Farm Update — May 2015

Farm Update — May 2015

  • posted on: May 4, 2015
  • posted by: 21 Acres
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We are back in the saddle and our farm season has just begun! We are gearing up for another good season.  The fields have been relatively in good condition thanks to the mild weather of this winter….normally the ground would be still boggy, but so far that hasn’t been the case this spring.

To speak of the mild winter, Washington State is officially in a drought due to the reduced snowpack this year. Governor Inslee recently declared a drought emergency as water scarcity is affecting 44% of the state. I had a chance to speak with a farmer up north in Bellingham the other day. The farmer said he could already tell by looking at the snowpack level of Mt. Baker/North Cascades that his growing season would be a short one this year. This winter I also had a chance to visit San Luis Reservoir (largest of its kind in the US) in Central Valley, California, and witnessed the ongoing severe California drought condition. The fact is that the reservoir is only 66% full with almost zero snowpack in the Sierra Nevada (melting snow is CA’s main water source in summer). Climate change is happening and affecting water levels inch by inch, day by day. Drought is no longer just a California problem.  Residents of other states should take a lesson from California. Drought crisis may come across the US soon according to GAO.  We haven’t seen California’s drought economic impact yet because of the groundwater reserves. However, what if the groundwater runs out?  One of our farming practices at 21 Acres has been to grow food with water conservation top of the mind. This is, no doubt, the very year we’ll practice that approach more seriously.  No water, no food.

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Here at 21 Acres, seedling production began in mid-March and the greenhouse is already getting full with transplants. Transplanting in the ground is based on weather and field conditions (wetness, green manure, crop rotation).  We had a few warm weeks in April and transplants were growing fast, but now things are back to normal with spring weather and rain showers and low temperatures, which is slowing down the growth of the plants in the field and seed germination in the greenhouse. Peas, lettuce, kale, chard, collards, mustards, radishes, cabbage, beans, dill, cilantro, fennel and other spring greens like mizuna and komatsuna are already in the ground. Carrots and beets are also in.  Tomato plants are growing well in the greenhouse.  Basil is looking good and will be transplanted in the high tunnel soon.  We just finished sowing summer squash seeds. Grafting apple trees has been done to improve fruiting and yield for the coming years.

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Our crop calendar for 2015 is ready. We eliminated certain crops from previous seasons and added new items.  One of the exciting additions to our new crop list is sweet potato. We are going to grow a few varieties of sweet potato this year. By the way, do you know sweet potato is a warm climate plant?  Sweet potato plants love heat for good yield.  That means we’ll need a warm summer. Cross our fingers!

As a side note, we have a few projects lined up this year.  The WSU compost trial started last fall continues and we’ll collect data on compost’s effect on crop growth and soil tilth as well as the level of heavy metals in soils and plants. We are going to experiment “no till/less till” farming, and we’re also starting up a farm internship program this summer.

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That’s it for now as a starter. I hope you are enjoying the beautiful spring!

Cheers,

— Farmer John