Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Sustainability by Doing

In our prior post, we talked about how we try to maintain the three pillars of sustainability by NOT doing certain things.  Quick!  What are the three pillars of sustainable farming?  What?!?  You forgot them?  Good thing we're here to remind you:  Environment, Community and Financial (or Economic)

Some folks seem to equate sustainability with only environmental matters, which we understand.  After all, it feels like the environmental cost is too often the one humans are most willing to ignore.  And, of course, the financial costs are the one we are most likely to pay attention to.  The Genuine Faux Farm, if anything, tends to make the mistake of placing the economic factors lowest on the list simply because we ARE trying to make a point.  But, that doesn't mean it doesn't come into play.

In any event, we discussed things we have opted (or are opting) NOT to do and here we thought we'd mention the things we are consciously doing to make our farm more sustainable.

Re-Using and Re-Purposing
The idea of re-using and re-purposing has never been foreign to farming.  The old saw about on the fly farm repairs relying on chewing gum and baling wire is simply a reflection on the necessity of innovating when things break.  On the other hand, there are other ways we can planfully re-use and re-purpose - such as the intentional purchase of seed starting trays that are sturdier and able to last several years.

I know some home gardeners will act like this is a simple thing, but it is not so simple when you are talking about many hundreds of trays being used every season.  We can't spend time being gentle with every tray as we remove plants to be put into the field.  That means they start to show wear as we work with them.  And then there is the matter of cleaning them to prevent the potential spread of pathogens from one planting to the next.  When you have ten to twenty trays, that's no big deal.

Still, we would prefer not to fill our landfill up with single use plastic every season, so we opt for these trays - and they work well for us.  We could move to soil blocks, but our starting system does not support that at this time.  We really need a dedicated seed starting building and then we could move that far.

We also find ourselves re-purposing many items on the farm as our operations changes.  The building at the left was initially purchased several years ago as a semi-portable chicken building  After five or six years of service, the wood frame we put on the bottom started to fall apart and a wind storm bent a couple things up.  We put it in a stationary position and covered it in plastic so it could help with seedling production, but it was a short roof and we had to squat to get in and out of it.

So, now we are working to make it a small seedling building by making it a bit taller and putting semi-permanent sides on it.  This should have been done a month ago - but, that's how things go sometimes.  We still have our hearts in the right place - right? 

We've re-used windows and wood others have discarded.  Useful lumber from old farm buildings that have come down has shown up on hayracks, poultry rooms and other projects.  The hardest part is usually trying to find a balance between working with previously used resources (that take more time and effort) with new resources (when time is short) - all the while having to consider the money factor.  You can argue that time is money all you want, but saving two hours of time on a project doesn't actually result in a check arriving in your mailbox to compensate you directly for that time - no matter how much you might want it to.

Natural Resources
On our farm, we usually get our fair of sunshine and our fair share of wind.  So, we use both.  We like to line dry our laundry so our reliable electric dryer gets a rest through most of the months from April to November.  This is actually a big deal simply because we generate a great deal of laundry for two people.  Farmers sweat.  Farmers get mud and other things on their clothing.  It's normal.  But, we do like to clean up at least a little bit - I am sure you appreciate that.  After all, you all look more attractive when you aren't wrinkling your noses at that smell that seems to be accompanying the farmer today - so I appreciate it too!

We rely on poultry netting that is charged using a solar panels connected to batteries.  We also use shorter netting to protect young plants from rabbits and woodchucks (it works much of the time - but is not foolproof).  We're thrilled with the staying power of the Premiere One fencing as most of our fencing sections have multiple years of use.  We are starting to see some wear on the chargers that is needing more attention and we have been rotating out batteries as they end their useful life.  It's things like this that cause us to keep asking if we are doing the best thing.  Solar sure sounds good, doesn't it?  Yep.  But, how much does this need for new batteries reduce the positives?  Thus far, we'd say it's an overall positive, but we are always watching to see if there is an improvement to be made.

And then there is drip tape.  We like it and we hate it.  It reduces our irrigation water use significantly over delivery systems that spray water over the top of the field.  The water is placed right at the root zones of the plants we are growing and doesn't waste water through evaporation and application to areas where we don't want the water.  But, it only lasts for one season in the field and then we have to throw it away.  In our minds, the net effect is still a positive, but we are looking for alternatives as well.

And, of course, there is the soil.  We compost weeds and cash crop residue along with the manure and bedding from our poultry.  This is the ultimate in re-use and re-purposing - since all of that becomes nutrients we can put back into our soil.   But, that's not all we do for our soil.  We incorporate cover crops into our growing plan and we use a power harrow for most of our tillage instead of a roto-tiller.  We limit our deep tillage to very specific situations where more of our plots might have a deep tillage process once every three or four years if needed.

Balancing Farm Use with Natural Use
We remind ourselves that we need Mother Nature more than she needs us on a daily basis.  So, we do things to invite Mother Nature to be kind and provide us with workers who help us in the long run.  We do not graze or till every square inch of our fifteen acres.  Instead, we try to leave some areas alone to provide habitat for snakes, toads, frogs and other critters that control populations that would like to decimate our vegetables crops.  We want our native bees to have good places to live so they might come and work for us by pollinating our melons and squash. 

We do mow a decent part of the farm, but we actually try to time our mowing to avoid disrupting pollinators and we often leave clover patches un-mowed until they are past peak bloom.  Then, we mow them to encourage another, later bloom.  We leave clover/grass paths between each of our plots and we are happy to have dandelions on the farm.

In the end, we find that nature is supporting our decisions to never use pesticides, herbicides and fungicides by providing some of those services without the help of synthetic chemicals.  It doesn't always work perfectly (from our perspective) but it works better than relying on the chemicals.

We are also big proponents of intercropping and planting annual pollinator crops as part of the intercropping plan.  Not only does it make parts of the farm look nicer, but it provides habitat for beneficial critters that end up working for us. 

Local Sales and Local Connections
Once again, you can see that much of our focus might seem to be on the environmental side of things - even though each has a component for the other two pillars.  That doesn't mean we don't expend effort elsewhere as well.  For example, we have opted for local sales of our product so that we can maintain a positive connection with the surrounding community.  We host visiting groups from area schools, colleges and universities and go to speak to classes about some of the things we try to do.  We do our best to source the things our farm needs from sources closer to home.  For example, we purchase our poultry feed from the Canfield family by Dunkerton and our hen and turkey chicks come from Hoover's Hatchery by Rudd. 

As always, there is more to say on this, but perhaps more words won't make the point any better than spending more time doing.

Charging What Food Is Worth
All of these things are probably worthy of their own post, but sometimes we just do what we have time for! 

The economic factors still come into play because our farm cannot be sustainable if it doesn't make enough money for us to keep doing what we are doing.  One way we work towards sustainability is to be very mindful of what production of the food costs us in terms of time, money and resources so we can charge a fair price that gives the purchaser a good value without requiring a complete sacrifice on our part.  This actually leads us to an interesting result for our farm.  We are certified organic, so we could potentially charge more because we are certified organic assuming we could connect ourselves to the proper markets.  But, we don't do that.  We simply charge what we need to charge.  Sometimes our price is higher, sometimes it is not.

