When I started out farming in 1999, farmer’s markets closed up shop in late October, with only a few farmers going past the first frost. Farmers got to go do a lot of reading, skiing, or whatever between then and spring. Eliot Coleman was breaking new ground with winter growing systems featuring unheated greenhouses in Maine, and causing a lot of buzz in the farming community. Fast forward 20-plus years, and Eliot Coleman’s systems have been expanded upon by a community of growers sharing knowledge and techniques. Winter farmer’s markets are no longer a new idea, and our farm is harvesting fresh greens every week of the year. Our neighbors at Queen’s Greens just announced that they will be converting their business to only grow greens from November through April.
The most challenging period for us now is not January, when the days or short and the greens grow slowly, but the spring, when we manage the tricky process of turning over greenhouses to warm-weather crops, while still trying to maintain a steady supply of greens. We have designed a system where we transition some houses earlier than others, but it is still tricky to manage. This year, we pulled the plastic off of our low tunnels to discover that the salad mix in there had bolted. And we had double coverage between those greens and the ones that we seeded in our caterpillar tunnels, which germinated nicely before the cover blew off in one of our many severe wind storms this spring. Those greens were delayed by the cold weather last week, but should be coming in strong by next week. With all of these setbacks, we are quite proud to come around to a point this year we have a gap of maybe a week or two in the spring where we are harvesting some greens, but not quite enough to get through the week. Our friends at Queen’s Greens are filling that gap for us right now. Meanwhile the soil is getting warmer, and we plan to get some greens in the ground by early next week; by early May, we will be harvesting salad mix from outside of our protected structures. Thanks for sticking with us as we navigate the Spring greens gap!