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Root Down Farm Ramblings

Spring Share #2 of 5: 5/7 + 5/9 Soggy

by Erin and Steve on 05/04/19

Wow, May Day blew by and now we're ready for some serious transplanting into the big fields, but we need the rain to quite and the sun to come out! We need some dry weather here and not just a 'window' this time cause we got some work to do.
I'm glad we got into the fields in the previous weather windows afforded to us, but now the ground is more saturated than it's been all Spring (which started at the end of March;).
So thank goodness for high tunnels, because right now all the veggies in the Spring Share are coming out of them, including these guys that will be in this week's share: scallions, broccoli raab, radishes, lettuce mix, spinach, bunched greens, chives, bok choy and baby kale. See all you Spring Sharers between 4 and 6 on Tuesday or Thursday. For everyone in the Summer Share, as I mentioned in the last email that share will start the first full week of June (if things ever dry out! ha!).

The Spring Share is Starting (which is not the Summer Share)

by Erin and Steve on 04/27/19

Yeah, even though it's snowing outside we are happy that the Spring Share is starting! Now...again...I have to say this: The Spring Share is not the Summer Share. If you are signed up for the Spring Share you have now received 2 emails about it from the farm. If you have not received these emails it is because you didn't sign up for the Spring Share. If you are signed up for the Summer Share you will be receiving info from the farm closer to the start (which is the first week of June).
But the Spring Share is starting this week. Remember that pick ups are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 to 6**. So if you are picking up on Tuesdays then your first pick up is Tuesday April 30th from 4 to 6**, and if you are picking up on Thursdays your pick up is on the May 2nd from 4 to 6**.
The share will include (but is not limited to) salad radishes, herbs, bunched greens, broccoli raab, scallions, spinach and lettuce mix. So if you have a Spring Share we will be opening the barn doors for you for the first time in 2019 this week! So exciting!

The Spring Share Start...not the Summer Share Start

by Erin and Steve on 04/20/19

Good news for all you guys who signed up for the Spring Share: it is starting soon! The first Tuesday pick up will be on April 30th from 4 to 6** and the first Thursday pick up will be on May 2nd from 4 to 6**. Now, everyone who signed up for the Spring Share was sent an email last week and will again receive a second 'reminder email' this coming week.
To be clear, we are talking about the Spring Share and the Spring Share is not the Summer Share. So if you did not receive an email about the Spring Share that means you did not sign up for it.
The first plants for the Summer season went in the ground in the big fields last week. We were lucky enough to get them in before the next round of rain. We're hoping for some more sun this week, too so we can stay on schedule. Staying on schedule never really happens though because we are at the whim of Mother Nature and she's been a little less predictable lately! So we are savoring the sunny days, and hoping for a little less rain in the forecast. The farm is getting greener and greener by the day.

Hurry Up and Wait

by Erin and Steve on 04/13/19

I'm sure every year at this time I title a post "Hurry Up and Wait". That's what Spring is like for us. Everything needs to get looked over, combed through, counted, adjusted, sorted, ordered, cleaned, changed, updated, and ready to no specific time other than it all better be ready when we need it! What??
This coming week is the week that the field plan has the first of our large crops going out into the fields. This is our 9th CSA season, and I think things have gone according to the start date once out of 9 times (because the forecast shows a load of rain this week!). So my nerves are going and I'm looking at the farms we follow all over the country on Instagram posting their first transplanting days and I get a little jealous. But any day now I'll be posting about finally getting in the big fields for the official start of 2019's CSA season.
But we keep preparing so that when there is a window in the weather we can go, go,go as fast as we can before it rains again. Good thing we had the Winter to rest our bodies before we start demanding too much from them again...ha.

