I can finally write about the winter in the past tense. Spring seems here to stay and the sun is more and more generous each day – and believe me when I say the seedlings now growing in the hoop house aren’t the only ones enjoying longer days! Winter was trying for all of Central PA, and here on the farm it played out as icy conditions, no water in the barn, and a general disbelief that spring would ever come. Winter had its moments though:
We added five new members to our growing herd of ruminants! These darlings are Alfonz, Wally, Bella, Star and Athena (the mother of Wally and Alfonz in the background). All are ladies except Alfonz (aka Fonzie), and are the start of my meat goat herd. I love goats and can’t describe the joy that raising these little guys has brought into my life. I look forward to many years of goat herding and especially using the herd as mob grazers to clear land choked with invasive species and other plant belligerents like poison ivy (which is like candy to goats!).
In other news, the sheep are a little more naked than before, as they were recently shorn on March 1. Their fleeces will be processed into yarn, roving (which can be spun into yarn), and batting (think of the cushiony part of pillows and quilts). Look for our fiber products at market this spring, especially our market bags featuring the naturally creamy and beautiful wool from our Cormo Sheep. My mom Diane is the talented knitter behind the bags, and can make custom hats, gloves, etc. to order. Cormo sheep are crosses between Corriedale and Merino and have absolutely the best fleece I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. It’s actually a little pleasant when they jostle and bump into me during feeding time – like being tackled by a pillow. The Jacobs sheep are skittish beauties with wild horns. Even after over a year of being nothing but sweet to them, they can barely stand the sight of me without running away. And they are jumpers – freak them out and they will jump so high that no gate can hold them in and next thing you know you’ll feel a woosh of wind by your head!
And it wasn’t all animals this winter – I spent quite a few days neck deep in seed catalogs and eyes glazed from excel sheets, which means that the seed order and crop planning went well and boxes of seeds started piling up in the farm office. Meanwhile, I counted down the days until I could finally get in the dirt. Starting in early February I seeded the very first shallots, scallions, and spinach inside, and now the hoop house is nearly full with the first tomatoes, kale, lettuce, spring broccoli, and napa cabbage! Now the waiting game will be played as I juggle soil warmth and tilth with the weather – the potatoes and carrots and first greens are ready to go in the ground as soon as it is tillable!
On the business front, things are growing at a steady pace. We are already nearly full in the CSA – only 5 out of 30 spots remain open – and it is a great blend of old and new members who I can’t wait to deliver first shares to this May. We are also offering a new pick up location in Chambersburg, at the remarkable business Nathan Miller Chocolate. Each Saturday, our shares will be available at Nathan Miller Chocolate alongside his delectable chocolate bars, powerful pour over coffee, and tasty pastries. I for one am looking forward to Saturday deliveries! My first farming experience was in Chambersburg at the Fulton Farm, so I am happy to reconnect with this community again and grow my customer base. This winter was also a time of business learning and planning – I attended the National Young Farmers Conference at the Stone Barns Center in NY and completed the second year of my AgBiz Masters course, which is a two year learning program designed to equip young and beginning farmers with the business know how necessary to keep a small farm afloat. As a farmer honing her skills in production and marketing, the lessons in financial management have been invaluable for my business! Another milestone for me as a farmer came when I was referenced in Fedco Seeds Catalog this year, a dream come true for any grower:
And the most exciting business expansion of all is the addition of a new person on our farm – I’m happy to announce we now have a Farmer in Training position being filled by the lovely, skilled, and enthusiastic Audrey Wanca. I got to know Audrey as she interned at the Fulton Farm in Chambersburg, and approached her with a job offer as soon as I knew I could afford help. Luckily crossing my fingers paid off and she decided to stay in the area and pursue her own small farm dream by learning the ins and outs of my business, all while helping me to become more efficient and effective as a producer. She will be (wo)manning the Piney Mountain Orchard stand at Farmers on Walnut in Camp Hill this year and has already won the approval of Duke, our farm dog and guardian.