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Some weeks feel super productive and others leave you wondering what even happened. Last week felt like one of the “Did I even get out of bed?” weeks.

Since growing a surplus of squash we have been moving it through our wholesale partners. Somebody People, a delicious plant-based restaurant in Denver, has been loving the Red Kuri squash and Spaghetti Squash. They have personally eaten over 1500 pounds of spaghetti squash enjoying most of the crop. I cannot recommend this spot enough! If you find yourself on South Broadway stop in for great food served by the best people.

I have been spending one evening a week attending a farm business class hosted by CSU Extension. This 6 week course has been helping our farm put together a business plan and dive deeper into the financial side of agriculture. These skills must be learned and having the course structure provides space for understanding the fundamentals. Business in itself is complex and to be career farmers we need to have a solid understanding of business. If there are any growers looking to refine their business understanding I recommend Fearless Farm Finances. This book highlights the business side in a way dummies like me can understand.

The later part of the week has been focused on the greenhouse. We got the structure loaded onto a trailer and have been working through the weekend to put the plastic on before more snow falls. The reason we are putting so much energy into moving it is efficiency. Folks Farm will be moving off our original acre, consolidating down from 4 to 2 primary locations. Hopefully limiting our locations will bring a new level of productivity, cut costs, and earn a higher profit while taking on less acreage. I am betting by the end of this week we are sowing the first seeds of 2022!

My eyes are often bigger than Folks Farm’s capacity and every year I combat Spring Fever, over excitement and subsequent over planting. I had been telling myself to not take on extra acreage this year but I am wavering. Hearing whispers of food shortages, which may be my current algorithm in social media, reinforces the urge to grow storage crops.

It has been such a blessing to have winter squash to sell during the down time. An unbelievable amount of work to get it harvested at peak season last year, but true abundance now. My head knows the struggle, but my heart is saying grow! With this upcoming snow I plan to look at the numbers, see if it works.

For now, we will be steadily moving forward.

Intentions of the Week

Move slowly, steadily, and thoughtfully through the work

Make time to be present for relationships inside and out of work

Take care of the heart

Access abilities honestly and rationally

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To say the least, 2021 was a wild ride for Folks Farm. We pushed our edges, learned a lot, and I generally kicked my own butt up and down the Front Range. A truly formative year in my career as a first generation farmer carries a legacy both do’s and don'ts.

Our season started in February with our first harvests of “Gem Spinach”. This crop was planted way back in October 2020 in an open field. Later we built an unheated growing tunnel above the maturing spinach. Winter spinach is easily the most delicious spinach as the bitter cold makes for delectable greens. Restaurants like Little and Somebody People ate this crop up, making room for our nursery.

As we harvested through the spinach we finished the tunnel. A double layer plastic cover inflated from a small fan doubled our insulation. We installed a heater and vent fans to regulate temperature. By March 1 we were seeding regionally adapted onions from Aspen Moon Farm. This nursery became our hub for months as we sowed thousands of baby plants destined for the field.

Baby chicks arrived in March. Cute as can be, we set them up in their new home. A week later an epic snow storm rolled in causing a serious electrical malfunction, knocking out their heat lamps. We ended up losing 50% of our chicks over the next couple weeks as many were trampled to death or became sick from cold. The ladies that made it are now thriving happily laying eggs.

April, the garlic is beautifully up from tremendous spring moisture. Our first plants from the nursery are being planted as bed prep occupies much of our time. The learning curve in farming is steep. I went away for a weekend, neglecting to check the propane tank. A cold night later and we had run our fuel empty causing a catastrophic loss in our tomato, pepper, eggplant, and basil crops. Over 90% of the trays had succumbed to frost. With delays in shipping time we replanted everything from our saved seed (a benefit of seed saving). The surviving plants never thrived and led to limited harvests.

May proved to be beautiful. Dryland cover crops were established on South Farm. Peas, favas, lettuce, and greens were growing at North Farm. Onions and leeks were ready for their journey to Flores Del Sol. This third farm was a partnership between Folks Farm, Colorado Fresh, and the Northern Colorado Foodshed. Our good friend Hayden at Colorado Fresh prepped two acres for planting onions and winter squash. This would be our first dive into larger scale, mostly mechanized, production. We used a tractor mounted transplanter to get onions and leeks in the ground. This process took us several days, but would have taken several weeks or tons of people without the equipment.

A couple weeks into our farmers markets, CSA, and using the newly constructed Farm Stand we continued planting, weeding, and harvesting. Tomatoes, peppers, melons, and other delicious fruits were being planted at South Farm. Our cover crops were growing strong and we were doing weekly harvests from North Farm. The quality of the crops was outstanding. Beautiful lettuce heads, green garlic, and greens were coming in and we were stocked up to feed the public.

Summer solstice is often our final window to plant long season annual crops. Hayden and I took this opportunity to plant winter squash. With him driving and me dropping we used the same transplanter as the onions, simply sending the seeds down the modified shoot, planting an acre in a couple hours.

Our weaner pigs arrived. These girls would be fattened up over the next 5 months, growing from about 30 lbs each to almost 300! There was no way we could feed them with farm waste so we built partnerships with the Larimer County Food Bank and Vindeket Foods. Eventually we were redirecting thousands of pounds of food waste from the landfill into the pigs. Now with a full freezer of pork and from hearing what our customers have said, this made for some high quality bacon!

July is always a special time. Most crops are planted and harvests are consistent. By the middle of the month it was time for our garlic harvest, the first bulk crop of the season. We grew ¼ acre of garlic this season with a wide diversity of varieties. Never a week goes by without me thinking about garlic so getting harvested into the barn to cure comes as a relief. This crop was grown with “no-till” practices. Our understanding is that by limiting soil impact, tillage, microbial life can flourish. Mycelium breaks down hard to reach minerals and the plants have access to more soil nutrients. Ideally this system sequestered carbon from the atmosphere and grew better food. I am not sure, but that garlic sure is tasty!

