Hope everyone is faring well and staying warm during this huge snow storm here in North Carolina (more on that later!) As we continue to share what’s happening on the farm every month, there is a lot of behind the scenes “office work” that has to happen long before the seeds can be planted.
Here is what’s been happening on the farm, in the office, for January:
Back by the fireplace, sits the seed and equipment catalogues. This is super fun! I can spend hours plowing through those catalogues.
When I look at all the beautiful plants in the catalogues, I actually do have a strategy about what I buy. Chefs are often looking for that really cool and unusual item that makes their restaurant stand out, and they like to be able to say they are serving local produce. By choosing the super cool and unusual things, I stay out of the low price competition of the more common items. For the chefs, I look for Asian vegetables, herbs, longbeans, anything unusually colored, and anything that can be grown at ultrahigh density and harvested at the baby stage. These types of things are all hot items with chefs and can be sold at a price that makes them worth all the extra work required to grow these specialty crops. Chinese Long Beans pictured below:
I also really enjoy choosing the seeds for our CSA. I pick the most colorful and beautiful, while not getting too outrageous with strange things. I have learned that our CSA members appreciate the opportunity to try new veggies, but only at paced intervals. They don’t want to constantly figure out how to use unusual produce with every CSA bag. They like plenty of the delicious standards with an occasional produce challenge. That means that the seeds I order for the CSA include things like kale, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, onions, garlic, potatoes, squash, and cabbage. Then I choose a few really nice specialty items that are not too hard to cook or deal with, just to spice things up a bit, and make the CSA feel more special. The types of seeds I might choose for this include brussel sprouts, Asian vegetables, colorful beans, white or lemon cucumbers, purple potatoes, or heirloom tomatoes. I don’t choose seeds specifically for the farmers market. I simply plant enough of everything grown for the restaurants and CSA to have extra for the market. Market customers are quite a lot like CSA members. They buy lots of the basics but often stop by our booth just because they want to see what type of specialty produce we might have brought. Market customers seem to prize the things that can’t be had in the grocery store. Once at the booth, we have the opportunity to sell both the more common items as well as the specialty items. Color and presentation also are very important at the market. I try to choose seeds that will allow me to harvest a wide range of colorful produce that can be artfully displayed. A sea of only green seems to intimidate market customers. We strive to constantly be pushing the limits of what can be grown here. That is why if you want something you might not normally find in our region, stop by our farmer’s market booth! It may not be cheap though, because it isn’t easy to grow these things. This month we have turmeric and brussel sprouts in addition to all the normal fare. Season extenders such as low tunnels can allow some crops to be grown at non-traditional timing. These can really be great market movers that the customers love and are profitable to sell. I also look for unusual crops and herbs that I can grow for our chefs.
Here’s the seed list for early spring: many types of kale, Bright Lights chard, spinach, purple brussel sprouts, plenty of herbs, purple, white, and pink potatoes, colorful cauliflower, broccoli, broccollini, red, gold, white beets, white and gold turnips, parsnips, rutabaga, colorful carrots, red and green cabbage, purple and white kohlrabi, Asian veggies, mixed lettuces, mesclun mix, different greens for micromixes, onions, leeks, garlic and assortments of root vegetables to be harvested at the baby stage.
Here’s the seed list for summer: many types of tomatoes, lots of colorful cherry tomatoes, lots of types of peppers (not too many hot peppers), not too many eggplant, flowers (new for us), heat tolerant lettuce, summer New Zealand spinach, specialty zucchini and squash, specialty cucumbers, all kinds of colorful snap beans, longbeans, pole beans.
As you can see, a lot of careful thought goes in to every seed order, and we hope you can see (and taste!) that in the produce we grow! We are really excited about all of the delicious produce that will be ready in just a few months!
Now, back to dealing with all that snow and ice out there…… stay warm veggie friends!