What's New at the Farm

August 2

There was a little bit of rain at the farm this past week and things remain about the same as they’ve been for most of the summer.  Dan and Margaret wish you a Happy August!

July26

We got an inch of rain Friday night which was so welcome!

Then, we have an awesome crew this summer and wanted to show you who they are. We can't say enough about what they mean to the working of the farm. We feel pretty lucky that we get to hang out with this great group of folks!  Left to right 

Hahns Huebsch

Hahns grew up in Osceola just down the road from us. He has worked here the last couple of summers and returned this summer after his first year at St. Olaf. He is majoring in Biology.

Sean Rogers

Sean also grew up in Osceola and has worked for us for the last couple of summers. He also is returning after his first year at St. Olaf. He is planning on majoring in Biology.

Amy Chatelaine

Amy is one of our interns who is living at the farm this summer. She grew up in Owatonna, Minnesota, and graduated from St. Olaf. She is most recently a graduate of Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia

Renee Vorndran

Renee is a 2021 graduate of Osceola High School. She is heading off to Luther College at the end of the summer and is planning on majoring in nursing.

Chloe Surdell

Chloe is our other resident intern. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska and will be a junior at Macalester in the fall. She is majoring in Environmental Studies.

Isaiah Bishoff,

Isaiah is long time farm member.  He joined us a couple of different times this summer to add to the labor force. He is on his way out to Warren Wilson College in North Carolina to begin his first year of college.

-- Dan and Margaret

July 19

Rains in our area were very spotty again this past week. We received 2/10th of an inch of rain bringing our total for June and July to 1.3 inches (nearly 8 inches below normal). This is a very critical week on the farm as we begin to transplant a variety of fall crops. It looks like over the next few weeks we will continue to see limited chances for rain, so we will need to irrigate in our fall plantings and hope for the best.

We are looking at different scenarios for what the boxes will look like over the coming weeks and months. One possibility is that we may deliver larger amounts of those crops that are doing well. For example, last week we harvested our garlic crop and we were pleased that the harvest was about 75% of normal. We may end up giving you more garlic to make up for other crops that are not doing well.

Thank you for being understanding during this challenging and unusually hot and dry summer. Your support and encouragement means so much to us.

-- Dan and Margaret

July 12

Extremely dry conditions persist at the farm. Over the past seven weeks we have received less than an inch of rain (6" below what we normally receive in June and early July). We continue to irrigate and hand water as much as we can. Rain is forecast for midweek which could help the fall transplants that we will start planting this week.

Irrigation

A number of you have been asking more about our irrigation system. Our irrigation system was designed to be a supplemental bridge during dry spells so we do not have the capacity to grow an entire crop solely with irrigation water. Our water source is our well which is quite deep due to the water table falling to the level of the St. Croix River less than a half of a mile to the west of the farm. We pump water from 322 ft. below the ground and the water temperature is a constant 47 degree F when it reaches the surface.

We irrigate the fields primarily with overhead sprinklers mounted on 2" aluminum pipe (see photo of our pipe trailer). We irrigate almost entirely at night to reduce evaporation. We can irrigate half an acre with one inch of water a night, but as many of you know irrigation does not have the same quality as rain. Rain water is warmer which results in less shock to the plants. Rain is also distributed much more evenly over the field.

Hand Watering

During these extreme conditions we have also been watering by hand. This spring we built a small watering wagon primarily for watering more than 800 trees that we have planted the past two springs.(see photo) We use the hose reel mounted on the trailer to reach several hundred feet down the row and after we have hand watered each plant we reel the hose up and move to the next row.

Mulching

This past week we also mulched our tomato plants with straw. Mulch greatly reduces moisture from evaporating, helping to keep more water in the root zone of the plants. Mulch also helps to keep the soil surface cooler which also helps to reduce evaporation.

