Walkers Fresh Veggies

  (Paw Paw, Michigan)
Fresh naturally grown veggies produced for you, provided weekly for CSA memebers.
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Winter work

The day after Christmas I was able to finish up my fall plowing!  What a change from last year -- I have 21 of our 26 acres chisel plowed this year. I use a tool bar with five heavy spring shanks spaced around 16 inches apart,  with wide sweeps and go around 10 inches deep. This leaves the field in ridges that work well for winter. The crop residue decomposes well and the soil is mellow in the spring.  It takes around 10 hp per shank to pull the tool 10 inches deep at around 3.5 to 4 mph.  I have an old 2240 John Deere that is around 50 hp that works well. 

I feel we are off to a good start for next season with most all the ground ready for spring! 


2014 Season Review

Like every season we have ever had , or will likely ever have it was one with many ups and downs. We had a lot of rain --more frequent rains than I can ever remember --until August when we had no rain for three weeks, and it got hot and dry(short summer!).   Everything did OK except watermelon and cantaloupe --these needed more heat.  Root crops did better than they ever have --we had some carrots that weighed over a pound each. Our red potatoes did very well too yielding 1/3 to 1/2 again "normal".  The white sweet Spanish onion plants we ordered turned out o be yellow Spanish instead --but they were sooo good!  They got very big and tasted so good --I am planning on switching to yellows from now on.  Sweet corn is our backbone and it was great this year --no worms , and very good.  We had on plot  of green beans that went over 7000 lbs. harvested in one picking on 1.3 acres. These were Blue Lake and we sent them to fill a contract with the Food Bank of South Central Michigan.  We had a bit more labor than we would like, mostly due to my being down three weeks with retinal surgery ( I suffered a detached retina and had to have surgery in the end of June).  Check out our Facebook page to see some new photos I have posted of our packing crew for CSA shares. 



Planting time is here!

We are moving all the kale, broccoli and cabbage plants out of the greenhouse today. We will put them on a large flatbed trailer to harden up so we can begin planting them in the field Monday.  If you want to see pictures of the plants in the greenhouses as the look today you can go to our Facebook page and see how they are doing.   Just click on the Facebook icon on the top right of the main page of this listing.

Spring Planting has begun!

We put in nearly a half an acre of early spring veggies Saturday. We set out 1800 White Sweet Spanish onion plants, and we planted 6 rows of onion sets. We also seeded 3 rows of beets, 5 rows of Spinach, 6 rows of carrots, a row of turnips and a row and 1/2 of radishes, 3 rows of mixed lettuces, and 3 rows of dill.  These rows are 300 feet long, and this ground has available irrigation with trickle tape.   Next we will be planting  potatoes - we hope for this week.

Everyone have a great day! 


Spring weather and work getting done!

Now we have all the greenhouses up and running with all new hoops and new floors, with a new cover for number three.  We also have number two full of broccoli, cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts, romaine and mixed leaf lettuces. We have a few odds and ends  like Rutger and Roma tomatoes, wax peppers and Jalapenos and basil.  These are germinated and in some cases ready to transplant into bigger cells.  All in all we have around 13000 plants in that greenhouse.

The tomatoes and peppers are doing well but are still at Wentzel's for the time being.  We will bring them home starting next week. 

We have started working up the ground and have the fields where the sweet corn and early green beans disked, and we have the garden in the back and the field across the road field cultivated.  Next we will work up the potato ground and the partial field where we will plant all the early stuff.  Green onions and onion plants, carrots, spinach, beets, radishes, lettuce and romaine, kale and early broccoli and cabbage will go in that field.  It is around 90' X 300' in size, and is irrigated with trickle irrigation.

The weather this past week was very good and the ground is beginning to warm up fast --it was even a bit dry in the field where we plan to plant sweet corn --we can use the rain we are getting today. 


Spring is finally showing!

