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Down On The – small, local and organic – Farm

By Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) brings together community members and farmers in a relationship of mutual support. Members pay an annual fee and receive a weekly share of the farm’s produce. Support organics and your local farmers. Click here for more information on CSAs.

This is our 2nd year as members of a CSA . We love our farmers and we love the food they bring to our table each week. I even like wondering what will show up each week and having the chance to try veggies that I may have not chosen otherwise. I’ve also enjoyed reading Ken’s newsletter – it has given me a look into the life of a small, local farm. It sounds like hard but fulfilling and connected work.

Maple Spring Gardens, owned by Ken Dawson and Libby Outlaw, is located in Cedar Grove, NC. They provide organically grown vegetables and flowers to local markets and serve a CSA . Farming has been Ken’s full time occupation since 1984. “It has always been our goal to earn a decent income from the farm while practicing good stewardship of the land. We believe the two are compatible and desire to serve as a model of a viable, environmentally sound farming operation, supplying food to the local community.”

CSA Newsletter, June 2007
What’s Happening Here by Ken Dawson

Though a couple cool days a week or so ago didn’t feel like it, we seem to have transitioned from spring to summer. Hot and humid is here. The forecast for this week shows highs every day of 90 or above. Plants sure drink a lot of water in this kind of weather. Our irrigation pump gave up the ghost this week and Friday night, after we got loaded for market, I drove to Virginia to pick up another and got it set up and running by 9:30 PM. Started it again Saturday morning at 3:30 AM before I left for market. That’s how important it is. When we went out to pick the first peppers Friday afternoon and I saw leaves hanging down wilted, I was unwilling to let it wait til Monday.
Farm workers drink a lot in this kind of weather too. We have laid in a supply of Gatoraid powder enough to mix 50 gallons of the neon looking, artificial tasting stuff. Not much natural about it, but it definitely helps a body keep going in this kind of weather. We are in the process of acquiring our year’s supply of straw for mulch. It is a yearly event that happens at wheat and oat harvest time. We buy straw from a neighbor strait out of the field, use some right away and store enough to use next spring til next year’s grain harvest comes around. It’s hard work loading the trailer 8 bales high with 140 bales per load, but folks enjoy it. It’s something different from the usual routine. We’ll get a total of about 600 bales to mulch the pathways between beds, keeping down weeds and helping to conserve moisture. Just about all the spring crops are gone. We are cleaning up those fields and will soon plant summer cover crops on them. Potato harvest has begun. Melons coming soon.

The tomatoes we are harvesting are coming from our indoor crop. We have them in a structure known as a “hoophouse” or “high tunnel.” It is basically a greenhouse frame built in the garden. What distinguishes a hoophouse from a greenhouse is the lack of a heating system. We don’t grow tomatoes thru the winter. I am unwilling to burn that much gas, but in the hoophouse, we can plant about a month earlier than outside, and consequently harvest earlier. Field grown tomatoes start coming in July. We are harvesting 4 varieties now – Red Sun, Cherokee Purple, German Johnson and Sungold. You may see any or all of them. Red Sun is a hybrid red tomato. We grow lots of them outdoors as well. Sungolds are the yellow cherry tomatoes. The other 2 varieties are what is known as “heirloom tomatoes.” What that means is that they are open pollinated and have been passed from generation to generation, or neighbor to neighbor without the benefit of an intentional breeding program by university or seed company. Both of these particular heirlooms have great flavor, but low disease resistance. The ones we have in the tunnel are grafted onto a disease resistant rootstock that makes them a good bit hardier. We have cooperated the last 2 years with some researchers from NC State who are trialing different rootstock for grafting. The whole thing shows a lot of promise and is yielding some great tomatoes this year. Over the years we have cooperated with numerous researchers from State, many of whom have just used our gardens as a laboratory. It is always a learning experience for us as well as them, though we have never been awarded a degree for our efforts.

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One Response to “Down On The – small, local and organic – Farm”

  1. The Tao of Change » Blog Archive » Holiday Contemplation - a 12-Step Program Says:

    […] continuing my search for joy and good cheer this week. I mulled some local raw cider from my CSA and did the same with my favorite local wine. I attended a celebratory bonfire for the Solstice and […]

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