Farming Never Stops

The days are getting longer but our time is getting shorter. Spring came full blown at the beginning of April with a combination of (some) sunshine, variable temperatures that kept us up worrying at night, and of course, rain. This has been the rainiest April that we’ve seen here which has been a mixed blessing and curse. On the one hand we haven’t had to mess with irrigation which typically is a small headache. Adversely, spring has been cooler and our crops are growing slower and having to compete harder with weeds. We’ve got a few things working with us through the cold, wet weather. First, we had no flooding when the fields melted- the soil just absorbed water like sponge. Second, we have about three times as much covered growing space this season because of our caterpillar tunnels.

Food that has emerged and is emerging is coming up nicely and they are all happy sprouts. We’ve seen some impressive germination and growth from some of our cold-hardy greens like baby Red Russian kale and our infamous arugula. The first round of brassicas are in the ground and will be ready in the blink of an eye (figuratively). This season we decided to grow some fun brassicas like collard greens and one of our personal favorites- brussels sprouts! I know that I can’t wait to steam some collard greens and make summer veggie wraps. 

With all the excitement of growth and spring, there is the emergence of weeds. In organic systems, it can be hard to maintain some perennial weeds. As agriculturists it is our duty to combat weeds in the most environmentally sound and efficient manner to deter future growth. The farm has two aggressive perennial weeds: Canadian Thistle and quack grass. The two have intricate networks of roots sub surface that spread freely and happily especially in the right conditions. Each year we heavily weed the first 10’ of our 100’ rows of crops because the quack grass creeps about that far into our planted zones. Removing quack is not a joyful or easy task. It’s important that you get as much of the tangled rope-like root as possible, which may be a foot below the soil surface. Our best approach is using digging forks and pulling the roots out by hand. Thistle is ubiquitous here and we just get as much of the root as possible without disrupting plants and try to never let it go to seed which is easy to say in April but harder to say in August with the seasons business increasing each month.

A few more projects are in the work to be completed before CSA begins but we are anxious with anticipation for week one! The countdown is on and we are in the single digits. Our farm share program starts on Monday, May 8th this season- just before our first Kalispell Farmers Market on Saturday, May 6th. Our Saturday pickup farmily members will pick up this weekend at the first market! We are still accepting CSAs for the 2017 season and can’t wait to grow food for our wonderful farmily and our community. Come visit us this summer at the Kalispell Farmers Market on Saturdays and at the Whitefish Farmers Market on Tuesdays. 

 

Happy Growing,

Cassady, Nathan, & Willa

Some Snow Remains

We wanted to start off by thanking everyone who got out to participate at Free the Seeds. It is amazing to be a part of the community connection with food. Whether you’re growing food in a garden or supporting local farmers, you are supporting a better food system in our valley. 

After a long streak of snow storms, we are finally feeling spring vibes budding at the farm. There are birds chirping harmoniously and even that one bird who's song sounds like “cheeeesee-burrger” has been playing its tune. In the valley, the blanket of snow is slowly being pulled back to reveal a new chapter in the book of the seasons. Anticipation of luscious vegetation made with love for you is in each inhalation. 

We’ve got many seedlings popping up in our cozy make-shift greenhouse. Can you imagine being a seed? Sitting in dormancy with stored up energy that is released once water reaches the seed. It imbibes water, ruptures, and releases energy to push a small sprout to the surface before it gets some reprieve from the process of photosynthesis for further growth… It’s amazing that seeds can do this!

Every time we look into our greenhouse space more green has emerged. This spring has been slow to come but we are finally seeing progress and getting ready to start our high tunnel operation. With winter lingering longer then the past few years, we’ve gotten anxious to get planting for our CSA. With the longer days, more is accomplished on the farm. Our barn has all three sides completed and we are getting our processing station and walk-in-cooler ready to go. 

Last weekend, Nathan went to a workshop in Missoula for farm law and brought back useful information for us to consider in our ownership of the farm. We’ve also had our official training with a program called “Care Farming” where we will be hosting 1-3 disabled or troubled youth to work on the farm once a week. Our decision to participate was based on the belief that farms can be a relaxing environment as well a giving people a sense of purpose. 

In the coming months, we will be working hard to bring you, our community, the best food that we can offer… and we couldn’t be more excited!!!

Warming Up for Summer!

“One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it brings.” 

― W.E. Johns

 

Happy February!

With more and more daylight coming our way, spirits are beginning to rise here at Raven Ridge. We’ve started to see some snow melting, making us anxious to get into the field. Every day brings about some change in the farming world. In the summer we may be more aware because our lives are directly linked to the field and task at hand. This past month we’ve been excited about seed orders and infrastructure improvements. 

Here’s what else we’re excited about: 

Somers Middle School Career Day February 17, 2017. Nathan presented to the middle schoolers about farming and how we got into farming. We had some AWSOME thank you cards and some intrigued future farmers!