The other components of the financial side of things are producing the product for sale and then making sales (of course).  Neither of us is particularly fond of promoting ourselves, so the latter can be difficult sometimes.  Assuming the weather goes back to something approximating the old 'normal' we think we have a history that shows we can do the former.

Always Looking to Improve
At the end of the day, we feel like we are doing a reasonably good job at maintaining the three pillars of sustainable farming. But, perhaps the most important thing of all is this:

We do not believe we have all of the answers.  We have no illusions that we have found the perfect balance.  Instead, we are still seeking more complete answers and a better balance.  And, perhaps that is how you can identify a truly sustainable operation.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Sustainability by Not Doing

Tammy and I had a number of conversations over the past off-season about how we WERE or WERE NOT meeting our goals to be the best stewards we could be with respect to how we farm.  It is important to us that we follow up all of our "big talk" about making choices that are best for the environment, the community and our farm with real effort and works.  Every year, we have some pretty big goals for our farm - and every year we fail to meet them all.  But, I think it is fair to say that we usually make progress. 

All that said, we thought we would share a little bit about what the Genuine Faux Farm is currently doing to be a "sustainable farm."  First, let us make it clear to you that this is NOT a contest and we do not think we are better than everyone else.  The competition here is between our words and our actions.

We are unveiling a series of three blog posts that will appear throughout the month of May this year that highlight our efforts.  We are splitting it into three parts: the things we have been doing, the things we are planning on doing and the things we don't do.  As odd as it may sound, we're going to start with the last!

Paper mulch - kind of a "do and not do", actually
No plastic mulch for us

A significant number of horticulture farms of any size use rolls of plastic mulch to help control weeds.  In fact, there has been research that has been exploring the colors of plastic mulch that most promote the growth of certain crops.  The Genuine Faux Farm decided a long time ago that it would not use plastic mulch solely on the basis that we had environmental issues with it.  We don't like the idea of throwing all of that plastic into the landfill every season and we don't like the idea of what it may be doing to the soil microbiology around it.

On the other hand, we understand the financial reasons for using plastic mulch.  First, the increasing number of 'wet days' in our region has been making it more difficult every season to cultivate and it has encouraged more weed germination.  From a pure cost standpoint, rolls of plastic mulch are inexpensive and fairly easy to install if you have the equipment (which we do).  There is additional labor in the removal of the plastic and there is extra cost in irrigation.  And, plastic mulch has been shown to do the job of suppressing weeds fairly well.  We see the appeal.

But, sustainable farming has three pillars: environment, community and financial.  Plastic mulch helps with the farm finances.  But, we see hidden (from our bottom line) environmental and community costs that we are unwilling to pay.  So, we say no to the plastic mulch.

We are saying 'yes' to more paper mulch this year.  Paper mulch is permeable, so the rains can get through it and we think it is less likely to cause problems for the microbiology in the soil.  Paper mulch will break down by the end of the season and becomes organic matter in our soil.  And, paper mulch also keeps the weeds down next to our cash crops.  So, in a way, this is a 'not doing' and a 'doing' item for our list.

No pesticides, herbicides, fungicides
This is another choice that we made many years ago and we still stand by it.  We understand why these tools are used, we just disagree with the frequency with which they are used by most growers and agriculturalists.  Overuse of these tools is actually leading to the eventual ineffectiveness of these same tools.  This is incredibly annoying to us because we have found that a well-balanced system tends to take care of the extremes that pesticides were made for most of the time.  Nature does have cycles where things go out of balance, and that's a good time to consider use of the chemicals.  But, we use them as a matter of course and left all thought that goes with a potentially dangerous tool sitting on the shelf.

In the end, we make our contribution in this area by not using these tools at all on our farm.  Are there moments in time when we rue that decision?  Of course.  But, they have gotten rarer and rarer as the years go by.

Not pre-packing CSA shares
We have to first admit that we do some prepping and we do use some plastic for things like green beans and spinach.  But, we try to reduce the amount of single use packaging of any sort as much as we can and still maintain a process that considers food safety, product appearance and product quality. 

Re-using coolers is better than limited use packaging! I, the Sandman, have spoken.
 A common CSA model is to package the share into a box and then drop the box off for the customer.  In some cases, the boxes are re-used, which we applaud.  In our case, we prefer the bulk-style delivery method.   Our customers help us do the right thing here by re-using their own containers.  This is one of those cases where we are asking the community to help us out a little bit.  In return, we feel we are doing something positive for the environment and we are doing something positive for the farm's bottom line.  Pre-packing shares takes a considerable amount of time and labor to do - and labor is a significant portion of any hort farm's expenses.  If you add in re-using boxes, then we have to collect them, unload them and clean them before the next use.

Stay tuned for part II!

Thursday, May 2, 2019

May Newsletter

Never a Dull Moment
In a former life, we tilled, planted and fenced our garden in a single, glorious Saturday.  This wasn't a tiny little garden plot - it was actually a fairly serious bit of garden that was perhaps 900 square feet in size.  At least, I believe that's a reasonably serious garden for growing food for only two people.  In our current life, we're planting nearly every week from April to August. 

In a previous life, taking a wheel off of an old farm cart would have completely stymied me.  In the current life, I was stuck for a while until I realized that "tight to the right and loose to the left" does not apply to the nut that holds the wheels on the cart shown below.  The real difference, actually, was the fact that I knew this might be the case already and it didn't really take all that long to figure it out.

Part of this has to do with the fact that we are naturally curious souls who have a thirst to keep learning and trying to do things.  But, the bigger part has to do with the fact that these two curious souls have a farm to run.  And running a farm means that there is never a dull moment.

Ok, I suppose you can have a dull moment if you purposely ignore the things that need to be done on the farm.  But, I don't think that will count. 

Read on to so you can learn about some of our most recent exploits!

Weather Wythards
The weather is the weather and there isn't a thing we can do about it.  At least that's what I've been told by Mother Nature.  The end of April snow storm wasn't quite as much as the big event it got hyped up to be - yet we still got some decent snow on the farm.  What was surprising to us was how much we still had at the farm the next day and how little points just ten miles South had.

We also had a serious pooof of wind on April 17.  The weather station read it as 49 mph, but there are some obstructions that might impact the reading from that direction.  The various bits of damage on the farm are consistent with 60 mph or so.  We've got some repairs to make on the high tunnel in the picture below, among other things.

April's Report
High Temp: 84
Low Temp: 26
Lowest Windchill: 21
Barometric Pressure Range: 29.33-30.75
Wind: 49* mph from Southwest
Rain: 3.81" and counting at this writing
Snow: about 3"
    * the wind event that got this reading left damage that was consistent with a 60+mph wind gust

Year Report
High Temp: 84
Low Temp: -29
Lowest Windchill: -53
Rain: 5.62"
Wind: 49+ mph from SW
Barometer Range: 29.14 - 30.90
Snow: you know, we lost count.  We'll deal with it.