Onions Demystified

by Erin and Steve on 03/26/19

So we for some reason get a lot of questions about our onions, specifically storage onions, and I don't really know why other than people just don't understand how they grow and how many different varieties of onions exist in order to serve a myriad of purposes.
I had a friend visit me once when I was living and farming in Vermont. Steve and I took her on a tour of the vegetable fields at the farm where we were working. She was amazed at a vegetable sitting seemingly on top of the soil with grassy-like 'hair' coming out the top. "What are those Erin?" she asked (well, honestly she called me by the ridiculous nickname she had for me at the time). "Those are onions," I said. "If you look closely at them you'll see."
This part of this particular visit has always stuck out in my memory because if you know what a fresh onion looks like it looks exactly like that on top of the soil right before it is ready to be harvested.
So, putting this all into the context of our farm and the season that is already underway...onions were the first things to be seeded. All 25,000 seeds of onions are broadcasted into 1020 greenhouse trays (1000 seeds per tray) at the end of February. When they germinate they look like green hairs or grass. We grow 9 different varieties of onions. We seed specific varieties to be harvested 'fresh' like Sierra Blancas, Ailsa Craigs, and Walla Wallas to name a few. The foliage of the fresh onion is still green and looks like scallion tops when they are harvested fresh. Generally these fresh onions are milder and sweeter in flavor than storage onions. They also cannot store as long as specific storage varieties. We grow Scout, Red Bull, and Cortland onions as storage onions (and there are a few specialty ones like Cipollini in the middle). Cortlands generally last us in storage all the way threw to the end of the Winter Share.
Onions are a crop we grow with a lot of pride because they are difficult to grow. Not only do they have pests and vegetable diseases to fend off (as do all vegetables), they have almost no canopy to shade out weeds so it is a pain to keep them weed free. We use tine weeders early on and finger weeders later on in their growth cycle to mechanically cultivate them. This means the beds of onions cannot have any drip lines in them (the typical way we irrigate) because they would get caught up in the tine weeder. So the onions even have their own irrigation gun the farm purchased to make them happy in dry seasons. A picture of this can be found on our Instagram page. Just click the icon in the upper corner of this page that looks like a polaroid camera. The picture from June 25th, 2018 shows our onions from last year grown right there on the corner of Shimerville and Roll roads (YES, if you drove through that intersection at all last year between early May and early August you drove right by all the beds of onions). Go ahead and follow us on Instagram if you want, or if you are not able to just visit our Instagram page throughout the season to see the progress of the farm and the onions.
There is way more info I've got for you on onions, including how we cure certain varieties for storage, but we'll leave it there for now and I'll explain more about our onions...just one of the almost 60 different crops we grow...later.

The Greenhouse has Started

by Erin and Steve on 03/13/19

Here we go 2019. The earliest seeds to be transplanted out into the fields were started in the greenhouse on Monday. Good thing the weather is a bit warmer, now if we could get the sun to stay out for more than one day maybe the ground will start drying out! We seeded 100 cell trays that had 98 cells per tray and 10 cell trays that have 50 cells per tray. That's over 10,000 seeds i.e. plants slated for the spring fields. And that's just the first week of seeding!
We are also seeding the the high tunnels (the buildings that look like greenhouses, but are not heated) for the Spring Share and even with those cold temperatures, the first seeds seeded in February still germinated. We are continuing to turn these tunnels over from the winter share so they can be seeded into again for the Spring share. It's an exciting time. If the sun is out it can get up to 80+ degrees in the tunnels even if it is in the 20's or 30's outside. But if it's cloudy outside, it can be pretty cold to work in there. So here's to more sunny, warmer, dry days. But I'm not wishing time away, this year will probably fly by like most of them do.

