Monday, March 27, 2017

Can we just talk about last week?

Guys- last week, we had almost 6 straight days of below freezing temperatures. Yes, we were prepared (well, as much as any farmer can be). It is often common this time of year to dip below freezing once things start to bloom, but for us to have such growth so early (almost a month before normal Spring), and then have such a cold snap, we were scared if our emergency measures would be enough.

Well, we will have strawberries! YAY!! We covered them and irrigated them and, from what we can tell right now, the plants look mostly fine. The berries we had, survived. It's the flowers that took the biggest hit. That means we will have berries for a while, then go for a dry-spell, and then pick back up where we hopefully were going to be this time of year.

But another crop wasn't so lucky: peaches. No, we don't have any peaches on our farm, but we sell peaches from other local farmers. They are a HUGE draw to our stand in the summer and a big part of other farmers' livelihoods.

And this is where I need you to pay attention. Peaches are one of the impulse items which makes our farm stand profitable. Their sweet juicy deliciousness is what makes small diversified farmers and farm stands an economic viability. When you're driving down the road and see a sign that says "squash" do you say- Hold up, Honey! Stop the car! We gotta get a bushel of those squashes! No. You don't. Squash aren't sexy. Neither are cucumbers, beans, basil, beets, kale, lettuce, peppers, hot peppers, eggplant, winter squash, basically 80% of what we grow. We count on those eye catching crops, peaches, strawberries, tomatoes, watermelon, and pumpkins, to get the customers in the door. And, most of the time, once the customers arrive, get their impulse buy of peaches or tomatoes, they purchase other ancillary items, the items which make running a sustainable, diversified, small family farm, possible.

So what happens when you don't have peaches for sale? Last year, we saw a drop in sales of all things, simply because we were not able to put out our sign that said "Peaches." We didn't get the traffic of previous years when we were able to sell the peaches of our Cabarrus County neighbors. People would stop in, ask if we had peaches, we would have to turn them away, and then they would drive away, not making a purchase. This pattern proved detrimental to our sales during the summer. We had all of the rest of the crops, just not the Sexy Stars which make consumers stop and pick up a pound of beans, three squash, 4 cucumbers, a jar of jelly, honey, and a bar of soap.

So, not only have our friends lost their profitable peaches for two years in a row, now, according to smart business models across the southeast, small diversified farms are not as profitable as they should be when we have our Sexy Stars.

What we need from you, our customers and friends: Please Please Please continue to support us and other small farms this year even though we don't have peaches! Please stop, see what we have, and make your meals according to what's in season. It's easy to cook seasonally when the season is literally fruitful. What's tough, and what's vital, is to support the farms when the weather is difficult and the Sexy Stars aren't so bright. There is still a ton of great, delicious produce out there which will carry our farms through the dim summers-of-few-peaches. If you ever have any questions of how to work our produce in to your diet, just let us know. All of our staff can help you with recipe ideas. We, the farmers of Cabarrus County, need your support in the good years and the bad years. We have bills, just like you, regardless of how the weather treats us.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

It's Spring and look who's Blooming!

We get asked all the time as farmers, "What do you do in the 'off' season? What if it snows? What if the weather changes?"... etc. And the answer is pretty simple... There is no "off" season. Sure, the weather may not cooperate from a day to day basis during the Winter months. But if plants aren't growing, it doesn't mean that we are sitting, waiting, and watching.

This year in fact we had a totally different approach. Due to the success of Charlotte's first Kriskindlmarkt (Christmas Village) and a grant from the local group Farm Hands Charlotte, we were able to get a head start on Spring like never before!

Strawberries were planted late October.. in hopes of harvest in late April. Spring, however, had other plans! We will probably be harvesting within this month or so! "So soon?" you ask. Trust me. We're just as floored as you. So with weather changes comes ingenuity and careful planning.

As most of you may or may not know, Farming is not an exact science. In fact it is a lot of trial and error. We do precision based guesswork, based on data and information that can change at any time. So basically a nicer way of stating that we "roll with the punches". And our team is taking those punches like a champ!

Not only are we over a month ahead on planting; we have finished constructing our new beautiful greenhouse, we have finished updating and securing 'Chicken Run' (our coop), we have started germination of all vine clippings, and now we begin our new seed cells for our Summer crops!

It is so rewarding to put a seed into the ground and days later see the green peeking through the soil...

We can't wait to bring this year's produce to market! We will, of course, have our usual... tomatoes, onions, lettuce mixes, asian green mixes, arugula, strawberries. But we are also trying our hand at some new veggies. Jerusalem Artichokes (a totally tubular tuber!) shaped like a ginger root and tastes like a potato... we are excited for the new addition to the family!

As always with changing weather, comes changing growth rates... therefore, when strawberries are ready to harvest.. we will be opening the Farm Stand. It is a little earlier than normal... but then again when is the last time we had an 80 degree day in February?? That being said keep an eye out for updates at the farm. We love providing fresh, local, organic produce to the public.... so the sooner we can do it... the better!

Thank you for all the support. We really are having a great year at Dover Vineyards so far.. and there is so much more to come!

 Our New Greenhouse!
 Sprouts of mixed greens!
 The start of a pea plant!
 Jerusalem Artichokes
 Green strawberries ...almost there!

-Olivia, Dover Vineyards