Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Introducing: Farmer KayCee Wimbish

Hey All!
Long time no...type.  I was pretty good with the Facebook posts, but I absolutely bombed in the blogosphere.  So here's what y'all missed: 2012 was a good year.  Despite the crazy winter (or as it was, spring-summer), many of my perennials recovered and the veggie garden looked absolutely fantastic thanks in no small part to heavy additions of Croswell compost and calculated amounts of trace minerals.  The first full season of the farm stand was so much fun and I got to meet so many great people through this venue, it was totally worth the late hours and the creaky knees.  We were able to team up with parks and rec to allow food gardens in a city park through the Dig Kids program. And well, at end of the season I fully intending on going at it again this year...
But then (dunh, dunh DUUUNH!) happened.  First off, through the generosity of family and almost-family members, as well as an un-expected, but fully awesome loan from friends, my Daniel and I were able to purchase some land over in Dutchess County, on which we hope to build our homestead.  Secondly, I was interested in, and offered, a position as the assistant farm manager for Poughkeepsie Farm Project, in uh, Poughkeepsie, NY.  Both of these developments have left me with not much time to devote to my lovely, and beloved, little farm.  But never fear folks!  This show will go on!

And that's where KayCee comes in.  I believe I actually first met KayCee in Kingston several years ago after she and her partner Owen started Awesome Farm.  She had brought eggs (and perhaps even a chicken or two‽) to a street fair and was next to me handing out seedlings from Phillies Bridge Farm Project.  As luck and life would have it, they are now new citizens of Kingston, eager to participate in the urban ag scene here.  After very little convincing, I was able to rope KayCee into taking on the growing for South Pine Street City Farm this year, even as she prepares to open up a farm with the YMCA here in Kingston.  She plans on keeping the farm stand and also opening up the farm to visits from programs and individuals alike.  I couldn't have asked for a better farmer for SPSCF, and here she is:

KayCee and Sparrow
From KayCee: I was born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but I have now spent almost as much of my life in New York as I did in Oklahoma. I lived in New York City for ten years, teaching elementary school and learning about farming from afar. In 2006, I moved up to Tivoli to work at Hearty Roots Community Farm, a community supported vegetable farm. After one season I was hooked. In my second season there I met my partner, Owen. Together we started Awesome Farm, a pasture-based livestock farm that was initially in Red Hook and later in Claverack (Columbia County). We spent four years raising chickens, grass-fed beef and lamb. While running Awesome Farm, I continued to work at Hearty Roots and somehow managed to have a baby, Sparrow,  in the winter of 2010. Owen, Sparrow and I moved to Kingston in the fall. We are excited to be in a small city with more opportunities for all three of us. I feel very fortunate and excited to have the opportunity to grow food at South Pine Street. I feel passionate about urban agriculture and the need to develop more food security in our cities and towns as well as increasing everyone's access to fresh, chemical-free food. I look forward to nourishing what Jes has created and to meeting all of you.
KayCee looking super happy about water

You're gonna miss me, aren't you? No you won't!  'Cause I'm still here, guys!  I still live here, I still love here, and you'll probably even see me at the farm stand, picking up stuff for dinner!  When you meet KayCee in person, give her a big hug and tell her "thank you" for growing your veggies.
And bonus: pictures from last season, which are also going to be loaded onto the website under: about: year in pictures 2012...
A harvest from late May, not bad, huh?

Leanne posing with the famous Italienischer lettuce

The farm stand in early October...I think.

Early Jersey Wakefield cabbage in all its glory.

The farm in June!

Folks gathered for a September farm tour as part of the SPSCF fundraiser with Elephant Wine Bar.

Seriously though, I love June.

End of the summer Dig Kids: Naimah, Brenda, Matthew and Deon help me out with the new greenhouse at the YMCA.

The resulting veggies in January!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

It's not the Midas Touch

Contrary to what the farm's appearance might suggest, not everything I plant grows well.  I submit, for your disapproval, photos of my home garden:

Lettuce, bok choy, fennel and some onions planted a week or so later than their counterparts at the farm.  There is also some self seeded dill from the garden two years ago.  They are still alive, but are small and sad looking, considering they are only slightly bigger than when I put them in three weeks ago.  In contrast, here are plants from the same seed starting vintage at the farm:

 Just to make sure I'm clear here, the house garden plants and the farm plants were started at the same time, in the same trays and given the same treatment until they were planted.  I just happened to have some leftover seedlings after I planted at the farm, so I took them home and planted them.  Granted, the farm plants were put into the ground a week and a half earlier than the house plants, but I can guarantee the house plants will be nowhere near caught up in a week.

