Sunday, April 9, 2017

First April Newsletter to Farmshare Members

Hello Farmshare members!!


I can't believe it is already time to start writing newsletters!  We've had our heads so buried in planting that I haven't thought about  much else.  I need to start by saying thanks to all of you for taking this ride with us this summer!  It's exciting to see so many returning names that have signed up season after season as well as many new names on the list this year as we continue to grow the Farmshare program.  This spring has been relatively mild for us and we are leaps and bounds ahead of past years in our planting schedule.  I'm excited for the season and ever hopeful for what the spring is going to bring us.  

Since I tend to get a little bit wordy in these newsletters, I'm going to hit the most important point first.  The start date.  Returning members are aware that we always target the start of the Farmshare for the first week in May, plus or minus a week.  Last year we started a week later while we waited for the sugar snaps to ripen.  This year it looks like we will start a week early.  Our start date this year will entirely depend on strawberries.  We started picking ripe strawberries at the end of last week.  So far, not enough of a bowl that any of them make it back to the house before the boys hit them.  I expect the bulk of them to hit though in about two weeks.  Strawberries are such a rare occurrence on our farm that I absolutely want the Farmshare members to get as many of them as possible.  Now if we get nothing but rain the next two weeks, it may push us back to the first week in May, but right now, I'm planning on starting the week of April 24th.  I will totally keep y'all posted over the next two weeks though.

Beyond strawberries, we have a few other new crops being added to the Farmshare baskets this year that we've never grown before.  Based on the survey I gave Farmshare members at the end of last season, we decided to try our hands at potatoes, sweet corn and cauliflower.  Cross your fingers!  Another change this year is actually due to our sales to the co-op we belong to, New South Produce. Instead of just having head lettuce this summer, we are going to alternate with a bagged lettuce mix.  I'm pretty sure most of you would like the convenience of a pre-washed bagged lettuce, so this year we are going to pilot this process and see if it can make sense financially for the farm to offer this.  



To give a quick overview of how crops are looking around here, we have multiple plantings of broccoli, cabbage, carrots and lettuce that are growing well and right on schedule.  Our heirloom tomatoes went into the new high tunnel almost a month ago and are knee high and looking beautiful. With the mild weather we've had, we've actually only had to close the tunnel up two nights since they've been planted.  Pretty unbelievable.  In our middle tunnel this year I planted Japanese cucumbers that I think y'all are going to love.  We planted these at the request of the group of restaurants that we work closely with so y'all will reap what is hopefully an abundance as well as see these on your salads at Zaza's in Conway and Little Rock.  Our cherry tomatoes are behind this year.  Most of you know we've made our name on our orange cherry tomatoes the last eight years.  This year when we saw we were going to outgrow our greenhouse space we actually decided to work with an organic nursery in Van Buren to grow our broccoli, cabbage and cherry tomato seedlings.  Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the greenhouse manager chose not to plant our 1000 cherry tomato seedlings.  And I found this out four days before we were expecting the seedlings to arrive ready to plant.  Gulp.  Nonetheless, I expedited seeds, cleared out greenhouse space and started our own seedlings.  Y'all will still see these cherry tomatoes, just not in May as you have past years. 

 
Finally, a little update on farm operations.  Many of you will remember Mike, that worked for us last summer.  Thanks in no small part to the commitment of our Farmshare members, we were able to keep Mike employed all winter long and he is just as excited about this season as I am.  Y'all will see him around all summer.  So far we've committed one intern and one more farmhand to start in May and are looking to fill a crew of six for the year.  We found out a week ago that the NRCS is offering us another high tunnel this year so construction on that will begin mid-summer.  This is really great news for those of you that loved the heirloom tomatoes we produced in last summer in our old tunnel.  Having three large high tunnels will allow us to have a three year rotation on tomatoes and keep those heirlooms protected every year from now on.  The first construction y'all will see though will be up near the high tunnels and will be a building that doubles as a pumphouse for our irrigation system and a wash station to help increase efficiency in our cleaning process.  

Allright.  I think y'all are almost up to speed!  You'll hear from me weekly from now on, typically, late on Sunday evenings.  If you know someone that is thinking about signing up, please forward this newsletter to them, it's not too late and we have about 20 spots to fill to hit our goal of 85 members this year.  Please feel free to email me (rattlesgarden@yahoo.com) or text me (501-941-0331) with any questions!  Thanks y'all!


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