Farming

Fourth Harvest

By Bob | August 24, 2020 |

A gorgeous campfire under the stars with juicy conversation followed by a lovely morning’s harvest. Thank you (L-R) Roger Cuthbertson, Luca Gunther, Andy and Caroline Vaaler. This harvest was the perfect quantity for the Joyce Uptown Food Shelf (which happens to be around the corner from our volunteer corn pickers’ neighborhood!). Thank you, one and all.

Volunteer Corn Pickers – August 21st, 2020

One distressed corn stalk

Reality Check

By Bob | August 20, 2020 |

What happens when corn gets hit by powerful winds? Just take a look. These photos were taken a week and a half after a violent thunderstorm passed through our farm.

Corn blow down

Corn stalks literally knocked sideways by the wind.

What will this mean for the harvest? Though the younger stalks in later plantings have curved themselves upright, the older stalks from the first succession, especially those with heavy, nearly developed ears can’t do that so we’re losing a lot. We’re still planning to pick tomorrow – we’ll get as much as we can from the first planting but it likely won’t be a lot. Going forward I hope the second and third plantings will recover. We shall see . . .

One distressed corn stalk

This corn stalk has been knocked nearly to the ground.

Second Harvest

By Bob | August 19, 2020 |

Volunteer Corn Pickers with corn

Three pods of volunteers picked corn for the Camden Promise food bank.


Thanks to (L-R) Ann Iijima, Oscar (holding Mona), Lauren and Evra Brooks, Smack, Addie Rosenwinkeland Julie who picked corn for the Camden Promise Food Bank in North Minneapolis. It ws a lovely morning for the harvest but the damage from Sunday night’s huge storm was evident and the harvest was much smaller than Monday’s. None the less, the corn was very welcome in North Minneapolis. Thank you, one and all!

First Harvest

By Bob | August 11, 2020 |

Monday morning this intrepid group picked the first corn of our season: nearly 1,000 pounds, which was delivered to Channel One Regional Food Bank in Rochester. Thanks to (L to R) Sarah Purdy, the Sloo family (Ayva, Myranda, Mindy and Mark), Smack, Julie and Sarah and Ida York. In a little over an hour this crew completed the first pass through the first planting.

Thank you all!

Straight line winds

By Bob | August 11, 2020 |

Sunday night we had an epic thunderstorm with some of the most violent winds I’ve ever seen. In the morning I found the corn had been knocked sideways – most of the stalks were standing at a 45 degree angle. I worried “What will this mean for the harvest?”

Update, Wednesday August 12th. Turns out corn wants to grow straight up and down. Look at how this cornstalk bent to stand upright. They all did. Mother nature is amazing!

This corn stalk has straightened itself to grow upright after being knocked down by straight line winds.

Bob’s Foodshelf Project

By Bob | July 31, 2020 |

As spring 2020 approached, the outbreak of Covid-19 was on everyone’s mind. Thinking ahead to this year’s farm season and the likelihood of the pandemic affecting food supplies, we decided to dedicate a portion of the farm’s acreage to growing food for distribution by foodhselves. Second Harvest Heartland in the Twin Cities and Channel One Regional Food Bank in Rochester agreed to help with distribution and Dana Jokela of Sogn Valley Farm agreed to help with machine work and planning. So I bought organic corn seed and squash plants, we worked up the field and planted in May and June. Now The Land Stewardship Project has agreed to act as fiscal agent for the project so anyone who’d like to donate funds to pay Sogn Valley Farm for their labor and use of their machinery can do so tax-deductibly (is that a word?).

If you’d like to join the effort by donating, you visit this GoFundMe page. Donations are tax-deductible.

Soon it will be time to gather volunteers to harvest corn – but more about that soon.

Berm 1 Trees and Shrubs, September 2015

By Bob | September 15, 2015 |

Most are doing well, a few have failed. Also in the mix are chives and daffodils, but exact locations not noted. At the moment it looks like another 19 trees and 13 shrubs to complete the berm next spring . . .
Here’s the current listing, east to west. Shrubs in italics.

[Planted 2015]

Rhubarb
Apple: Roxbury Russet
Elderberry
Apple: Cox’s Pippin
Elderberry
Cherry: Gisella – Black Gold
Elderberry
Cherry: Gisella – Black Gold
Elderberry
Pear: Aurora
Elderberry
Pear: Potomac
Elderberry
Pear: Harrow Sweet
Elderberry

[Planted 2014]

Apple: Snow Sweet
Currant
Apple: Honeycrisp
Currant
Apple: Haralson(?)
Elderberry
Plum: American
Currant
Plum: Mount Royal
Elderberry
Plum: Pipestone
Serviceberry (bush)
Currant
[Needed: Tree: Serviceberry]
Currant
Serviceberry (bush)
Cherry: Evans Bali
Currant
Cherry: Northstar
[needed: shrub]
Cherry: Mesabi
Elderberry

[Planted 2015]