Veggie Variety of the Month - Bronze Arrowhead
We are featuring Bronze Arrowhead lettuce this month because they were the most successful lettuce in our over-Wintering efforts for 2018-2019.  In fact, nearly HALF of these plants survived a particularly tough Winter in the high tunnel and are now reaching peak size and taste.  While it might seem odd to celebrate a loss of about half of the plants put in last November, you have to realize that we planted twelve different varieties and this was the only one with a survival rate anywhere near that mark.
As I said, it was a rough Winter with temps getting down to -29 a few times.  We typically expect some of the plants to fail, but this group was poised for success - looking fabulous as we entered January.  The plants were in the high tunnel and under cover.  They had sufficient soil moisture and they were exactly the size we wanted them to be for over-Wintering.

But, there is a limit to what even these hardy plants can take - but Bronze Arrowhead was the hardiest of them all.

Like many lettuces that have reddish coloring, Bronze Arrowhead features darker and more prevalent reds when grown in colder weather.  The picture above is actually NOT a recent picture and shows you what they look like in warmer weather.  I guess we need to get the farmer to go take a new picture!

Bronze Arrowhead has been in our Veg Variety of the Year posts multiple times and has shown the ability to grow well in all types of weather.  It has a solid lettuce taste that is quite a contrast to bland iceberg lettuce types and works well in salad mixes or on sandwiches.

Song of the Month
I gave up trying to keep track of our "songs of the month" to make sure we weren't putting out duplicates.  After all - those who read this aren't keeping track are you?  If you are - tell me if this is a duplicate!  

Duplicate or not, Future of Forestry's Homeward Bound has a beautiful lyric and interesting musical arrangement.  We find it to be a comforting song at a time when it is needed.

CSA Openings Abound - And CSA Phase I has Begun!
We still have plenty of space in our CSA program, so we would welcome new and returning members at any point this month.  We could certainly still add people throughout the season, but we'd really rather start with you on board now!

We have entered Phase I of the CSA season where current members are able to use their CSA "credit dollars" to purchase early season veggies.  Things like lettuce, spinach, rhubarb and yummy asparagus!  Scroll down and look at some of our informational posts on the blog!

We're Trying To Reach You
One of the things that has gotten increasingly difficult over the past five years is making contact with people who are interested in our CSA.  We sometimes get an email that we respond to and then never hear from them again.  Every once in a while, we learn that our attempts to respond go into spam folders - but most of the time, we can't tell if it is indifference or failure of our own responses to get through.

Suffice it to say, we ARE trying to reach you.  Please follow through and help us to help you - thank you!

Farm News and Announcements 
There are a whole host of things going on the farm right now - even if the ground is too wet to prep the fields, much less plant in them.  Our house continues to be a construction zone, but we are making progress on the farm house's kitchen.  We are hoping to have the drywall up this weekend - that would be considered a huge accomplishment.

But, the kitchen is not the only 'construction' project going on at the farm.  We're rehabbing what used to be a chicken shelter and then a plant starting building into a new and improved plant starting building.  This version should not require walking bent over at the waist upon entry.  Ya, that was getting really old....

Tammy and Rob have been looking at maintaining honey bees at the farm for several years.  In the past, we've tried to have others house a hive or two at the farm.  The problem with that is that we were often subject to the whims of others when it came to the timing of bee presence on the farm.  This is not to say that it was an all bad thing at all, mind you.  But, Tammy finally took the plunge the rest of the way this year and this will be her 'something new' project for 2019.

Speaking of experiments (were we?), we also have this interesting plant tower.  It is now constructed and has soil in it.  We got it last season and just never found the time to put it together.  We've been asked about vertical gardening techniques by a few people, so we thought we should try this out so we can give better answers.

Other recent developments on the farm - in bullet style for those who just realized they've been reading our blog and the boss is coming towards them:
  • the henlets have been moved from the brooder to the portable hen building - they will stay there until September.
  • the first batch of broilers (the Nuggets) are in the horse trailer until we set up their pasture area.  
  • we are anticipating reading our solar energy proposal from Eagle Point Solar in the next week or so.
  • we have had some excellent volunteer help this Spring for which we have been very grateful, we hope to feature that a bit more in a future post.
  • the onion seedling experiments are going very well so far this Spring.  We hope to put them into the ground as soon as things dry up enough to do so.
  • we had a bad plug in the brooder room that (happily) was not allowed by the circuit breaker to cause any significant damage.  But, it does make us wonder (even more) about the less expensive outlets.
  • we've got a couple of trees that were pushed part way down in the wind and we hope we can straighten them.  Saturated soil made them candidates to be pushed over, but it may also allow us to address the problem.
Happy May everyone!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

2019 CSA and Farm Schedule

Welcome to our 2019 Genuine Faux Farm CSA blog post series!  We are placing these posts out on our blog as a reference to those who have signed up as well as an enticement to those who might be interested in joining us.

Here is the 2019 GFF Farm Share Schedule.  I, the Sandman, have spoken! (yet again)
Our first post in the series is an overview of the program that includes vegetable share options and pricing.  This post is intended to clarify our planned delivery dates.  Each of these dates are anticipated to have vegetables available - but please remember, the season starts slowly and builds as we go.  On the other hand, our farm is typically very good at extending into the Fall. 

Please note, circumstances may cause us to make a change, but we will do our best to communicate those changes as they occur.  Our delivery times will expand as the season goes on.  If you find these times to be difficult to manage, please communicate with us.  Our Event Calendar, is linked on our blog at the right and will get updated as the season progresses.

How the 2019 GFF CSA Works:
Think of the CSA season as having THREE parts:

Part I (April 25 - July 30) - Early season where members can use their credits for ALA Carte vegetable acquisitions for their farm share.  Note: we are willing to add new members at any point.

Part II (August 6 - November 21) - The "high season" for our farm where members will receive a share of produce harvested each delivery date.  There is no need to use the farm credits during this period UNLESS there is something extra you wish to acquire.

