GROWER'S ROW: Grab Your Forks

It’s October on the farm! Which means: CSA distributions are bountiful in butternut, Fruit share members are enjoying apples and pears and grapes, cabbages are making a comeback, purple daikon are doubling in size, and we’re planting greens that we’ll be harvesting… in 2020?

Yes: We’re talking about our high-tunnel greens! While the long days of summer fast-forward the maturation process of our main-season plants, it can be two months (or more!) from transplant to harvest for our fall-planted, winter-harvested lettuces, kales, and bok choy.

In the lessening light of autumn, plants grow much more slowly. Eventually, when daylight dwindles to fewer than 10 hours per day, they stop really “growing” all together. During this time, plants do… well, what a lot of us do during the winter. They sit tight, and they wait for warmer weather.

What that means for us farmers is that we need to get these plants in NOW, so they can put on growth before this “Persephone period” of low-light hibernation sets in. Each day we delay makes a difference. Too many days can mean the difference between having a bountiful winter harvest, or barely having enough for our Winter CSA.

This is a big project. It entails turning a high tunnel that is stuffed to the gills with sixteen thousand, ten-foot-high tomato plants into a cavernous open space; a blank canvass with lofted, rich soil ready to receive plugs of lettuce the size of your thumb. In addition to removing all of the crop material, we must also prep the soil: we aerate it, amend it with supplemental nutrients, incorporate them, and rake it flat for seeding or transplanting.

One of the most important tools we use in preparing the soil is called a broadfork. This tool is a tall, u-shaped bar with flat metal forks coming out of the bottom. It lets us use our body weight to help sink the tines into the earth. Pulling back on the handles creates cracks in the soil, which help to break up compaction and allow nutrients, water and air to more easily penetrate to lower horizons. (Oxygen is, in fact, a key component of soil. Without it, the microorganisms that break down and recycle organic matter, making it available for plant uptake, would be unable to do their important job.) The broadfork does all this without mixing the top layers of the soil, meaning it is less disruptive to the existing soil structure and communities of earthworms and specifically-situated microbial communities there.

As soil farmers, the broadfork is a key tool that allows us to improves soil structure with minimal disruption. Also: it’s ergonomically efficient and fun to use!

Aside from tunnel prep and planting, other big projects this month will include harvesting and storing winter crops such as potatoes, purple-top turnips, watermelon radishes, leeks and red and gold beets; harvesting and curing sweet potatoes; and cover-cropping our fields.

Stay tuned next month for more photos of the harvest!

Kitchen Donations Needed

We are so excited for the beginning of the school year and our 2019-2020 after-school programs at six Poughkeepsie schools. We are looking to step up the cooking portion of all of our programming this year. For that reason, we are asking for your support. We are seeking the items below in new or gently used condition. If you would like to donate one or more of these items, please visit the farm between 5:30 and 6:30 on October 8, 15, 22, or 29 with the items. We will have a PFP educator available to let you know whether we can accept your donation (based on its condition and other donations received thus far).



heavy-bottomed stainless steel skillet (All-Clad or other induction capable)


heavy-bottomed stainless steel medium 4 qt pot with lid (All-Clad or other induction capable)


heavy-bottomed stainless steel large 8-12 qt pot with lid (All-Clad or other induction capable)


Large cast iron skillet, 15” 


Medium cast iron skillet, 8”


Kitchen tongs




Stainless steel baking sheets


Small plastic baskets for organizing small items


Durable muffin tins (NOT non-stick)


Coffee grinder



milk crates


Metal or silicone whisk


Steel scouring pads

4 Boxes of 12 

Eating Utensils (metal forks, spoons, etc)