We knew that it was only a matter of time before we would experience a drought. It has been interesting to see how different vegetables are responding to the extreme conditions. We continue to have a very difficult time getting seeds to germinate in the dry and hot conditions. We anticipate having lighter than normal boxes throughout the remainder of the season. As difficult as the season has been on our farm, we are watching our area dairy farms struggle with the decision to reduce the size of their herds due to the significantly reduced tonnage of hay and forage crops.

Thank you for your support and encouraging words during this dry period. We can't imagine farming without a supportive community of friends who are sharing the risk with us.

-- Dan

July 8

We missed the various showers and rains of last week but we are hopeful of the possibility of rain on Tuesday. Dan was even thinking about rainy day projects for the crew! In the meantime, this week, we are doing a major mulching of the tomatoes. They are looking really good and seem to like the heat a whole lot more than the rest of us do! That is the beauty of diversity. We continue to irrigate as we hope for rain. We have said to each other several times as the fields of corn and soybeans around us dry down, what must it feel like not to have the support of farm members? We are so grateful for you and for this partnership in eating locally, of understanding what the earth provides under all kinds of conditions. Wishing you all a beautiful July week complete with a good rain or two!

-- Margaret

June 28

We are sad to report that the spotty showers over the weekend missed the farm completely. In the past five weeks we have received less than a half of an inch of total rainfall. We are irrigating as much as possible, but the drought has continued to intensify. Thankfully daytime temperatures are nowhere near the extreme heat currently gripping the Northwest.

Neighboring farmers are having a debate over how this drought compares to 1988. For those of you who remember that summer, the Twin Cities recorded 44 days over 90 degrees and recorded less than a half of an inch of rain over a 10 week period. A neighboring Christmas tree farmer told us the other day that he is worried about even his seven and eight year old trees that are starting to show stress. The impacts here at the farm will likely result in your boxes being lighter than normal in the weeks to come. For example, we normally seed green beans every week over an eight week period. It  has been so dry that the past three plantings have not germinated even with light irrigation.

Margaret's Dad once said that if you farm long enough you will eventually experience nearly every weather extreme. 2021 is looking like one of those extreme years. I'm reminded that when I cut wood all tree rings are not the same width. This looks like one of those years when the tree ring will be very narrow and our yields will undoubtedly be significantly smaller.

We know we are all in this together and we thank you for your continued support and encouraging words.

-- Dan

June 21

We received about a half inch of much needed rain yesterday providing some relief from the extreme conditions of the past three weeks.  However, you will likely see the impacts from the drought and extreme weather show up in your boxes in the coming weeks.  The heat and dry conditions have prevented us from getting some of our successions planted. To add to our challenges, last week our well pump failed and we were without water for a few days.  That of course affects our irrigation capacity but to mitigate the dryness we have been able to do some hand watering.

The good news is that the well pump was replaced and back in service on Saturday and we are hoping to get back on track with our planting schedule. We are hopeful when we see rain in the forecast and know that you are loving the rains on your gardens, too.

This coming week's box will be lighter than normal for this time in the season. You are likely to see signs of drought on the edges of the greens. We recommend a longer soak when washing and hydrating your produce. 

We are so grateful for your partnership in this unusual season!

-- Dan and Margaret

June 14

Welcome to the 2021 growing season! To say that this season has been a challenge is a bit of an understatement. A cool and dry May quickly flipped to a hot and even drier June coming at a critical time in the season for getting the crops in the ground and established. Many tender transplants have struggled under these extreme conditions. We have been hand watering and irrigating as much as possible. 

Most garden plants require an inch of rain a week. Our irrigation system was designed to keep the wolf from the door during brief periods of no rain. The capacity of our irrigation system would require three weeks to adequately irrigate all of our fields once. If we do not receive rain and some relief from the relentless heat within the coming week, variety and yields will undoubtedly be negatively impacted for much of this season. We have been busy seeding in our greenhouse this past week to ensure that we can get back on track when timely rains finally resume. Until then we are doing our best. Your willingness to support our farm means so much to us especially at times like these.

-- Dan and Margaret