Friday, March 21, 2014

Farmers take field trips too!

Despite that spring has been elusive this year--teasing us all with a few warm days and then continuing to dump snow--the strengthening sun is undeniable.  Yesterday marked the first official day of spring and the mix of rain and sun will soon mean the snow-covered fields become ready to be worked. 

Fresh Start Farms’ growers have been keeping busy while they wait for snow to recede.  We took two recent field trips to observe fellow farmers’ operations and to learn about food establishments that buy local produce. 

Last week some toured Local Sprouts, a worker-owned cooperative cafĂ©, bakery, and catering service located in Portland.  Local Sprouts buys Fresh Start Farms’ veggies in the summer and fall and is a big supporter of local and organic food producers in Maine. 

Karen and Kelly showed us around behind the scenes.   As a group, we learned how restaurants receive, store, and use the food local farmers supply them. 

This week we toured Six River Farm, a certified organic produce operation close by in Bowdoinham.  Farm owners Gabrielle Gosselin and Nate Drummond  gave us a taste of spring by guiding us through their greenhouse and one of their high tunnels. 

Upon entering the greenhouse we all--nearly simultaneously--gasped with joy at both the abundance of green life growing and the balmy air temperature.  Nate and Gabrielle explained their seedling-growing techniques, described the importance good record-keeping, and showed us some of their heating equipment. 

Inside the high tunnel we saw winter production in full swing and learned that lack of light means winter greens like Swiss chard and spinach cease to grow through December and January.  By March due to increased daylight, the plants take off again!

Today farmers will meet to discuss some of the (many) preseason considerations, including the pros and cons of soybean meal, manure, and granulated fertilizer.

More on that soon!  Think spring and melting snow for us and check back again soon!

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