Large metal or melamine mixing bowls with tight fitting lids


Electric or induction burners



Use Gardens to Build Community

If you are an educator looking to integrate gardening and food education into your work, consider attending the Poughkeepsie Farm Project’s Summer Institute for Educators this August. Are you a classroom teacher who wants to include more hands-on learning opportunities but aren’t sure how fit it all in? Are you new to the field of farm and garden education and want to get immersed in the topic? Do you have a vision to turn an empty patch of grass into a school garden but don’t know how to get started? Maybe your school has a neglected garden that just needs some love, attention, and advocacy to get it up and running again. Or perhaps you are interested in garden education as a way to explore food, culture, and heritage with your students. If any of these statements are true for you, our Summer Institute would be well worth your time. This three-day immersive training is designed to help educators integrate gardens into their teaching, and together we will explore topics in literacy, social studies, science, math, and nutrition, as well as build knowledge about sustainable agriculture, food systems, social justice, and ecological gardening practices.

Our annual program theme is “Using Gardens to Build Community”, and this year we will examine gardens not just as growing spaces or outdoor classrooms but also as vehicles that can empower youth to celebrate the diversity in their own communities. We will focus on the ways we can use gardens to promote the development of positive social skills, emotional regulation, mindfulness, and empathy. We will also consider how food and gardens can be used as a starting point for conversations about race and cultural heritage that are both developmentally appropriate and inclusive.

Workshop topics will range from the cerebral to the practical, and this balance is part of what makes this such a unique and valuable learning opportunity. In addition to our annual theme of building community, we will spend time on the basics of garden-based educational theory, we will visit learning gardens both at the farm and at local schools, and we will troubleshoot common challenges like how to engage a large group of students in a small garden and how to transform a typical school setting into a culinary classroom. And in addition to presenters from the PFP education team, guest presenters will include experts from regional educational organizations. Past speakers have included educators from The Mediation Center of the Dutchess County, Hudson Valley Seed, SUNY New Paltz, Cornell Cooperative Extension, as well as classroom teachers who’ve achieved high levels of success with garden education at their schools.

Regardless of your level of teaching experience or depth of knowledge in food education, one of the great benefits to all participants is sense of solidarity gained by spending three days in community with other like-minded educators who are all working towards the same goals. When you are teaching, whether you are in a traditional classroom or in a less conventional setting, you may feel isolated and alone in your work, especially if you are taking on a new project like managing a school garden. Participation in our Summer Institute will not only provide you with a wealth of knowledge to build your capacity and confidence as an educator, but it will also give you a much needed boost of optimism, joy, and rejuvenation before the start of the next school year.

So join us on the farm for three days of learning, teaching, and building community. The Summer Institute runs August 21-23, visit our info page for more information or to register. We hope to see you there!

PFP and CIA Collaborate on Farm-to-Table Brunch

Join The Culinary Institute of America and Poughkeepsie Farm Project for a farm-to-table brunch in celebration of PFP’s 20th Anniversary

On June 1, the Student Garden Club and the Sustainability Club at the CIA, and their instructor Brian Kaywork, Head Chef at American Bounty Restaurant, will skillfully transform farm fresh produce into a delicious three-course brunch experience.

Here, we invite you to meet the chefs, in their own words:

David Cruz

Growing up in Poughkeepsie wasn’t always so simple and easy. I would have never imagined myself attending such prestigious school 3 years ago; and to be in my last semester majoring in Applied Food Studies Bachelor's program is a dream come true. Not only for myself but for my parents who came to the states for a better life for my siblings and I. My interest in food has become focused mainly on educating those around me about where their food comes from. It is crucial to understand this concept as a chef and student at the Culinary Institute of America. As a chef in the industry for over 5 years, working at several restaurants including, The Poughkeepsie Ice House, Mercatos Osteria Enoteca in Red Hook, South Seas Island Resort in Florida, The Egg at CIA with Restaurant Associates, and current Sous Chef at Nic L Inn in Poughkeepsie has definitely had its ups and downs but has shaped into the chef I am today. Moving forward, I see myself educating young children, and my community on the importance of a sustainable food system. With organizations like Poughkeepsie Farm Project, it has been proving that education on food can help food insecure families while providing essential knowledge on how to self sustain oneself through growing it yourself. Awareness, knowledge, and passion will help me start my own educational farm one day, where all will be welcomed and immersed into the concept of farm to table; enabling people to cook for themselves and stray away from non nutritional and processed foods.