Part III (December to mid-January) - Post Thanksgiving where members can continue to use credits as they did in part I.
Our farm is inspected by the Inspector.  In case you wanted to know.
April Dates
  • (PART I - CSA Members may begin to use credits NOW, but new members may still join)
  • April 25 - Cedar Falls at Jorgensen Plaza 5:00-6:00 pm
  • April 30 - Waverly at St Andrew's Church 5:00-6:00 pm
May Dates
  • May 2 - Cedar Falls at Jorgensen Plaza
  • May 7 - Waverly at St Andrew's
  • May 8 - Wartburg Environmental Bio Class at GFF
  • May 9 - Cedar Falls at Jorgensen Plaza
  • May 14 - Waverly at St Andrew's
  • May 16 - Cedar Falls at Jorgensen Plaza
  • May 18 -  Genuine Faux Farm Tour Day - 1:00-4:00 pm
  • May 21 - Waterloo Schools Kindergarteners at GFF
  • May 21 - Waverly at St Andrew's (short delivery time expected)
  • May 23 - Cedar Falls at Jorgensen Plaza
  • May 28 - Waverly at St Andrew's
  • May 30 - Cedar Falls at Jorgensen Plaza
June Dates
  • June 4 - Waverly at St Andrew's
  • June 6 - Cedar Falls at Jorgensen Plaza
  • no deliveries expected week of Jun 10
  • June 18 - Waverly at St Andrew's 
  • June 20 - Cedar Falls at Jorgensen Plaza
  • June 24 - Broiler Batch #1 to "The Park"
  • June 25 - Waverly at St Andrew's
  • June 27 - Cedar Falls at Jorgensen Plaza
  • June 30 - Practical Farmers of Iowa SIP Participants at GFF
July Dates
  • no deliveries week of July 1 (4th of July week)
  • July 9 - Waverly at St Andrew's
  • July 11 - Cedar Falls at Jorgensen Plaza
  • July 16 - Waverly at St Andrew's
  • July 18 - Cedar Falls at Jorgensen Plaza
  • July 25 - Cedar Falls at Jorgensen Plaza
  • July 29 - Broiler Batch #2 to "The Park"
  • July 30 - Waverly at St Andrew's
 August Dates
  • (PART II - traditional style CSA delivery portion of the CSA begins)
  • August 6 - Waverly
  • August 8 - Cedar Falls
  • August 13 - Waverly
  • August 15 - Cedar Falls
  • August 20 - Waverly
  • August 22 - Cedar Falls
  • August 24 - SUMMER FESTIVAL at Genuine Faux Farm
  • August 27 - Waverly
  • August 29 - Cedar Falls
September Dates
  • Sep 3 - Waverly
  • Sep 5 - Cedar Falls
  • Sep 6 - Broiler Batch #3 to "the Park"
  • Sep 10 - Waverly
  • Sep 12 - Cedar Falls
  • Sep 17 - Waverly
  • Sep 19 - Cedar Falls
  • Sep 24 - Waverly
  • Sep 26 - Cedar Falls
 October Dates
  • Oct 1 - Waverly
  • Oct 3 - Cedar Falls
  • Oct 7 - Broiler Batch #4 to "the Park"
  • Oct 8 - Waverly
  • Oct 10 - Cedar Falls
  • Oct 15 - Waverly
  • Oct 17 - Cedar Falls
  • Oct 22 - Waverly
  • Oct 24 - Cedar Falls
  • Oct 28 - Turks to "the Park" and the "Great Turkey Pickup"
  • Oct 29 - Waverly
  • Oct 31 - Cedar Falls
 November Dates
  • Nov 5 - Waverly 
  • Nov 7 - Cedar Falls
  • Nov 12 - Waverly
  • Nov 14 - Cedar Falls
  • Nov 19 - Waverly
  • Nov 21 - Cedar Falls
  • Week of Nov 25 - Thanksgiving
December Dates
  • (Part III - use up those credits!  We will likely still have plenty of produce!)
  • to be announced

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

2019 CSA Overview

We have offered vegetable farm shares (CSA) since 2005 and we will be offering meat poultry shares laster in the year.  The sign up season for 2019 is open now!  We would be honored to be your personal farmers for the growing season.  We have plenty of room for you to join us.

Our blog will feature our CSA for the next several days - so stay tuned.

Why should Rob and Tammy Faux of the Genuine Faux Farm be your personal farmers?

  • Experienced - our farm and CSA has been in operation since 2005 and we actively seek to improve how our farm performs each and every year.
    Sign up! I, the Sandman, have spoken.
  • Responsive - you will see at least one of your farmers at every delivery and we are happy to converse with you about things you would like to see happen with your share and on the farm.
  • Reliable - we grow a wide range of crops and varieties to provide our own version of crop insurance on your behalf.
  • Responsible - we work to keep all three legs of our sustainable farm strong.  We strive to work with nature and we are active in the community - all while maintaining a reasonable bottom line.
  • Accountable - we have maintained organic certification for our vegetable production since 2007 and we are pleased to answer any questions you might have about how we grow.
  • Traceable - 97% of the produce you will receive is grown on our farm northwest of Tripoli, Iowa.  The remaining 3% is clearly labeled so you know who grows your food.  Jeff Sage grows heirloom sweet potatoes for our program.  Jeff also supplements our carrot offerings.  We grow the yellow and striped beets and he grows the red beets.  He also supplements our asparagus in the CSA if needed.
  • Flexible - there are now many ways you can participate.  Take a look and see what fits you best.
  • A Good Buy - in all years except 2012, we have provided our share holders with produce value that exceeds the share price by 20 to 40 percent.
Veggie CSA Options for 2019

Basic Package
includes 16 weeks of our traditional CSA delivery AND $100 of credit to spend on produce during any delivery week starting when produce is available and ending January 15, 2020. (most similar to our previous traditional CSA)
Price: $500

Souped Up Basic Package
make that $200 of credit to spend! (most similar to the Whole Enchilada)Price: $600

Trimmed Back Package
includes 8 weeks of our traditional CSA (every other week) AND $100 of credit to spend as above. (most similar to alternating week CSA)Price: $325

Souped Up But Trimmed Back Package
you might see a pattern here.  The Trimmed Back Package with $200 of credit.Price: $425

Western Homes / Eisenach Package
for our retiree population who might be finding it difficult to go through the produce like they used to includes 16 weeks of a scaled down share AND $100 of credit to spend on produce.Price: $260

Souped Up Western Homes / Eisenach Package
yes, there IS a pattern.  Eisenach special with $200 credit for producePrice: $360

The Details!
Credits are available for produce only.  Poultry products are separate.

Our ala carte deliveries will begin as soon as veggies start coming in (beginning April 25).  You may begin using your credits at this point.  You will have the option to reserve specific produce or wait and see what is available.  You won't have to pull out cash to buy it, we'll just mark the credits down in our book and away you go.  As CSA members you get $110 worth of produce credit for each $100 in credits purchased.

The traditional CSA delivery period will run from the week of August 6 to the week prior to Thanksgiving.  16 weeks.  If you want something extra, you can use your credits to get extra when we have it!  If you run out of credit, we'll let you add on as the season progresses.

Did you prefer the prescribed shares during the Summer?  Don't worry, we've got you covered.  As the produce comes in, we'll offer "package deals" to our CSA members that you can apply your credit towards.  It's the same thing, but you have flexibility for when those credits are used.

How will reserving produce work?  We will start with email reservation and eventually move to an online form that should be easy to access and use.  It will work much as our egg email reservations have worked in the past.  We will guarantee to have what is reserved and we will have the goal of bringing extra for walk-up purchases as well.

You can certainly share any of these packages with another person or family unit.  We ask that YOU figure out how you will split your share and we also ask that you give us contact information for all participants so we can make sure everyone gets farm announcements and is invited to farm activities such as the Summer Festival!

Pick Up Locations
Waverly:   St Andrew's Church parking lot on Tuesdays from 4:00-6:00pm.
Cedar Falls: Jorgensen Plaza in Cedar Falls, Thursdays, 4:00-6:00pm.
Tripoli: at the farm on Wednesdays or drop off at your location Tuesdays - depending upon arrangement.

How Do I Sign Up?
Send us an email at gff@genuinefauxfarm.com and tell us which share type you want and which delivery location you would prefer.

Want to Know More?
We welcome any questions you may have, please send them to our email address shown above.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

A Dollar Short

Welcome to our "Dollar Short" blog post that is clearly a day late.  Before we say anything else, Hobnob, one of our Indoor Farm Supervisors, would like to have a word with you.