One greenhouse up!  Two more to go -- We should have the second one up this week. We are also going to start pulling up black plastic mulch from the newly rented field this week. The guys are done pruning grapes and need work --as the snow is finally melting away we can use the time to remove all the old mulch that was left behind from the previous crop two years ago (flowers).  Then we will have a clear place to get started with this years crops. We are going to plant all our early stuff here, lettuce, radishes, carrots, beets, spinach, kale, onions and early broccoli.  We will also plant around 6000 tomato plants and 5000 peppers.  Later in the season we will put as much of the cantaloupe and cucumbers as we have room left in.  This is a field we are able to use trickle irrigation on and the main crops and sensitive crops will be grown here this year.

The first greenhouse survived really well --we only need to splice the ridge pole and patch two minor holes in the plastic.  The second one had more snow pilled on it and may need a couple of hoops replaced.  The third one is still got thick snow on it --but we don't need it right away thankfully.

All the early green stuff including lettuce kale and broccoli have been seeded -- Peppers will be next, then tomatoes.



Snow,,,Snow...Snow Winter is just hanging in there!

Winter just is relentless here in Southwestern lower Michigan this year!  I am sure it is much the same in much of the country.  Our hoop houses are still buried and it looks like they may be for another couple of weeks. We have decided to have a friend of ours that operates a larger greenhouse start our seedlings for us.  They will be about two or three weeks old when we bring them home in 512 cell plug trays to transplant into our 72 cell flats.  We think by the second week of April it might be safe to plan for our hoop houses to be repaired and ready to receive plants.  This gives the plants until May 15 to May 25 to be ready to transplant into the fields.  I am hoping it will be dry enough by then to work ground and plant! (and warm enough for plants to grow!)  There are always challenges every year in growing veggies and it seams no two years are ever the same. What really counts is how well you roll with the punches and work to counteract the challenges as they appear.  It is what makes farming interesting (the glass half full mentality --better yet the glass is ALWAYS full of something -- even though that something might just be air).



Great News! We now have some irrigated ground to farm.

I have some great news I would like to share with all members and interested friends and neighbors, and past members.   We have just rented a very nice field within 1/4 mile from home located just off Paw Paw RD. The field is between 3.5 and 4 acres. The best feature of this field is an irrigation well on this land and we will be able to use trickle irrigation on the entire field. The soil is excellent for growing veggies and we plan to plant the following crops there:
lettuce / romaine
kale / spinach
large white onions
carrots, radishes, beets
possibly -- half our broccoli & some cabbage
This will go a long way toward ensuring a great crop because we will no longer be strictly at the mercy of the rains. In a way this makes the purchase of a CSA share in Walkers Fresh Veggies an even better buy than it was before.
We are very excited about this and hope it provides a greater sense of security for all our members too.
Your veggigrower,
Trickle irrigation is the use of plastic irrigation tape that has emitters that control the output of water.  One tape is put down each row of plants and the emitters are usually spaced 12 inches apart.  The water is applied at very low pressures and the output per foot of row is very low.  This is why it is called drip irrigation or trickle irrigation.  The benefits are you are able to water much more ground with the same size well, you do not waste water watering the areas between the rows, and you do not get the plants wet (this keeps disease low).

January Newsleter

We have started ordering seeds for this coming season. This is actually when we have to make the decisions on what we are going to plant this year. You may ask why we order so early –the weather out is so cold, how can you possibly be thinking about spring time now?  The answer is we are actually already late in ordering –the reason I say this is that two varieties of kale we wanted to order from Seedway are already sold out—we had to order them through another seed company and pay a higher price than we would have if we had ordered a month ago and were able to get them at Seedway.  Some seed houses allow us to order and pay when the seed is shipped, others want a check at time of order. Either way it has been a long while since we have had anything to sell and so we must borrow to buy seed for now or wait longer (until some CSA subscription money comes in) to order.   If we wait much longer we will have many other varieties of seed that are Out of Stock, and we also run the risk of not having the seed we need delivered here in time to plant for the greenhouse.  We begin seeding lettuce, kale, broccoli, cabbage and tomatoes in just 7 weeks from now.  

