It’s finally cool today. Plus, we received several inches of rain during the night. Life at the farm has settled back into its usual lightning pace, but without the restraints and challenges that nature put on us last week. The 110-degree heat index pushed us around a little bit, but it didn’t knock us out. What would we do without water, shade and common sense? (And to be completely honest, I confess to standing in the walk-in produce cooler for an extra-long couple of minutes on one of those days. Whatever it takes.)
Occasionally, one of our customers asks us what it’s like to work on the farm. When they ask, we think What temperature is it that day? What are we harvesting? What needs to be planted? When is the next delivery? and a hundred other questions that make up the big answer. But we’ll do our best to give you an answer now that we can catch our breath.
Even better, tag along with us for the journey. As a baseline, let’s assume it’s a mild 82-degree day in mid-July. Start your clock at 6:30 AM.
6:30 AM – Arrive at the farm and give everything a quick look-over to make sure nothing needs immediate attention. If everything looks good, get a jump on the final harvest of salad greens which need to be cut while it’s still cool out.
Prep the field bins first (hose down, wash and dry) then harvest enough greens for 30 customers – with a bit extra for volunteers. Be sure to weed-out any grasses that snuck between the greens as they are picked.
8:30 AM – Bring the full produce bins into the process station and begin the wash and pack process.
9:30 AM – Move the bins into the trailer (turned storage cooler), marking each bin with crop name and date.
10:00 AM – Pot up 196 seedlings for a second Kale harvest.
11:00 AM – Find an old row-cover half buried in storm mud, wrestle it free from the dry mud, then pull the staples out of the row cover so they can be re-used on the beet ground cover.
Get the truck and move it as close to the row as possible, pull the sandbags just returned from another location off the truck, dump them into a cart, wheel the cart to the beet row, then carry and place each sandbag on the tarp till satisfied no storm wind will be able to pick it up.
Pull out the end of the beet harvest by hand-pulling all 100+ plants and laying them out on the row. Pull a heavy vinyl tarp over the remnants of the 90 ft. row and stake it down using farm staples and sand-bags.
12:00 Noon – Water/mist the 28 trays of seedlings on the seed tables. Avoid the wasp nest.
12:15 PM – Notice that the melons are looking droopy. Quickly rearrange the existing irrigation so the long hose can reach the melon rows, insert drip tape into the housing and test for leaks. Fix a leak. Start the irrigation. Mental note to turn it off in 4 hours.
1:00 PM – Take a break for a quick lunch and check emails.
1:30 PM – A school group arrives for a tour and a short class on how plants grow. Work with the teacher to create a lasting impression in the kids minds regarding farms and a healthy life.
2:30 PM – Quickly weed the carrots.
2:45 PM – Stop work to talk to a neighborhood gardener who is looking for advice on tomatoes.
3:00 PM – Put row-cover over three rows of new tomato plants (About 300 plants.) Pull row covers from previous rows which have matured. Put row-cover hoops in the ground, stretch row-cover end to end and staple on both sides. Repeat process for all three rows.
3:30 PM – Harvest cherry tomatoes. Pick 24 pints. Move indoors for storage until Thursday farm boxes are packed.
4:30 PM – Harvest onion crop. Pull entire onion crop out of the ground, then leave all onions out on the row to cure outside overnight. (The weather report says there is no chance of rain that night. That night, it rains. The onions are soaked. Some survive, most don’t.)
5:15 PM – Check on the melon plants and turn irrigation off.
5:30 PM – Use walking tractor to till up the next rows to be planted tomorrow.
6:00 PM – Vine-clip cucumber plants.
6:30 PM – Lay burlap between tomato and squash rows. Lay burlap between garlic and celery rows. (The burlap sacks are recycled coffee bean bags which are picked up from local coffee companies when we have time.)
7:30 PM – Clean-up and put tools away.
Every day is a little different because the conditions are constantly changing. Vegetables aside, the main human characteristic needed is flexibility. There are no guarantees on a farm. Weather changes on a dime, bugs move in and set up shop in the zucchini, the cooler goes out, or the heat goes sky high. It’s all just part of the day.
Is it hard? You bet! But it’s also more satisfying than almost anything else we can think of.
This program is funded 77% at $128,051 by federal funds and 23% at $38,249 by nongovernmental sources for a total amount of $166,300. The federal funds are received from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), provided by the Missouri Department of Social Services, Family Support Division.