A rare Hobnob appearance in the blog.
Hobnob would like to point out that all the humans out there are improperly using throw rugs in their homes.  THIS is how a throw rug should be placed and arranged.  See, even our blog gets delayed by ads... in this case, it is a public service announcement.  Perhaps we can be forgiven for that?

Farmers Considering Hydroponic Chickens in 2019

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.  When Mother Nature gives you excess moisture,  you consider altering your production techniques to fit what is given to you.  We've been noticing that both hydroponics and aquaponics have gotten a great deal of attention lately.  In fact, it has gotten to the point that 'x-ponics' are down-right trendy.

Well, just like TV shows and movies, once someone comes up with what looks like a new idea and others decide it could be a good thing to do, everyone else copies the basic premise and dresses it up differently.  So, of course, we have noticed all sorts of off-shoots from the basic hydroponics idea.  A fairly recent development has been the 'hydroponic poultry system' that has been getting significant attention in poultry productions states that dealt with excess rain in 2018.  Apparently, poultry producers were noticing that flood waters broke into feed bins and mixed the feed into the water.  The birds were quite adept at finding the food and water mix, stationing themselves on perches that allowed them to dip their beaks into the water and getting everything they need nutritionally at one time.  The other positive was that their droppings could be moved away by flowing water, which meant the farmer did not have to clean out a coup.

Apparently, the new system features a recycled water system with a series of perches placed at the water surface.  Automatic feed distribution systems place a nutrient-rich feed mix on the 'supply end' of the 'pond' and filters on the other end collect the 'back-end product' (yes, that would be poo) which can be composted and used for fertility in fields.

We thought we'd skip the perches and get the birds inflatable life rafts.  Or maybe we would just do ducks...

Rhetorical Farm Cart

If a 'rhetorical question' does not require an answer, then it makes sense that a rhetorical farm cart does not need to carry any payload.  Sometimes, it is all about the existence of the item and the point it is trying to make - at least that's what we've been told.   We purchased this new cart at an auction recently for $15.  Why did we buy it?  Well, we were running short on cash and needed an influx of money somehow...

Now, hear us out on this.  Usually, a little cart like this, in good shape, with good tires, would cost a minimum of $100.  Heck, we've seen a pile of tires go for $15.  In fact, we've seen another running gear without a deck with similar characteristics go for a couple hundred dollars.  At the very least, we figure we saved $50 on this rhetorical farm cart.  So, technically, we are in the positive by $50 or more.  We're still working out why the balance in the checking account went DOWN however.

Volunteers Defeat Invasive Plants on the Farm

Invasive species are a problem in nature, but human tendency towards cultivation and other modifications of the landscape actually increases the odds that invasive species can take hold in every environment.  Our farm is not immune to the problem.  We have had a number of "Rogue Sunflowers" popping up through the snow drifts in March.  Happily, we often have service trip groups from Wartburg come out the farm each year and this year's task was Rogue Sunflower removal.  Nice job ladies!

Straight Line Genetics

We have been working on breeding vegetable crops that have a 'straight-line' trait to help us control competing weeds.  Anyone who farms agrees that rows and seed beds that run in parallel lines are much easier to cultivate AND it makes it possible to run drip line for irrigation.  Can you imagine running drip line for rows that look more like a snake than a ruler?

Plants with the new 'straight-line' trait operate a bit like some of the Computer-Assisted Design software products.  Plants "snap to grid" and correct their position within the established row, making up for human fallibility when it comes to planting.  We are noticing that the genetics have had a tendency to drift away from the target plants, however.  Did I mention that the Rogue Sunflowers seemed to be in a straight line?  Hm.

There is one obvious issue with the seeds from this new breeding program - we have to be careful how we orient the seed when we plant it in the ground.  If they get turned in the seeder, the plants won't be able to agree on WHERE the row is supposed to be.  Needless to say, we're working on a seeder to make sure each seed goes into the ground in such a way that all of them understand where the row is supposed to be.

Now, if we can get the weeds to grow in straight lines, that might a good thing too - as long as they don't choose the same line as our crops.

Tiny House For Felines

You probably have noticed the 'tiny house' concept for humans - well, here is the next new thing for pets - the litter bucket tiny home!  We read about cat lovers in a Chicago suburb placing litter buckets in the alleys and other locations where feral cats tend to be found.  After all, those poor critters suffer in the elements too!

There have apparently been a few issues with this approach that have yet to be addressed.  We have addressed one of them with Soup's personal 'tiny home' on the farm.  You see, most of the buckets in Chicago were put out with the lids on.  People were forgetting that cats do NOT have opposable thumbs and opening a lid is not likely to be easy for them.  When asked about this, one person said they were worried that the open side would result in the cat getting wet in a driving rainstorm, so they wanted to leave the lid there as a 'door' that the cat could shut.

Our solution allows the cat to get in and out just fine.  We figure if there is a driving rain coming in the opening, the cat can jump out quick and spin the bucket around in another direction.

There were several other problems noted with these tiny homes, but we'll let you figure out that bucket list on your own.

Some Assembly Required

Used kitchen for sale - some assembly required.
Figured It Out Yet?
We're always a 'day late and a dollar short' for our April Fool's posts.  So, if you hadn't figured it out by now - this is your official notice!  We hope you enjoyed it.

If you'd like to see prior year installments, here they are!
2018 April Fool Post
2017 April Fool Post
2016 April Fool Post
2015 April Fool Post
2014 April Fool Post
2013 April Fool Post
2012 April Fool Post

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Old Man Winter

The old man looked at me through cracked, ice-rimmed glasses and wheezed, "I ain't done yet, or my name ain't Winter."

We wrote this and posted it on our Facebook page on March 9 along with a picture of Valhalla (our 'newer' high tunnel) and lots of snow.  With some seasonal temperatures, we have seen a significant reduction in the snow pack at our farm since then.  But, we still have some snow where the largest drifts collected this year.

It doesn't look like much in this picture, but trust me, there's lots of snow there.
The most significant drifting was along the North bush line on our farm.  I took a walk out there with a camera on March 26 (Tuesday) wondering if I got out there a bit late to record exactly how tall the drifts got out there.  While it is true that they had gone down a fair bit, there was plenty of snow mass out there.

I decided to climb up onto the drift, figuring it would do a bit more to illustrate how tall they were.  The snow was well-packed, so I wasn't worried about sinking in.  But, I was in for a treat in new perspectives on our farm.

You might need a little bit of information to fully appreciate what you are seeing in these pictures.  The bush line at the left consists of Wild Plum and Highbush Cranberry.  The bush line towards the back of the picture is Ninebark.  All of these were planted in 2006 and are well-established by now.  At a guess, the Ninebark are 8-10 feet tall.  The Wild Plum are probably 15-20 feet tall and the Highbush Cranberries...

Well, you can't see most of them here.  Because they are mostly under the snow.  And, they are easily as tall or taller than the Ninebark.  Huh.

As I walked down the drift to the East, I found many Highbush Cranberry bushes sticking out of the drift, bent over by the weight of the snow.  A few have finally been released and were slowly snapping back to a mostly vertical orientation.

Yep, these were some serious drifts.  Ok, they still ARE serious drifts.  

