A spring Farm Report

Cultivating onions at 47th Ave Farm's Grand Island Farm – photo by Matt GiraudJust the other day, I was out with my draft horses – Dixie and Daisy – cultivating garlic on our Grand Island farm. The sun was in and out, but dry enough that the horses easily stayed on top of the field as my 1920s-era cultivator churned the soil and weeds under my feet. We went back and forth, back and forth, the simple mechanics of the cultivator keeping time, slowly weaving a thread of broken earth into the land.

That simple, uneventful pleasure is definitely not something I’d have been able to enjoy this time last year. As you may remember with the same shiver I do, last winter featured snow that wouldn’t go away, rain (and mud) well into the spring, and a lot of brrrrrrrrrrr!

In fact, we couldn’t even get onto the fields until April last year, setting our planting and harvesting schedules back. Or more accurately, we couldn’t start working the fields responsibly: laying a heavy tractor on muddy fields compacts the soil, squeezing out the oxygen that micro-organisms need to feed the plant and that plants need for a healthy immune system. You can’t have healthy produce without healthy soil, so despite the delays it would cause, we knew we’d want to wait out the mud and do things right. I’m glad we did, but it sure made us long for typical Oregon winters!

Like this year, which by comparison, has been mild and relatively dry. Yes, we had a little snow a last month, and for sure, the low snow pack may come back to haunt Oregon agriculture later, but for now, it makes harvesting easier.

…And we’re already out there planting for summer: Sugar snap peas, fava beans, delicate spring greens like spinach and lettuce. The greenhouse is full of baby plants and the drier weather means we’ll be planting our red tropea onions, spring carrots and early potatoes ahead of schedule! We’re definitely glad to have less mud, and happier plants than we did last year.

Meanwhile, I’ve finished the garlic. The sun pops out and warms my smiling face – and I aim the horses and the cultivator down the edge of the next field. What will this beautiful corner of the planet offer up next?

Let’s find out!