Farmers markets won’t be open for another month, but growers are hard at work. This is an intense time of year as farms awaken from winter: winter’s ravages are reversed; fields are prepared; and tender seedlings are transplanted.
Charlotte Ross and her husband Jonathan Janeway (Marsha’s nephew) grow organic vegetables and flowers on Sweet Acre Farm in Lebanon, CT. Their intensively-farmed acres require unending work and constant attention. Those beautiful vegetables at the market don’t grow themselves, they’re the product of diligent nurturing.
I thought you would enjoy this Spring update from the farm that Charlotte recently sent out that vividly sets the stage:
“This was the week we noticed a “green sheen” across the farm, the tips of grass and garlic bright with chlorophyll in the sun. The Spring Equinox has passed and daylight hours are increasing, giving plants the signal to get growing! Daffodils are in full bloom on our doorstep, and it’s well time for an update on all things Sweet Acre.
The Field: We have been working in earnest for a month now, preparing for the season ahead. Our two workers, Ellen and Ben, have been heroically hauling compost and wood chips around the farm, spreading tarps, pruning raspberry canes, moving tomato tunnels, repairing deer fencing, and seeding many hundreds of baby plants in the seedling house.
Spring is a busy and uplifting time around here. Muscles creak back into action, buds appear on branches, seeds sprout in the greenhouse, perennial plants take a peek above the soil line to see if the world is ready for them.
Our plan to use heavy compost for crop nutrition and mulch against the summer weeds has proved useful already. Where the soil is bare, we can see it blowing around in the highest gusts; and where it’s covered in compost, it remains protected.
Composting is a real investment for us this season (those CSA dollars hard at work!), one that we hope will protect and feed our soils for many seasons to come. Today we received our fourth 5-yard-load of compost! That’s 4 full tractor-trailer loads — just to give you a clear sense of the volume of material — not to mention the amount of work laying it down on beds wheelbarrow load by wheelbarrow load. Did I mention the creaky muscles?
The greenhouse is filling right up with seedlings. Once the cold nights are past, we’ll be transplanting out kale, choi, napa, and chard seedlings in the field.
We’ve begun starting seeds for our annual spring seedling sale, so please mark your calendars for 2 Saturdays in May: 5/15 and 5/22! You are now able to peruse our online store (sweetacrefarm.com) to see which varieties we will have available for your gardens and start your ordering! Pre-ordering now is the best way to be sure you get the plants you’re looking for, and it will help us organize our spring-seeding calendar. If you don’t see something you’re looking for, let us know and we’ll do our best to get it started for you. Please note that pre-orders will need to be picked up at the farm in Lebanon on 5/15.
Meanwhile, in the farmhouse, Adrian is 3 months old this week! So he and I have completed the “fourth trimester” and are both feeling much more like full human beings capable of engaging in the world at large.
Three-year-old Cy is in the midst of taking on the universe: learning and doing and telling and utterly non-stop unless he’s sleeping. Thank goodness for a partner to help manage the chaos! Jonathan’s days run the gamut from managing the crew and book-keeping, to felling trees and setting up irrigation lines, usually with a small child nipping at his heels.
I must say that watching them together out in the field — little self-important Cy so proud to be helping his Papa — feels a bit like watching my heart running around outside my body.
And if anyone in your life is looking for recommendations of a good place to raise toddlers, let them know that a farm is the place to do it: endless dirt/sand/wood chip piles, rocks, rusty tools, seeds and bugs; no other toys necessary!”
Charlotte and Jonathan are regular vendors at Hartford’s West End Farmers Market and the Stonington Farmers Market. Right now, they’re offering advance purchase CSA shares — good all season long at the markets — to fund the high costs and low revenue of spring planting.
They are part of a movement of young people back to the land. Their lifestyle is driven by idealism tempered with the practical experience of labor-intensive farming. They work with admirable (sometimes unbelievable) diligence, but are happy to live close to the land and close to one another.
Frank Whitman can be reached at NotBreadAloneFW@gmail.com.