Saturday mornings, for the last year and a half, have been off to market days for us. Our little town has been blessed with the opportunity to build a thriving year round farmer’s and artisan’s market, and having somewhere to bring winter produce to sell during the off months of our CSA program is really great. Growing food year round has been a fun and satisfying part of our farm adventure here in Oregon. And for us especially, having moved from the much colder Midwest, being able to grow so much out in the open through the winter has been amazing.
Here in the Willamette Valley, there is so much that can be grown out of doors through the entire year. Winter hardy greens top the list, but root crops like carrots, beets, turnips, and rutabagas can also stay in the ground and be harvested from through the winter, and the really fun stuff is the overwintering sprouting broccolis and cauliflowers that are such a treat come the end of the cold season.
The only hitch, for us at least, is the space winter growing requires. To continue harvesting in the same quantity as we do for the rest of the year, we need to have winter vegetables in a lot more ground than we need for that amount in warmer months. Since things aren’t growing at all for a good twelve weeks of that time and growing slowly for the rest of it, we have to plan differently. With much of our usable growing space wet (albeit highly fertile) from December through May, we still haven’t been able to grow as much as we would like.
This year we were really excited to use the dry acreage we are leasing near town to grow more for winter, but are now equally disappointed because those vegetables attracted foraging deer who ended up eating everything we planted there–kales, radicchios, chicories, red mustards, chard, perpetual spinach, turnips. They kindly left the arugula and green mustards, but being so far away from that space, it felt hard to protect those crops and we aren’t necessarily keen on putting up deer fencing over there right now. Here at our place, even when we see some deer activity in the winter, we have the easy protection of our dog to keep them at bay.
And so, the winter growing part of our operation is still the part we still struggle with. Many people are amazed that we have what we do at market but we know that we could have a lot more. And people really, really love our winter greens. Growing them out of doors in the cold produces the most wonderful flavor, and to be eating something so fresh and alive in the coldest months is awesome, we aren’t coming close to meeting the demand for them. Even as we get ready to put up our first hoophouses on the farm, we don’t want that to be our main solution to having more to harvest for the winter market and ultimately, for a full season CSA too.
A puzzle we are working on–just as there are always are in the farming business–but one we feel we can solve. That is part of what keeps us on our toes and ever humble in the work we do.
This morning, the sky was on fire, Mt. Hood so breathtaking in the sky against those colors. It will be a beautiful market day. We are heading out now with some delicious greens, thankful for what we do have and for yet another Saturday to visit with the community and continue “farming” year round.