Sunny Days

by Erin and Steve on 02/16/19

February is getting away from me here. I don't have as much to do during this time of year, and I try to limit the amount of time I spend working because this is supposed to be (and actually is) down time for us. However, we are in the midst of a pretty large farmhouse renovation and that is taking up most of our time and lots of Steve's thoughts. If everything works out the farm will finally have it's own office and it's own kitchen. We are starting seeds for the season the last week of the month. Then it's on to the new barn improvements for the year: a new wash room. This is quite the undertaking as the barn will eventually be reconfigured on the inside, but right now the goal is the washroom. Hope there is time for that on top of everything else we have to do before we have to actually get in the field in April!
So I want February to last as long as possible. This goes against common thought, I am sure as most are ready to move past winter now. But the daylight now lasts longer than 10 hours per day, which is key for both plant growth and the psyche. So all of you who signed up for the Spring Share can smile even when the weather is crap knowing that the seedlings that will become some of the vegetables in the Spring Share are already starting to grow in the high tunnels. I mentioned starting the greenhouse at the end of the month, so for now I have seeds to sort.

Stick the Landing

by Erin and Steve on 02/09/19

I was a gymnast from the time I was 5 years old until I was 10. When I turned 10 I thought it was amazing that I had been doing something for half my life (I have a memory of this conversation). I liked doing it and even competing at gymnastic meets. Once I started growing too fast (I'm 5'10" now) it became difficult. But at the end of every event...floor routine, uneven bars, the beam, and the vault, I made sure that my dismount was spot on. I loooved to stick the landing. Then you stand up tall and put your hands up like "ta-da". Then solute the judges and walk back to your coach.
Well we just finished up the 2018 CSA share season and afterwards I wanted to put my hands up like I stuck the landing after nailing the routine, solute, and walk away with my toes pointed. We had an amazing year. I'm very proud of it. I'm also very thankful for everyone who supports the farm and this wonderful piece of farmland, the BIG old barn and the people who make everything come together including the crew and volunteers. The season in WNY can be demanding, relentless, and unforgivable so when things work out well..."ta-da". Nailed it. Now on to 2019.

Winter Share #8 of 8: 2/4+2/7 The FINAL Pick Up

by Erin and Steve on 02/02/19

This week marks the final Winter Share for the season! It's a happy occasion that somehow is sad because we won't be distributing vegetables until the end of April :( But not to worry! Remember Winter Share members can order in bulk this week (check out your email) and we still have some spots open for the 2019 Summer Share Season. Not everyone on the waitlist has received an email to sign up. We are grateful for the interest in joining our CSA and hope that your patience isn't wearing thin. We grow on a set amount of acres each year and for reasons connected to soil health, we have to limit the number of people in the CSA. It's important to keep in mind that you are what your food eats! Seriously, nutrient dense, healthy soil feeds the vegetables that end up on your table. It's important to keep that in mind when you are looking into how your food is grown/raised.
Anyhoo, it's a busy time for us on the farm as the final share is the largest one of the winter season, the 2019 share is almost full, and we are marching forward with crop planning for when it is green again outside. We are also continuing with infrastructure improvements and hoping they will be done by the time we need them to be. If you want to keep up with the farm in real-time make sure to follow us on Instagram @therootdownfarm.
Now this is what is in the final winter share: carrots, beets, parsnips, celeriac, turnips, radishes, kohlrabi, rutabega, onions, kale, cabbage, potatoes, cayenne peppers, apples from Bittner-Singer Orchards, and hopefully lettuce mix if it survived the polar vortex.

1/28: Another Down Week Before...

by Erin and Steve on 01/28/19

This week marks the final "off" or "down" week in between Winter Share pick ups. The Fall calendar was a bit wonky and it has led to the Winter Share season ending a little earlier than normal. The final Winter Share is next week for those wondering.
Most of the Farm Plan for the season is set, with some little adjustments still to make. Mapping out the fields this season is next on the to-do list. We use our rotation plan to map out were every single crop and all if it's required successions will go. Specific cover crops are also involved in this plan. We are turning our attention to some major infrastructure improvements to be done to the barn before the weather breaks (hopefully). We were previously in "Save the Barn" mode. Now that we have shored up the piers, walls, water issues inside the barn and put a new roof on the monstrosity, we are moving to "Improve the Barn" mode. Stage 1 of Improve the Barn is moving the wash station indoors, woohoo!! 
Anyway, lots to do in this "down" week before the final Winter Share pick up (and bulk sale) take place.