Many people ask me what do you do all winter?  I have a job working for a large grape grower near Lawton –I and a couple of the guys that work for me during the summer are pruning grapes this winter.  There is about 100 acres of vineyard to prune and we will be very busy trying to get that done before spring.  The weather has not been the best this year and some days it is just too bad out to be able to prune.

We are looking for more land in our area to grow veggies on.  If anyone knows of any available farmable ground to rent, please let me know.  We would like it to be near enough to access with our tractors (they only go about 12 to 15 mph on the road).  We are set with enough ground for CSA shares, but would like to be able to provide much more food to the Food Bank of South Central Michigan. We are a Farm to Food grower for that Food Bank and have been participating the last three years and would like to be a bigger provider than we currently can be due to a shortage of available farmland.


The numbers of GMO varieties is growing - beware!

There is an increase in the numbers of genetically modified seeds available for growers to buy. It is good that to this point they are all labeled clearly as such. That along with the higher price and the usual need to fill out special paper work to obtain these  seeds makes it fairly easy for a grower to avoid them.  Not so easy for the shopper to distinguish which produce on the supermarket shelf was produced with GMO --there is no requirement to label food as being produced with GMO seed.  People cannot tell if they are buying GMO sweet corn or tomatoes or not.  II am not sure if the majority of shoppers even knows that most if not all manufactured foods contain GMO corn and soy products. I just posted a note on my facebook page that speaks to this. You can get there with this address: www.facebook.com/pages/Walkers-Fresh-Veggies-CSA-Farm/305135522855468

We think it is wrong to test new technology on the general public over time vs doing controlled studies.   

 Walklers Fresh veggies does not use GMO products. NO GMO


Fall has arrived with the end of our CSA season

We have had our first snow, it fell the week just after we completed our 20 week distribution season for our CSA members. We have had a great overall season this year. As always, there were a few weather glitches along the way, but all in all we were blessed with good sweet corn, tomatoes and potatoes this year. We also had the best pickle crops ever and an abundance of green beans.  Our fall crops ended up in a drought and did not measure up to the bumper crops of watermelon, cantaloupe and fall squash we had last year, but we had enough to support our CSA shares with all but cantaloupe.  Cauliflower remains in the field as it is just not ready yet!  We had so many green beans late that we were able to provide hefty shares of beans right up to the last distribution for our CSA members and we sent around an additional 1200 lbs of fresh green beans to the Food Bank in Battle Creek!

 Looking ahead we want to continue to grow our CSA membership this coming season.  We plan to continue to offer free delivery within our large distribution area, and will maintain a low membership fee for all. Our shares contain veggies that require relatively high harvest labor to provide. The small yellow sweet cherry tomatoes and green beans are high labor for harvest items.  Many CSA's do not provide nearly as much of these items due to cost at harvest time.  We have found these items to be very popular and will continue to provide them regardless of the labor cost involved.  We need to budget money's from the subscription fees received to be available through the summer for gas for delivery, harvest labor and packing labor.  There is no way one or two people can take care of the crops, hand harvest 130 shares of everything that goes in a box, pack and deliver on time by ourselves. We need helpers to accomplish this task in a timely manner.  The membership as a rule is not in a position to provide this help or even pick-up their share, and for the most part prefers to have these services provided along with the veggies produced.  We therefore include the costs for these desired services in our fee.  So -- when comparing prices --- remember a good portion of what goes into a share is there for pick, pack & delivery.     


Eliminate waste and give CSA Members a choice

We have decided that we need to do a better job of providing our CSA members with what they can actually use. We find that while one member may not ever use Kohlrabi, another rmay love it and really be disapointed if we stop growing it.   We also find that if we reduce the variety of crops we grow to those that are favorites to everyone we would likley only be growing five or six crops, and limiting the length of our season. 