Free the Seeds on March 4th, 2017! We will have a booth with pictures and information about our farm and CSA program- if you have friends that you’re trying to convince to get a CSA share or you are interested, this is a great event for you. Details about the event: http://freetheseedsmt.com/

CSA Early Bird Signup!!! Get your share before March 1st, 2017 to get a discounted rate. After that, prices raise to $600 for a full share and $350 for a half share… Get the deals while they last! Tell your friends too!

On another note...

We are investing in ourselves as farmers. Right now, without doing the act of farming, it can become difficult to make these investments. One of the fundamental values that we believe in and practice is to farm smarter, not harder. Farming is labor and time intensive. You have to have drive and self motivation to be successful. That being said, in the community of small scale agriculture, there are new ways to farm “smarter” being developed and shared. 

This season we are implementing some of those techniques. Here is a short update on our changes that we are excited about!

Walk-in-cooler… We are so excited to be able to offer not only the highest quality product that we can create but the most fresh! This also means that we can grow more food to store, therefore providing our happy farm-ily with winter delights of storage crops (beets, carrots, onions, potatoes, winter squash). 

Processing facility… With the intention to produce more food this season, we realized that we want to be able to have the proper infrastructure to accommodate our scale-up. The new barn will contribute to the flow of the farm with food from the field coming in the south (or far) side and going into your hands on the north (or closer) side. There is more space and which will allow for more organization!

Harvesting containers… With the walk-in-cooler we need to maximize space. Having containers that systematically stack while full of delicious food AND nestle away when being stored is a huge advantage to our operation from the previous years. *The new containers can either “nest” or “stack” which we think is pretty fantastic. 

Caterpillar tunnels… These are similar to the smaller “hoop houses” that you have seen around the field in the past, but they are so much more than that! They are more structurally sound with metal framing rather than PVC hoops. Instead of burying the plastic, which involves digging a trench and reburying it, we drape the plastic over the hoops and tighten with a rope Plus, these are almost double the length of the previous hoop houses we’ve used… If you like peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, or any of the other heat loving crops we grow YOU will be especially excited about this!

Flame weeder… Some of you may know this, others may not but we have a tremendous amount of weed pressure here at the farm. Since the land has been grown organically for 20+ years there is a lot of weed seed that has been spread. The flame weeder will aide us in killing weeds in the beds before planting and before the seeds have germinated. This minimizes our time hand weeding so that we can spend more time growing food to feed our wonderful families!

Silage tarps… This goes along with the flame weeder as part of our weed control. We plan to have a system of laying tarps over sections of the field prior to planting. This heats our soil and kills weeds that try to germinate. Before planting we remove the tarps, shape our beds, and flame weed- all so that our desired seeds have the best fighting chance to grow. 

Greens harvester… We know that greens are always desired but our past practices are extremely time consuming. We will be experimenting with the greens harvester to get our customers more of what you want. 

Nathan's truck loaded down today from a trip to get a BIG BAG of potting mix from Peaco Peat Moss & Soils in Big Arm, MT. The company supplies potting mix for organic growers and we are excited to get started with seeding our onions this week with great potting mix!

Nathan's truck loaded down today from a trip to get a BIG BAG of potting mix from Peaco Peat Moss & Soils in Big Arm, MT. The company supplies potting mix for organic growers and we are excited to get started with seeding our onions this week with great potting mix!

Winter Is For Having Time

For many people in the Flathead Valley, gardening and farming may seem to be a seasonal endeavor. We would like to beg to differ and coin it “seasonality farming” instead. The reason is that even when the temperatures are dipping into the negatives and there is a layer of snow feet deep covering the entirety of the field, we are working. Winter brings a different type of work and goals for farmers and gardeners. Planning, researching, reflecting, and notating are just a few of the tasks undertaken in the seasonality of farming.

Here at the Farm our young minds are seeking to explore possibilities of the future: near and far. We’ve compiled the information passed down by the previous owner, our own experience, and other farmers who are broadcasting their experience and knowledge through social media and research. There are some serious changes that we are putting in place for the 2017 season- ALL of which we are excited about. 

Our new vegetable processing barn! Not yet complete, we will clean, process, and refrigerate produce in this space. To the north, the old processing barn will become a tool shed. CSA members who pick up their shares on Mondays will pick up their share in the new barn. 

Our new vegetable processing barn! Not yet complete, we will clean, process, and refrigerate produce in this space. To the north, the old processing barn will become a tool shed. CSA members who pick up their shares on Mondays will pick up their share in the new barn. 

Taking over Raven Ridge Farm has been an exciting process for us. We don’t take what we do lightly. It is a passion for our community and environmental health that drives us to push our own limits to bring you the best quality of food that we can provide. 

Seeds have been ordered, and the farm is in motion. With jittery fingers we have opened our 2017 CSA. Join us! Look beyond the glistening snow into a summer of divine seasonal vegetables. 

 

With Love,

Cassady, Nathan, and Willa