Apple: Enterprise
Elderberry
[failed: Apple: Cox’s Pippin]
Elderberry
Apple: Roxbury Russet
[shrub]
[failed: Pear: Aurora]
[shrub]
Pear: Potomac
Elderberry
Pear: Harrow Sweet
Elderberry
Apple: Enterprise
Elderberry
Apple: Goldrush
[shrub]
Apple: Pristine
Elderberry
Apple: Goldrush
[shrub]
Last Stretch:
[tree]
[shrub]
[tree]
[shrub]
[tree]
[shrub]
[tree]
Currant
[tree]
Elderberry
[tree]
[shrub]
[tree]
Elderberry
[tree]
[shrub]
[tree]
[shrub]
[tree]
Elderberry
[tree]
Raspberry
[tree]
Raspberry
[tree]
Raspberry
[tree]
[shrub]
[tree]
[shrub]
[tree]
[shrub]
[tree]

 

Keyline Accomplishments

By Bob | November 3, 2013 |

Gorgeous! A terrific crew of volunteers enjoyed fascinating presentations by Dan Halsey bookending a day of practical implementation of Keyline Design. Our near west field has new berms and swales and a rock (those were big rocks!) outflow by the culvert to slow and spread the flow of water during major rain or runoff events.

Here is a view of the field with the swales highlighted and the rock installation circled. I wish I had an arial photo to show the actual shape and how the berm/swale combinations follow the contour. Now we have to wait for a big rain or the spring runoff to see how it all works!

Swales marked

And here is the ‘Defensive Berm’ near the pole shed. The berm is highlighed with red, it stands about 12-18″ taller than the field – the exaggerated countour of the berm is shown in green. The blue marks a new and appropriatedly sloped channel for any water that does make it over the berm or into the area. It sends the water away from the viewer and into our intermittent creek.

Last Berm Marked

And here’s a gallery of photos of the day.

A humongous “Thank You!” to everyone who participated. We are so lucky to have you all in our circle of friends!

A Solution to the Permaculture Puzzle

By Bob | October 23, 2013 |

A while ago I challenged folks to create solutions to the erosion and water management issues on the field just west of the barns. This Saturday we’ll begin to implement techniques we hope will address those challenges. Dan Halsey of Southwoods Forest Garden created this plan. With the help of some heavey equipment and a number of friends, we’ll be creating the rock-lined catch basin at the culvert outflow and building two swale/berm combinations and a final barrier berm.

farm plan

If you want to come and join us, Dan will be giving an explanatory talk at 9:00 (with coffee and donuts, of course) then we’ll head out into the field and use a laser level and other tools to flag the field for the machines, then finish off the berms/swales with seed. Lunch will be provided and a potluck dinner and bonfire will follow. Should be a fine day to get up close and personal with keyline design.

Hope you can make it.

The Appropriate Skill Set – Farmers and Bankers

By Bob | August 19, 2013 |

Reading "Credit Skills for Lending to the Agricultural Sector" – a report prepared to help Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) understand how to make loans to farm businesses – helped me see how bankers view farmers. Since most farmers need bankers, this prespective is important. And I'm starting to think it's way out of whack.

Briefly, the report argues that to evaluate a farm business as a potential borrower a lender should focus on the things lenders normally consider: the "Five Cs": Character, Capacity, Capital, Collateral, and Conditions. From a lender's standpoint this is typically square one. As the report goes on to flesh out each of these criteria, it implies a set of values and behaviors that a lender should require of a farmer. These include cash flow analysis (broken down by "enterprise" such as poultry, corn, CSA or cheesemaking) and lifestyle expectations (the report casually mentions that 'Farmers generally live a very modest lifestyle, which appears to be well below the poverty line, and they usually have little or no cash fall-back position', an indictment of the place of food and farming in our economy IMHO, but that's an aside). Also required are 'Business Management Skills' and a whole range of skills related to marketing. This goes on in detail for pages.

But I wonder, are these requirements realistic? Reasonable? Appropriate?

A few years back I had a wonderul conversation with Lenny Russo of Heartland Restaurant. He lamented that so many farmers came to him asking what he wanted them to grow. In his mind that was backwards. Lenny wanted farmers to come to him with whatever they grew – but only because no matter the product it was was better than anyone else's. He didn't want to specify what a farmer should grow, he wanted the farmer to use her skill to figure out the best crop for her soil, climate, crop rotation etc. in order to produce a superlative product. Think about what's required to do that. Lenny didn't want good marketing, he wanted good veggies. To grow the best eggplant takes a lot more than a spreadsheet of inputs, outputs and profits, it requires deep understanding and skills that aren't mentioned anywhere in the CDFI report. Great farming that produces the very best products in harmony with the earth requires a vast skill set that bankers don't acknowledge – or possibly even see.

As I read that report, I couldn't help but think that the time and energy required of a farmer to satisfy these loan critera would pretty much exclude any time for actually farming. It's as if the bankers (who are, after all, the high priests of contemporary Euro-American society) and, by default, the rest of us put the cart before the horse: get your numbers right and do all this manangement and accounting stuff then maybe you can do some farming!

I've only been at this a short time, but I'm certain of this: a farmer's knowledge of crops, soil, water, weather, animal husbandry, forestry, conservation, biology and so on is overwhelmingly complex and valuable. And I'd rather have a farmer thinking about how to best sustain the land and produce healthy food than devote hours and hours to a marketing plan.

But that doesn't seem to be how the bankers see it.