We are asking our members to provide a list of those crops they just don't want, also a list of those they realy like.   I plan to create a database that I can print out like a packing list so we will be able to custom pack the boxes with each members name on the box. This way no member has to get something they can't use, and then have to waste it. We will have a better idea what to plant, and make better use of our resources, just growing what will actually be used. 

I do not think that any crop will be eliminated totaly with this approach, but I can already tell we will need to plant more lettuce and less of the other leafy greens, more zucchini and even less yellow squash. 

This is going to make packing day a bit more complex for us, but I am thinking that only offering a set package is limiting the number of people that participate, because most people have such an aversion to waste that they become discouraged if any program that puts them in a position of having to discard part of thier distribution.  By adding this service along with the home delivery we have the best possible choice for anyone in our area that is looking for a CSA home. 



Happy New Year! from Walkers Fresh Veggies

Hi Everyone!

Happy New Year from Mark & Carolyn Walker!

Walkers Fresh Veggies Farm News:

We have most of our seeds for 2013 ordered – we are also ordering 100 new flats with 188 cells each to use for starting kale, kohlrabi, collards, pak-choi, salad bowl leaf lettuce and romaine lettuce. We plan on growing much more green crops this coming year. We have lost some acreage that we were renting to grow food for the Food Bank Council of Michigan. Our landlord sold his land and we are no longer able to rent that field. This will not in anyway affect our CSA members, our stand, or the Farmers Markets. We need to expand these areas of our farm to make up for the lost production for the Food Bank.

CSA News:

We have already begun receiving checks in the mail for 2013 shares for the CSA! We are looking forward to a great year this coming season and hope everyone reading this gets involved. We would like to add some new crops to our production list:Winterbor Kale Collards MustardRomaine Lettuce

We are going back to the old fashioned varieties of cabbage this year and will be planting some of each of Early Jersy Wakefield, Golden Acre, Flat Dutch & Danish Ballhead. We also will plant some open pollinated Waltham broccoli this year for and extended season of picking.

Crops we grew some of in 2012, but find high demand for are beets, carrots and green onions. We are going to plant more of these this coming year and try and increase our supply.

Weed control without the use of chemicals is always a problem. We seem to be able to do a fairly good job in between the rows where the cultivator travels, but in the row with the crop plants we have to hand weed or hoe and this is very time consuming and costly. This year we are going to do some crops planting in a checkerboard pattern. This is an old fashioned method that allows you to cultivate in both directions removing the weeds from all around the plants. The catch is it will require hand planting –we will not be able to use our transplanter to plant these crops. This is not a bad trade off though, it is much easier and less costly to hand plant than to hand weed.

Next big job outside is to empty out the greenhouse (remove all the lugs of potting soil used to grow lettuce) and pull up the ground cloth. We need to fill the floor about 2 inches deep with sand. The ground cloth is harboring aphids and we have had problems in peppers and lettuce with aphids the last couple of times we started them in this greenhouse. We hope that we can better control them if they have no cover to hide under. We think the sand fill will act as a deterrent for weed growth and make a good base to set our skids on. There is a new organic spray available that will control aphids, but it costs $300 for one gallon.

I have been considering putting in a well for irrigation at one field to ensure production even in some dry weather. My landlord there was talking about putting the well in himself, but didn’t get it in this past year.

I need to find the cost for pipe and a point, driving fittings etc. I would like to find out just what it would cost if we drove the well ourselves. I also want to run a 1 ½ inch line to the field across the road from us. We did not get that done last year, and it would make that land much more productive if we could manage to water some of it. Rain is still the best way to go –but I fear our climate is in fact changing, or we are experiencing a dry part of a long cycle. Either way, I think we will continue to have dry spells each year and the crops most of you want need water to grow. Another alternative would be to find a parcel of ground to but and put our own well down to irrigate it, this would also make it possible to start growing perennial crops like asparagus, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries etc. We grow very little of these now because we rent most of our land and can loose the right to farm it any time, we also must have the ability to irrigate the fruits. This is something to think about.

