Thursday, May 02, 2013

First Farmer in the Field in Benson County

As winter receeds and snow melts, farmers across Benson County ready equipment and feel the need to scratch the itch to get to work.  But one farmer has already tilled and will plant today.  On the first of May 2013, gardendwellers FARM tilled, raked, and are ready for seeding on the 2nd.

Headlines like that will get you attention where we live.  All over the county farmers are receiving deliveries of seed, preparing their equipment and waiting, waiting, and waiting for the fields to dry so they can till and plant their already late crops.  Being the first in the field is an advantage.  It's an advantage over your neighbors and kind of like being the one to have the first ripe tomato of the season, a reason for glory and local heroism.  Well maybe just a little good natured ribbing.

Yes, its true.  We tilled yesterday.  While snow still lay on our fields and run-off filled the eastern half of our planting beds, the soil inside the high tunnel was warm and dry.  The site we chose for the high tunnel is high in organic matter and fluffs up nicely when tilled.  It's been warm in there for at least three weeks with good soil temperatures but the night time temps have kept us from planting our most important crop, basil.  The basil really doesn't like night time temps below 45 or so.  The high tunnel will only provide about 8 degrees of additional heat and an extra row cover over sensitive seedlings an additional one or two.  We had night time temperatures in the mid to low 20's at night up until now so we have been waiting for a little more warmth before seeding. 

Now, I know, all of you 'regular' farmers out there are saying "sure, but they're not really farmers".  I tend to disagree.  A farmer - according to the USDA's FSA is someone who grows a crop for sale.  We do that.  Our crops, although unconventional, are crops.  We tend them in the same way any other farmer would.  We till, plow, rake, seed, cultivate and harvest.  Oh, and we sell - we sell a lot.  Our harvest comes all summer long instead of just in August or September. Our equipment is smaller. We apply for farm programs and follow the markets just like 'regular' farmers.  The commodities market, yes there is one for herbs, helps us determine what to charge for our product.  We are a farm, in every respect.  We're even getting a few laying hens next week!

So here we are, waiting for 55 days, the time it takes from seed to harvest on basil, before we can begin our harvest season in earnest.  In the meantime, we're glad to see the snow receed on the outdoor fields and our mulched perennial herbs are appearing more and more every day.   Once the sun hits them, it won't be long before the chives, sage, Greek oregano, thyme, tarragon, and savory are up and growing well.  As soon as the field is tillable the parsley will get seeded.

In looking back at our log books we have seeded basil in the high tunnel as early as April 18th in 2010 and as late as May 6th in 2011.  The parsley is usually long since planted so for us this will be late.  Hopefully the warm weather will speed it up a bit.

I look forward to seeing all of our farmer friends as they begin to work the soil around our farm.  Your big tractors are a welcome sight.  Here's hoping for a good harvest this year for us all!

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