Walkers Fresh Veggies

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

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March heat wave Update!

Walkers Fresh Veggies CSA -- UPDATE

Hi Everyone,

This weather sure is crazy. I now have been over all the ground with the disc., have chisel plowed all the heavy ground. The field across the road has been moldboard plowed and disced twice.

I have planted ¾ acre of spring crops. These are crops the cold weather will not hurt (it is likely to turn cold again).

I have in 8 rows swiss chard, 12 rows beets, 1 row mustard, 4 rows turnips, 4 rows rutabaga, 18 rows of carrots, and 2 rows of mixed lettuce. These rows are at least 250 feet long.

I have to wait on the radishes and green onions because they grow much faster than the greens, and I want them to be ready about the same time.

In the greenhouse we have all the seeds germinated and doing nicely, seeded some lavender that is not up yet. We are going to transplant the early tomatoes into flats as soon as it rains and we can’t work outside. Also need to move all the first broccoli and cabbage into the big greenhouse so it gets more sun and we free up some room in the first greenhouse to put peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant when they are big enough to transplant.

A little rain would be OK right now – just not a downpour –that could crust over the ground and make it hard for the greens and beets and carrots to emerge. (This is the big risk right now –the soil crusting over).

Just a reminder! ! Returning members subscriptions due by April 15.

We need to know who we have. We have just as many new members as we have returning members right at this point.

 

Right now we are three weeks ahead of normal with the growing season – peaches are in bloom –they will most likely be froze out and we will have no peaches. Apples and plums are about ready to bloom –I hope they hold off for awhile. Rhubarb is up -- it shouldn’t be up for another 3 to 4 weeks. The early broccoli and cabbage in the greenhouse is already 4 inches tall. We will likely be planting corn and green beans in mid April this year.

Gotta go now – I am going to chisel plow more ground today.

I will keep you informed, have a great day!

Your veggigrower, Mark and Carolyn Walker

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January Newsletter

Happy New Year to all our CSA Members !!

Hi everyone,

This entry is an update on what we are up to on the farm this time of year and is taken from our CSA January Newsletter.

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December 2011 End of Season Newsletter

It has been a very interesting season.  I have never had potatoes as good as the Red Potatoes we grew this year.  We had some blocks of sweet corn that were some of the best weve ever had too.  Over all though this year was the most chalanging one we have ever had.  The last year I can remeber that was as bad from a weather standpont was 1988 with a terible drought, but we had the benifit of good weed control and little disease.  This year we had wet cold weather that kept us out of the fields until late, then hot dry weather right when the fall crops were planted and very young.  We had very poor weed control -- could not cultivate when needed due to the wet, and no help with any dry time for disease. We sacrificed some of our production planted for the stand to help bolster our CSA shares and got through pretty well. We are looking forward to a good new year and a much better season for 2012!  CSA is king - without our members we would be much worse off than we are -- for thier support we owe them our Thanks!  [Read More]
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May 2011 Newsletter

It is May 16 and it is very wet and cold after a brief period of good weather.  We have been very busy in the fields trying to get as many crops planted as we can before this wet period, and I think we have done very well. 

The sugar snap peas that were planted almost a month ago that I thought might rot in the wet cold ground, did survive - and it looks like we will have most of the 3 ½ rows for harvest. I do not know if they will be ready to pick for June 23  -- we will see.

We have to plow each field as we go because the weather did not permit plowing all fields first then we could just concentrate on planting.
We have planted 2 acres of potatoes, 1/3 acre of onions, ½ acre of broccoli and cabbage, 3 acres of sweet corn (including a half acre of early corn transplanted from the greenhouse) 4 rows 600 ft long of green beans, 2 rows 250 ft long of Alaska peas, 31/2 rows of Oregon sugar snap peas, and 2/3 acre of Early Girl and Polbig Tomatoes.
We have started all the watermelons and cantaloupe, zucchini, yellow summer squashes and cucumbers in the greenhouse and are working on seeding pati pan squash and a few more melons.  This week we will also seed the flats for the late crops of broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage and a few very late tomatoes.

We have a small garden ¼ acre ready to plant early stuff in and Carolyn is working on transplanting in the early spinach and lettuce plants from the greenhouse.  We are trying to make up for the late spring by using the plants started in the greenhouse instead of direct seeded spinach and lettuce - it is much more work, but may give us veggies on time.

CSA membership has gone very well and currently we have 95 paid members - a very nice sized group. There may be a few more of you left that have not subscribed yet, if you still want to we can take a few more members without any problems (especially if you are on our current route).

When the weather dries out again we will be planting more sweet corn and green beans and getting the fields ready for the main planting of tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant and then all the vine crops (squash, melons, and cucumbers.

There are only 38 more days until the first planned distribution - not much time for the crops to get ready, If we get some warm weather we should still have stuff to pick on time.  Worse case we would have to deliver our first distribution on June 30 (last Thursday of June) and add a final distribution on the end (November 4 ).  I will keep you all updated as time and the weather progresses. 

Wishing each of you a very good day!
Your Veggiegrowers,
Mark and Carolyn Walker
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Spring is finally here!

We have finally started planting in the greenhouse. We have around 10,000 sweet onion plants that are doing well and are about 3 inches tall. The first early tomatoes are just emerging and are looking good too. Soon we will be transplanting into flats and filling up our second greenhouse. Today I will go pick-up a pallet of organic peat we use for transplants.  Friday I will seed the peppers, cabbage, broccoli,eggplant and some more tomatoes. We are well underway, and it feels good to be getting back to growing things after the long hard winter. 

In past years I've prunned fruit trees for a neighbor in the winter to keep busy. The last couple of years I stopped doing that first of all because two years ago money was tight (heavy apple crop - poor prices) and my neighbor thought he might not prune all the orchards, then I am getting older and the work out in the cold every day is getting harder and harder on my arthritis, and I just need some time off from the 16 hour days I put in through the veggie season, so I've pretty much just let the prunning job go (I have my own trees to prune -but not very many- just enough for fun).

I have around half a ton of Yukon Gold potatoes to sort through and bag - I want to donate them to a soup kitchen or food bank or some place like that to help the unemployed people in my area.  This is my next task now that the green houses are going.  After I get that done I need to do some fixing on some equipment - build up the landsides on the plow and do some welding etc.  Then it will be time to start the plowing, and I wont have any free time to blog after that.

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