We have learned some basic things over the years about our customers. You like to eat regularly. Every day even! And all year! You tell your friends where you get awesome produce. So, we are always looking to grow more efficiently and more productively and to extend our growing seasons.
Two years ago this month, we started something new for our farm—hydroponic growing. We did not really know what we were doing but figured, hey, we’re smart! We’ll figure this out. And indeed, we did figure out the basics. Still learning. However, the excitement of trying something new remains with us. I love watching seeds pop up in the germination trays. I love seeing the baby plants transplanted into the nursery channels, And I love seeing the plants growing so well to maturity. And everyone is thrilled at harvest time—quick harvests, clean greens (no bugs, no splash back dirt, no pesticides). The hydro house made it possible for us to increase our productivity without needing more acreage.
We still love our hydroponic house and its production capability. We are always tweaking the crops and timing to boost our harvests. Protecting the crops from wind, excess rain, and other freaks of nature has now become a primary goal of mine. Volatile weather does not help plants grow. However, we find many crops still do better planted in the dirt. We are looking to apply those same principles from the hydroponic house to our high tunnels—maximum growing in minimum square footage. To that end, we were already growing in one large tunnel and 4 smaller tunnels. This year, we moved one small tunnel and enlarged it to become the new spinach tunnel. The fig tunnel is being renovated as is the herb tunnel. The herb tunnel has completed its renovations and is ready for additional crops. The tomato tunnel has been renovated and now houses snap peas, romaine, scallions, beets, and turnips. One new heated high tunnel is up and ready for planting—all of the plants were started in trays and are ready to go! This new tunnel will be the tomato tunnel in a few months.
These additional tunnels make crop rotation easier, and rotation is critical for plant health. The tunnels also boost our productivity, which helps us meet the demand for fresh, local produce. We are in the process of completing a second new large tunnel.
With 2020 as one of the least predictable years ever…EVER!… it is comforting to work in a somewhat predictable environment and have crops grow as planned. Hence, our love of tunnels. The plants thrive with the extra protection, and we do not have wind, bird, insect, or rain damage. What’s not to like? The tunnel challenge is managing the heat in the summer months. We have learned a lot over the past two years about heat management: shade cloths, specific crops, specific varieties, removing sides to increase air flow and reduce temperature.
What a year, right? A high stress year for everyone, and we are not done yet. We are grateful for the way our employees have risen to the challenges of the year. We are grateful that no one has gotten sick. We are grateful for our customers who are diligent about wearing masks and washing hands, and who have been patient with us as we figured out how to do curbside pickup and limit the number of customers in the store. As we come to the conclusion of this year, I thank each and every one of you for being part of our community. Stay safe!