Spring has officially arrived! The last two weeks here at Stony Point Center have shown us the breadth of springtime weather. Last week was warm and sunny while the previous one was chilly and gray. We’ve had gusty winds throughout many afternoons along with still, quiet mornings. As I am sitting down to write this afternoon, I’m looking out a window to a wet, rainy day—our first good soaking of the season.
This time of year is always action-packed for us on the farm. Our crew has been busy hauling compost into fields, hauling rocks out of fields, building wooden raised beds and filling them with soil, preparing fields for planting, seeding for the greenhouse, transplanting in the fields, watering and weeding all our crops, and, as of this past Friday, harvesting! We currently have spinach, lettuce, onions, broccoli, kale, and a few other greens in the ground with more on the way.
This season’s first harvest was spinach. Amirah, Matt, and I spent the entire morning crouched over each plant and snipping leaves, usually one at a time. By lunch time we had harvested almost 20 pounds. I realized later when I checked our harvest data from last year that we only harvested 3 pounds of spinach during the whole month of April last year. What an improvement! The increased production was based on a variety of factors: additional hoop house growing space that we didn’t have last year, better germination rates from this year’s seed stock, and encouragement from CLT members who have suggested that we grow more because they LOVE spinach so much. In the pictures you can see the spinach in the greenhouse on March 16, Matt transplanting it into the hoop house a week later, and how it looks now after last week’s harvest.
As rewarding as each harvest is, I still think that I enjoy the growing process more than the result. This year, we purchased an incredible tool that has transformed the process of preparing our fields for planting. This tool is called a broadfork. It’s a heavy-duty hand tool (being used by Amriah in the picture here) with two long handles attached to a metal base with five 12-inch tines. By using this tool, we can work the soil without the use of our gas-powered tiller or diesel tractor. Instead of churning through the soil with spinning tines, we are able to aerate the soil and minimize disruption to the earthworms and microbiological life that are active in the fields. We’re still relying on the tractor and tiller in some of our larger fields, but we have decided to forgo using them in our two smaller gardens (almost 5,000 square feet in all) in favor of exclusively employing the broadfork to work the land there. Using the broadfork is hard work. We usually take turns (we only have one—it was expensive!), often limiting broadfork shifts to about an hour and a half. Even though it can be exhausting, it is incredibly satisfying to work the land and hear the peaceful sounds of spring birds chirping instead of a roaring engine. Every time I press the broadfork deep into the soil I feel so good about how we’re caring for the land here and all the life that exists within it.
To see the broadfork in action, check out the video of me using it below.
See you in the gardens,