A few weeks back, Sam, at Bellview Organics, called the LFFC office to announce that his first crop of Bok Choy was ready for the CSA. “I have about 600 heads,” he said, “they should go tomorrow.” That was all it took to seal the fate of the large, dark green member of the cabbage family. The Bok Choy was a trial – over the winter, Sam was given several samples of seeds to experiment with. He planted the crop in a single row, and now, save for a few stragglers, it’s completely harvested.
Sam has yet to decide if Bok Choy will make an appearance at Bellview Organics again – it could be planted this fall if he wanted to give it one more test. This has been his method for expanding diversity at the farm – try something once, maybe twice, and see if it suits his land and his style. That is how he started with produce. Five years ago he was entirely focused on milk production – but had an urge to start planting things in the ground. It began with potatoes the first season, then he integrated Napa cabbage because he knew that Sam, at Co-op member farm, Countyside Organics, had experience with it.
This year Bellview is growing potatoes, Napa cabbage, radicchio, fava beans, and orange and yellow seedless watermelons. Except for the watermelon, the crops are arranged side-by-side in long, straight rows in a relatively flat field. There are two types of potatoes being grown – the Purple Viking and the Kennebec. The radicchio, a variety called Chioggia, has leaves that are marbled in eye catching reds and greens.
At the edge of the primary field are four rows of bushy fava bean plants. Its stalks are beginning to fill up with the long, pods – which almost look like a pack of fuzzy caterpillars crawling upwards. Before harvesting, Sam said, “I want these to be a little fatter.” To measure their development he opened a pod to expose four dime-sized beans; they’ll be ready when they enlarge to the size of a quarter. At the moment, though, the beans are a nice treat eaten raw – even the outer pod can be eaten at this stage, much like a green bean. Once they do become available, the harvest will last for a quick two week period. This year looks optimistic, Sam predicted, “if we can harvest even half the flowers,” referring to the blossoms that can eventually, but not always, turn into pods.
On the other end of the field are three acres of potatoes. This is a drastically reduced area compared to the eight that was planted last year. Sam admitted, “I had too much on my list,” and couldn’t harvest them as quickly as they were ready. This realization of his limits is an example that good crop planning aims for steady, moderate production – not too much and not too little.
While the number of crops might seem limited, Sam is finding it best to concentrate on a fewer number and do them well. He still maintains some cows for milking which also requires much attention. It’s early yet, but his ideas are already forming for next year’s trial crop.
Article by Chris Breimhurst