Alex Shao

Coming to the United States, I was unaware of the opportunities that I would soon be exposed to. Growing up and going to culinary high school in Singapore, I was mainly exposed to Asian and some basic French cuisine. I never imagined the diversity in culture and ingredients I would find here, and the level at which chefs are elevating the cuisines of the world. I eventually did my externship at Per Se in New York City, where I realized the importance of finesse and sense of urgency needed in a restaurant. Through the Culinary Science Bachelor’s program at the CIA, I was given the precious opportunity to further develop and enhance my culinary skill by learning the science behind cooking and different modern cooking methods. Moving forward, I would like to work on developing more skills and gaining more experience to take my cooking to the next level. Detail, dedication, and delivery, will help me stay focused in the kitchen and shape me to be the chef I want to be.

Dylan Leary

After growing up in St. Petersburg, FL and working in restaurants throughout high school, I went to Northeastern University to pursue Food Science through Chemical Engineering. After a year, I transferred to the CIA, where I’m working towards my Associates in Culinary Arts and Bachelors in Applied Food Studies. Here, I serve as the President of the Student Government and the Chair of the Student Sustainability Committee. In my free time, I run a nonprofit organization planning work with chefs, farmers, and doctors in rural Uganda.

Katy Cassady

Growing up surrounded by Midwest agriculture and local food businesses I learned how to love the more rustic side of the culinary industry. I worked for local apple orchards, meat distributors, and MN farmers markets at first, and then grew into the restaurant side of the industry later on. My primary focus has always been to bring the beauty of locality and sustainability to everyone I encounter. CIA has helped me to improve upon this focus and expand my food sustainability network through committees and classes. I am now a candidate for the CIA’s Applied Food Studies program and an involved member in the Campus-Wide and Student Sustainability Committees as well as a barista and bartender on campus.

Elizabeth Pope

I have always had a passion for food and cooking, but it took me awhile to truly appreciate the journey that the food made to get to my cutting board. My family wasn’t very in touch with fresh foods, and so I got what I could while living in Westchester, New York. Right before coming to The CIA, I was able to go to the farmer’s market in Union Square, and that started my journey into fresh and local foods. Now at school, I am appreciative of the different chefs and students that allow me to see the value in all products. With these stronger values, I can start to implement a love for food and sustainability into my Business Management degree, as I work to open and strengthen the Innovation Kitchen with my classmates. When i’m not working on our restaurant, I work as the maitre d’ at the Bocuse restaurant where I try to encourage students to showcase the dishes and the dining experience.

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20th Anniversary Farm-to-Table Brunch

June 1, 11am - 2pm

Environmental Cooperative at the Vassar Barns

50 Vassar Farm Lane

Poughkeepsie NY 12603

Tickets $75 / person

(845) 516-1100

GROWER'S ROW: You'd Better Believe It.

You’d better believe it: Despite the cold and slow start to the season, summer is HERE!  

With the latest wave of heat, our crops -- which have been biding their time, hanging out in the cold soil and growing very slowly -- have really started thriving. In the last week, we’ve watched them take off until they are (in some cases literally) bursting with crunch and sweetness and nutritious vegetal goodness. So! Get ready for the season's first tender vegetables like kale, bok choy, butter lettuce, arugula, summer squash and cucumbers... and of course, PYO strawberries and sugar snap peas.

When you sign up for a CSA, you are consuming something awesome. Here’s why:

Know Your Farm, Know Your Farmer

Our on-farm pick-up is an invitation to spend some time here, to wander and taste, to learn and explore. It’s a chance to get outside, to get some sunshine and fresh air, and connect with a busy ecosystem buzzing and brimming with life. And distribution is a great opportunity to connect with your farmer. We love talking about unfamiliar produce and swapping recipe ideas!

