If you’re like me, you’ve always wondered what goes on at a farm in the winter. You too have imagined farmers burrowing into the barren soil and remaining there, in a state of hibernation, until the warm weather returns. (Or at least sitting around watching Little House on the Prairie reruns.) For most farms, however, wintertime can be surprisingly productive.
At our Pennington, NJ location especially, the colder weather gives us an opportunity to play catch-up on repairs and maintenance. The high tunnels are stripped of their plastic sheathing and their framing realigned, and the tractors and harvesters are overhauled. At Buckingham, where micro-greens are grown year-round in heated greenhouses, hoses, compost, and peat moss must be brought indoors to safeguard against freezing.
Winter is also a time to prepare for the coming growing season. The performance of last year’s harvest is reviewed, with new crops proposed or abandoned based on performance, profitability, and most importantly, customer input. Crop rotation plans are drawn up to ensure soil vitality. Cover crops planted in the autumn also contribute to soil health by capturing and cycling much-needed nutrients, as well as preventing against erosion.
Another wintertime focus is the creation of compost. In late autumn, anywhere from 1000 to 2000 cubic yards of leaf waste are trucked in from neighboring lawns to be composted. This compost is then used as a soil amendment, or sometimes even mixed with the soil itself. A well-balanced compost can help reduce disease, retain water, and discourage the growth of weeds.
Here in the office, the off-season means forging new connections with restaurants, caterers, and retailers. It also means finding novel ways to broaden our relationship with existing supporters. Above all, it is a time to review the previous year’s successes and shortcomings, to fine-tune our processes, to strive to be the very best Blue Moon we can be!
So while wintertime might see certain bears and hedgehogs retreating underground, it finds us farmers bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, our sleeves rolled up and our thinking caps on, dutifully preparing for the triumphant return of the sun.