Winter Share #7: 1/21+1/24 The Polar Vortex Returns

by Erin and Steve on 01/21/19

This weekend is supposed to be crazy: snow, -3 degree temperatures, and more snow. The event is supposed to be over by Monday so we are going to move on with that in mind. If anything changes because of the weather please check back here for updates, but let's just keep our fingers crossed.
Remember the pick up will be in the root cellar at the back corner of the parking lot. The 42 degrees that the cellar is kept at will feel down right warm compared to outside temperatures! This week's share will be the 2nd to last pick up of the Winter season and then we'll be able to finally fully turn our attention to 2019. It's a good feeling every's kinda like the farm's New Year.
But since we're taking one step at a time given the weather situation we'll focus solely on this week's share:
potatoes, onions, carrots, beets, parsnips, celeriac, turnips, kohlrabi, cabbage, radishes, squash, leeks, kale, lettuce, popcorn, and more ;)

Frigid, but Off Week for the Winter Share

by Erin and Steve on 01/14/19

Well the snow I wanted has arrived, and so has the sun. Unfortunately some pretty frigid temperatures have come along for the ride, too. We're hoping some of the crops in the high tunnels (unheated greenhouses) that are approaching harvest time can make it through these cold nights!
I'm in mid-"oh no it's almost February again" mode, but am holding on to the last half of January for as long as possible. The first seeds of 2019 go in the ground in February...I'm just not ready for that quite yet. After spending the majority of my work days behind a computer right now, I'm still in my winter hibernation routine of building 1 puzzle a week, getting at least 9 hours of sleep a night, watching movies, yoga, and READING! All things I don't get to do during the growing season.
I hope you all get a chance this week to do something that you love doing that doesn't include work. We're hoping for some more snow so we can do some cross country skiing :)
Next Winter Share is next week (the week of the 21st).

Winter Share #6: 1/7+1/10 Down Time

by Erin and Steve on 01/04/19

***The next Winter Share pick up is in the Root Cellar at the other corner of the parking lot. Look for the sign and the lights***
I usually keep up with the blog and our Instagram social media account (@therootdownfarm or if you wanna just see updated pictures click on the icon above on the right that looks like a camera) over the holidays, but this year's holiday schedule was a bit more hectic. So I didn't do any keeping all. And I feel okay about that. It is always a delicate balance, for anyone who runs a business from their home, to separate life and work. As the years go on I need more and more separation, which is soooooo difficult!
Anyway, I hope that everyone had a wonderful Holiday Season. Now we are getting excited for an even more successful 2019! I know you might get sick of this, but there's even more changes coming for the 2019. If you've driven by the farm at all recently you may notice the trees being cleared, and some kept and cleaned up, behind the farmstead. We are planning on adding more high tunnels (unheated greenhouses) and more small fields in order to continue to grow vegetables in the best way possible. Improvements take time, unfortunately. But fortunately they are happening (I may or may not be the most patient person).
From now on the Winter Share pick up will take place in the root cellar. The root cellar is the small white building on the opposite corner of the parking lot from the barn. The yellow sign will be by the door and there are outdoor lights on the building that will be on. The space is heated, so we always do pick ups from this building in January and February. This is what is in this week's share: potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, carrots, beets, parsnips, celeriac, rutabegas, winter radishes, kohlrabi, leeks, cabbage, kale, squash, and more options! See you in the root cellar.

