December 28, 2015

Happy New Year

From the Fields - Thaddeus

Another year – three hundred and sixty degrees around the sun, back to the beginning of the cycle of seasons. The winter is a dangerous time of year for fresh fruit and vegetable farmers. With no crops to tend to, no fires to put out, no broken equipment that needs to be fixed RIGHT NOW, no crops screaming for irrigation water – we get bored. A friend of mine calls this time of year SAD – Seed Acquisition Disorder – because this is the time of year when wild ideas of what to grow are easily agreed to. I have to keep reminding myself, “What we did last year was a big deal. We were really busy and had a ton of problems – keep it simple.” But that just isn’t any fun.

Everyone’s favorite planting-schedule topic are the new varieties – new tomatoes, new greens, we need a blue tomato, new melons, this really cool variety of broccoli. Did you see that winter squash write-up in the newspaper? Do you know how many different Asian greens there are? Check out this amazing eggplant! Ever heard of a Cipollini onion? Chinese long beans are amazing! Why did we stop growing seeded watermelons? I am not going to lie: I love it, but every winter, it gets me in trouble next year.

This is the season that I think of my mom the most. She loved this part. As a child, I have fond memories of the winter. Our living room was warmed by a roaring fire that was the only source of heat for the house. The concrete, slab floor covered in burgundy rectangle tiles held the heat well. While my brothers and I would be playing a game of “let’s see who can keep our butt on the fire the longest,” our mom was sitting at the dining room table clearly working on a project. The table was covered in seed catalogues and each one had strips of paper sticking out of it marking the selection. On a piece of paper (mind you this was before computers), mom had a list going in her impeccable hand writing. Each catalogue had a center piece that tore out and served as an order form and envelope. Mom would fill this out for each catalogue, cross out the selection on her master list, calculate the price and insert a hand-written personal check. At the end of the process, a stack of envelopes filled with orders would go to the post office. Mom loved it. She loved trying new things, and there were lots of gems she found along the way.

As the years add up, I can’t help but notice that I once was my mother’s son on this topic, and now I have been weathered into a more conservative point of view. Having done this for 15 years now, I have noticed that I have my list, my proven performers, narrowed down by year after year of mini disasters rooting from the wrong variety. I now look at others with caution. “Why fix something if it isn’t broken” I ask myself. I step back, take note, and remind myself our farm was built on new varieties, and we must never stop trying, but the plots don’t need to be as big when we experiment. A blue heirloom tomato, pink and black cherry tomatoes; Gai Lan; Komatsuna (a Japanese mustard spinach) and pea shoots are on the list for next year. If you have any ideas that you think I might like, share them on our Facebook page. Happy New Year and know we are making a plan for your seasonal selection of vegetables right now.

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