I turned around for a few pictures facing West and found that I was being escorted by the Inspector and Soup.  It is early Spring and they are both hungry for more human time than they've been getting for much of the Winter.  They will soon get their fill of us and will go back to mostly ignoring us when we're outside, as cats are wont to do.

This picture doesn't really give you an idea of how tall the drifts are.  In fact, if you do not know what you are seeing, you might be tempted to say that the bushes are only four to five feet tall and the ground is not so far down from our perch.  So, I made sure to get some other pictures that might give you more of an idea as to what is going on here.

Yeah.  My head was higher than the top of the high tunnel.
I mentioned a new perspective?  Well, here it is.  A view from a location that lets me see the top of our high tunnel.  This is NOT a normal occurrence.  I mean - yes, we have drifts out here every year.  And, yes, they often get quite sizable.  But, this year was truly exceptional.  Remember, this drift has been melting down for a while.  After all, you can see there is plenty of bare ground out there.
The oddest feeling was looking DOWN on the Ninebark hedge to the East.  This is also not my normal perspective as it pertains to life on the farm.   We are also not entirely used to seeing the bushes at the right buried entirely by the snow.
So, for those of you who are thinking Old Man Winter is done for the season.  He's still holding on.  But his grip is getting a bit more tenuous. 

Except where the drifts live at the Genuine Faux Farm.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Ghosts of Harvests Past and Future

A spinach crop from a few years back. Mmmmmm!
The month of March is often when we start to dream just a bit harder about the crops we hope to have success with in the coming year.  It's too early to harvest now - especially when we had a rougher Winter that did terminate the majority of our high tunnel crops we were attempting to over-Winter.  Nope, the rosemary did not make it this time around.  We might have somewhere from 50 to 80 lettuce plants remaining of the 1000 or so we planted late last Fall to over-Winter.  The spinach we seeded late last Fall is just now germinating and the tatsoi and komatsuna have poked a few scout seedlings out of the ground.

But, we have pictures of prior year harvests that show us what we could be looking at again as we progress through the growing season.

We're getting the onions and some of the earlier greens planted into trays right now.  Soon, the trays are going to expand so that they will require much more space than they are taking now.  We can tell you that once you get a whole bunch of trays that look good like the ones at the left, it can bring about a whole lot of optimism for their future!

If you look at this picture carefully, you'll see there is plenty of green grass and green leaves in the background.  So, clearly, this picture is later in the season (probably May).  That might seem oh so far away to you if you are getting anxious to see warmer weather.  But, believe us when we tell you - this is NOT so far away.  This is especially true for those of us who are growers.  It is amazing how quickly you can go from 'being on schedule' to 'being hopelessly behind.'

One of the earlier long season crops that comes out of the ground is the garlic.  We call them a long season crop because we actually plant them the prior Fall and then harvest in mid-July.  In fact, we usually harvest the scapes starting in early June.

The big deal about harvesting garlic is that it is one of those crops where you go from having lots of plants in the ground to having empty beds after harvest.  The visual change can be jarring, to say the least.  After all, we usually have been seeing green in those beds since April and there was straw mulch indicating where we planted the garlic since late October or early November.

Normally, the garlic harvest is a full day with four to five people working on the project.  We pull the garlic plants and stack the good heads in bundles of 25.  The questionable heads go into separate piles.  Once the field is cleared of garlic plants, they are brought in to be bundled and hung in one of our buildings to be cured.  We then clean the beds up that the garlic was planted in so we can put in a cover crop or late flowers of some sort.  It's a very busy day, but the satisfaction levels at the end are usually very high at the farm.

The early cucumbers usually appear in early July.  We could push the season a bit earlier if we spent some high tunnel space on them.  But, frankly, the demand isn't what it needs to be for us to do that.  And, usually our field cucumbers over-produce for what we typically need.  The good news about cucumber over-production?  The chickens and turkeys LIKE cucumbers and the farmers and farm-workers enjoy throwing some of the culls and excess to the birds.  So, here's to another year where we get as much as we need out of our cucumber crop and then some!

The White Wing onions start sizing up in July and we can start pulling them for our CSA and other customers as that month progresses.  The yellow and red onions won't normally be ready for us until mid to late August (and sometimes later depending on planting dates), so we ride the white onions for quite a while.  Frankly, this is not a hardship since the white onions have a nice, mildly sweet flavor.  The size of these onions can vary a fair amount, but that seems to fit our customers well enough.

Oh... wait.  We don't grow THOSE do we?
The zucchini get going - sometimes as early as late June.  Rob kind of likes the zucchini harvest because you usually have some level of reward every time you go out to pick.  Along with the cucumbers, zucchini and summer squash provide a little 'bulk' to the produce that is usually dominated by lettuce and other leafy veggies up to this point.  We also tend to see zucchini as a sign that 'grilling season' is truly begun!

We often see cucumbers, green beans and zucchini as the harbingers of Summer.  But, most people probably equate a nice red tomato with the warmer months of the year.  We certainly will not argue if you tell us you enjoy a nice, vine ripened heirloom tomato from our farm in the month of August.  After all, WE like a nice, vine ripened heirloom tomato from our farm in August as well.  We hereby designate that period of time as Sandwich Season because sandwiches become so much more interesting (and tasty) when you add heirloom lettuce, tomatoes, peppers to whatever else you like between two pieces of bread.  Lunches never tasted so good.

As you get deeper into the year, the melons and watermelons make their appearance (usually August into September).  We celebrate by digging into the first Minnesota Midget out of one of our high tunnels.  Sorry folks, this is one of those times where we do NOT let our customers get the first pick.  That first ripe melon is OURS.  But, never fear, there are usually a few dozen more right behind that first harvest.  So, usually, we only get a sneak peak by a day or two.

Sadly, the watermelon harvests are much less reliable than some crops on our farm.  But, when they are good, they are very good and we have plenty of photographic evidence that successful watermelon crops are not foreign to our farm.  Typically, the issue has to do with priorities.  Watermelons take up more space than many crops, so we don't plant as many of them as we might like.  The other issue is that the more valuable (to us) crops get priority when it comes to farm labor.  If conditions prevent us from getting everything done, it is the watermelons that often lose out.

So, if you want to have a measurement for how well your farmers are staying on top of things at the farm - look at how many watermelons show up when deliveries are made.  Our best watermelon year was 2012, which was the year we also harvested a nice batch of sweet corn.  That was also the season that we had a spray plane fly over the Western half of our farm - so maybe that isn't such a good measurement?  Oh well.

Many think of winter squash as the end of the season, but that misses all of the late root crops and greens that are still growing even into November (and sometimes later).  The farmers, however, find hayracks covered with squash to be highly rewarding.  Squash harvest has some similarities to the garlic harvest in that we typically pull all of the quality fruit at one time.  The difference is that we usually don't clean out the vines at the same time.

Here's to a good growing season where we can make the photo records of the past be recreated once again.  And, if we're lucky, perhaps we can replace many of these pictures with new ones!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Not Any More

I was asked for a couple of particular photos by one person, then I was asked for a photo that depicted something else by another.  You know how this thing goes - we all INTEND to organize all of our electronic (and physical) photos so we can find what we want quickly - but it never happens.

