Winterfell Acres

Brooklyn, WI

A woman and mother-led CSA farm dedicated to growing nutrient dense and organic vegetables, fruit, flowers and herbs.

December 2018: Year End Reflection

As I reflect on this year, I am so overwhelming proud of it all. This was my 5th season running my own CSA and my 2nd on our own land. I cannot believe how the time flies but I do know I am so grateful for all my amazing CSA members who support this tiny farm!

Why am I so proud?

I survived an entire growing season while pregnant. We had a healthy baby, Tillee Mae, born at home on Oct. 24th!

I, along with my crew, grew over 22,000# of produce on our 1.2 acres in production for 110 CSA member families and loyal restaurants! That’s 7,000# more than 2017 on the same acreage!

The CSA was full by April 1st- our earliest sell out yet!

This is the first year I’ve had way more crop successes (heyyo carrots and peas!) than crop issues or failures (poor potatoes).

I learned how to ask for help and work a bit less :)

Our dog to human ratio was nearly 2:1 most days.

The first year of high tunnel growing was hugely successful (from April spring greens to big summer heirloom tomatoes to fall spinach).

I trialled new fun crops like ginger, wine cap mushrooms and honey berries.

The farm had it’s best year yet financially too!

Crops that did well

  • High tunnel crops: I am in love with my 2000 sq ft high tunnel- it has been a total game changer for some of my toughest crops. Growing under plastic cover increases soil temperature earlier and longer, reduces disease pressure/spread and overall allows for a more controlled growing environment. This means tough crops to grow in the open field, like tomatoes, cucumbers and celery, do MUCH better. It also means I can have other crops earlier, longer and of higher quality, like April lettuce, June carrots and December arugula. I got over 1000# of tomatoes from just 200’ and over 500# of cucumbers from just 75’. The celery was the highest quality crop I have ever grown. I grew some rockin’ melon varieties that would never make it in the field and even grew a few pounds of Hawaiian ginger. The high tunnel requires a lot more irrigation, soil and disease management than the field does since I grow nearly year round in there but it’s SO worth it.

  • Carrots: after four years of struggle with this root crop, I think I finally have it figured out. #1 flame weed to kill weeds and do not disturb the soil while seeding. #2 irrigate and keep soil moist for at least 1 week. #3 wheel hoe 3-4 times and hand weed once. This all creates a great carrot crop!

  • Peas: this was a crop I have pretty much failed on for 4 years in a row and I think I finally figured this one out too. Transplanting is key. It allows for one plant every 4” which is a struggle when direct seeding when the soil is still wet and cool due to uneven germination. It allows for the plants to get ahead of the weeds enough to get a decent harvest. I still have some fine tuning to do and my goal for next year is to get the plants weeded at least once to stay even more ahead of the voracious spring weeds.

  • Sweet potatoes: a dream crop this year! Nearly 1300# from 4 beds that is a record harvest. I experimented with different spacing: two beds at 12” and two beds at 6". I have always done 6” spacing and thought that closer plant spacing would result in a slightly higher overall yield even if the tubers were smaller. Turns out I was WAY wrong. The 12” spaced beds not only produced nice, large tubers but also yielded nearly double the poundage. I am a convert. It’s great to do mini farm research trials like this to prove myself wrong!

  • Watermelons: a pleasant surprise! Nearly 250 melons from 300’; totaling nearly 1300# and nearly all ready within a 3 week span. And I hear you Nibbler share folks, I am planning on trialling smaller watermelon next year so you can have melons too!

  • Winter squash: that’s two years in a row. Perhaps my soil is great for squash!?

  • Sweet corn: I seeded just one succession and we kept this well weeded. Produced over 1200 ears of corn from 1200’ planted!

Crops that didn’t do well

  • Potatoes: I had my first ever major crop failure this year. Due to all the rain we had gotten, we couldn't get them out of the field before the majority of them rotted, plain and simple. Instead of getting the normal expected yield of 1800-2400# potatoes, we got just about 200#. Since I started the farm in 2013, I've never really had any super difficult seasons or complete crop failures. Sure I've had pest and disease issues, a bad carrot year or a rough brassica fall season. But never something so complete and important as potatoes. So I pulled the "this-is-what-CSA-is-about card" I wrote about in the CSA member handbook. Meaning this is truly what CSA is at it's core: supporting your farm whether it's a good potato year or an awful one. I am super happy to say that 100% of the feedback I got about the potato crop failure was entirely supportive. Everyone said to keep my head up and try again next year. That my CSA members support me even though everyone only got potatoes once in 2018 (thankful for the good sweet potato year!). I could not have been more grateful to receive such support and I am prepping for next season assuming it will be as wet and rainy as this year. Every year, I strive to get better. These are good lessons.

  • Greens (field fall spinach and lettuce): between the 20” of rain we got during prime seeding time and being rather pregnant, I dropped the ball on my fall field greens. Three times, each seeding that I managed to get in got either washed out or too saturated to thrive (and I farm on flat, sandy soil!). Normally I take great pride in my fall greens. But there’s always next year! In fact, that is one of my goals for next year CSA boxes: greens every week.

  • Cantaloupe: never expected this complete crop failure even though the watermelons right next to them did splendidly! Will try again next year of course as I’ve never had a problem with this crop before this year.

Week 10: the biggest share of 2018   Photo by Melanie Renee Photography

Week 10: the biggest share of 2018

Photo by Melanie Renee Photography

Our new daughter, Tillee Mae!   Photo by Melanie Renee Photography

Our new daughter, Tillee Mae!

Photo by Melanie Renee Photography

Weirdest tomato of 2018: red brandywine from the high tunnel

Weirdest tomato of 2018: red brandywine from the high tunnel

Best hashtag of 2018 from one of my favorite restaurants, Pasture and Plenty: #pregnantfarmersgrowthebesttomatoes

Best hashtag of 2018 from one of my favorite restaurants, Pasture and Plenty: #pregnantfarmersgrowthebesttomatoes