Choose Your Favorites

Our CSA gives you lots of choice. We offer a farmer’s market-style CSA pick-up, to let you choose which items you want. Experiment with something new, or bring home more of your favorites! Either way, you won’t have to take home foods you know you don’t like or won’t eat.

It’s Good For You, and Good For The Earth.

We are Certified Naturally Grown, and work hard to maintain a vibrant soil ecosystem. As soil farmers, we know that biologically rich soil make for healthier plants and crops that are bursting with nutrients. (Plus, buying local means fewer fuel miles!)

It’s Fresh.

We harvest everything super fresh -- from our farm hands to yours in as little as 4 hours! This field-to-you approach means that we can chose varieties for flavor rather than shelf-life, and harvest at peak ripeness. Does it get any fresher than that? Yes… when you pick it yourself! Members get to participate in the joy of the harvest (and get even more out of their share) with PYO strawberries, raspberries, cherry tomatoes, beans, flowers, herbs and more.

It’s a Great Value.

Receive anywhere from 10-22 lbs of Certified Naturally Grown, local, fresh, flavor-forward produce each week (depending on your share size) for an average price of $2/lb. Then get even MORE goodness in your share by participating in Pick Your Own at no extra cost! All this, and your dollars are going to supporting the local economy and a living wage for young farmers in the city of Poughkeepsie.

Get in on it. Sign up today, clear out your refrigerator, grab your baskets and reusable bags, and we'll see you next week under the distribution tent!

PFP Seeks Green Jobs Interns

Poughkeepsie Farm Project Seeks Applicants for Green Jobs Internships.

Poughkeepsie Farm Project is a farm-based non-profit organization committed to cultivating a just and sustainable food system in the Mid-Hudson Valley. On our member-supported farm in the City of Poughkeepsie, we grow fresh vegetables and fruit for our CSA, train future farmers, provide hands-on educational programs, and improve access to healthy locally-grown food.

General Information
Poughkeepsie Farm Project's Green Jobs Internship Program provides interns with the foundational knowledge to pursue a career in urban agriculture and farm education. Over the last 15 years, more than 60 alumni have completed our training programs. Our interns work on a 15-acre farm with PFP staff to grow over 200 varieties of vegetables, herbs, and fruit. We provide food for a nearly 600 member CSA and to several local institutions while contributing to Poughkeepsie Farm Project’s larger mission of working toward a just and sustainable food system in the Hudson Valley. PFP’s numerous education programs reach several thousand children, teens, and adults each year.

Who we invite to apply
We seek dependable, good-natured individuals with active interests in food, farming, and working with children. Applicants should have good communication skills, the ability to take initiative, and the desire to be part of an active farm community. Applicants should be able to comfortably lift 25 pounds and engage in repetitive work, in all weather conditions. Applicants MUST be City of Poughkeepsie residents aged 17 to 24 or Poughkeepsie High School students to be eligible for this internship.

Educational Benefits and Compensation

Both paid and unpaid internships are available. Applicants with more experience in farming, gardening, and/or teaching will be considered for the paid internships. Over the course of the season, interns will develop skills in a wide range of farming and teaching tasks including:

  • Greenhouse seeding and maintenance

  • Transplanting and farm bed preparation

  • Crop management, pest control, and irrigation

  • Harvest and CSA distribution set-up

  • Tractor and equipment safety

  • Effective instruction for children

  • Using gardens to teach

  • Building community and developing a conducive learning space

  • Leading cooking workshops for children

How to Apply

Apply Online

Download a Printable Application

Download a Printable Flier

Funding for this internship is provided in part by NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Poughkeepsie City School District, NYS OCFS, and Dutchess County Division of Youth Services.

Growers Row: Hey André! Hey Plant Sale!

By Lauren Kaplan, Crew Leader

It’s SPRING… and gosh golly gee do we have some good stuff cookin’ this month.