Please have a safe and Happy New Year!

– Everyone wants dark green lettuce and romaine is tops for green salads – we will start this one in the greenhouse and transplant it into the field this year – we have grown mustard in past years prior to starting our CSA –we plan to add it back into the list this year –one change, we will transplant it instead of seeding it in the field.– we are finding more demand for green leafy crops and this is one we plan to try out for 2013.--this is a taller kale that is very cold hardy and should produce more kale for us. We also plan to continue with the scotch dwarf kale we had last year.

Thanksgiving Newsletter!

What a season!  We started out in March way too warm. The warm dry start allowed us to get some very early crops in and growing well. On the downside though, in early April it turned cold again and allour fruit trees were in full bloom a month early due to March's warm weather. We lost all our fruit. Allmost everyone in our area had the same experience, so we had no one we could buy fruit from for our Stand. Then the hot dry weather came, we went without rain for nine weeks!  The early crops were all made and did well, but we totally lost the first half of our sweet corn, our cabbage and broccoli crops stopped in their tracks, and the potatoes only made a half crop.  We lost the first three plantings of beans too.  The rain finally came just in time for the rest of the crops, and the late crops did OK. The best of wich were the wateremlon and fall squash/pumpkins.  For these crops we give thanks!  We had planted 3 acres of each of watermelon and butternut squash for the Food Bank and this bulk sale is providing for us for the winter.  We also had ten members sign up for "Winter shares" in our CSA!  So far this is going well, our greenhouse crops are doing OK, with exception of the tomatoes. The tomatoes got too cold for a couple of nights and frosted them pretty bad. we had 18 and 20 degrees a couple of mornings and ice fopred on the inside of the film.  In our other greenhouse the lettuce and pak-choi, kale and beets are doing well and this week will be our second distribution and will include some of these greens along with nice white potatoes, butternut squash, and even a large Hubbard squash just in time for Thanksgiving.

We are excited about next season, and this is somewhat unussual this soon after a season has ended. We normally have to go through a rest period to get fired up for the coming season. I think maybe we are becoming adjusted to the summer schedule of trying to cram cultivating and planting into one or two days a week with the rest of the week being devoted to picking , packing and delivering the shares and the farmers market on Saturday.  Maybe not getting up at 3:00 am three times a week to get to the Benton Harbor Market helped out with our energy level too!  There seemed to be no point in going there, because we had nothing "extra" to sell, and there was not much fruit to buy.  Maybe we are just finding we really enjoy the feedback we have gotten from all the CSA Members we have spoken with at the end of our season and all the nice comments they have had for us. We were able to fill (full) the boxes each week for at least 20 distridutions this year and I think everyone was very pleased with all they got even during the most severe weather conditions I have ever experienced. For this I wish to take no credit, especialy at this time of Thanksgiving!  I want to thank God for His watchcare over us and for providing just what we need, when we need it. 

We are already making plans for next season. We plan on increasing the spring greens, beets, onions, and add some variety to the lettuce we have available. We found some bettter methods for planting smaller transplants this year and for controlling the spacing of the rows and within the rows. We are planing to make use of what we have learned next year to keep the weeds out with the cultivator and in order to grow some crops in a more concentrated population, better utilizing the space we have available.  We have lost the use of some of our land that we have had for six years. One of our fields wassold by the couple that rented it to us, and we will not be able to rent it next year. This will not nesisarlly be a bad thing , though, I think we were trying to farm too many acres the past couple of years and we will do fine withoput the extra cost and work. we will have much more time for the land we have left to farm which is still double the number of acres we need for our CSA shares. Years pass and fingers stiffen a bit more and shoulders ache, and back kinks more as time passes, and it may be very well we slow down a bit on the number of acres we bounce over.  Better to grow more on less land and do a very nice job of it. It is more pleasing in the end of the season, daughters get more of our time and grandsons get more of Grandpa's time as well. We were very happy to have had two of our daughters, ages 33 and 31, both married too, working with us a couple of days each week picking /packing & delivering CSA shares.   This also made the workload esier to handle! It is also a great thing to see your childeren finally having a part in what we do for a living. Many blessings!