There is a benefit to that problem.  When you go looking for one thing, you get to enjoy seeing other things that you have not seen for a while.  I found myself saying things like, "Wow, it's been a while since..."  and "We don't do that anymore.."   Needless to say, that got my brain to consider the idea of a blog post.  So here we are!

Boule d'Or melons
The Genuine Faux Farm has long been known for trying to grow a wide variety of produce, with many of the cultivars being heirloom or open-pollinated.  The upside of being willing to go with these types of things is that we avoid directly competing with other food outlets.  The downsides?  Well, if you don't grow what people know, they don't usually want it.... so you have to convince them to want it.  And, of course, you're not going to have success with many of the varieties you try.

As I scrolled through the pictures, I recognized a wide range of produce pictures that showed varieties of years past that we have found ourselves no longer growing for a host of reasons.  Not productive enough.  Didn't taste as good as we thought it should.  Too big.  Too small.  Doesn't like wet years.  Seed no longer available.  We had too many with similar characteristics.  Etc etc.  While Tammy and I will remember most of those varieties, we wonder if any one else would.  Who remembers Boule d'Or melons from our farm?

Gone, but not forgotten.
Was it really Fall of 2012 when we had two small, four-legged critters join our farm and encourage bowling for kittens when the snow finally fell?  Yes, Mrranda and the Sandman were pretty darned cute and they knew it.  After a few good years of 'farmer surfing,' being 'cooler than us,' helping to roll up electric fences and imparting wisdom, both of these fine felines moved on to wherever cats go when they die.  In the picture above, they were both interested in helping us paint the side of this building.  The Sandman already had this coloring, so it didn't show so much.  But, Mrranda did have a little spot on here that was not her natural coloring.

I know we had these set up there at one time, but...
Perhaps one of the oddest things to see are pictures of things when our traffic patterns on the farm were EXTREMELY different than they are now.  There was a time when all of our plant starts surrounded the garage and the truck barn.  I know we had things set up this way and I know it worked well enough.  But, it just doesn't seem right anymore....

Where on the farm was this?
 Ok, I KNOW where it is, but I can barely recognize it.  So, this is a photo for those days when we feel like we are marking no progress on our farm.  Some of the changes include permanent fencing for the hen pasture, multiple trees and bushes that would now be visible in this area and a couple of compost piles. 

We do still use the electric netting for the birds, but both of the portable buildings you see here are no longer in service for poultry.  The white building on the back finally fell apart and the metal frame in the front is being adapted to another purpose.
Can you list the things that have changed here?
 Perhaps you can't, but I can.  First, the garage is now that nice wheat color you saw in the other picture.  The cleaning station is no longer in this area.  We don't use that type of container anymore for cleaning.  The blue in the background at left is our previous truck and the barn was still in use and actually has siding and a working door.

How long ago was this?  Surely it was AGES ago?  How about 2011?  Seven and one half years ago.  Enough time for a lot of change apparently.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Why Say "Thank You?"

I am guessing many people who read this blog come from families where writing "Thank You" notes was something parents pushed children to do after someone gave a gift or did something particularly nice.  Yes, I wrote notes after graduation in response to gifts and/or attendance at the traditional gathering.  Yes, we wrote notes to everyone who was kind enough to provide any sort of evidence that they attended our wedding.  And, yes, we try to remember to send notes even now.  But, like so many other people - it doesn't always make the top of a long "to do" list.  Does it count if we feel really guilty about it when we fail to do what we mean to do?
Do chickens say 'thank you?'

It's also fairly common, I think, for families to train their children to be polite and say "thank you."  Sometimes, the "thank you" you get from a child who is being prompted can be less than genuine - but that's part of the learning process and you take it as it comes.  The hope is that eventually each person will learn to show gratitude to others and actually mean it.  Both Tammy and I are very well trained - at least I think we are. 

Our chickens, on the other hand, rarely show gratitude - unless you think laying an egg is the same as giving thanks.  I know we are grateful for the eggs and we DO say 'thank you' to the birds on a regular basis (believe it or not).  And, yes, we do mean it.

But, this got me to thinking (a dangerous pastime).  What, exactly is the purpose of showing evidence of gratitude to others?  Is it only because we want to be polite?  I took note of it recently at a small, local restaurant as we had dinner (have a mentioned that our kitchen is still in destruction mode?).  The server took our orders and brought drinks - so we thanked her for that.  She arrived with our food and we thanked her again.  She checked on us to see if everything was alright and our reply was "yes, thank you."  Would we like more to drink?  "No, thank you."  I think you get the picture.

Did we mean something when we said those two words?  I think I can speak for both of us when I say that we did, in fact, mean to express gratitude for this person's service and appropriate (but not overbearing) attentiveness.  We also said 'thanks' with a tip, but that might be beside the point I am trying to make.

On the other side of things, I realize that I, in particular, am less comfortable receiving thanks from others.  I will certainly do what I should to be gracious and polite.  But, I do tend to deflect it when I receive it.  On the other hand, when I do not receive a 'thank you' in certain situations, I feel its lack.  If I am slightly uncomfortable with praise or gratitude, shouldn't I be relieved of the responsibility for dealing with it when it is not offered?

Upon reflection, I guess I see a thank you as a combination of gratitude and recognition.  When I say 'recognition' I don't mean it in the sense that it is a 'reward.'  Instead, it is simply an acknowledgement that something was done or received and the recipient is aware that it was done.  If you don't get the 'thank you,' you find yourself wondering if  the other person ever got that gift, or that report... or whatever it was.

I am now coming to the conclusion that the chickens may, in fact, say 'thank you,' but I'm not sure if there is an element of gratitude.  It's more of a "yep, got it" response rather than a "oh, it was so nice of you to do that/bring that" reply.  If we give them new straw, they love to kick it around and they do make interested noises.  And, they don't wait to do it.  "Yep, we got this!  New straw to kick around and explore."  They respond rapidly to the presentation of food or scraps as well.  However, we're pretty certain the resulting frenzy is not actually directed at us to reflect thanks or provide an indication that they recognize that we brought it to them.  It's more of a "let me eat this before that other hen eats it" kind of thing.

Now I am hopeful that we, as humans, can do more than the 'thank you' as acknowledgement - unless we think it might be easier to lay an egg.  Given the contortions I've seen some people go through before they offer gratitude, it might require about as much straining and effort to say 'thank you' as it does for a chicken to lay an egg.

So, human, get to the point already.  I, the Sandman, have spoken!
As I wrote this, I found myself wondering if I have neglected offering some 'thank you's' and figure that it is most likely that I have.  So, if I have failed to provide you evidence of my gratitude - please accept my apologies.  And, if you hadn't really noticed, let me thank you anyway!

Thank you for reading this blog and giving useful feedback.
Thank you for supporting our farm and the things we try to do.
Thank you for being willing to consider things that could be done to make this world a better place and then actually acting on them.
Thank you for kind words.
Thank you for shared ideas.
Thank you for doing your best at your job.
Thank you for caring enough to try to do the right thing - whatever that might be - and then thank you for thinking hard about what the right thing is - and THEN - thank you for reconsidering what is right when you find yourself getting too certain that you know it all.
And thank you for being patient when I fail.  I do appreciate the hand up and I'll do what I can to acknowledge it...

with gratitude.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Reasons for Optimism

I had a conversation this Winter with an individual who was very aware of our weather struggles last year and is also aware that changes will likely result in difficult conditions on a fairly frequent basis in the future.  After some discussion, they asked me, "So what makes you think this coming year will be any different from last year for you?"

