Posted 4/4/2018 2:58pm by Stephanie Bartel.
April showers bring May...snowmen? Is that how the saying goes? In Wisconsin, one never knows. We may have 4 inches of mashed potatoes on the ground right now, but in the seeding greenhouse our young plants are unaffected by the recent snow storm. Broccoli and Cabbage are germinating at the moment, among other things. Yesterday we gave the onions a haircut. They were getting pretty shaggy, and as the weather reminded us, they will have to sit inside for more than a few days before the field is ready for them to be transplanted. Trimming their greens seems to help encourage root growth. And it's awfully fun playing barber for 35,000 onion plants.
It is hard to imagine that within a month there will be vegetable seeds sprouting from our now-frozen fields, and within two months we'll be getting close to the start of our CSA harvest season. Harvest? Harvest what? Snow? It is hard to imagine how quick and how much the season changes this time of year. If it weren't for nine other years growing veggies before this one, I may not believe it possible at all.
Posted 3/29/2018 8:35am by Stephanie Bartel.
I check on our seedling greenhouse 3-4 times per day, to manage temperature and water needs of all our young plants. Right now the benches are largely filled with onions, but other crops are joining the ranks each day. Tomatoes are a bright spot right now, and Angelica's photos show them off. These are our farm-selected and seed-saved variety called Goldie. They are in their fourth generation of Old Plank Farm seed, and doing pretty well. I'm also germinating a lot of flowers these days. Each time a new variety pops up out of the soil I feel I am welcoming a new friend to the farm.
Because I look at the onions and other plants in person every day, I don't notice always realize how much they are changing. Day to day the growth is subtle, but when I look at Angelica's photos that are a mere two weeks apart, I am amazed at the strong and quick growth spurt of the onions, especially during a fairly chilly stretch of days and nights!
I can hardly peel myself away from the photos Angelica took. I love to look at photos of my onions, they are so simple and beautiful. But seeing the real thing, in the greenhouse, is even better. I find myself dawdling around the greenhouse benches in the evening, watching the plants and enjoying the evening light. Plants may not seem active, or seem to do a whole lot, but they are so very much alive. The more time I spend with them, the more I am aware of this. Springtime in a greenhouse has more life and more energy than anywhere else on the farm. I'm thrilled to be the caretaker, and I look forward to when all the time and energy spent with the plants transforms into a harvest that will feed our CSA members. What more could any farmer want?
Posted 3/8/2018 3:14pm by Stephanie Bartel.
A cold snowy day like today may not leave you with thoughts of outdoor wood-pizza and fun on the farm, but for me these things are on my mind right now. In fact, we've been working very hard throughout the winter to make plans for an upcoming season of fun on the farm, centered around our beloved pizza oven. When I built the oven three years ago, I envisioned creating a place where anyone in the community can come to enjoy good food and some outdoor leisure time with their family and friends.
Support from our CSA members goes directly to keeping the vegetable gardens going and putting food on the table for everyone who is a CSA member. Being a CSA farmer is tough, and being a member isn't always a picnic either (unless you take your veggie box outside and eat it on your lawn each week...!). But us farmers and our members are committed to the good food we grow, and it pays off for everyone involved in more ways than one.
That said, we know that joining a CSA isn't for everyone. Nor can our little farm support everyone, even if we wanted to!
So how can we make a taste of our vegetables available to everyone in our community? The answer comes from our wood-fired oven. Pizza-on-the-Farm is to be a Friday night tradition in summertime, where anyone can come and buy a pizza made with our fresh vegetables. We'll cook it for you in our wood-fired oven and you can picnic on our lawn and visit our vegetable fields.
We're almost ready for this, but not quite. There's one more step, and we need your help with it! Next week we are launching a fundraising campaign to support the work that needs to be done in the farm yard where our pizza oven is. We'll send a thank-you to our supporters in the form of a coupon for a free pizza from us, so it's not a bad deal!
We have plans for landscaping, building a shade structure, and more. Our rather barren yard has suffered neglect in the wake of the nearly endless work necessary for growing vegetables here every season. Now, ten years into the life of Old Plank Farm, we're ready to take a look at the land that isn't part of the vegetable gardens, and we're ready to give it as much love and care as we can. With your help, I know we can go a long way.
Posted 3/1/2018 9:29am by Stephanie Bartel.
