What a whirlwind spring can be! We have spent the last weeks running through the city, popping plants into the ground between rainstorms, furiously weeding away young lamb’s quarters, troubleshooting a few soil issues, tightening bolts and fixing engines. Days have been long as the sun is finally beating down upon our plots and warming our soils. This coming week, we will begin to install irrigation systems at our sites and catch-up with transplanting. Last week we planted about 4000 tomatoes, several hundred peppers, 500 feet of basil, and lots of fennel, onions, and lettuce. We were blessed by our energetic employees, Kristi and Caroline, our University of Minnesota horticulture intern, Abdul, our HECUA intern, Angela, and a wonderful high school volunteer named Kaia. In one day we planted over 40 trays of tomatoes by hand, thanks to all of these people. While farming can be quite stressful and often solitary, I am continually amazed by the power of urban people to transform land into food production areas. Our farm is supported by many, many individuals who come to help us, walk by and comment on the work, or just drive by with their trunks rattling with the latest rap beat, breaking the monotony of weeding and reminding us of the ever-present spontaneity of the city streets.
This time of year is stressful as well. The baby plants we have taken care of for so long have now departed from the nest to live in the rougher elements. They are not longer sheltered. They withstand strong winds and downpours. Cold weather a few weeks ago stunted many our our lettuces, fennel and brassicas. Just now, they are beginning to recover. Farming in the city presents unique challenges which can be hard to solve: What is the best way to manage 14 different lots with different vegetables? How do design good irrigation systems with low water pressure (often borrowed from neighbors’ houses)? When volunteers come to help, how do we best plug them in to a hectic operation, ensuring that they have a positive time and that they are benefitting the farm? How do we improve our soil in such idiosyncratic conditions? Only through patience and being present with the land and people around me do I even come close to developing a clear understanding of these challenges and potential solutions. As I slowly become a more experience farmer, I hope to worry less and breathe more. I am lucky to have partners and employees who are patient and persistent, reminding me to do the same.
We are excited for the beginning of the CSA in a few weeks and to have more bounty at the farmer’s market. Ginger is planted in our high tunnels and the Beez Kneez honey women (Kristy and Erin) brought two hives to our 15th Avenue plot. Head lettuce is firming up in the field and spinach is germinating beautifully (see the picture)! Please stop by and see us during the day and lend a hand if you would like. Enjoy the warmth!