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In Anticipation of Spring

By Julia Loman, Phase II Fellow

Winter is a special time for farmers. With garden beds resting neatly under blankets of hay and the intermittent pile of snow (at the Mountain Farm, anyway!), we take this time to plan, dream, and let ourselves explore the possibilities for the upcoming season. January is full of seed catalogs, planting schedules, and big ideas. It’s an exciting time, this planning of future planting and harvesting. In our cozy abodes, seemingly so far removed from warm fields and sunny days, we can forget the challenges we face in the summer - rain and drought, pests and diseases, and the unforeseen circumstances that inevitably always arise.

Winter is spreadsheet time!

But, there’s a reason we are farmers, and a big part of it has to do with the joy and enthusiasm that we have for the fresh produce we grow ourselves. Often, I think I’d trade a cold January day for a sweaty August day, troubleshooting aphids on the tomatoes or shoveling manure, in a heartbeat. This anticipation adds to the excitement of crop planning. It’s why we can’t wait to get the first seeds started, to tend those baby plants with the anxious care of new parents.

Up on the mountain, it’s still too early to even begin starting plants in the greenhouse for later transplant. I have a few more weeks of dreaming and planning before I can get my hands in the soil. However, at AMI's Farm at Augusta Health, life is beginning to emerge from the warm greenhouse and germination chamber. While the ground outside is still definitely not warm enough to allow delicate veggies to thrive, the heat inside of the greenhouse is making baby plants to begin to grow! What is started now will be transplanted in the high-tunnel, where it is not quite as warm as the greenhouse but warm enough to support young greens and cold-hardy vegetables. I’ll do the same on the mountain soon, beginning spring greens and carrots for the high-tunnel, as well as some of the crops for the field that take a long time to mature, like onions and leeks.

The AMI Farm at Augusta Health seed-starting setup. Seedlings are protected with a layer of row cover (also known as remay) or plastic, and a heater at night.

Gently brushing the greenhouse sprouts helps strengthen the shoots, mimicking the way the wind blows and strengthens plant stems. It's also very soothing!

Seeing the young seedlings of spinach, swiss chard, kale, and kohlrabi – and Phase II Fellows Nick and Grace’s pride at their little sprouts - makes me incredibly happy. There is a bounty of good food on the way from these baby plants, and while it feels like a long way off, it will be time for the spring harvest before we know it. The changes of the seasons are good: they allow us to experience gratitude for the gardens we create and to cultivate patience for all that is to come. For now, we get to experience anew the wonder of life sprouting from the soil.

Allegheny Mountain Farm, January 2019

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