Farmers Raising Ecologically Sustainable Healthy
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Post by Roger
Trail Ridge Acres
2014-07-02 20:31:37


Change is an important part of life and it impacts us every day. This has been a year of transition at Trail Ridge Acres. Managing a CSA and the land surrounding it is a full time job from January to January. After retiring from a desk job, it may be obvious why a transition might be in order.

Over 10 years ago my wife and I stepped back from our day jobs and moved to the country to manage our newly purchased acreage in Iowa County. There was forest land, old pasture which looked like an ideal oak savannah, and ground to plant to a garden. What better way to spend time outside and get plenty of exercise and enjoy the life of retirement?

The forest needs to be managed for wildlife habitat and future tree harvest. Wildlife can not survive in an environment that is covered with multi-floral rose, garlic mustard, honeysuckle and several other invasive species. If not dealt with on a regular basis (weekly), the forest becomes impenetrable and of little value. The trees that are there will survive but there will be little regeneration. Besides weed management one must also manage the trees that are present. Sugar maple, oak, and walnut are desirable, but other trees inhibit their growth. This means a timber stand improvement project must be in place to maintain a healthy wood lot. So every winter finds us removing less desirable trees and thinning to provide an optimum environment.

Like the woodlands, an oak savannah must be managed. Again it is those invasive species that threaten our efforts at restoring an old pasture into a mix of forbes, native grasses and bur oak. Just an annual burn doesn’t get the job done. One must work at removing those invasive weeds like sweet clover, crown vetch, and poison parsnips. No one wants a prairie that looks like the road ditches.

Managing the CSA deals with the smallest portion of the land but it is also time consuming. Planning starts as soon as you clean up the previous years activity. Seeds are ordered in December and January and planting starts in February. Even a small CSA (10 members) requires a lot of seedlings. By April there may be over 1600 seedlings growing in our house at various stages of development. Those must all move to the garden before the middle of May.

April and May can be interesting months to prepare ground and plant those seedlings. Some years we wait for the snow to disappear and other years we find we have to water to keep those plants going. There is also the challenge of keeping weeds at bay so the new seedlings can develop.

Harvesting starts in May with over wintered crops and asparagus and will not end until November. Weekly from mid June through October there is something to share from the garden with our members. It must be picked, washed, packed and delivered to their door.

Did you see much time for a cruise or a simple weekend of camping? Thus the start of a transition at Trail Ridge Acres. We have made a choice to gradually work our way into a more traditional retirement by planning some activities off the farm and decreasing the number of members that receive fresh vegetables each week. Change is inevitable and it is our hope that everyone impacted by our transition has found a new source for fresh vegetables.