Planting Season

Another season is upon us. The fields at Old Plank Farm are drying out nicely. We plowed several beds last fall, which helps the soil to warm up and dry out faster this time of year. I managed to get a few beds of cover crop seeded last week (oats and peas, which will be followed by late-season veggies in a couple of months). That’s the earliest in my records. Most of the fields are still too wet, but very soon we’ll begin seeding the sugar snap peas and spring carrots, and transplanting all the lovely crops growing in our greenhouse right now. I look forward to planting season immensely. And I hope all our farm members look forward to the harvest season just as much!

We have one decade of growing under our belt and a new one is just beginning. Heading into our 11th season, we are eager to continue our commitment to high quality organics and our commitment to helping you eat high quality vegetables. As chain-store organics gain a stronger foothold in local stores, high quality organics becomes more and more compromised. Joining a farm membership program like the one we offer is a sure way to stay connected to the food you eat and the land it’s grown on. You can find more information about our Memberships here. We hope you’ll be a part of Old Plank Farm in 2019!!

-Stephanie Bartel, April 4 2019

Leeks in the greenhouse, recently trimmed and looking smart!

Leeks in the greenhouse, recently trimmed and looking smart!

Spring Open House May 18th

This season we are hosting an open house at the farm on Saturday May 18th. Mark your calendars, if you want a chance to visit the farm before the season begins. You can tour the seedling greenhouse, ask questions about our membership program, and sign up for a membership if you haven’t already. We’ll have kids activities in our packing shed, and we’ll be kicking off our annual plant sale where you can purchase tomato plants and other vegetable and herb plants for your own garden.

More details coming soon!

Blindfolded Farming

As I dig deeper and deeper (pun intended) into soil microbiology, I'm discovering just how interesting, and essential, this facet of life is to a truly organic and sustainable system. In past years I've only had soil biology on the periphery of my mind, aware that it is important, but not actively doing much about it. Sure, we put out compost and occasionally some compost tea, which in theory improves one's soil biology. But in reality? Well, that depends entirely on what microorganisms are actually in the compost and compost tea. So how can we tell what's in the products we apply? LOOK at it. That is, with a microscope.

So learning microscopy has been taking up all my time and focus lately. I’ve fallen behind on newsletters, I've been slow responding to emails, I haven't called my mother in awhile...the list goes on.

Soon enough we'll be working in the greenhouses and then the field. By then, I hope to have a strong grasp of how to look at what's going on in our soils. In fact, it seems almost crazy that most of us farmers don't know how to see what's in our soils. We wouldn't put a blindfold on, walk around the field, and come back and say "I think the veggies are doing pretty well." Of course not. We open our eyes and look at the crops. Likewise, as I look at slides I feel as though a blindfold I didn't even know I was wearing has been taken off. A microscope can open our eyes to seeing our soil's microorganisms and seeing how they are doing. And I intend to keep my eyes wide open this season.

Snowy Nights

A limerick by Stephanie Bartel

I sit on a cold snowy night

dreaming of summer evenings so bright.

A roaring wood fire,

fills me with desire,

for veggie pizza, a farmer’s delight!

Thanks farm member, Liz, for sending me this picture from last summer!

Thanks farm member, Liz, for sending me this picture from last summer!

Sign up for a Farm Membership, pay in full by Friday January 25th, and you’ll receive a coupon for a free Old Plank Farm wood-fired veggie pizza this summer!

Working Member Opportunities

The two biggest factors determining the success of a farming season are fertility and labor. Without fertility and labor we couldn’t grow vegetables. I’m deep in several books about soil biology right now, gleaning details that can help us in our ongoing quest for healthy and resilient soils at Old Plank Farm. Learning how to better manage microbes like bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes and micro-arthropods is high on my winter to-do list. Simultaneously, I am finishing our cover crop seed order, a key piece of the whole fertility management puzzle.

Meanwhile, Angelica has put a lot of thought into our labor needs for the upcoming season. After all, soil protozoa can’t bag the potatoes. That’s where you come in! We loved having working-members join our farm last season, and we hope everyone from last season will join us again this season! Additionally, we want to include a few new options for more working members. Angelica has posted some details on our website’s Work page. Check it out, and pass it along to anyone you know who may want to join our farm and work with us.

If you can’t commit to a full season working member agreement, you may want to join us for the occasional Work Day. If you want a chance to come to the farm once or twice during the season, work 3-4 hours, and receive a discount off the price of your membership, please send us an email ( Once we finalize the Work Day options, we’ll send you the details. Work Days will likely be Saturday mornings in June and early July, and will include hand weeding, or picking peas or strawberries. Children are welcome to tag along.

