News from the Farm | February 7, 2022

In addition to lambing season, and growing and harvesting what’s in the fields, this is a time of year when we’re making a lot of decisions about what to grow the rest of the year, along with ordering and receiving a lot of seeds. There are so many crops and varieties – how to choose?

First, comes diversity. To run a successful CSA and sell at farmers markets, we need to have a good mix of crop types and of varieties.

Then comes the characteristics, determined by genetics. The paramount characteristic is flavor; the crop needs to taste good. After that, there are an infinite number of characteristics that are important. The main ones are productivity and yield, disease resistance, harvestability, and fertility and water needs. The crop needs to fit with our production systems and the conditions it will be growing in.

The core of our crop plan each year is our tried and true varieties that we’ve grown for multiple seasons and know work for us and our systems, using the lessons of the prior year to influence whether we plant more or less.

Combining these three areas of consideration leads to the mix of crops that you get: in the ground right now are three types of kale (karinata, Red Russian, and dino), two chard (red and rainbow), two types of leeks (King Richard and Tadorna), and only one type of collard. Some of the differences between varieties are obvious while others are more subtle; throughout the course of the season, we’re actually growing five different varieties of broccoli, based on the temperature and light availability.

Once those decisions are made, it’s time to place seed orders. We do save our own seed for a very small number of crops (karinata kale, some flowers, and the grain and bean crops) but we buy almost all of our seeds, working with a few different companies. We often purchase hybrid seeds; for a refresher on what that means, this link will help. While more expensive, hybrids are more predictable and tend to do well.

We trial a lot of new (or new to us) varieties. Some of these will work with our climate, equipment, and management practices and some won’t. Some crops turn out to be big hits and they become part of our regular rotation and if they don’t, then we move on. Or in some cases, we’ll give it a try a time or two more just to be really sure it doesn’t work.

We are excited to have partners in this exploration: YOU! Our CSA members are willing to try new things and over the years have sampled new offerings and provided the feedback we need to make decisions about what we grow. When you try something you really like, let us know! In addition to all the growing and harvesting considerations we need to make, your experience with our produce is equally valuable data that factors into future crop planning and seed orders.

– Elaine Swiedler, CSA Manager