It is January here on the farm. The ground is finally covered in about six inches of snow and it is cold. People often ask me what we do in the winter, so I thought I would share a little of what we do once the ground freezes.
In the winter Tyler has an off farm job at a local cabinetry shop. He enjoys the work and it is a nice way to bring in some extra money during the off season. Tyler’s parents head to Florida at the beginning of November and are there until mid-March, so it is just me and the kids here on the farm during the week. With both kids still at home, I try plan activities as much as possible that will get us out and about. We are super lucky to have a great Story-time program at our local library, so we always make sure to go to that each week. We also try to visit family as much as possible during the winter months since we don’t have time to travel much the rest of the year.
In addition to childcare activities, I have farm related work to get done during the early winter months. I have to get our seed order together, inventory our plastic trays and pots, order media, clean the greenhouses, and organize all of the buildings on the farm that get disorganized during the height of the growing season.
Our greenhouse gets fired up right around Valentines day, so by that time we have to have all of our seeds, plastics, and media in house so we are ready to plant. This year we are going to start everything in our retail greenhouse. The furnace in that greenhouse is more efficient and we had problems last year because the greenhouse we started in filled up too quickly. We had to move trays of plants when it was below freezing, which the plants really did not appreciate, and we then had to run two furnaces at once. By starting everything in our retail greenhouse we should have enough space where we don’t have to move plants until the end of March, at which point the air temps outside are less likely to cause damage to the plants during transit. We will also save fuel by not having to run two furnaces.
It is a big year for us as we are moving away from traditional CSA boxes and are starting a Farm Share option. A lot of people have asked us why after eight seasons we are changing the model. There are a lot of factors that went into the decision. A large reason was that we wanted to be able to capture a larger market here in Rio. We felt by offering members the ability to choose what they want, when the want it from our farm stand more people would be interested in joining. Another reason was that all of our trucks broke this year. At the start of 2017 we had three working trucks, at the start of 2018 we had two trucks still on farm, both of which will not start. This led us to start thinking about ways to market our produce without having to make deliveries twice a week to the Madison area. Another reason is that the Madison market is very saturated with traditional CSAs and we found last year it was harder to fill our membership rolls. That was a trend we had been hearing about for the last several years from other farms, but it didn’t impact us until last year. We wanted to try something that would set us apart from other CSAs.
So far people have been very enthusiastic about the ability to pick what they want and the amount of each item they want. We hope that you are too!