Small Family Farm CSA

We Dig Vegetables


Small Family Farm
Below are current issues of The Weekly Dig Newsletter, from Jillian Varney, owner of the Small Family Farm. Stay up to date on what's happening on the farm!

March Twenty-Nineth

The farm comes alive again slowly, quietly, almost secretly. The hive hums when the sun shines.   The greenhouse doors fling open to release the excess heat. The chickens lay eggs again and the children think that since it is officially Spring, they can dare to walk outside without coats or hats. The seeds are germinating in the plastic hoop structure that smells of earth and wood smoke and feels moist and invigorating.

We are nearly one month in to the start of a new season. Plans to begin field work form and the machines are greased and ready to go. The farm help is lined up and the CSA memberships are steadily coming in. The winds blow strong and make the willow tree dance. We are longing for fresh, tender, green food again and the promise that it is not far away feels reassuring.

The farm wife, as I am calling myself these days, feels especially cooped up from keeping three small children warm, healthy and entertained. I do everything I can to care for needs of the people and the farm in the role I am currently playing. I look out the window and watch Adam go to work most days wishing I could follow. But I also feel grateful to get to work from home and get to spend so much time with my children. I remind myself that this is an era of our lives that will one day feel like it didn’t last long enough, but at present feels slow and binding on a late March day.

I raise a three month old and watch him try to kick himself over onto his tummy. I watch my 6 year old learn to count money and read books and add numbers. Our farm house feels a little like a kindergarten when you walk in, but smells like a restaurant. I watch my 3 year old copy everything her big sister does. I watch the robins return and the maple sap drip. I suggest and insist on projects that Adam and hired help can work on. My involvement with the farm feels like it is at a mosey-posey pace with a baby on my back and a toddler tagging along. I support Adam in every way possible to keep him well fed, rested and focused on farm work.

Again I need to remind myself that this is just a stage and one day our children will help seed in the greenhouse. They will one day help make dinner and fold laundry and shake rugs out and bring wood in. One day I will want nothing more than to have them fit cozily on my lap again and to read them a picture book. My body will ache from working on the farm and I’ll wish for a slower pace of life.

Meanwhile the earth tilts toward the sun and warms our landscape. The mornings on the farm are no longer quite. The sounds of those noisy birds are back and hungry animals hustle all around. The lawns looks almost green in places. We seed lettuce this week in the greenhouse which is just four weeks until transplant in the fields. The greenhouse tables are getting full and we are beginning to need to shuffle flats around to make room for all of the seedings coming up. I share the girlish excitement with our little ones for the dawning of a new season. I feel excited for the workers to come back and breathe community into our little farm. I feel optimistic and I whistle and sing as I walk around the farm with the children doing chores and keeping home. Spring time has a way of making you feel young again.

Farmer Adam came home with a brand spankin’ new disc today (a primary tillage piece of equipment) that will make our field prepping work smooth and even a little fun! We’re just a few short weeks away from seeding and transplanting out into the big wide open spaces. Birds fill the trees and the sonic spaces. Soon the sounds of diesel engines and people’s voices will fill our farm. And before long, as a result of this glorious community effort and will, there will be eclectic and bounteous boxes of vegetables harvested from the earth here. We look forward to sharing this season with you!

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How do you imagine your farmers in the wintertime? Do you imagine us with our heads stuck inside seed catalogs mulling over varieties? Do you imagine us walking our frozen fields with a cup of coffee? Do you imagine us curled up in bed, sleeping in and feeling a little guilty about it? Do you imagine us fixing tractors and sweeping the greenhouse floor again and again? All of the above is true, but there’s a lot more to kicking off a new season than simply waiting for it to roll around.

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(C'mon Sunshine!)

We have finished the seed orders, the soil mix has been delivered, and repairs and maintenance around the farm are continual. But there are some really grueling, tedious jobs that happen in the winter months that you might have never dreamed that we do. We have every bed of the farm laid out on a spreadsheet with the row-feet of each bed and field mapped out. We plan, bed by bed, what will get planted where and when-months in advance. We need to make sure we have enough bed space and row feet to grow enough fennel, for example, for 300 CSA boxes two weeks in a row. We even have some really juicy greenhouse excel spreadsheets that lay out our seeded crops as far as when we will seed them, how many trays we will seed on what day, and what size blocks to seed into. Oh, and taxes, don’t forget those! We just got our taxes done and that is one of the most exciting parts of our job!

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(This is our soil mix that we use to start the seedlings in just a couple short weeks!)

February is the final month of our ‘off season’ with the first of our greenhouse seeding beginning the first week of March. We are now doing some marketing work such as distributing fliers, scheduling Lunch and Learns, updating the website and trying to learn more about social media and marketing work in general. We’re better farmers and family folks than we are at selling stuff-but it’s part of the game we’re playin’. We are even beginning to line up some of our labor and employee help for the 2018 growing season, hoping that many of the terrific helpers we had last season will want to join us for another trip around the sun while playing in the dirt.

We entered the winter with 5-6000 lbs of carrots and 3000 lbs of parsnips. We also had extra celeriac root, rutabaga and a few onions, garlic and miscellaneous items that we have been selling to a handful of local food coops and restaurants. The very impressive Viroqua Food Coop in our tiny little town of Viroqua is our biggest and most consistent buyer with substantial weekly orders. If you’re ever passing through Viroqua, you’ll have to check out our very awesome Coop that is in the middle of a huge construction project where they are doubling in size!

I did find some time to bring a bin of apples up from the root cellar, cut them into rings and dehydrate them with the girls. Since most of the summer months means all work and no play, we’re finding more time for the kids. Ayla, 6, is learning to knit and cross-stitch and fold origami paper into beautiful shapes. Aliza, 3, loves playing with her dolls, building little structures for them, and copying almost everything her older sister does. And our two month-old, Arlo, is a dream baby, sleeping for 4-5 hour stretches at night, smiling and cooing when he’s awake and providing entertainment for us all and justification for staying indoors and spending more time as a family.

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