February On the Farm: In the Field

Completed Ginger GardenThe big goals this cold month of February were building some raised beds to grow ginger, turmeric, and wasabi and convert our laying flock of hens to non-GMO feed. We constantly strive to improve what we are doing and better meet the needs of our customers. Non-GMO is something lots of people are asking about. To accomplish this we are going to have to make our own feed that contains no soybeans or corn, which are the two main Genetically Modified crops. In our reading, chickens need a mix of grains and don’t thrive well on a single type of grain as a feed supplement. This month we made arrangements through a local feed mill to obtain several types of non-GMO grains such as oats and barley that we will use to mix our own chicken feed. It actually is much simpler than we expected and we can’t wait to see how the ladies do on their new rations. They get most of their nutrition by foraging and eating all the veggie scraps we throw to them, however they really like the scoop of food they get every evening. Happy happy happy hens! Now they should be even happier!

Lady on a roosting rack

We are building raised beds for ginger, turmeric, and wasabi in several different locations around the farm. One will be in an area that gets morning sun, but is afternoon sun protected. Another location is in the woods behind the barn in an area that has diffused light all day. It is mostly shaded. We hope that the beds in the woods work well because that area is currently not being used to grow anything. It is beautiful space, but not making the farm any money. The goal is to keep it beautiful and also grow some beautiful exotic crops that local chefs are going to love! To make these beds we are using 12×6 untreated planks as the bed boarders. Then we are filling the bed with great topsoil that is heavily amended with compost and kelp meal. We are starting the seed pieces indoors this week and are planning on getting them planted in the field in May. We grew a small amount of baby ginger and turmeric this year and got a great response from everyone. We think we can do it even better! We can’t wait for this project to really get going. So far the boards are in place and we just need to fill it with topsoil. The plan is to get some from a local grading company. Meanwhile we’re planting the ginger and turmeric in trays that we keep on our warmed porch. This gives it a head start so that when May comes around and the soil is warm enough, the plants will already be well rooted and growing. This is important for these crops because the growing season is really not quite long enough in our area. They have to be pre-rooted and already growing when they are put in the field. February is indoor ginger and turmeric planting time.

Planting Turmeric in Trays

February can be a little depressing when it comes to field work, because of the cold weather here in North Carolina. This year has been even worse than normal because it has been extremely cold and very wet. February also brought the once in a lifetime “Snowpocalypse” to our area. We got about 8 inches of snow and it completely flattened our low tunnels, but we were able to repair most of them. We were expecting the worst, but when we pulled the covers off our low tunnels, things were looking pretty good!

Open Tunnel for weeding

There are baby beets, carrots, lettuce, Asian vegetables, turnips, and herbs that are small, but looking pretty good. We even harvested some mesclun mix for the market and a chef. With a little heat, these crops are going to really take off. Last year we had rows and rows of garlic happily enduring the cold at this time of year. This year we don’t. We didn’t plant any because we realized we don’t grow garlic very well. It often is stained from our red clay soils and we noticed that lots of other growers have much prettier garlic. So, we decided to wait until February to plant garlic pieces and then harvest it all as specialty green garlic at the pencil size stage. We don’t see many people around growing this specialty crop and we know we can do a great job with it. Green garlic has a milder fresh flavor compared to cloves of garlic,  and we think our chefs are going to really love it. We also think our CSA members will love it. We never stop trying new things and trying to be flexible and inventive. We think the key to selling green garlic is marketing it. With the right description for this amazing aromatic, it is going to be irresistible.

Next post, we’ll tell you what’s happening in the office and in the hen house in February. Until then…

Eat your veggies, and your spices!



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