Old Plank Farm
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"Thanks for all the hard work, diverse veggies, email info, organized process and the HEALTHY FOOD EXPERIENCE!"

"We are delighted with each and every weekly box of veggies we get from you.  We have never eaten better."

"I am definitely healthier and happy because you are my farmer!"

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Stephanie's Farm Blog

Posted 5/20/2018 8:05am by Stephanie Bartel.

This cloudy, cool, drizzly morning is a welcome thing at Old Plank Farm right now. Over the last three days we did our biggest spring transplanting of the season. And transplants do best when they have a cloudy or cool or wet day to get accustomed to the field they've been put in. And us farmers do best when we have a cloudy or cool or wet day to get a little rest!

In the last three days Angelica, Jake and I planted over 22,000 spring transplants for this season's CSA members. Included in our transplanting routine is a scoop of compost for every plant and a drench of water. The three of us accomplished this somewhat daunting task in such a short time thanks to two things: our 14-wheeled homemade transplanting wagon, and our wonderful volunteer tractor drivers.

The 14-wheeler lets us ride along over the field and set the plants out and scoop the compost out and pour the water out without having to carry everything and bend over 22,000 times. It has a tank to carry the water, a mini-gravity bin to carry the compost, racks to carry the plants, and seats to carry us! All pulled by the tractor and built largely out of scraps from around the farm. It means we can get the plants out efficiently and with the least amount of stress for plants and people.

If you want to be a volunteer tractor driver for our next big planting (sometime between June 1-7), let us know! You don't have to know how to drive a tractor, we'll teach you. You just have to drive straight, drive slow, and for goodness sake you have to stop when we yell STOP!

Posted 4/27/2018 5:47pm by Stephanie Bartel.

We are finally in the field for the first time this season! Yesterday we prepped and planted 9 beds of salad mix, spinach, snow peas, snap peas, radishes, turnips, carrots, and Beetie's kin. Today we prepped more beds for upcoming plantings. Last week we were plowing snow, this week soil. Time changes everything, and being a farmer in Wisconsin keeps me very much in tune with that fact. 

Posted 4/19/2018 1:37pm by Stephanie Bartel.

"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." - Abraham Lincoln 

 
I've always appreciated the wisdom behind Abe Lincoln's quote about sharpening the axe, but it's not always been in my nature to heed his advice. I used to hurry around a lot, and often was impatient about this and that. Many things on the farm show this part of my personality. But within the last few years I have been getting much better at planning and thinking ahead. And never more than this spring. We are better prepared than ever to plant, weed, and harvest our crops as efficiently as possible. So this week's snowstorms aren't bothering us much at Old Plank Farm. We are kept busy putting the finishing touches on new gadgets to improve our planting rates. So when the snow does melt, we will be ready to get everything in the ground and off to a good, if not early, start!
Posted 4/13/2018 12:13pm by Stephanie Bartel.

The Adventures of Beetie: In which Beetie tours the Old Plank Farm Seeding Greenhouse. By Angelica Immel

Beetie says: "It is thyme for an adventure!"


On Beetie's journey through the greenhouse he comes across some Peppers and Eggplant.
"Did you know" says Beetie, "that it is called eggplant because the fruits of the plant were originally white instead of purple, so they looked like big eggs!"


Venturing on into the green, Beetie finds tomato plants. They are is favorite variety 'Goldie'.
He says to the plants, "I love you from my head, to-ma-toes."

Next he encounters baby zucchini and cucumber plants...
"Happy Birthday!" Beetie shouts to the newly emerging cuke and zuke plants.


In order to get to the other side of the greenhouse, Beetie must trek through a forest of onions.


After that long trek through The Onion Forest Beetie says, "Wow, I'm Beet!" and as he plops down in a bed of Beetie sized greens, "Lettuce Eat!"

Posted 4/4/2018 2:58pm by Stephanie Bartel.
April showers bring May...snowmen? Is that how the saying goes? In Wisconsin, one never knows. We may have 4 inches of mashed potatoes on the ground right now, but in the seeding greenhouse our young plants are unaffected by the recent snow storm. Broccoli and Cabbage are germinating at the moment, among other things. Yesterday we gave the onions a haircut. They were getting pretty shaggy, and as the weather reminded us, they will have to sit inside for more than a few days before the field is ready for them to be transplanted. Trimming their greens seems to help encourage root growth. And it's awfully fun playing barber for 35,000 onion plants.
 