One of my all-time favorite movies is "Wallace and Gromit's Curse of the Were-Rabbit." This film is all about a town's giant vegetable contest and a rabbit who causes trouble for it. It's also a Nick Park claymation creation. I especially enjoy the artistic design of claymation, it is so much more fun to watch than a regular cartoon.
So when I heard that Nick Park--Wallace and Gromit creator--had made a new movie, I was excited to see it. The new movie is "Early Man", and I went to the theater last week to see it.
The claymation of Early Man is as good as ever, but the story line wasn't as exciting as Wallace and Gromit. The whole plot is little more than a soccer game between an underdog bunch of primitive cavemen and a highly developed, resource rich, advanced civilization. Kind of a predictable plot to me. Not nearly as creative as Wallace and Gromit, who use a BunVac 6000 and a Mind-o-Matic machine to brainwash bunnies and save vegetables...!
Nonetheless, I find I relate to the caveman tribe and their fearless leader Doug, and they kept returning to my thoughts throughout the week. At Old Plank Farm we are in the time of year where--in addition to starting seedlings in the greenhouse!--we need to sell CSA shares in order to sustain the farm for another season of growing vegetables. This time of year can be trying for me because--in addition to managing seedlings in cold and unpredictable weather!--we never know exactly if or when we will sell all of our farm shares.
Over the last 3-4 years, perhaps longer, many small CSA farms in this region have gone out of business. And many other CSA farms have struggled to sell enough shares to make ends meet. It's not always easy being a CSA member of any farm: remembering to pick up your vegetables on a set day each week isn't as convenient as being able to go to a store any time of the week. And being committed to eating all the vegetables in a CSA box each week can be a challenge compared to eating out, or purchasing ready-to-eat packages of vegetables or other foods at a store.
But small farms and the CSAs that serve their communities are important to the health of those communities and to each individual who participates. So it's worth being aware of the recent struggles CSAs face, and it's worth a look at what might be causing some of these struggles.
I believe the declining interest in CSAs is largely due to the supermarkets and agribusinesses who have jumped on the bandwagon of marketing local food products in the last few years. Corporations such as Coca Cola, Tyson, Walmart and many others have taken the defining words of CSA farms--sustainable, organic, quality, local, community-- and have popped these into their own multi-million dollar advertising campaigns which, intentional or not, has squashed many small farms. The highly developed, resource-rich corporations are no match for small farms when it comes to marketing. Superstores have advanced marketing resources that CSAs aren't likely to ever have. And so they get left in the dust.
Whether we want to or not, I think small farms are now being asked to compete against the multinationals in a battle to provide you with quality food. And even though we have very different definitions of quality, local, sustainable, etc., we are stuck out on the same field. Something's not right here, but for now it's the challenge we face.
And, like Doug and the cavemen, giving up is not an option for this particular small farm. Sign-up season at Old Plank Farm has been going alright so far. We are not sold out yet, but it is early in the game. And I am committed to having a productive season and to taking great care that this farm will survive and thrive in the years to come. But I can't do it without the support of the community. Please join us, and tell your friends and neighbors to try it too! Root for the Early Farmer team! In return we promise to grow vegetables that will support the health of you and your family all season long.
Posted 2/7/2018 2:38pm by Stephanie Bartel.
By: Angelica Immel
Meet Beetie. Beetie has just received his carrot seed in the mail!
Beetie is so excited to start planting and rushes out to the greenhouse. He plants a carrot seed into a bed full of compost.
Beetie waters his carrot seed. Not too much not too little. Just right.
Everyday Beetie goes out to the greenhouse to check if his carrot seed has sprouted. He continues to keep the soil moist and warm, ideal for germination.
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" shouts Beetie one morning when he discovers his tiny carrot seed has sprouted through the Earth alas!
Finally, the carrot is ready for harvest. Beetie digs into the ground with his homemade specially designed broadfork.
"YUM!" exclaims Beetie
Posted 2/2/2018 10:20am by Stephanie Bartel.
Our seed orders have arrived and with them a hint of hope for the season to come. While I generally like winter, this year I find I am quite often longing for spring. I've been sick more days than I have been well in January, and I attribute this to my need for warm soil beneath my feet, sun on my face, and fresh vegetables in my body. All this will come soon enough, when we begin seeding onions in the greenhouse at the end of the month.
