From the Farmer

Week 2 – 6/12/2012
Greetings,
 
It was very good to meet all of you at the farm last week. For those of you interested, we also have a few other products for sale this week – eggs from pastured chickens (the best kind) and yogurt from Pequea Valley Farm. The laying hens are raised the same way we would raise them here – free range and on pasture, so they can eat grass and insects as well as vegetarian feed. The yogurt comes from Lancaster County in Pennsylvania, the milk from grass-fed cows. We think this is important; pasture raised animals are healthier, their products creamier and egg-ier, and keeping land in permanent grass and clover is better for the environment. But I think you’ll see the benefit first in the taste. In fact, one of our customers told us that it was the “Best I ever had,” and requested that we continue to sell it. 
 
You will see bok choy in your share again this week, though you’ll see it’s a bit smaller – bok choy comes in many sizes and shapes, and we like to keep things interesting by growing different varieties. So you may receive the same as last week, or you may see something a little different. Also in your shares this week: cilantro and scallions, red leaf or buttercrunch lettuce, green beans and basil. 
 
Green beans and basil – summer must be here! Indeed, it feels a little like we skipped spring this CSA season. Really, we’re still transitioning between the two; you will continue to see some of the cooler weather crops like cilantro, radish, lettuce, and cabbage (coming soon), and the first of the hot season crops like squash, beans, and basil. So yes, summer is coming, but spring is still here too and there are many kinds of veggies in the share now.
 
Times and places of transition are often like that aren’t they? Complex, diverse, interesting. In nature, transition zones are called ecotones. Ecotones are the
transitional areas between two landscapes – where meadow and forest meet, for example. These tend to be highly productive places, far more diverse than either the meadow or the forest itself and supporting a greater breadth and density of life. Some species do very well, and some species are rouged out. Our spring broccoli, for example, doesn’t like the sudden swings to hot weather, so you won’t see it in your box until after summer. The peas, too, aren’t as happy now in mid-June. But the beans are here and we can be happy with that exchange.
 
This is the edge, and we try to take advantage of the “edge effect” on the farm. garden or farm field can be a very flat, one dimensional space – rows of annuals that live for a season then are turned under and we move on. But we can add some architecture to bring in more energy. We can surround the field with shrubs, shorter trees, and accompanying species of an ecotone – figs, apples, pears for fruit, pea shrub and Russian olive for nitrogen fixation, willow for basket materials and decoration, herbs and flowers that grow beneath. Not only does this diversify our yield, but the new and complex structure of these plants create habitat and protection for the critters that can make our work as farmers less troublesome – birds, lizards, amphibians, and predatory insects that reduce our pest populations.
 
Some of this is easy; we’ve left some areas untouched to rewild themselves, and in the field, we find that birds will light on the stakes we use to trellis our tomatoes, and fly in to eat insects in the planted beds. Some of it will take a little time and patience: observing our site, then choosing species and planting them out. I hope you’ll come to the farm often and watch – and participate in – the changes.
 
In the meantime, let us know if you have any questions or comments. 
 
Be great, 
 
Mike
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Willowsford Conservancy

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