Early summer (out of order)

Riverbend Farm Early Summer Newsletter  May 25, 2014

Suddenly it is summer.  I think every tree we have is flowering right now.  It is great.  People are thinking about gardening and we have been selling vegetable plants like crazy. On Saturday Tracy let me sell veggie starts in front of the newly reopened Birchwood. Andrew was selling them in Delano. We had a great day. Mette will be at the Birchwood this morning selling tomato, pepper, and eggplant transplants again. Thanks Mette (and Tracy).

Andrew, Charlotte, Hannah, and Noelle have repotted all the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant into 1½ X 1½  inch pots for the final grow out before they go into the field.  It took a solid week of greenhouse work.  The greenhouses are starting to clear out. At least there aren’t any trays on the floor any more.

All the potatoes are planted. This year we are trialing a new variety from the UofM, MonDak Gold. Since all the potatoes in America are eaten as french fries or potato chips, that is what Christian Thill gets paid to work on.  These spuds  are good fried ( cut into wedges, tossed in oil and baked in the oven), on pizza, or baked.

About half of the cabbage, kale, broccoli have been transplanted. We used the two row transplanter. It is everyone’s favorite machine once they get good at operating it. About half of the lettuce is in. All the onions have been set out. There are many fewer onions than last year. I have never had great success with onions so I’m having Jerry Ford grow onions for me.  On Thursday the first zucchini went out. They had to go in three different places to find enough space.

The deer will eat all the lettuce unless we keep it covered.

Direct seeding is kind of keeping up.  The wet weather has limited the places that I can go with the tractor  and consequently is causing some back ups in stale bedding (early cultivation to let some weeds come up before a crop is planted) and planting. At this point, the forecast is backing away from rain in the short term.

Actually, we need rain. We don’t need a thunderstorm and diownpour. The trouble is that  the big rain we had during the last week of April. It saturated the soil and there is no place for the new rain to go. The rain we have had since then has been 1 – 1½” per week, just the right amount. As the temperature has warmed up there has been more evaporation and the rye cover crop is really growing again, both are helping get rid of the some of the excess water. The river is still much higher than it was when the ice went out.

Our neighbor’s hay fields look great but no one has planted any corn yet. Norman was just able to get into the driest parts of his fields on Friday.  Usually corn planting is done by early May (treated seed doesn’t rot in cold soil) and soybeans are planted mid to late May.  It is getting late to plant corn. They will see a yield reduction for every day planting is delayed after May 1st. Planting at the end of May cuts their production by about 20%.

The big farms that benefit from subsidies and federally paid crop insurance programs will probably decide not to plant any corn if they can not get in today.  It is a silly system. Typical corn yields in Wright County are about 180 bushels per acre. 80% of that is still 144 b/A.  It would seem worthwhile to me but with they will make more money taking the crop insurance.

As much as the Corn Growers talk about ‘Feeding the World’, it is really the money that matters. This is a point to remember the next time you hear someone talking about how much GMO seed and technology is needed in production agriculture.

As an aside about GMOs: I see in today’s Strib that I should be able to cross tomatoes and fish, or bacteria and corn. I am so deeply disappointed. I’m such a slacker when it comes to selecting and saving seeds. Where do they come up with this crap ?  And of course, why do they print it ?

Our neighbors have dairy cows so they will still plant corn. They are not just growing yellow stuff to put on trucks and send off the farm. Besides picking ear corn they chop a lot of green corn  for silage ( kind of sauerkraut for cows ) and use that stalks for bedding.

It is interesting to compare a real family farm that grows crops and milks cows to the industrial scale farms that produce the vast majority of milk in this country.  Norman, his sons, and grandsons do all the work on their farm.  They grow their own feed, make hay, milk the cows, clean the barn, spread the manure back on the fields, rotate their crops.  I’m very sure the owners of Metro Dairy would be able to identify a cow. Everyone thinks their milk comes from farms like Norman’s.

Okay, I gotta go. I’m going to seed a few rows of radishes and arugula and work up some ground for tomatoes. The first crop mob on Saturday will be planting them.