Are you dreaming of summer too? If you're planning to make vegetables part of your daily diet this season, I hope you'll become a member of our farm. The partnership between farmers and community members is at the heart of Old Plank Farm. It defines who we are and what we grow. Seed packets arriving in the mail and member sign-ups arriving in our email inbox this time of year remind us that spring will come again. And we will be ready when it arrives.
Posted 1/11/2018 8:17am by Stephanie Bartel.
Old Plank Farm is celebrating it's 10th birthday this season! But we're not busy baking a birthday cake to celebrate. Instead we are hard at work planning for the upcoming farming season.
My own birthday falls in April, and on that day I usually try to plan a long and challenging task, like cleaning the chicken coop or planting onions. At the end of the day I enjoy a birthday cake and some leisure time, but not before enjoying whatever work is on hand (and there is plenty to be had in late April!). Hard work can help remind us to appreciate that we are alive. And isn't that what a birthday is all about?
Likewise, Old Plank Farm's 10th birthday is best celebrated by recognizing how special it is to be a small vegetable farm that is alive and thriving in this community. The farm will enjoy it's birthday best by working hard to make the most of the growing season.
I'd like to kick-off our 10th birthday with an invitation to you, to become a member of Old Plank Farm this season. You can learn more about what our farm membership offers here. I hope you'll join us; it's your support that makes us who we are! We want you to share in our celebration of good food, good community, and a good life.
Posted 12/20/2017 9:11am by Stephanie Bartel.
Green bean picking, a popular Saturday morning pastime at Old Plank Farm. Now you can join in the fun in 2018!
This season we want to get more members involved in the weekly harvest work at Old Plank Farm. If you want to become a farm member but don't want to pay for a seasonal share, consider working a few hours a week at the farm in exchange for your membership.
We have two blocks of time available in 2018: Saturday mornings 8:30-11:30 and Monday afternoons 1:30-4:30. Small share members work the first two hours of each shift for their weekly box, and large share members work the full three hours for their weekly box. You only work during the weeks we deliver boxes (typically mid-June through early November).
Saturday morning workers will be out in the field and must be able to do harvest work, which includes lots of bending over and/or lifting of 40 lb crates. It also includes being exposed to the stresses of weather (hot or wet or sometimes near freezing temperatures in the last few weeks of delivery). Harvesting vegetables is fast-paced, rewarding and usually we have a lot of fun!
Monday afternoon workers will be in the packing shed helping to wash, sort or bag produce. This job may entail having your hands in cold wash water and occasionally moving produce crates that can weigh up to 40 lbs. Otherwise it is not very strenuous, and is open to people who can't easily work out in the fields.
If you want to join our working-member crew, send us an email (email@example.com) and include the following info:
Small or Large Share:
Work shift desired (Saturday morning or Monday afternoon):
Describe previous outdoor work experience, if any (if you want to work Saturday morning):
Working on the farm is a great way to connect more closely with your food, and your farmers too! We hope new and returning members will consider joining us as working-members this season.
Posted 12/13/2017 8:12pm by Stephanie Bartel.
In a season overwhelmed with holiday cookies and other treats, Angelica and I decided it would be nice to offer you a healthy gift idea to give to your family or friends this year: an Old Plank Farm Vegetable Share! While we can't put tomatoes in your Christmas stocking, we can provide gift certificates you can purchase for either our Small or Large Vegetable Shares for the 2018 harvest season.
If you want your family to be a member of our farm in 2018, or know of a family that wants to join us, consider buying your shares through our Gift Certificate program. Give an Old Plank Farm membership to your spouse or relatives or neighbors or co-workers.
The prices for Small Share and Large Share gift certificates are the same as regular share prices + $2 (click here for regular share prices and details). A printed gift certificate card will be mailed to you, so you have something to wrap up and give away. You can order the gift certificates online, but you must be able to mail a check for full payment the same day you order.
We'll mail your gift certificates within one day of ordering them online (provided that you email us and let us know your mailing address)! However, the coupon code printed on your gift certificates (allowing the recipient to sign-up for their share at no cost) will not be activated until after we receive your check for full payment. Instructions are printed on the gift certificate so the recipient will know how and where to sign-up for the share you have given them.
If you're interested, here's what to do:
1. Go to our web-store and select the type of gift certificates you want to purchase ($2 each, payable through Paypal).
2. Mail a check for the total cost of the shares you ordered gift certificates for. Please mail the check the same day you order, payable to Old Plank Farm, W6028 County Road C, Plymouth, WI 53073.
