Last Saturday, while starting out on the colder side warmed up nicely and was fitting end to a full few days of uninterrupted farming. We were able to get a 800 more lettuce transplants in the ground and direct seed some peas, beets and kohlrabi. It feels like I have been standing at the starting line with all the other farms with each of us wondering if we missed the Starters gun????, but at least the race has begun now. Tomatoes will go in one of the greenhouses later this week.
Normally by this time we would be about 50% planted and begin harvesting our first lettuces shortly – not so much this year. In a strange sort of irony, we will probably be on track for the Cucumbers, winter squash and bean plantings and will have missed out entirely on the early crops. Perhaps it will even itself out and we will have really good planting, weeding and harvesting going forward. Time will tell.
The whole valley is in rotation. Our neighbors are mowing our pastures for silage for their beef farm. While we rarely rent other ground, it is a common practice for most of my farming neighbors to swap land for corn or grass seed or Spinach seed for Cabbage seed, etc. Crop rotation is so important to crop health. We are blessed in the PNW that we can grow so many crops and have such a diverse farming community.
As an example, Spinach seed typically requires a 10 to 15 year rotation to break the disease cycle before returning to the same ground. That means for every acre of spinach seed grown in the valley we need to have 15 acres set aside or be growing something else. And due to issues of proximity you need a few acres of separation, too. Potatoes require 4 years between crops. We have our farm sectioned in quadrants to help us facilitate crop rotations and soil health.
I remember one conversation with an old timer, he said. “I haven’t farmed some of my own ground for 15 years.” Through a series of swaps each farmer is planting somewhere new. The bedrock of the system is diversity and dairy. The Dairy industry is the primary driver keeping so much ground in pasture for silage and hay. The vegetable and grain farmers would eagerly look forward to rotate into ground that had been rejuvenated by a long rotation of grass and manure applications.
Sadly, most of Skagit county is losing their Dairy base. Thankfully, my valley still has a strong dairy presence and even more thankfully, we have a strong Certified Organic dairy industry as well. If you ever hear me waxing on and on about the importance of preserving farmland it is because we need so much ground to farm to keep our industry healthy and do the important work of feeding people.
It looks like the weather is moderating and the farming community is kicking it into another gear.
Tristan, Joelle and Box of Good crew