End of Year Roundup

Essex Farm Note

Week 53, 2015

Happy New Year, everyone. I’m joining the rest of the world in an end of year review this week.

2015 will be remembered on Essex Farm for the longest stretch of good weather we have ever seen. From July through the end of the year, it was simply the best we could have hoped for. We had fine, moderate temperatures through the summer, with just enough rain, and then a fall so preternaturally warm we feasted on fresh spinach from the field on Christmas day. The spinach looked even greener this week, under its blanket of fresh white snow.

But before the good stretch, there was June, and she was a wet and ugly one. It was too wet for planting on any part of our farm this spring aside from the fifty acres of drained ground. We were more grateful for that ground than ever, and took full advantage of it, planting about 10 acres of it to field corn, with the rest dedicated to vegetables and the perennials. With luck we got crops in between rains, and when the weather dried out, everything took off. The vegetables, with a few exceptions, were gorgeous and plentiful, and the corn crop yield was excellent.

Because that ground has saved our hides so many times in the last few years, we decided to put in another 40 acres of drainage this year, on the opposite side of the farm. It’s an expensive undertaking, and debt is always stressful for me, but I believe in this investment. It is the best hedge we have against increasingly unpredictable weather, and it allows us to be better farmers, by, for example, allowing us long-distance crop rotations that break the cycle of pest buildup, and giving us the space we need to do better fallowing for weed control, carbon sequestration, and soil building. Thanks to the warm fall, the new field is green already, planted to rye, oat/pea, rye/vetch, soft white winter wheat, and hard red winter wheat plus four rows of next year’s garlic. Rye berries and the wheat could be harvested, or they could be turned in to build soil, depending on how the weed pressure looks in the spring.

We also made an investment in cold storage, the good timing of which was pure luck. Who could have known it would be warm enough this fall to melt any crops stored in ambient root cellar temperatures? We’re even struggling to keep our basement at the 50 degrees it should be to keep potatoes and onions happy. For the cold-loving vegetables, like carrots, beets, and celeriac, we have four new refrigerated trailers, shouldered together in the barnyard, well insulated with spray foam, plumbed and wired. One trailer is entirely full of carrots, top to bottom and end to end.

Our goals remain essentially unchanged, thirteen years in. Grow excellent food for people to eat. Nourish the whole person by providing an authentic connection to the land and its bounty. Reverse climate change, by sequestering carbon and using less fossil fuel. Pass it on, by training new farmers. Do it all with as much joy as possible, accepting failures and celebrating successes. Thanks to our members and our many friends and supporters for helping it all come true. Here’s to a peaceful, fecund, joyful 2016, with lots of love from Essex Farm

– Kristin & Mark Kimball

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