Getting Ready for Farm Season
Once the last harvest is shipped to the restaurants, the last glimpse of fall pickled and stored for winter, and the soil is replenished with “cover crops" to reboost nutrients in the soil, the farmers hang up their overalls and begin researching and planning the next season.
And have they been busy! Here’s a quick glimpse as to what our farmers Dev and Jackie have been up to since closing the farm for the winter in November:
- visiting Dev’s friend David Ellis of Greens & Gills Farm in Chicago learning about his urban aquaponics farm.
- attending the Young Farmer Conference for the second year, hosted at Stone Barns Center
- visiting the Organic Seed Alliance in Corvallis, Oregon
On David Ellis’ urban aquaponics farm, which supplies microgreens and other vegetables to Chicago restaurants, water replaces soil as the medium and fish supply the nutrients needed for the vegetables to grow. (Aquaponics is a self-sustaining agricultural “loop.” It’s vertical farming in its most efficient form. Read here to learn more.). Aquaponics is a burgeoning form of agriculture in urban areas. Dev and Jackie tried his micro greens both on the farm and while dining at Senza, by Chef Noah Sandoval. David brings a lot of passion to his idea and it really shows in the product!
Next they headed to the Young Farmer Conference at Stone Barns Center. For the two years Jackie and Dev have attended, the conference has helped them see farming in an entirely new light. This year, the conference hosted many “elders” in the farming community. Their advice was blunt, but helpful: that a farm has to be treated as a business. Idealism and returning to the land is honorable, but building it in a profitable way is necessary—so be cautious and mindful! What does this mean for the upcoming generation of farmers and for Prosser Farm? Rethinking which vegetables to grow based on cost of labor and production and yield, and working with neighbors to create a more self-sustaining loop. Building relationships with neighbors has always been important for Prosser Farm, with friends like Kay and Clay at Chinook Winery, and Crawford Farms (who sources asparagus and blueberries for all the restaurants).
Their next visit was to the Organic Seed Alliance in Corvallis, OR. During their visit to the Seed Alliance, they learned simple seed harvesting and saving methods from small co-op owners (like the Morton’s who operate Wild Garden Seeds) to larger seed producers like Nash’s Organic. The seminar focused on participatory plant breeding, with speakers like Tom Stearns of High Mowing and Michael Mazourek of Cornell University, who advocate for these breeding programs—farmers, seed savers, breeders, and seed companies who work in unison to preserve and evolve our seed banks. This kind of collaboration helps to propagate vegetable varieties with specific traits: a disease resistant spinach or acclimated strain that grows in hotter climates. When you grow a genetic pool as versatile as the one the Organic Seed Alliance creates, the possibilities are endless (within the limits of our region, of course : )
Now Jackie and Dev are back at the farm, clearing the winter crop, harvesting the “over-wintered” (and deliciously sweet) parsnips, and getting ready for farming season! Visit this tumblr page and prosserfarm on twitter for up-to-date happenings of Prosser Farm and its farmers (and for sneak peeks on what’s farm-fresh at the Tom Douglas Restaurants!).