We hope you all have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Mark & Carolyn Walker


April 2012 Newsletter

Hi Everyone!

I said I would write a newsletter when we got a rain break – so here goes…….

Today I am replacing the exhaust gasket on the old Ford tractor –working in the garage. I had to stop for a bit to let the oil soak into the threads on the bolts that hold the manifold onto the engine block. So I have a minute to write.

Last week we (my daughter Corine and I ) got all the early green cabbage and two kinds of broccoli planted –this was 75 flats (72 plants each) and filled about 1 ½ acres. We also put in 8 rows of red potatoes and 3 rows of white potatoes. This is a little over half the potatoes we had last year. The broccoli suffered some from the two frosts we had last week –I will check it latter today and see how it is doing now that we have had some rain.

After we got the transplanting done I had time to disc the remaining portion of the field across the road and plant more lettuce and carrots. I also put in some dill and turnips and a second planting of spinach. This rain came just at the perfect time for all these crops –they are seeded so shallow in the soil that they need water right away to germinate.

The lettuce I seeded in flats in the greenhouse is coming up and the Kale is about 3 inches tall already. Everything but a small amount of parsley and thyme has been transplanted into flats and the next job for the greenhouse will be all the vine crops. We will seed those at the end of April or first of May and are planning on filling the back greenhouse with watermelon, cantaloupe, zucchini, summer squash, pati pan squash, and a few specialty squashes. We also seed the late fall crops then too. We will seed late broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale. (I am thinking it will work better to transplant kale out of the greenhouse than to try and direct seed it in the field).

Next week I plan on working all the fields over with the field cultivator to keep the moisture retained in the ground, and kill any small weeds that may be getting started.

We have a nice group of people that have subscribed for this year’s membership and we are reaching a point where we would like to be for size this year. We have enough New members to replace all those who have let me know from last year that they are moving or for whatever other reason will not be subscribing this year.

There are a few of last years members who have not let me know either way what their plans are for this year, and since we have passed the April 15 date, anyone is welcome to take their place as CSA member.

In addition I have decided that I would like to keep our total membership to around 80 shares. This is a reduction of about 30 members from last year. This size would allow us to do better job packing and provide better service to our members. I am looking at selling any excess produce we may have this year to other CSA Farms that might need it. We usually have quite a few people subscribe in the end of April and into May. If you have not already subscribed and are planning on doing so you need to let me know, we passed the April 15 date, and at this point it is first come first serve. We still have some room left, but should easily be filled by mid-May.

Subscription rates paid by check are lower than if purchased online through the localharvest store – this is due to the localharvest store commission. LocalHarvest charges us a commission for the service they provide, so we are passing on a portion of that fee in the online store rates.. The subscription rates by check are $250 for a Half share, $320 for a Basic share & $400 for the Full size share.

I think we will begin delivery on June 7 this year – there should be at least enough stuff ready to pack some veggies for the first taste of spring, then the following weeks there ought to be enough to fill the boxes fairly well. This start date will give us a 22-week delivery season. This is 4 or 5 weeks more than last year. Your first box may not be way full – but whatever is ready will go to waste if we do not make a distribution at that time.

Corine and I went over to the field and checked on the broccoli & cabbage, and it is doing well. Some of the rows that were planted earliest look a bit more stressed by the frost than the later planted rows, but they all look like they will be fine. The rain came at a very good time for these plants. We are very pleased with how these are doing and glad we got them in before this rain. Packman broccoli takes about 55 days from transplant date to mature – this puts our potential first harvest date at June 10. This would be in time for the second distribution box!

Have a great day!

Your veggigrower,

Mark & Carolyn Walker









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