It is hard to imagine that within a month there will be vegetable seeds sprouting from our now-frozen fields, and within two months we'll be getting close to the start of our CSA harvest season. Harvest? Harvest what? Snow? It is hard to imagine how quick and how much the season changes this time of year. If it weren't for nine other years growing veggies before this one, I may not believe it possible at all. 
Posted 3/29/2018 8:35am by Stephanie Bartel.
I check on our seedling greenhouse 3-4 times per day, to manage temperature and water needs of all our young plants. Right now the benches are largely filled with onions, but other crops are joining the ranks each day. Tomatoes are a bright spot right now, and Angelica's photos show them off. These are our farm-selected and seed-saved variety called Goldie. They are in their fourth generation of Old Plank Farm seed, and doing pretty well. I'm also germinating a lot of flowers these days. Each time a new variety pops up out of the soil I feel I am welcoming a new friend to the farm.
 
Because I look at the onions and other plants in person every day, I don't notice always realize how much they are changing. Day to day the growth is subtle, but when I look at Angelica's photos that are a mere two weeks apart, I am amazed at the strong and quick growth spurt of the onions, especially during a fairly chilly stretch of days and nights!
 
I can hardly peel myself away from the photos Angelica took. I love to look at photos of my onions, they are so simple and beautiful. But seeing the real thing, in the greenhouse, is even better. I find myself dawdling around the greenhouse benches in the evening, watching the plants and enjoying the evening light. Plants may not seem active, or seem to do a whole lot, but they are so very much alive. The more time I spend with them, the more I am aware of this. Springtime in a greenhouse has more life and more energy than anywhere else on the farm. I'm thrilled to be the caretaker, and I look forward to when all the time and energy spent with the plants transforms into a harvest that will feed our CSA members. What more could any farmer want?
Posted 3/8/2018 3:14pm by Stephanie Bartel.

A cold snowy day like today may not leave you with thoughts of outdoor wood-pizza and fun on the farm, but for me these things are on my mind right now. In fact, we've been working very hard throughout the winter to make plans for an upcoming season of fun on the farm, centered around our beloved pizza oven. When I built the oven three years ago, I envisioned creating a place where anyone in the community can come to enjoy good food and some outdoor leisure time with their family and friends.

Support from our CSA members goes directly to keeping the vegetable gardens going and putting food on the table for everyone who is a CSA member. Being a CSA farmer is tough, and being a member isn't always a picnic either (unless you take your veggie box outside and eat it on your lawn each week...!). But us farmers and our members are committed to the good food we grow, and it pays off for everyone involved in more ways than one.

That said, we know that joining a CSA isn't for everyone. Nor can our little farm support everyone, even if we wanted to!

So how can we make a taste of our vegetables available to everyone in our community? The answer comes from our wood-fired oven. Pizza-on-the-Farm is to be a Friday night tradition in summertime, where anyone can come and buy a pizza made with our fresh vegetables. We'll cook it for you in our wood-fired oven and you can picnic on our lawn and visit our vegetable fields.

We're almost ready for this, but not quite. There's one more step, and we need your help with it! Next week we are launching a fundraising campaign to support the work that needs to be done in the farm yard where our pizza oven is. We'll send a thank-you to our supporters in the form of a coupon for a free pizza from us, so it's not a bad deal!

We have plans for landscaping, building a shade structure, and more. Our rather barren yard has suffered neglect in the wake of the nearly endless work necessary for growing vegetables here every season. Now, ten years into the life of Old Plank Farm, we're ready to take a look at the land that isn't part of the vegetable gardens, and we're ready to give it as much love and care as we can. With your help, I know we can go a long way.

Posted 3/1/2018 9:29am by Stephanie Bartel.

 

One of my all-time favorite movies is "Wallace and Gromit's Curse of the Were-Rabbit." This film is all about a town's giant vegetable contest and a rabbit who causes trouble for it. It's also a Nick Park claymation creation. I especially enjoy the artistic design of claymation, it is so much more fun to watch than a regular cartoon.

So when I heard that Nick Park--Wallace and Gromit creator--had made a new movie, I was excited to see it. The new movie is "Early Man", and I went to the theater last week to see it.
 
