The Wegener Farm FAQs
What should you expect out of your 2020 CSA membership?
First, a disclaimer. This is agriculture. Nature is unpredictable, and farmers make mistakes. We had great track record of keeping our families fed last year, but we also had some crop failures that meant some varieties were simply not always available. We learned a lot, but there is for sure more to learn.
Second, we want you to be thrilled with your direct to farm relationship with us. You are buying a share of the farm’s output. The farmer (me) will decide what goes into your boxes based on what is available. I listen well, adjust boxes to your needs along the way, and almost always have extra at drop-offs for full share members if you feel like you would like more. We also take requests, just please let us know ahead of time to give us the best chance to successfully fulfill your request.
Also, as a CSA member, you have access to the farm. Please do make arrangements ahead of time if you plan to visit, as we want to be sure to be here to host you (Cheryl and I both have off farm careers.)
Third, we want you to be able to share. If you occasionally need more produce that usual because you are entertaining or have family over, just tell me. We will do our best to accommodate. We think as many people as possible should get a chance to enjoy our food.
Fourth, we want you back! I want you to be so satisfied that you could not imagine getting your food any other way. We believe that the future of farming lies in small, local, regenerative farms like ours. We believe the model is good for people, communities, and our environment, and that it is the only sustainable answer. Farms like ours don’t leach nutrients and chemicals into our water, we trap carbon in the soil by the very nature of our systems, we don’t truck our food across the country, and the food we grow is more nutrient dense, heathier, and better tasting. This is what drives us, and it is our job to make it work for you.
How does the CSA work?
We are planning on our first CSA dropoff to be mid-May, but it could be anywhere from mid-May to mid-June depending on the weather. In an organic system like ours, the soil biology needs to wake up in order to feed the plants, and that takes warmth. We can help this along with different techniques, but it is nature’s vote that counts, in the end. We have 5,760 square feet of greenhouse space, which will give us a good head start on the season, but we will only heat these houses if the temperature gets low enough to threaten to kill the plants. Our houses are 14 feet tall and it takes an unbelievable amount of propane to heat that volume. It is an amount of carbon we are just not willing to put into the air at this point. This means a lot of what happens depends on the sun, and on its energy passively heating our houses. We will also use low tunnels in the fields to protect early plantings from frost and trap heat. This will allow us to get plants in the ground sooner in our field blocks as well. This should get us started as early as possible.
You have purchased 19 weeks of vegetables, and we will make sure you have a chance to get at least 19 weeks of vegetables. If the farm cannot deliver for some reason one week, we will extend the CSA so that you get that week at the back end. We will harvest your fresh produce, wash, pack, and cool as appropriate for the vegetable. On drop off day, we will pack your share in reusable corrugated (recyclable) plastic boxes. If you have eggs included in your membership, they will come in containers made from recycled materials. We will also occasionally use reusable mesh bags if it is appropriate for the produce. (note: we have learned that we need to use plastic produce bags to keep lettuce and leafy greens fresh. We keep the use of these plastic bags to a minimum, and encourage you to recycle, but it seems to be a necessary evil.) You will take your full box home each week, and return the empty box, egg cartons, and mesh bags from the previous week. We will then reuse these materials to pack your food the following week, and so on.
Nearly every week we will have a few items that we will not pack into boxes ahead of time, but have available for you to have “free choice” at the drop-offs. This will allow you to choose amount and variety that suits you. Last year we almost always did this with tomatoes, for example, to accommodate peoples’ preferences for different varieties.
If for some reason you will miss a week, please let us know ahead of time. You can have a designate pick up for you, just skip the week, or double up the following week. We can also hold your box at the farm in our cooler if that seems to be the best option.
What can we expect to be in our CSA shares each week?
I will choose what goes into the shares each week, and you can expect to have a wide variety of leafy greens and vegetables. In a typical week you should expect to have between six and ten different items in your share. You can expect more variety as more variety is available at the farm. Most importantly, I am very open to feedback, please give it to me and we will adjust.
Our first couple of boxes will be primarily based on early crops such as radishes, bok choi, kale, salad mix, Spinach, beets, turnips, microgreens, basil, etc. This will change quickly. We had early tomatoes and cukes in the first week in June last year and there is no reason to believe the same thing won’t be true this year. Part of the early boxes will also include a treat that was a favorite of last year’s CSA members, garlic scapes. Don’t worry, we will give you plenty of ideas about what to do with them.
In late June an early July, spring crops will be in full swing and, along with early tomatoes, cukes, and the early crops above, we will begin to have heirloom tomatoes, summer squash, zucchini, kohlrabi, Chard, peas, yellow beans. Green and purplette onions. We will also have another one of our special treats… new potatoes. There is something really special about the first, young potatoes of the year. Their skins have not quite thickened and hardened off, and they are particularly tasty. If you have never had new potatoes, trust me, you are in for a treat.
By late July we should start to have some peppers, egg plants, green beans, dragon tongue beans, garlic, shallots, early onions, carrots, leeks, and most of the rest of our produce. We will also start to see some cabbages (napa and early green) and we should have pickling dill at this point too for those of you who are interested in making some great pickles to enjoy all year long.
In August the farm will be in full swing, and choices and volumes will be plentiful. This time of the year the biggest challenge for the farmer is to keep up with succession plantings while keeping the produce harvested (whew!) Our greenhouses will look like impenetrable jungles as farm workers work hard to prune tomato and cucumbers and keep them under control. Cool season crops such as radishes will take a break, and heat loving crops such as egg plants, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers will thrive. Note: we will always include leafy greens, chard, kale, Bok Choi, and/or lettuce heads in your boxes. These are more difficult to grow in the heat, but we have some tricks up our sleeves!