Winter Share #5 12/17+12/20 The Last of 2018

by Erin and Steve on 12/14/18

People commonly ask what we do in the Winter months. Though the work load slows dramatically, we still have plenty to do in the reduced hours of daylight. We are still harvesting, caring for, and monitoring the vegetables we have growing in the high tunnels (ie unheated greenhouses). We also have a BOATLOAD of planning to do. All of the greenhouse plans for the 2019 season are laid now. Since we grow all of our own plants from the start, our greenhouse plan has to be very precise from each broccoli seed seeded to every zucchini. All of these precise numbers are based on harvest yields we've predicted for the season. We also have a separate field plan that is so much larger than the greenhouse plan, but just as accurate and detailed. Once again, since we start ALL of our crops from seed, anything we don't seed in the greenhouse we seed directly into the ground. Carrots are a good example of a crop seeded directly into the ground. So the field plan includes every last crop transplanted or seeded into every field in our 10 acre crop rotation. So when you come to the first Summer Share pick up next year and grab a single scallion please know that the variety of scallions was chosen for that specific time of year and seeded on a specific date in the greenhouse in order to transplant it out into a specific location in a specific field on a very specific date in order to have it ready to harvest for you on the day you pick it up. We also had to seed a specific amount of it in order to have enough for everyone in the share that wanted scallions that week. We then have to plan for succession plantings in order to have scallions available multiple times throughout the season and harvested at their peak. This is just one example. We have a plan for every single variety of all the different vegetables we grow. I'm sure you can appreciate the math involved, but also the intention that goes into every single crop you receive in any one of the shares we offer.
I take great pride in our yearly plan because it really is the foundation for every success or failure we have within a season. It is a drawn out plan of the crazy thoughts and ambitions in my head converted to algorithms and attached to specific dates all based on our experiences as growers. It comes together multiple times a week for 30 weeks in a row (plus every other week in the Winter Share). Sometimes there are "pockets" in the plan created by adverse weather conditions like too much or not nearly enough precipitation. But the plan has both a belt and suspenders to make sure each share every week is bulky.
So yeah, that's what I'm doing in the Winter, plus it is almost time to order our seed for the season, which usually takes up a good 8 hour work day (yep, the annual seed order is that involved). Now of course this isn't the only things we are doing, but I'm gonna leave the rest for another time!
So when I tell you what's in this week's share know that I planned for it in December of last year! And here's what it is: potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, carrots, beets, kohlrabi, parsnips, onions, winter radishes, cabbage, kale, bok choy, erba stella, leeks, garlic and more! (wink, wink)
**Remember that after this pick up we skip 2 weeks..the next pick up will be the week of January 7th.

A Week Off (Week of December 10th)

by Erin and Steve on 12/08/18

There is no share pick up or vegetable distribution of any sort this coming week. It is the first time since the first week of May that we won't have a share pick up of some sort at the farm. There is a beautiful blanket of snow on the ground and the sun is even out! (it only came out for 6 days in the month of November, I counted). This means that this is the first week in a long string of weeks that I'm not worried about a thing. What a wonderful feeling. Sometimes you don't realize how stressed you've let yourself become until you are able to really relax! Usually I spend my time worrying about the vegetables and the weather, but right now I'm just doing some emails, blogging and thinking about the next 1000 piece puzzle I want to build. Oh how wonderful. I'm hoping that some of you out there are getting to truly relax sometime this weekend, too.
Now I should remind everyone that the waitlist is now signing up for the 2019 season. The first round of emails sent out to the people at the top of the waitlist were sent last Saturday so check your inbox. If you received an email send in the attached sign up form ASAP. If you did not receive an email, first check your spam folder. If it is not there you probably were not high enough on the waitlist to yet receive an email. Don't worry, we will be sending out more emails soon.
As for you Winter Share holders there isn't a pick up this week (the week of the 10th), but there is one the week of the 17th so mark your calendars.

Root Down Farm
5850 Shimerville Rd 
Clarence Center, NY 14032

Pick up hours:
Summer Share M and Th 2-6:30
Winter Share M and Th 3-6
Spring Share M and Th 4-6
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