Graceful Farming

The new year is off to a good start at Old Plank Farm. Better than ever, in a lot of ways. The winter checklists are getting done, and getting done ahead of schedule. Even taxes. That’s never happened before. Pipes haven’t frozen in the kitchen. Pipes have never not frozen here. I’m not suggesting the season will be nothing but smooth sailing. In fact, I know it won’t be. That knowledge is another sign of a good start here.

Some years it seems like farming is nothing more than one fight after another. Farmers fight the weeds, and the bugs, and the big box stores taking over “organic” food sales. We fight the rain, we fight the dry spells, we fight to pay the bills on time. And on and on. Fighting is no good for us or for our farms. The harder we fight, the harder the opponent fights back.

But giving in is not an option, either. We can’t let the weeds take over, or the bugs, or the big box stores. We can’t let the dry spells kill our crops and we can’t let the rain drown our crops. So what other options are there?

Well, we can dance. It takes flexibility, timing, discipline, and passion to choose to dance rather than fight. For instance, if farmers are in tune with the constantly changing needs of their soils and plants, they can grow healthier crops and prevent weeds and pests from becoming aggressive towards them. It takes a lot of practice to learn these moves, but in the long run it’s better than grabbing the spray gun and filling it with pesticides (organic ones or not) to drive away the enemies. When we fight using the spray guns, the bugs come back stronger. When we listen to the underlying needs of the farm and move with rather than against it, the farm gains strength through resiliency.

Good farming practices are like a dance with nature and with everything we are connected to in our communities. It takes a graceful farmer in a lively environment, rather than a soldier in a war-torn one, to grow food worth eating. I can’t claim to be an especially graceful person, but every year I am a more and more graceful farmer. And I believe the food we grow at Old Plank Farm is very much worth eating. I hope you’ll join us in the new year, in a new season of lively eating and healthy living.

“Beetie's Night Before Christmas”

by Stephanie Bartel

christmas beetie2.jpg

T'was the night before Christmas, all through the greenhouse,

Just one creature was stirring, it was a fat pesky mouse.

A mouse trap was set by the veggies with care,

In hopes that the pest wouldn't eat all that's there.

The farmers were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of cabbages danced in their heads.

And Beetie in the root cellar in his night cap,

Had just settled down for a long winter's nap.

When by the greenhouse there arose such a clatter,

Beetie rushed outside to see what was the matter.

Through the deep snow he did leap and then dash,

When he got to the greenhouse he threw up the sash.

The moon through the plastic gave off an odd glow

To the carrots and salad that all lay below.

Beetie looked at the roof and what should appear

But a big heavy sleigh and eight grass-fed reindeer.

The little old driver was not very quick,

Reindeer's hooves poking holes had made Beetie sick,

More rapid than radishes Beetie called him by name,

And down from the roof they quickly all came.

"Now Dasher, now Dancer, now Beetie, now Vixen!

These holes in the greenhouse, oh how can we fix 'em?"

"Get the poly-patch tape on the garden shed wall,

Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

St. Nick looked for the tape by moonlight from the sky,

When at last it was found a half hour'd gone by.

The carrots were getting cold, now that much he knew,

Farmers should organize their things, he realized too.

He gave the tape to Beetie, who jumped to the roof,

St. Nick watched from below, as if he needed some proof.

The legend of this beet had been told all around,

But seeing him there raised his faith by a bound.

A beet who was brave from his head to his foot,

Who protected Old Plank veggies from smog and from soot.

A bundle of compost he'd fling on his back,

And if a veggie cried out he'd open his pack.

His eyes, they were beady! His smile how merry!

He was healthier than carrots or even a cherry!

Beetie's fresh greens were all bunched in a bow,

Those greens are the healthiest part, don't you know.

Our hero held the poly patch tape in his teeth,

The holes were soon fixed while Santa watched from beneath.

When Beetie was done he slid down on his belly,

The elf caught him before he could splat into jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly young beet,

St. Nick laughed when he held him from head to his feet!

A wink of Beetie's eye and a twist of his head,

Let St. Nicholas know there's still a task before bed.

Inside the greenhouse, Beetie went straight to work,

Harvesting some carrots; then he turned with a jerk.

They're for the good little children St. Nicholas knows,

He loads his pack heavy then outside he goes!

He sprang to his sleigh, the deer stopped eating thistle.

And away they all flew when he let out a whistle.

But he heard Beetie exclaim, 'ere he drove out of sight,

"Happy Christmas to all, and eat your veggies this night!"

Happy Holidays from all of us at Old Plank Farm