3. Send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your mailing address, so we can put your gift certificates in the mail right away.
4. Look for your gift certificates in the mail, then personalize, wrap, and give them away! Remember they won't be activated until after we're received your check in the mail for full payment (you'll be notified when your check reaches us).
If you don't need a gift certificate, but want to become an Old Plank Farm member for 2018, you can sign-up online here. We're not requesting any down payment until January for regular sign-ups.
Questions? Email email@example.com or call Stephanie at 920-917-8207.
Wishing you a healthy holiday season, from our farm to your table!
Posted 12/6/2017 9:32am by Stephanie Bartel.
We call this photo "Carrot tries to pick up a watermelon while Beetie the Beet watches." It's a working title... Carrots are the 2017 Vegetable of the Year award winner at OPF!
Dear Old Plank Farm members,
As 2017 draws to a close, I'd like to offer you a brief re-cap of our harvest season, along with some thoughts about what we are planning for 2018, our tenth growing season.
From the crops' perspective, this season was cool and wet and a bit overwhelmed by deer. Several of what I consider staple crops--broccoli and lettuces in particular--suffered tremendously from a combination of these conditions. Our much-anticipated treat of summer--cantaloupe--also threw in the towel before setting fruit.
Nonetheless, each week we were happy to have a nice variety of other vegetables to deliver to you all. If we gave out a "Vegetable of the Year" award (I think we should!), CARROTS would most likely have won. Hats off to this wonderful veggie and the other staples like peppers, potatoes and onions that did very well this year. As our soils and my field management skills improve we continue to see more overall stability in the weekly harvests. Receiving a crop damage hunting permit from the DNR is also helping with our deer problem.
We found that we loved packing the choice boxes to go along with your shares! They seemed to be effective in dividing up crops that either yielded poorly or were grown on a small scale because they aren't always favored by everyone. Eggplants are one crop that regularly went in the choice box but not in the shares. If you wanted eggplant, did you get some? I hope so. I've been working on a questionnaire to help fine-tune our use of the choice box. It will also help us with general crop planning for the season, because it will be sent out to each member when you sign-up! This way we know what you want before the season. We are no longer doing a post-season survey, though we always welcome feedback you want to send us at anytime.
The 2017 season also brought us it's usual variety of ups and downs separate from what weather and field conditions provide. The highlight of the season for us was having our new packing and storage shed to work in. This glorified root cellar is just that: glorious. Being built into the hillside helped tremendously with natural temperature management. It is also spacious and well-designed, helping to make our packing and delivery days run more smoothly. We still have some finishing work to do on the building this winter. Next summer we look forward to having an open house where we can show off our new space to you!
The low point of the season for me was a tractor accident which left me with a broken arm. This happened the first week in October, making the last several deliveries more challenging than they otherwise might have been. Healing from my broken arm has been no easy task. I find that even with the cast now off there is still a long ways to go until I will have full strength and range of motion with my arm. That said, I continue to do the things around the farm that I would ordinarily do. It just takes me longer to accomplish things, and I am sometimes quite frustrated during the process.
Not long after the accident, a friend said to me that she was surprised I am still farming. But of course I am still farming, I thought. As long as I am here I will still be farming in some way! Even during the darkest days of the initial recovery period in October there was not a single day where I wanted to be doing anything except working on the farm and helping my crew to bring out the best of our season's harvest.
Working on the farm is more than a job, it's who I am. And so I am ever grateful to our members who help make Old Plank Farm what it is. I look forward to continuing to serve you as we head into 2018, our tenth growing season.
I invite you to sign-up now for the upcoming season. There are no price changes and no other major changes. If we need to make any pick-up site changes we will notify you; should a change occur (not likely), you would have the option to drop out if it is no longer convenient for you. There's no immediate payment necessary either; we'll start requesting down payments in January.
We want you to sign-up now because we want your input now! When you sign-up you will be sent a questionnaire that you can fill out to let us know how often you prefer to use each of the vegetables we grow. Fill out as much or as little of the survey as you want. This month we will be doing a lot of our 2018 field planning, and your input will help us fine-tune what we need to grow. This is your season and your farm, and I hope you can help us make the most of it.
Best wishes for a healthy holiday season, and I look forward to keeping in touch with you throughout the winter!