The claymation of Early Man is as good as ever, but the story line wasn't as exciting as Wallace and Gromit. The whole plot is little more than a soccer game between an underdog bunch of primitive cavemen and a highly developed, resource rich, advanced civilization. Kind of a predictable plot to me. Not nearly as creative as Wallace and Gromit, who use a BunVac 6000 and a Mind-o-Matic machine to brainwash bunnies and save vegetables...!
 
Nonetheless, I find I relate to the caveman tribe and their fearless leader Doug, and they kept returning to my thoughts throughout the week. At Old Plank Farm we are in the time of year where--in addition to starting seedlings in the greenhouse!--we need to sell CSA shares in order to sustain the farm for another season of growing vegetables. This time of year can be trying for me because--in addition to managing seedlings in cold and unpredictable weather!--we never know exactly if or when we will sell all of our farm shares. 
 
Over the last 3-4 years, perhaps longer, many small CSA farms in this region have gone out of business. And many other CSA farms have struggled to sell enough shares to make ends meet. It's not always easy being a CSA member of any farm: remembering to pick up your vegetables on a set day each week isn't as convenient as being able to go to a store any time of the week. And being committed to eating all the vegetables in a CSA box each week can be a challenge compared to eating out, or purchasing ready-to-eat packages of vegetables or other foods at a store. 
 
But small farms and the CSAs that serve their communities are important to the health of those communities and to each individual who participates. So it's worth being aware of the recent struggles CSAs face, and it's worth a look at what might be causing some of these struggles.
 
I believe the declining interest in CSAs is largely due to the supermarkets and agribusinesses who have jumped on the bandwagon of marketing local food products in the last few years. Corporations such as Coca Cola, Tyson, Walmart and many others have taken the defining words of CSA farms--sustainable, organic, quality, local, community-- and have popped these into their own multi-million dollar advertising campaigns which, intentional or not, has squashed many small farms. The highly developed, resource-rich corporations are no match for small farms when it comes to marketing. Superstores have advanced marketing resources that CSAs aren't likely to ever have. And so they get left in the dust.
 
Whether we want to or not, I think small farms are now being asked to compete against the multinationals in a battle to provide you with quality food. And even though we have very different definitions of quality, local, sustainable, etc., we are stuck out on the same field. Something's not right here, but for now it's the challenge we face.
 
And, like Doug and the cavemen, giving up is not an option for this particular small farm. Sign-up season at Old Plank Farm has been going alright so far. We are not sold out yet, but it is early in the game. And I am committed to having a productive season and to taking great care that this farm will survive and thrive in the years to come. But I can't do it without the support of the community. Please join us, and tell your friends and neighbors to try it too! Root for the Early Farmer team! In return we promise to grow vegetables that will support the health of you and your family all season long.
Posted 2/7/2018 2:38pm by Stephanie Bartel.

By: Angelica Immel

Meet Beetie. Beetie has just received his carrot seed in the mail!

Beetie is so excited to start planting and rushes out to the greenhouse. He plants a carrot seed into a bed full of compost.

Beetie waters his carrot seed. Not too much not too little. Just right.

Everyday Beetie goes out to the greenhouse to check if his carrot seed has sprouted. He continues to keep the soil moist and warm, ideal for germination.

"HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" shouts Beetie one morning when he discovers his tiny carrot seed has sprouted through the Earth alas!

Finally, the carrot is ready for harvest. Beetie digs into the ground with his homemade specially designed broadfork.

"YUM!" exclaims Beetie

Posted 2/2/2018 10:20am by Stephanie Bartel.

Our seed orders have arrived and with them a hint of hope for the season to come. While I generally like winter, this year I find I am quite often longing for spring. I've been sick more days than I have been well in January, and I attribute this to my need for warm soil beneath my feet, sun on my face, and fresh vegetables in my body. All this will come soon enough, when we begin seeding onions in the greenhouse at the end of the month.

Are you dreaming of summer too? If you're planning to make vegetables part of your daily diet this season, I hope you'll become a member of our farm. The partnership between farmers and community members is at the heart of Old Plank Farm. It defines who we are and what we grow. Seed packets arriving in the mail and member sign-ups arriving in our email inbox this time of year remind us that spring will come again. And we will be ready when it arrives.

CSA Sign-Up

Our 2018 CSA sign-up season is now open! Sign up early to fill out our pre-season vegetable preferences survey. 

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