First, we’re growing our team! Welcome André, who comes to us with a solid farming background, a (much appreciated) eye for detail, and a great big smile. As FoodShare Coordinator, André will be facilitating the donation of thousands of pounds of produce to our 12 FoodShare partners in and around Poughkeepsie. We are so thrilled to have him as part of our team for the 2019 season.

Also we are growing PLANTS. Lots of them. The tunnels are bursting with bright green arugula and mustards, and the greenhouse is finally starting to feel like itself again: the air inside is warm, the seeding table is in regular use, and all available surfaces are quickly filling with flats of seedlings. And some of them could go home with YOU!

That’s right: the next big thing we’ve got cooking is our Plant Sale.

As usual, our plant sale will feature around 100 varieties of starts -- everything from vegetable starts (of course) and potted strawberries to a wide selection of annual and perennial flowers and flowering herbs. Some have medicinal qualities, some are good for tea, some attract bees and butterflies and hummingbirds, and some (sunflowers! echinacea! rudbeckia!) are just plain pretty. We’ve tweaked our list this year, and will have some exciting new varieties.

Unlike past years, however, this year’s event is more than just a plant sale. This year, to mark 20 years (!) of this amazing PFP community, we are having a festival! We hope you’ll come celebrate with us at Farm Fest & Plant Sale, happening Saturdays May 4 & 11 from 9am-3pm.

In addition to the seedlings destined for the plant sale, we’re also starting lots of plants for our own fields. Tomato seedlings are headed to the high tunnel, where they will grow in a protected environment and eventually produce thousands of pounds of red tomatoes for CSA. Leeks and scallions, also destined for CSA, are headed into the fields, which are at the moment too cold and wet to plant into. And the first round of kale and collards, beets and chard, are right behind them.

We’ll be busy this month, clearing out our winter greens after a successful Winter CSA season to make space for incoming high-tunnel tomatoes, seeding up a storm, spreading compost, and even (though it doesn’t feel real on this gray grim end-of-March day) planting in the fields. We hope you’re not so busy that you can’t find a little time to go on a crocus-spotting stroll or splash around in an April shower puddle.

PFP Project Focuses on Environmental Justice Issues in Poughkeepsie

Chef Key leads a cooking workshop at the Poughkeepsie Underwear Factory.

Chef Key leads a cooking workshop at the Poughkeepsie Underwear Factory.

“So creative, I never thought of putting apples and sweet potatoes in the same dish!” An inspired smile spreads across the face of the woman taste testing. I can feel the excitement too, it bubbles up as I stir a pot full of finely chopped roots and fruit, seasoned with cinnamon and sea salt. There is definitely a warm, loving family energy happening on the black top of the basketball court at Malcolm X Park today. Children are dancing to the DJ’s kid-friendly hip hop, and adults from Scenic Hudson and a local mosque are leading a group on a exploration at the banks of the Fallkill Creek that flows alongside a shaded, grassy hill. MASS Design Group is also present, collecting community input about plans for accessible creekside parks.

That was the scene from last fall’s “Fall in the Park” where I offered a community cooking demonstration that was funded through NYS Department of Environmental Conservations’ Office of Environmental Justice Community Impact Grant. At the heart of environmental justice is the difficult work of ensuring that all voices are included in the making of policies for a healthier environment, particularly those from the most vulnerable communities, low income and people of color, who are disproportionately burdened with the impacts of industrial pollution and contamination. Our goals for the Community Impact Grant are to encourage city residents’ connection to nature, support existing community gardens and school gardens in ecological growing practices and cooking of local produce, as well as to increase the organic matter found in Poughkeepsie’s gardens.