In September we will start to have later season crops such as late cabbage and hard squash. I love this time of the year because we get such a variety of squash, from the diminutive and delicious (delecata), to the enormous and impressive (blue hubbard.) Winter squash is just a lot of fun. Plants such as cucumbers will start to die back, but our succession planting schedule will ensure that we have new fresh plants that will continue to produce through the season. Our storage onions will begin to dry off and be ready for harvest.
Finally, in October cool season crops will return (lettuce, radishes, beets, etc.). Kale and chard love the fall, and tomatoes, peppers and cukes will continue to grow in our greenhouses (I pulled the last tomatoes and peppers in mid-November last year, and they were still producing at that time.) We will wrap up the winter squash, carrots, onions, etc. This time of year we will begin again to use low tunnels and row covers to keep the frost off of outdoor plants if necessary.
Are there any events planned at the farm?
Well… I really want to have at least one farm to table event for CSA members. I say “well” because I planned to do it last year as well, but just simply could not make it happen. I hope we have a better chance this year, but I do not want to set expectations we cannot meet.
Can we come to the farm?
Part of your CSA membership is access to the farm. Our commitment is that CSA members have access to the farm. With our expanded membership will have to get a little more organized about how we accommodate that, but I will publish those details as the season gets underway. Some of the most fun I had last year was watching members and their children interact with our chickens, pick tomatoes right off the plants in our greenhouse and pop them in their mouths, and generally get connected to their food. This is what it is all about, and I highly encourage it. If you wish to come out, and you do not see a time that accommodates you, please ask. Cheryl and I both have off farm careers, so planning is key, but we really want you to enjoy this place.
Are you certified organic?
Yes! As of May 2022 we are certified. While we stand by our assertion that transparency is more powerful than certification, and it is true that the certification process adds a whole lot of paperwork, it does have value in the marketplace. I also have to (begrudgingly) admit that I learned some things from our really great certifier that really helped the farm.
What is Regenerative Agriculture?
Regenerative is a philosophy more than it is a standard, and it goes well beyond just being organic. Typically, these farms, like our farm, seek to give more back to the earth than they take in terms of the soil food web. We believe that soil biology is the key to sustainable agriculture, and we do things to encourage that biology and the micro-organisms and fungi in it. This means removing detrimental practices like synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, and heavy tillage. We also implement practices that raise organic matter in the soil (low to no till, compost amendment, cover cropping) which, coincidentally, also sequester more carbon in the soil. Could this really be significant? Well, it seems rational… more plant matter in the soil means less carbon in the air, and studies back this up. Here a few if you really want to geek out:
In addition to sequestering carbon, our system also creates less. We use less fuel, we don’t use chemicals that require intensive use of fossil fuels to create, such as synthetic fertilizers, and your produce does not need to be shipped on co2-creating trucks from California or Mexico.
So… how cool is that? You get great food and lower your carbon footprint at the same time!
We also focus on feeding the soil biology instead of feeding plants directly using organic amendments such as kelp meal, alfa meal, bloodmeal, bonemeal, fish emulsion, minerals, green manures (cover crops), and animal manures (applied according to organic guidelines).
How do you control pests and disease?
This is a huge challenge for organic growers, and for us. We accept a “normal” amount of disease and pests, unlike conventional systems which seek to irradicate all of it. We focus on five key measures to keep things under control.
We try to grow varieties that have natural disease resistance. We do not use GMO varieties, which makes this more challenging, but even in the non-GMO world there are varieties that are more resistant than others to certain diseases.
We focus on growing healthy plants. Plants under stress are more susceptible to both pests and disease. It seems logical that stressed plants would be more susceptible to disease, but pests? While no one seems to know why, even pests seem to be more successful in infesting stressed plants. We try to give our plants the right amount of water, fertility, nutrients, space, and air circulation (particularly in our greenhouses.) Trellising systems and hard pruning are also key in indeterminant species such as tomatoes and cucumbers.
We try to encourage beneficial species such as pollinators, ladybugs, certain wasps, and birds. These are species that keep plants healthy and productive, and feed on non-beneficials.
We use physical barriers such as row covers and insect netting.
When necessary, we may apply natural sprays that are safe for people and the soil food web, and are certified for organic agriculture. These include things like BT (bacillus thuringiensis), organic copper spray, Serenade biological fungicide, and Pyrethrin (an extract of the Chrysanthemum plant).
What makes The Wegener Farm eggs so good?
Our hens are allowed to act like chickens… that is kind of the bottom line. We do feed them a premium natural layer feed, but they also spend their days in the fresh air where they are allowed to forage naturally. They eat grass, leaves, worms and bugs in addition to the supplemental food and minerals we supply them. While I am no chicken phycologist, they sure look happy to me, and we can definitely see the difference in their eggs.
Does your farm use a lot of water?
This is a great question. As of now the water supply to the farm is the same tested well that supplies our residence. We continue to experiment with watering methods in an attempt to find the right mix of overhead and drip watering. Drip is more efficient, but the drip tape does not last long and we end up throwing a lot of this plastic away. Overhead is way less efficient but there is a lot less waste. Right now, on our farm, water is abundant and I am leaning toward more overhead irrigation and less plastic for 2023. Our clay soils hold water pretty well by nature and we will also get more efficient with water needs as we raise soil organic matter over time through compost amendment, reduced tillage, and cover cropping.