This will be our fifth season growing fresh produce. Our first crop is a partial hold over from the 2017 season. We were able to put up a second high tunnel in October and attempt a winter crop of lettuce. Anyone that knows anything about an Aurora winter knows two things, there will be snow…and it will be cold.
Our new high tunnel is a huge improvement over our first. High tunnel two has a double layer of plastic with an air cushion in the ceiling to help hold in heat much better. It also has solid ends with sliding doors. Inside the tunnel, we use hoops with row covers to further protect tender plants. Our lowest temperature was -16° which lasted for several days.
The winter lettuce experiment taught us several lessons:
With the use of temperature sensors and wireless technology we are now able to monitor several locations. Just this week the temperature outside was 23°, inside of high tunnel two it was 29 ° while under the row cover it was a balmy 40°--- almost a 20° difference. The technology we are using also sends us text, email, and app alerts when the high tunnel temperature drops or rises above preset temperatures. All this helps us make informed decisions to help optimize growing conditions when we can.
With all of that said, against the odds, we were successful in growing a winter crop of lettuce that is some of the best tasting lettuce we’ve ever had. We began harvesting the end of March and hope to have it all out by mid-April, just in time to plant again.
2017 also included transplanting a new crop of strawberries. This was another first for us, we transplanted them in August instead of May and used plugs instead of bareroot.
It was a healthy-looking crop when we covered them for the winter and it will soon be time to uncover them to let the growing begin. We look forward to the upcoming U-Pick operation in June.
Spring is coming!
Our Junior Farmer Richard is looking forward to summer and work on the farm, mostly the kind that involves tractors. Less so the kind that requires him to pick up the remnants of the lettuce we harvest out of the field.
Our other two Junior Farmers, Addison and Colin will be joining us later for summer camp. We always enjoy having them on the farm.
Vested Heirs Farm continues our efforts with the Preston Growers Co-Op as we use the power of our fellow farmers and their growing abilities to offer larger quantities to interested buyers. There is a comfort in joining forces with other farms to fill the increasing hunger for locally grown produce.
Winter is in its last throes even though as this is being published there is snow on the ground and we are expecting more. The weather man says not to expect it to go away until May. Every day there is more day light later into the evening. Throughout winter, we try and rest to gather our strength for the coming year. The further we get into spring and summer; our down time will be greatly reduced as the season ramps up. It will mean more long days and dinner often at later times while we try to harvest produce for our orders.
It's always a time of great anticipation as we prep for the new growing season. We've pared down considerably from our first year growing fresh produce when we had almost forty crops. We've learned that to be sustainable, we have to grow what we know we can sell and do so profitably. Expansion will continue as our schedules allow it by moving forward with slow growth to ensure that sustainability. We cut our labor efforts with new technology as we continue to grow.
Now if we can only get some warmer temperatures and drier conditions so we can get into the fields to plow, till and lay plastic. If all that happens, the season will truly be underway.
Just think, in just two short months you can come pick your very own fresh strawberries. We look forward to seeing you.