I was on the farm early this morning, just after the nice inch of rain we got over the course of yesterday and last night. It was so beautiful right before the sun came over the hill, I had to take some photos.
Under the two sections of row cover are six beds of baby salad mix, and one each of spinach, cilantro and parsley. Moving to the left are three beds of lettuce heads we put out as transplants just yesterday. Then one bed each of radish and turnip, two of beets, and then three brand new beds of kale transplants, also put out yesterday. It was great to get all the plants in before the rain came, so they were very nicely watered in. In a couple months, these empty looking beds will be full of veggies, provided we can keep the critters away...
Young garlic and turnips.
Baby Salad Mix, a week or two away from the first cutting. So fresh!
March 2015. This month we started our second farmers market, this time in Santa Barbara on Saturdays. We now spend our entire weekend selling micro greens! We had to roughly double our production at this point to supply both markets. We now sell to 8 different restaurants and caterers in Santa Barbara through this market, so it was a good idea to go.
Expanded micro green production to supply two markets. At this point, we were starting them in the greenhouse, and then moving them outdoors once they germinated. We didn't have enough room in the little greenhouse, and the outdoor temperature is warm enough for them March-October. The pic above was taken in early April.
This beautiful picture of amaranth flats was taken in June. June was a big month for us, because we hired our first employee! This was an exciting move for us, and definitely a necessary one by this point. Between growing the micros, running our webstore, doing the two markets, and trying to grow vegetables too, it was more than we could handle, especially since Deirdre also works about 30 hours a week teaching music and dance lessons.
Over the summer, we did not grow very many vegetables. We wanted to, and we had bought seed for a lot of them, but the micro greens took the bulk of our time for the next few months. We did succesfully grow some cucumbers and summer squash, and an amazing bed of basil. After a while, we could not sell the basil as fast as it was growing, so we harvested massive amounts for ourselves and family members. Even then, we lost control of the bed, and had to take down the plants eventually. We grew a very small amount of eggplants and sweet peppers, and a couple beds of nice lettuce mix and arugula, but our tomatoes and green beans didn't make it. Fast forward to September, and the farm was rather taken over with weeds, and not looking very nice. We spent some time cleaning it up, and getting ready for some fall and winter planting.
Time to clean up these old plants and make way for new ones!
9/27/15 Baby lettuce mix, planted in 12 dense rows with our six row seeder from Johnny's Selected Seeds in Maine.
By mid summer, we had totally outgrown our small greenhouse that we built when we first started the farm, and I knew that I couldn't grow micros outdoors when the colder nights came at the end of the year. In July, we decided to make the investment in a much bigger, professional greenhouse (14 x 32 feet.) We ordered it, and it arrived in August, but we didn't get around to starting the construction until late September. The pictures below show leveling the building site and pounding in the first corner post.
The week of September 28th was a big week for us. Not only did we start the greenhouse project, the next day we started a third weekly market, also in Santa Barbara. The new one was Tuesday afternoons. It seemed insane to take on a new market, but we had a particular reason for doing it, and ironically our lives got easier rather than more difficult. Up until this point, our webstore deliveries were on Tuesday and Fridays, but all the items than weren't grown here in the valley had to be bought over the weekend at our markets. That works fine for apples, walnuts and avocados, which can last several days, but not more perishable things like greens and most vegetables. So, we consolidated our two delivery routes into one, and moved it to Wednesday. Not only did this turn out to be way more efficient for deliveries, selling at the Tuesday afternoon market allowed us to pick up lots more items from farms at the market, and then pack them up for deliveries the next morning. The webstore selection blossomed overnight, and we started to receive more orders because of that. Reducing our packing/delivery day to just once per week instead of two has been so much easier! It makes for a longer packing time, but we only have to set up and take down once, so it certainly saves time overall. Tuesday and Wednesday are by far our busiest days of the week now. The pictures below show our booth at the Tuesday market, and our truck filled to the brim with veggie boxes for delivery.
Pre-Halloween farmers market. I wish we had grown those pumpkins... but nope, we bought them! maybe this year... Anyhow, that's enough catch-up for now. Next up, I'll have more pictures of the greenhouse project, and the completed structure.
At First Steps Farm, we're not just growing food, we're growing farmers too (including ourselves, who learn more about farming everyday!) Siobhan put on her "Future Farmer" t-shirt last Saturday to go plant her first veggie garden at the farm. This is her own garden -- she helped plant the seeds, and she is going to help water, weed and harvest it too. Catch a bit of her excitement below!
As the one-year anniversary of my last blog post approaches, I thought I would take a few free minutes this evening to follow up on my 2016 resolution to blog once again. I realize if this is going to happen, I need to stick to short posts, so I will keep this short. Obviously, a lot has happened over the last year (enough to make me think I don't have time to blog!), so it's tempting to make a really long post to cover everything that's happened from last February until now. But since I need to be up early tomorrow to pack orders for our webstore, I will make a series of "catch-up" posts over the next couple of weeks instead.
I got back an hour or so ago from a Tuesday afternoon farmers market in Santa Barbara, which makes the third weekly market we started selling at. Last week's Sunday market in Ojai was very rainy, which doesn't make for good sales, but that doesn't seem to have dampened Siobhan's spirits, who enjoyed prancing around the market with her umbrella.
Below is the most recent picture of the farm (one week ago), which has come a long way in the last year. We now have a 14x32 ft greenhouse, and 32 raised beds formed. I'll post more about how we got here, and what happened along the way. Stay tuned!