"So what happened?" you might ask.  Both gardens get a similar amount of sunlight, which is usually the first culprit.  The disparity between my two gardening practices points to just about everything that will make the difference between a successful garden and a frustrating one.  Lets take them one by one, shall we?:

Timing:  Timing is important when it comes to transplants.  Seedlings in a cell pack only have a little tiny amount of dirt they can draw nutrients from and the cell pack's structure lends itself to letting plants become root-bound.  There's a relatively short window between peak readiness and malnourished plants, and to make matters worse, store-bought seedlings often are right at the peak when they arrive at the store, and almost at the end of their window when you get them to your house.  Even though I grow my own seedlings, I put them in a little after peak at the farm because I was traveling, so by the time they got home they were way past their prime.  Recently, a customer asked what was wrong with her seedlings.  They had started to turn yellow and had spots on them.  This is usually a sign of severe nutrient deficiency and probably the early signs of disease. As it turns out, she had bought the seedlings three weeks ago, but decided to wait on putting them in the ground because of the cold weather we've been having lately.  At this point the seedlings are so starved, even if they get proper nutrition when they hit the soil, they'll be weak for long enough to let disease and pests in early. Sometimes these things cannot be avoided, but if you can, try to put in your seedlings before or just as they start to show signs of stress, which includes yellow or purple leaves.  If it is too cold yet, consider protecting your transplants with row cover, cold frames, or even a milk jug turned upside down.  Or chalk it up to experience and try again later in the season.

Soil Prep: Before I transplanted at the farm, I added some micronutrients to the soil to balance out their availability (using what I learned at the Bionutrient Rich Crop Production Course).  I also added some of my own garden compost as well as a good dose of Croswell Enterprises compost.  I let this sit for at least a month before I planted in it.  At the house I added compost at the beginning of last year, but no micronutrients and I didn't have time to add this year's compost in the spring.  It's probably decent soil at the house, but nowhere near as lush as the soil at the farm.  Once those seedling roots hit the dirt, they'll find it easy to access what they need to keep growing, boosting them into fuller leaves and healthier growth.  Letting the amendments mellow in the soil before you add plants lets the soil ecosystem recover from the shock of the additions and lets the microorganisms work on making those amendments more available to the plants.

Seedling Prep: Right when I planted the seedlings at the farm I either dunked them in a nutrient rich fish and seaweed emulsion solution or I added a small amount of light fertilizer that has been beneficial bacteria and fungi added to it (I used GardenTone from Espoma, but I'm looking for a fertilizer that is actually approved for organic production, GardenTone is not...).  This helps ease the "transplant shock" that seedlings get when they go from being coddled little plant babies to being shoved into the real world.  I also made sure the seedlings were well watered during and for a few days after transplanting.  I am pretty sure I just stuck in the home plants some evening after work without any of the prep steps.  I am also certain I forgot to keep them watered afterwards.

Mulch!: This year I also used Croswell Enterprises compost as a mulch on the farm.  Their compost has a slightly rough texture that is well suited as a top dressing or mulch, the nutrients go down and the wood pieces stay on top, covering the soil.  As a farmer, I almost never mulched my soil, mostly because it seemed like a daunting task on a 6+ acre farm.  On this new scale, mulching is my best friend.  Something fine, like straw, chopped dry leaves or rough compost, is great because it covers the soil for one season and will break down to nourish the soil by the next season.  As you can tell from the pictures, no such luck at the house garden, though I'll probably add some compost soon to mulch it there too.  The mulch does so many great things, it covers the soil and creates a safe space for the microbes to do their thing, it regulates the moisture in the soil and allows for easier watering (bare soil often creates a crust that is hard to water properly), it deters weed growth, and it adds even more nutrients as it breaks down.

Intention: Often overlooked is the intention you bring to the garden. I'm not trying to be totally hocus-pocus here, but in reality I just pay more attention to the plants at the farm.  I notice if they need help and I try to do what's best for them.  This is often something that is difficult for folks with busy lives, like myself, that want to have a little garden at their house.  I am majorly impressed with anyone that finds the time to have a day job, raise a family and a garden.  It is very difficult, and yet, some pull it off.  Kudos to you folks, you've totally got me beat.

 And now a word of encouragement: the good thing is, we're still lucky enough to have dependable food sources while we learn how to grow our own.  And the season itself is flexible enough that even if you're first planting attempts don't quite make the grade, you can always try again, often in the same season.  Tomatoes and cucumbers can be planted into June and short season crops like lettuce can be planted into the summer.  So if your soil and your garden plan isn't quite ready, you've still got time.  Strategize and grow!

BTW, if you look on my facebook page, you'll find some sweet links to seedling sales happening this weekend so you can stock up on high quality plants.  Also, here's a link to the HV Seed Library's blogpost about building a raised bed, and I'm mentioned in the post!