August brings on the fruits. Our summer crops were ripe and our time was spent harvesting. Through a collaboration with Hoka Hey Kitchens we had our first on-farm dinner since 2019. Using farm ingredients, our chef put together a four course indigenous inspired meal. Our guests enjoyed a personal farm tour, some tasty food watching the sunset over 2 acres of crops, and a hearty bonfire.

If we were not hustling before, now it is go time. September. Peak abundance on the farm. Hundreds of pounds of produce was coming in daily as the crew worked hard to keep up. Our annual Chilefest brought bunches of Folks to the farm as we celebrated the almighty roasted chile. We began harvesting our winter squash. We did not have the capability to efficiently move bins, industry standard for many crops, so we packed the squash into boxes directly from the field. These boxes were then loaded onto the trailer, hauled back to South Farm, and stacked in the barn. Let’s just say, it was heavy. Each box weighs around 30-40 pounds and we ended up pulling 384 boxes and 3 bins of organic squash. By my estimates this probably weighed around 15,000 pounds.

October. The crew is tired. I am tired. The farm is tired. A final push to finish out the season bringing in our fall crops like onions, cauliflower, and due to the nice weather tomatoes. We planted our garlic, tended winter crops, and moved a tunnel from North Farm to South Farm.

The longest fall I can remember and several bumper crops led to our first Fall/Winter CSA. From November, these shares went out weekly to 35 families until Christmas wrapping up our season here at Folks Farm.

2021 was the hardest year I have farmed. Not only did I reach my limits, but went over them. Our net was spread so thin it was impossible to keep up with everything. I am eternally grateful for my main crew members Carli and Patrick for their endurance and positivity throughout the season. I also want to thank our CSA members for their weekly support. It is truly a privilege to serve you all food, something I do not take for granted. I want to thank all of our customers at the farmers market who showed up most weeks, didn’t complain about prices, and enjoyed our lovingly grown food. The restaurants deserve a special applause for their continued support even as business was difficult. Thank you to the people who volunteered their time throughout the season, your extra hands and attitudes made the work much lighter. I especially want to thank Milo, our most consistent volunteer. At 16 years old he shows wisdom beyond his years and can surely work his butt off. Thanks bro.

Scaling back, focusing in, collaboration, and building community will be core elements of 2022. I am thankful for all the struggles of this season, I am thankful for the crops we received, and I am optimistic moving forward. See you all in 2022!

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The Winter Solstice. A time to turn inwards. The season for dreaming, healing, and sleeping in. For the Folks we have significantly slowed down. Instead dashing out the door before sunrise sloshing a mug of coffee while the windshield defrosts the mornings are slow. I often bike out to the farms, getting exercise and enjoying the sunshine. Plant energy, earth energy, is residing deeper in the soil. A stage of dormancy as our northern latitude no longer provides the necessary sunshine for growth. The dream phase of the farming calendar.

With less urgency I am able to heal from the past year. Much to reflect on and much to let go. We can’t afford to carry old anxiety to our winter beds. Instead, I focus on the truth that remains. Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote the heart only holds onto the good memories otherwise how could it continue? The dream phase allows the heart freedom to speak and through practice I am learning to listen. Scale back, dive deeper, open up our farm to the community; is what my says and I am done fighting it.

On a more practical note we are still moving vegetables. Our Fall/Winter CSA has been eating through our cooler and greenhouse. It has been a joy to feel the enjoyment a bounty of winter food can bring to our CSA members. The last bits of 2021 sunlight entering the soul to nourish through these winter months. We are still delivering to a couple restaurants weekly. Little on Mountain gets their greens and squash, you’ve got to try the pumpkin soup, and Somebody People eats through spaghetti squash. When we harvested our squash crop months ago it filled every nook and cranny of the barn. Now we are halfway through moving it. Once floor to ceiling boxes, we can see over the top and like all good things there is an end in sight.

Through the support of the land owners we have begun working on next year’s wash station. The 30 plus year feed shed once home to dairy cows is being opened up to make room for a streamlined wash/pack area. We are demolishing carefully, leaving as much of the building intact as possible to prevent structural failure. I am imaging everything on wheels, clear stations for different processes, and accessible water sources on top of a concrete floor.

Pictures left to right: Our current wash station, what will be a concrete floor wash area, day 1 progress removing the front

There are changes afoot in our local farming community as well. Our friends Ben and Carolyn of Raisin’ Roots Farm are officially moving eastward, continuing their farming journey on family land in upstate New York. They have been integral parts of Larimer County agriculture for many years. Not just talkers but do-ers, they have worked to create legislature on a state level to help small farms use roadside stands to sell produce. Their community-oriented action will be missed. The farm will continue under new ownership. Our friend Ryan Ericson will be manning the helm as our seasonal clock turns into 2022. It is truly awesome to see this continuity and we want nothing but the best for all these young farmers!

Our friend, Hayden Christensen, owner at Colorado Fresh Farms is also moving away this next year pursuing opportunities closer to family in Southern Colorado. Since we started in 2019 Hayden has become a great asset for Folks Farm. His experience, unique perspectives, and genuine support of other farms has shaped much of our farming. I am personally super grateful for all he has taught me in agriculture. Luckily he won’t be too far from cell service and we can still frantically text each other as farm equipment auctions bid and growing issues arise.

As we enter deeper into solstice I pray you can find time for peaceful reflection. The past fews years have tested everyone and not been easy. My heart goes out to you and hopefully you can find the time to heal, be with loved ones, and rest in preparation for the sun’s rise next season. And now can we get some snow?

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