The pursuit of meeting these goals has been such an incredible learning and relationship-building process. We began with Advanced Composting Workshops offered in partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Dutchess County and Nubian Directions II, Inc. Local youth, PFP education staff and interns, as well as a handful of community gardeners took part. We came together before the 2018 growing season to learn the science of soil, and to do real-time soil testing. The workshops were several hours in length, and very intensive. We found that it was not the right fit for the young people taking part. Another moment of learning occurred when I tried to lead a cooking class at the Community Family Development Center on Mill St for families of the children who go there for childcare, and no one showed up. Several CFD staff members, the custodian and I chatted while gnawing on some carrots. Had they encountered this issue before, I asked. Yes was the resounding answer, and as we talked much of our conversation reminded me of the similar struggles I have listened to Poughkeepsie public school teachers name about parent engagement. It was clear: in order to do a better job of connecting city residents to the opportunities that the Community Impact Grant was supporting us to offer, we needed to be much more flexible and responsive. So I, along with Jamie Levato, the Educator Direction, began to brainstorm. How could we reach people with already limited time and energy resources where they already are rather than asking them to stretch to make additional commitments?

Farm-fresh ingredients

Farm-fresh ingredients

Chef Key offers tastes of healthy dishes prepared with produce available at the Free Farm Stand.

Chef Key offers tastes of healthy dishes prepared with produce available at the Free Farm Stand.

Chef Key leads teens in preparing some zucchini fritters.

Chef Key leads teens in preparing some zucchini fritters.

So we shifted focus off hours of content and focused on getting connected to folks where they are living, playing, or already have to go to get basic needs met. Cooking classes at Interfaith Towers senior housing were an absolute hit! Following the popular “Week in Meals” workshop which focused on making fresh foods last and making a delicious Thai Noodle Bowl, I returned in November for “Healthy Holidays” where 26 seniors enjoyed company and conversation while chopping and braising brussel sprouts, parsnip, and carrots to serve with Maple Soy Glazed Turkey Breast. We also started to do cooking demonstrations at events at local parks, housing projects, and schools. This partnership model of community engagement has led to successes like the Malcolm X Park day I described earlier, as well as our attendance at the Boys and Girls Club of Poughkeepsie Day for Kids, a playful outdoor event focusing on health and wellness which reached over 60 children living in the adjacent public housing on Smith Street. At the Morse School’s Thanksgiving celebration, where the entire community of teachers, firefighters, police officers and community leaders come together to feed hundreds of students and their families, I was invited into the school’s cafeteria to prepare fresh Kale and Apple Salad to pass from table to table.

Finally, an ongoing relationship has also evolved with the Dutchess Outreach Free Farm Stand. This free distribution of fresh produce takes place the 3rd Friday of every month. I began tabling each event during the early summer last year and have become a regular fixture at almost every distribution since. Nyhisha Gibbs, Dutchess Outreach Volunteer Administrator always manages to welcome me with a quick hug before she returns to directing the group of about 20 or more volunteers who help create the no-cost pop-up market. Long lines of more than a hundred people form well before the 2:30pm start time. Parents with strollers, seniors with rolling metal carts, and young siblings giggling together all wind their way along the parking lot at North Hamilton and Mill St, adjacent to the Family Partnership Center or, in cool weather months, stretch down the block from the Poughkeepsie Trolley Barn. There’s different produce each Free Farm Stand, so each session I create a new, creative dish to offer based on the available veggies. Greek Cucumber and Tomato Salad; Stir Fry of Snow Peas, Broccoli and Carrots; and Spinach Pasta Primavera were some of the dishes sampled by people while they waited in line for food. The Free Farm Stand radically transforms the experience of visiting a food pantry into a bustling, warm neighborhood gathering, and PFP fits right in. What a joy to fill the air with the smell of sauteing onions and chat about experimenting with familiar foods in new ways!

Teen interns get their peers excited about kale salad at Dutchess Outreach's Mobile Fresh Market.

Teen interns get their peers excited about kale salad at Dutchess Outreach's Mobile Fresh Market.

Bintou Hinds, Jamie Levato, and Ozie Williams distribute produce at Dutchess Outreach's Free Farm Stand. Photo credit: Sean Hemmerle

Bintou Hinds, Jamie Levato, and Ozie Williams distribute produce at Dutchess Outreach's Free Farm Stand. Photo credit: Sean Hemmerle

PFP interns, Alyssa, Kitana, Zoe and Olivia offer tastes of fresh curdito at the Poughkeepsie Healthy Black and Latinx Coalition's Hispanic Heritage Festival.

