Year-in-Review: 2018 at Broadfork Farm 1


Raspberry foliage

I’m going to start off with the weather.

Yeah, yeah, people love talking about the weather. But this isn’t just small talk for us. It’s the greater context of our life on the farm. And it has an impact on everything.

2018 began with a less-than-ideal winter.

There was some snow some of the time, but we had many freeze and thaws. Our new pond did fill up nicely though it doesn’t rely solely on water run-off; it’s also spring-fed.

Winter pond

Spring had warm days but also cold nights.

We had frosty nights until the summer solstice (June 24th), about 3 weeks longer than we’d usually expect. June 8th was an especially cold night(-5.6 C at our place). This weather definitely set back some of our heat-loving crops (like melons, eggplant, peppers).

Summer was hot and sticky.

We found ourselves taking extra time off mid-day and working later into the evening.

Hoophouse Zinnias

Early Fall Frost.

On Sept.8, we had our first heavier fall frost (we had light frost on Aug.30). This was 2-3 weeks earlier than usual. We covered crops with layers of row cover and trialed frost irrigation for the first time which protected our crops really well (you can read more about our frost irrigation here).

Frost covered globe amaranth

We had a super intense wind storm in late October.

Some of the plastic on hoophouses tore but we were really lucky overall. Based on the howling during the nights, I kind of expected to see everything blown away!

Greenhouse plastic

Snow came quite early.

A week after we finished at the Dieppe Market (2nd week of November). We were grateful we didn’t need to drive. It was nice to get an abundance of snow before the ground was super frozen, good for our overwintering plants.

We continued to have a nice layer of snow on the ground until just before Christmas when our temperatures went up to 15 C. The snow melted quickly and now we’ve got bare but frozen ground.

Based on this inconsistent weather, we felt really grateful to grow so many different crops. It’s a great risk management strategy for us. Even though some of our crops failed this year, many others did really well.

Lisianthus seed

This year was our 2nd year growing lisianthus.

It’s a beautiful flower that people often mistake for a rose. It can be tricky though. The seeds take a long time to germinate. Once they germinate, the plants take a long time to grow. Despite these potential difficulties, we’ve grown lisianthus from seed both years. And both years it’s been pretty successful – with 2018 being very successful! And then the harvests were a dream. They became many of our customer’s favourite new flowers.

Harvesting lisianthus

Our new well made irrigation easier.

Water had been a stressor for us over the past few years. Late last year we had the pond dug and a new well drilled. With the well, and our new irrigation system, it was so much easier to water things on time.

 overhead irrigation

And it was really neat successfully protecting our crops with irrigation.

 Frosty morning

The pond.

Almost immediately in the spring, we found that frogs and toads had moved in. We were always excited to scope out tadpoles as we walked past. We had a bunch of plants and seeds we were intending to plant around the pond to enhance the appeal to wildlife though we weren’t able to get them all in due to the compaction of the soil around it. Hopefully 2019 will see it more lush and abundant. Bonus: it’s made a great skating rink so far this winter!

Pond in front of high tunnel

One crop that basically failed in 2018 was our sweet peppers.

We had signed ourselves up to take part in a national pepper variety trial. The seedlings had been so beautiful in the greenhouse but once they were set out into the field, we had wireworm damage and stress from the cold nights. By the time the plants were fully recovered and producing peppers, we had our early fall frost. It seems that when we promise something to others (like a particular seed crop, or something unique for a chef, or a national variety trial), the likelihood of its failure increases.

One of the coolest things to come out of 2018 was our new Self-Loading Compost Spreader.

It was custom designed and built for us by a local machinist (read more about the self-loading compost spreader here). Spreading compost had been a job we’d identified for a few years on our annual Bottleneck Assessment (where we focus on the jobs that take the longest, or that are the least fun, and try to find strategies to improve them). The compost spreader has turned a job that used to be one of our most dreaded to a quick and enjoyable one (and no more hand-shovelling).

Loading compost

Reducing tillage.

We’re also not just adding more compost to the soil. It’s part of our strategy to reduce tillage on the farm. By a lot. The compost spreader was designed to be able to put down enough compost at once to mulch the surface of the bed. We’re then planting directly into the compost and the compost mulch suppresses the weeds. It was great to attend a day-long intensive with farmers from Singing Frogs Farm who have been using compost mulch as one of their strategies in no-till vegetable production.

Compost as mulch

This year was a cool for bear-watching on the farm.

We saw many more than usual. They mostly ate dandelions and grass. They hung out nearby but never seemed aggressive. A mom and her cubs grazing in one of the cover cropped fields did however prevent us and our organic inspector from checking out that field too closely on inspection day.

Black Bears in front of blooming apple trees

Wine Cap Mushrooms.

We put some spores under an old crab apple tree this spring and enjoyed a few mushrooms this fall. We’re excited for a bigger harvest in 2019.

stropharia mushrooms

Farming Conferences.

The end of the season offered us the treat of farming conferences (read more about our time at the conferences here). It is always so re-invigorating to see friends, meet new ones, hear great ideas (both from the official speakers and during side conversations).

the old barn

Photo taken by our friend Katie.

During this time, we had our old barn taken down.

It had to be done and we’re looking forward to using some of the materials from it to build a new one, but it really changes the view (for better and for worse…..I loved taking pictures in front of the old weathered wood siding but it’s really nice to be able to see past it into the next field).

Barn after collapse

We’re headed into the New Year excited for 2019 and what the season will bring.

Our customers are always the greatest inspiration to us. We’re so grateful for your support, yes…..but it also feels really important to know that there are others out there sharing our values. Health, nutrition, ecology, and continuous improvement (none of us are perfect but we all get so much from the process of learning, sometimes unlearning, and striving to improve).

Tulips

 

 


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