So it’s the end of July. The sun shines high in the sky and everything in my home garden is really beginning to ramp up. The first plants ready for picking were the raspberries, which line one side of our driveway. I remember one day about 2 weeks ago, in which my boyfriend and I marveled at the tiny white berries growing in thick clumps. A few days later, we noticed that the bush bean plants had thin, green strands where only dried flowers were the day before. We watched the daily growth in anticipation, our mouths watering as we talked about our favorite dishes, made fresh from the garden.
In just two short weeks, nearly all the raspberries are picked and we’re still picking daily, the longest and fattest beans for dinner. We didn’t grow enough beans for canning but that it just as well as I haven’t yet bought a new pressure canner. We have enough raspberries to get us thru the rest of the year, though, with the deep freezer in the basement filled with almost 15 pounds of frozen berries.
We’ve been eating steamed beets on our salads, both the beets and greens picked from our beds here at home. The corn is tasseling and just this evening, we picked the first of this season’s red, sunshiny tomatoes. Salad tonight will be perfect.
Out at the quarter acre farm that we are working, things are a bit different. We rented some land from a local farmer this past spring and we’ve growing on a scale that we are not used to. However, needing the experience, we jumped at the chance to grow big. We have over 100 tomato plants thriving, as well as melons, corn, beets and onions.
The pepper plants didn’t do too well as they took longer to adjust to the transplanting… and then some unknown insects ate many of the leaves, further setting them behind my harvest schedule. The curly-leaved kale is doing great but not so for the flat leaved kale. A colleague mentioned that his flat-leaved kale was also falling prey to insects and he blamed flea beetles.
Some other challenges we’ve encountered at the farm is the use of black plastic mulch. It works fantastic at suppressing weeds but it is just as lethal for the new transplants that were pushed beneath after a windy day. Left too long under the mulch, many of them died after baking in the sun.
Another challenge is keeping the grass suppressed between the rows of plants. But a few hours of the gas-powered trimmer and the BCS with sickle bar attachment get the job done.
The final challenge with the farm is finding buyers for the forthcoming produce. Two weeks ago, we picked almost 4 pounds of basil. We washed and bagged them and I brought them to sell at the farmer’s market. I sold 5 bags. But on the plus side—we now have enough pesto made and frozen to get us thru until next year! Obviously this isn’t going to work if I can’t find buyers for my other produce, so I’m looking into marketing ideas and consulting with buyers and a graphic designer for a company logo to help get signage for the market.
Everything is an experience. We continue to work and learn from our mistakes. It tough running a small farm while working full time, while also trying to enjoy time with friends and family. But in the end, I know it will be worth it. As my boyfriend teased the other day while I was in my third hour of pesto blending and the neighbors were outside having an impromptu block party, “Are you happy being the ant rather than the grasshopper?” Yes, I am.
By Scott Rosenberg, recent Graduate of NWTC’s Sustainable Food and Ag Systems program and new owner of Sweet Soil Market Garden, LLC