PFP interns, Alyssa, Kitana, Zoe and Olivia offer tastes of fresh curdito at the Poughkeepsie Healthy Black and Latinx Coalition's Hispanic Heritage Festival.

With the weather warming up, I’m packing up more PFP produce for spring cooking workshops being held at Adriance Library, Family Services, Early Learning Center and Poughkeepsie Underwear Factory. Along with the team of educators staffing our afterschool programs in all 4 elementary schools, plus the middle and high schools, the DEC EJ grant will allow us to make permanent material updates to school gardens, improving their capacity as educational spaces. While environmental justice issues are a part of the many challenges Poughkeepsie residents face along with economic injustice and complex systemic social problems, these experiences have taught me that it can be a powerful and fun experience to cooperatively create a healthier, more just Poughkeepsie.

Chef Key and Chef Dave lead cooking workshops for teens at Poughkeepsie High School.

Chef Key and Chef Dave lead cooking workshops for teens at Poughkeepsie High School.

May Share Madness

Have you got the winter blues (and grays and browns)? Are you keening for some fresh greens?

Lettuce invite you to join May Share! Get your hands on the first crisp and tender greenstuffs to come out of the field! The first spring harvest of the season includes lots of fresh arugula and baby mustards, head lettuce, sweet (not spicy) red radishes and Hakurei salad turnips, as well as tart bright stalks of rhubarb and a few other surprises. Here are the details:

What: May Share! Two Tuesdays of around ten different spring-harvested crops for $62
When: Tuesdays May 21 & 28, 3:00-6:30pm
Where: Pickup at the farm (51 Vassar Farm Lane, Poughkeepsie, NY, 12603)

It’s also a great time to sign up for the main season CSA. Learn more, sign up, or stop by Farm Fest & Plant Sale for a CSA Q&A and guided farm tour!

Grower’s Row: Marching In Like A Lion

By Lauren Kaplan

The month may be off to a predictably cold start. But if the proverb proves true, the next four weeks will usher in some lamb-like weather. This means it’s time for us, the farmers, to start shepherding our fledgling crops.

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In the first few weeks of March, we’ll be transitioning our greenhouse space -- which for much of the last few months has served as our winter wash station for high-tunnel greens and storage roots -- back to a nursery. Soon, the tables which now stand empty will be overflowing with trays of seedlings. Sprouts of all kinds -- everything from tomatoes destined for the high tunnels to perennial flowers, herbs, and vegetable starts for our Plant Sale -- will cover every available sunlit surface. They will be demanding water at all hours of the day, as their little cells dry out, as well as the opening and closing of doors to keep them warm (but not-too-hot). Tens of thousands of little lives we’ll have, every one eager to gather sun and spread their roots, to stretch their stems and swell their fruits. It will be chaos: glorious, riotous leafy-green chaos… and a welcome change from the gray quietude of winter.

Leon spreading compost

Leon spreading compost

March is also a time, as the soil softens, to start preparing beds to receive these demanding little charges. The first step with all beds is to cover them in compost: a dark, biologically-active soil-like material rich in organic matter and nutrients. It’s a ton of fun to hop on the compost spreader (picture an oversized Radio Flyer wagon with spinning blades in the back), drive it into the fields, engage the PTO (or power take-off), and smell the earthy black richness as it spews wildly across the fields. We’ll be systematically covering the entire farm in compost over the next few weeks, as well as tilling in our winter cover crops, marking out beds, and generally getting ready to get into the ground.

What March has in store for us is anyone’s guess. Some days are damp and bone-chillingly cold, while others are harbingers of spring, soft with birdsong and warmed by the sun. As unpredictable as these days are, they all have one thing in common: the excitement at the start of yet another growing season -- PFP’s 20th! -- and all of the eager anticipation for the crops that are to come.