I am thinking about planting a garden and I have no idea where to start. Looking for seeds and planting schedules has really made me wonder: what is happening on farms right now? All over the country, I know farmers are working hard but what are they doing? What does April on the farm mean in different states? Is a Wisconsin farm chore list the same as in Hawaii? Thanks!
Wow, Laura, great question! Spring does mean planting and baby lambs and fresh greens, but to answer your other questions about what is happening on farms right now, I surveyed all of the farm groups that Farm Aid works with and got some fantastic answers. It is interesting to see what far away places have in common right now and what is completely different. Here are some of their answers:
This is from John with Family Farm Defenders: “Animals have just been let out to pasture now that the snow has melted. So, many dairy farmers are fixing fences and dealing with spring calving. Those who do maple syrup are worried since we had such a quick warm up which means a poor sap flow. The community supported agriculture (CSA) operations are still signing up members for this growing season. Our first local farmers markets begin on April 23rd.”
Community Farm Alliance members Ivor and Jana and farm partner Carol at Field Day Organic Farm tell me that they, like many CFA members in Kentucky are gearing up for market by “seeding flats, prepping beds, building greenhouses, fertilizing, mulching berries, transplanting onion and brassica seedlings, hoeing garlic, harvesting over-wintered crops, monitoring propagation greenhouses, clearing row covers and irrigation hoses, and tilling in cover crops.”
At Full Belly Farm, there has been a lot of wet weather, so farmers can’t get into the field to prepare beds for planting as much as they normally would have by this time of year in northern California. Farmers are harvesting small quantities of lettuce, leeks, fava beans, greens, beets, spinach and other cool weather crops. Last year at this time asparagus was booming, but this year it’s not producing much yet due to the cold weather. Out in the fields, several acres of tomato transplants have been planted out protected by row cover in expectation of the hot weather soon to come.
What are central Texas farmers doing? They are pinching off their extra peach “buds” to get the best harvest in summer, picking strawberries, wiping their brows because pecan trees are leafing out, and it is usually the sign that there will be no more hard freezes. They are now selling fresh from the farm greens, lettuces, leeks, onions, root crops, spring garlic, broccoli, spinach, asparagus, shelled English peas, snow peas, new potatoes, and hothouse tomatoes and basil. They are nursing their tomato and pepper plants, which many of them transplanted in the first week of March! They’ll be tilling in lettuces, spinach in a few weeks to plant in squash, beans, heat resistant greens. No time now for fence mending–that was in December!
“The big news this time of year is calving season around Nebraska, which means long hours and lots of work to keep things going. Calving season usually means a “normal” day’s work and then checking cows every couple of hours all night long. The days can get pretty long that way. The row crop farmers are getting equipment ready and waiting for the weather to settle so they can get in the fields. We just have to focus on being ready when the weather breaks so we can plant as much as we can as fast as we can. A lot of us are busy cleaning out the bins from last year’s crops to be sure to have room for this year’s.”
That about sums it up! Depending on the weather farmers are planting, calving, marketing and sweating, and I can’t wait to hit the markets and get that beautiful fresh food into my kitchen!
Remember, send me questions! Because I can’t wait to see what spring brings to mind in your home.
Laura – The Farm Aid Shopper