The easy first answer is that we have to believe this coming growing season WILL be different than the last.  Otherwise, what would be the point of even trying?  Even if the weather gives us a similar level of challenge to last season, our farm WILL change how it does things in an effort to persevere regardless of those conditions.

In other words, if we focus on what we can control, rather than the things we cannot, there should be plenty of reason to be optimistic for the 2019 growing season.  Now that I have your interest, shall I give you some examples?

Vince Knows His Place
A full season with a tool that responds to a bottle neck in our labor stream.  That alone should be enough to provide a reason for optimism.  The power harrow (which we have named Vince) will be with us the entire season and that alone is reason for some celebration.

Our windows for soil preparation have always been on the smaller side, but they have gotten smaller over the past several years.  Vince gets rid of some extra steps and actually will result in less tillage (which is better for healthier soil) despite the fact that it is a bit of a beast.  In the past, we have found ourselves using a combination of tools to prepare beds for planting.  The tool depended on the crop, the location, the soil conditions and a few other variables.  In the end, while we didn't want to, we often found ourselves over-using Barty with his roto-tiller attachment.  That's not great for the soil, but if you get backed into a corner, you sometimes find yourself doing the less than optimal thing.

Here we are with the very first FULL growing season with Vince at the farm.  We have enough experience to now know how he works and what he is best at.  Knowing your tools and feeling confident about how best to use them is one good reason to feel some optimism.

Happier Plantlings
Last year featured a disastrous foray into a soil starting medium that caused us no end of problems.  The medium itself was probably fine in other circumstances, but it did not fit our operational procedures at all well.  The net result was that we had some poor quality plant starts for some of our key crops.  The onions, for example, just didn't put on bulk.  In fact, very few of the onions we started made it to harvest.  But, we were lucky enough to be able to pick up extras from our friends at Grinnell Heritage Farm last Spring.

The photo at left shows one of our onion beds just after it was weeded by our flex tine weeder.  The bed looks pretty clean and the plants look fine, even after they got beat up by the weeder.  We had a decent onion crop - even if we had half of the plants we were planning on putting in.  Many did not store as well as they normally did because of the late, wet conditions.  But, we still had high quality onions in reasonable numbers.  If this years starts are anywhere near our normal quality and conditions are the same or better than they were last season, those onions are going to be great!

Yes, I know it is dangerous to count chickens before they hatch, onion starts before they germinate and season results in March.  But, this blog post IS titled "Reasons for Optimism."  We need some optimism so we can get into this year with a good will to make our hopes reality.  This does not mean we fully expect everything to go exactly as we planned, nor does it mean our mental pictures of success will align perfectly with the reality that will be the 2019 growing season.  It would be foolish to expect the Winter time mental picture of perfection to be a daily reality for us in June (or pick a month).  We are realistic enough to have a picture of 'reasonable success' that resides super-imposed over both the 'perfect success' and 'imminent failure' that are in our mental files.

Raised (Bed) Expectations
There are other techniques we have used in the past that have had some success to combat very wet weather and we expect to use them even more going foward.

Last season, we raised the planting area for more of our crops than ever before.  However, if you will recall, we mentioned that planting bed preparation has been a labor bottleneck that we needed to address.  That leaves us in a bit of a quandry.  Many of our crops survived the wet simply because we DID raise the planting area.  So, you could argue that we're adding time back onto that bottleneck and we won't have made any real progress.

Well, argue all you want.  We're still going to raise all of the beds on our farm for next years crops.  You could argue some of our shorter season crops might not need it, but we can't predict when (or if) we will get excess rains that could cause us problems.  Heavy rain events are not just for Spring anymore, so we need to be prepared with all of our annual crops.  The great news is that Vince can help us with this by preparing the soil a bit more evenly for hilling.  And, our other processes have been adapted fairly well to these raised planting areas.  It should work out just fine!

Keeping Up With the Weeds
The last couple of wet seasons have shown us that we cannot keep up with the weeds with things the way we are.  We've got good cultivation tools now and we know how to use them.  But, if it stays too wet to use them, the weeds don't wait for you to cultivate.

We've been trying paper mulch (Weedguard Plus) at some level or another for several seasons now.  The product has shown marked improvement and we are getting better with adapting our systems to the use of paper mulch.

Last year, we focused on paper mulch in the field tomatoes and were were duly impressed with the results.  We have used straw mulch every season prior to this and found the amount of labor to be significantly less with the paper mulch.  In fact, our workers generally do not care for spreading the straw anyway, so they aren't crying about this change.

This season, we expect to go back to paper mulch in the vine crops since that was our Achilles last year when it came to keeping crops clean.  The tomatoes will get the same treatment as last year and the peppers will likely join them.  This is not to say that paper mulch solves all of the weed problems, nor is it without risks.  But, we think this is one of the correct responses we can provide that will result in a better season.

Better Blooms
There will be flowers.  Lots of them.

There will be zinnias.
There will be borage.
There will be sunflowers.
There will be marigolds.
There will be nasturtium.
There will be 4 O'Clocks.
There will be calendula.
There will be alyssum.
Lots and lots and lots of flowers.

How can you not have some optimism when you see flowers in your future?  Even last year, there were flowers.  Perhaps they weren't what we were hoping for when the season started, but they were present.  The zinnias bloomed until it got so wet that they drowned.  But, this year, they will be in raised beds.  That should help them.

And, our reasons for optimism are often linked.  If we increase the number of vegetable rows with paper mulch in them, there will be more time to keep the flowers weeded.  Yes, there is still a great deal of work involved, but we are talking about reasons for optimism, not reasons to ignore reality. 

When the Lettuce Was Good It Was Really Good
It felt like everything was a failure at times during the 2018 season.  But, that is actually a long ways from the truth.

Our CSA customers had a pretty good season until we got to the end of October.  We had to pull back from several potential sales to make sure they had product, but that's not the point.  The point is - we had some pretty darned nice produce last year.  It just wasn't what we wanted or needed.

The point here is that we still produced some quality veggies in a year that was among our most difficult.  If I can show you pictures like the one to the left from a year we both feel was a tremendous struggle, then imagine what a year with adjustments (and hopefully less weather extremes) could provide!

Another example of success in a difficult season would be the poultry.  The turkeys and broiler chickens were good sized and high quality all season long.  Other than our first broiler batch, we did not lose very many young birds.  Our laying hens continued to lay consistently all year long despite poor pasture conditions starting in September and cold weather this Winter. 

Despite 2018 being what it was, the Genuine Faux Farm produced some quality food for some wonderful people.  Now, the Genuine Faux Farm farmers have ideas about how to address some of the biggest issues that raised their heads during a difficult year.  They have more tools, even more experience and energy to make it happen.

Will some things go wrong?  Of course they will.  But, we intend on making MORE things go right.

Here's to a positive attitude going in to the 2019 growing season!