout above the farm on behalf of the Upper Valley Land Trust. (Doug is a staff member, Laura is a volunteer.) Some great photos of the event were taken by Lebanon photographer Travis Paige and are on his website. Or you can take a peek at Maizey, below, posing for the camera up at the top.
2014 Signups Under Way
March 1, 2014
Hello Sunrise Farm 2013 Members (and a few folks from our waiting list):
On a grey, soggy, February day, what could be better than imagining fresh spinach, carrots, and tomatoes? It won’t be long now! I’ll be warming up the greenhouse this week and planting the first of the onions, scallions, shallots, and herbs.
I’m emailing today to let you know that the CSA is open for sign-ups as of today. If you’d like to be part of the 2014 season, email back to confirm your spot. (At the same time, if you know you won’t be part of the CSA this year, let me know so that I can pass your share on to someone else.) Let me know if you prefer Mondays or Thursdays as your regular day. And then send a check (either a $300 deposit or the full $550) to Sunrise Farm, 270 Orizzonto Road, WRJ, VT 05001.
The details for 2014 will be similar to last year. The share price is $550, unchanged, and we’ll aim for the same 23-week season, starting the week of May May 12th and running through October 16th. Pickup days and times will also be the same: Mondays or Thursdays, 11 AM to 6 PM. Take your pick.
I’ve been working this winter on improvements to our hoophouse and irrigation systems, with the hope of extending our farm season to a full half year (26 weeks.) These upgrades probably won’t enable us to open earlier this spring but may allow us to go later into October. Either way, for 2014 I’m planning on a bunch of crop improvements based on your feedback from last year, including doubling the early spring spinach, increasing the tomato plantings by a third, moving up the first carrots by a few weeks, and having chard and kale available every week of the season (except perhaps the first couple.)
Right now on the farm, we’re tapping our maples to catch this early sap run and we’re also halfway through the lambing season. Our annual spring open house will be on Sunday afternoon, March 23rd, so mark your calendars if you want to come by and sample some fresh syrup and scratch some fuzzy new lambs.
I also have a great crew of folks working with me this year, several of whom you can meet at the open house. There’s Leslie, who grew up in Lyme and has worked on several farms locally, Andy, who has helped run a far larger CSA down in Massachusetts (and has recently relocated to Norwich), and Victoria, who grew up in the neighborhood, just down the road from Sunrise. This is the first time in a long time that I’ve gone into a season with an all-new crew, but I’m really looking forward to it.
That’s the scoop for now – email back to let me know your plans. I hope everyone has been enjoying this wild winter so far… something for everyone!
This will be our 15th year as a CSA. I can’t decide if the time has flown or crept along.
I do know that it’s hard for me to still picture our first year, with seven shareholders picking up odd quantities of vegetables from an old fridge plugged into the back of a mostly boarded-up barn. When I look down the center of the restored and expanded barn at the snowy acres beyond, resting under a cover crop and protected by the deer fence, I know that we’ve come a long way.
And are still moving ahead! I’m deep into my second winter of intensive study of soil health and fertility management and have reached the point where I see that no two people completely agree on what soil health is and how to attain it. I’m also adjusting our planting and harvesting schedule to take advantage of our expanded hoophouse space.
Thanks for supporting local ag!
2013 End of Season Wrap
Hello Sunrise CSA members:
The sheep are back in the barn eating hay and the bees are tightly wrapped in their hives living off stored honey. Maizey has reverted to barking at every car that comes up the road, now that there’s no longer a steady flow, and I’m taking advantage of a cold morning to wrap up some inside work.
I’ve put together a short, year-end survey that, if you have a moment, I’d love to have you complete. (Five minutes is all it takes.) I’ve really valued the feedback and advice I’ve received over the years from many of you, and it’s helped me to create the best CSA experience that I can. All your answers are anonymous, so please call it as you see it!
Looking back over the year, which started with me limping around from a winter knee injury, quickly progressed into the heaviest flooding we’ve had in 15 years, and concluded with a wind event that damaged roofs, greenhouses, and the orchard, I’m amazed to say that I think 2013 was one of our best years ever. I had fabulous help from Derek, Molly, and Rachael, each of whom rose to the various challenges that sprang up. We also had some stupendous weather in the early spring and middle and late autumn, which led to ideal growing conditions. And we discovered fertilizer.
You might have thought that I would have discovered fertilizer at some point prior to now, but I’ve been something of an organic purist, believing that compost alone is sufficient for growing great vegetables. That may be true in the early stage of a farm’s development, but as the soil matures and as various weeds and diseases become established, I now think there’s a role for fine-tuning soil fertility with more targeted organic amendments. We spent a fair bit of time and money on soil testing and soil improvements this year, and I think it really paid off, particularly in the quality and quantity of the cantaloupes (far and away our best ever) and in the quality and quantity of the late fall crops that kept on rolling and enabled us to add an extra week to the fall harvest at a time when the veggies are usually petering out.
My plans for next year are to continue improving our soil-fertility practices, which will now be in place for the early- and main-season crops as well as the later crops. I’m also hard at work modifying our four hoophouses to increase our covered crop area, which will help extend the spring season and also ease the otherwise abrupt transition from the spring to summer that we’ve had in the past, when we’ve had to destroy otherwise beautiful spinach, broccoli, and chard in order to make room for the tomatoes. Given the crazy weather events we’ve started to experience on a more regular basis, the hoophouses also provide us with a heightened level of control that, I’m afraid to say, we’re likely to need more of going forward.
Beyond that, I’ve hire two great folks to help me next season - a woman who grew up in Lyme and has worked on several other farms locally and a man from Massachusetts who is relocating to the area with his wife and who has managed a far-larger CSA than Sunrise. If you see me swinging in the hammock all next summer drinking iced tea, you’ll know I made some good hiring decisions. (And if you don’t, it’s because I love farming too much to observe it from a distance!)
Thanks to each of you for being a part of Sunrise this past year and for supporting local agriculture in all the ways that you do. For those of you looking to take another turn of the seasons with me next year, I’ll email you again in February to begin signups for 2014. You all have first crack at re-joining before I go to the waiting list.
Enjoy the winter!
PS: I just emailed everyone separately who is signed up for a winter share this year. If you think I left you off by mistake, or if you want to sign up still, just email back. The first box is next week, and we could still accommodate a few more folks.