Gratitude

March 31, 2012
The past few months have been incredibly busy at the farm. We realized a hair too late that we didn’t have our equipment situation quite set up, and had to scramble to figure out how we were going to till and shape our beds this year. Last year we contracted out our bed-shaping and planted on 60” wide beds. This year, we realized that we’d like to use a tractor for weeding, but the only tractor we have available creates 44” wide beds, which would only smash the edges of our current beds. So we reached out to some local farmers for advice, suggestions, and help. Mike Madison lent us his chisel plow. Chris Hay lent us a tool bar and some furrowing shovels and discs for bed shaping. And our landlord Rich Collins decided that he needed a rototiller for his tractor anyway. So he bought one, and we get to borrow it. Now we were set up to take down our old beds and build some new ones. How lucky are we?
I’ve wanted to write this entry about gratitude and generosity for a while now. Since we started on this crazy venture, we’ve all been blown away at how generous and supportive the greater farming community has been around us. Rich giving us a deal on the land, the orchard, providing us with irrigation tanks, and letting us use his equipment was in itself an incredibly generous gesture, and the only way that we were able to make this farm work in the first place. But so many other people have helped us along the way; we decided that we need to share these experiences.

It started with Carl Rosato, renowned organic peach farmer, famous for his incredible flavor and quality, (of his peaches, that is) agreeing to come out and give us some advice on pruning our peach orchard. Carl came down on the way to EcoFarm and I met him at the orchard to prune some trees. He worked over two entire trees with me, explaining his decisions at each cut.

Image
Carl giving me a peach pruning lesson

It was invaluable to get these lessons from a master, to have them on video, and know where we stood in his opinion. It turns out Carl is also a soils guru, and he happily interpreted our soils tests during a two hour chat with Aubrey at EcoFarm. She walked away from that with a sheet full of calculations on amendments that we needed to add. Like I said, how lucky are we?

In the last two months we’ve gained so many mentors, notably Carl (who patiently answers our emails and desperate phone calls), and Mike Madison. Mike feeds us a delicious meal and then lets us barrage him with questions, and was ready with advice and equipment when we were stuck.

Mike helping us load his chisel plow to borrow

Paul Underhill of Terra Firma asks us the questions that none of us have thought of yet, and answers our emails at midnight. Chris Hay invites us over to explore his array of equipment, patiently explains how he uses each one and whether it would be useful to us or not. Then he sends us home with bags of grapefruit (and an attachment for our tractor).

Empty tool bar that Chris lent us – looks better with discs and shovels

And last but not least is Rich, our landlord and yet another mentor, who lets us cut our teeth on a brand new rototiller (that story in a few weeks) and sends us off with a hacksaw to cut the PTO shaft to the right length, calling behind us, “Just make sure you measure more than once!” with his typical good-natured wink and huge smile.

We don’t even know how we can possibly start repaying these people, to whom we owe such a debt of gratitude for sharing their knowledge, expertise, implements, and most importantly, their time. Theoretically we are all competitors, and there’s absolutely no good business reason for them to help us out so much. But the world needs more farmers, and from this perspective, it makes sense for the farming community to stick together and help each other out. Maybe the best way to say thank you is to take their lessons and turn them into skills, do our best to make this farm a success, grow good food, survive in the market, and make this farm work. So, here we go. A huge thank you to all of our mentors for your time and efforts. We hope to make you proud!

posted by marisa

Spring Progress at The Cloverleaf

April has arrived quickly at The Cloverleaf and the season is in full swing.  Our farmstand will be open and our CSA up and running in just under eight weeks.  The past few months have required extensive preparations to get the farm ready to actually do its job: grow food.

Here’s a snippet of what we’ve been up to in the past few months.  In the field, we mowed cover crop; plowed last year’s beds to prepare beds for planting; added compost and limestone to make the soil healthier; planted (and weeded!) garlic, onions, strawberries and potatoes;and now we are beginning to plant the crops for our CSA and farmstand.  We pruned hundreds of trees in the orchard, weeded and mowed, and watched patiently for fruit set.  

At our home bases we have set up our CSA; done our due diligence to get the business up and running; created our crop plan, and read, read, read about how to become better farmers.

We are all very excited for the selling season to begin so we can share our work with you.  And throughout the season, we’re hoping to share a bit of our story as well.  On this site, we’ll write a bit about our work throughout the year, including some of the challenges we face and the learning that accompanies our hardest moments.  We are quickly learning that what helps new farmers the most is shared knowledge.  We’re receiving knowledge from skilled farmers everyday, and we’re hoping to pass our experiences along to others interested in the process of growing and selling food in California. 

Please follow along.  Click “follow us” on the right of the page to receive email updates, or add our blog to your google reader, RSS feed, or whatever tool you may use to stay on top of blogs and news you follow. 

the cloverleaf

A few weeks ago we asked our talented friend Warren to trade us his photography skills for produce. He shot some awesome pictures (see our Facebook page), but little did we know he would write such an amazing poem for us too. Thank you, Warren.

cloverleaf
by warren jones

what if
i lay my head
down
in the furrows
and lower
my eyes
below
the tops of esculents
that are almost
fit to be eaten

will i get a bitter
view
of the first morning
clouds
lifting off
like a liquid
frozen
crystalline
hot air balloon
regatta

what if i
wake up early
just in time to
watch
the morning full moon
set over
onions
and garlic
and kale
and strawberries

will i get a bitter
view
of what it’s like
to grow
food for the hungry
fed
by more than
just the parts
and pieces
we are adding
to the soil

are we fools
out here
hands freezing
in the wind
or
our we making
a prayer for
all human kind
as we breathe in
and push our hands
into soil

but no
i can hear the earth
shudder
and then exhale
as our hands begin
to warm

this is god’s work
i tell myself
and by that
i mean living
in mult-idimensions

standing still
long enough
to hear plants grow

standing still
long enough
to read the swell
of the land
and hear the dying
cry of the field mouse

to feel the
hem and haw
movement
of the harrier’s eyes

to feel each grain
of blowing topsoil
as it glances
off my leafless skin

yes this is it
all i’ve got to give
and
i’ll take my pay in
wind and sun

Warren Jones is a massage therapist, poet, photographer, musician, bike mechanic extraordinaire and all around fantastic person. He lives and works in Davis, CA. If you want to get on the list to receive his “o poema do dia” (daily poem) via email, schedule a massage, or see his other photos, check out  his webpage here http://www.wjroots.com.

Thank you, you pruning machines!

A big thank you to all of those who came out to our pruning workshop!  We successfully pruned about 80 trees thanks to your hard work.  Hopefully you all learned a bit about stone fruit tree maintenance- we know we did, thanks to all the knowledge you brought to the table.  We still have apricot trees to prune, which is guaranteed to be a big job (ladders required!), but thanks to some hard work, we’re well on our way.

Thanks to Eric Winford for some pics of the event!

Welcome to the Cloverleaf!

We are four women farmers embarking on our second season of growing at the Cloverleaf at Bridgeway Farms.  Located just outside of Davis, California, the Cloverleaf houses a 30-member CSA, a farm stand, and a 4-acre orchard soon to be bursting with peaches, nectarines, apricots and figs.

The season’s work has officially begun with fruit tree pruning, crop planning, building owl boxes, creating a composting system and much more.  Our farmstand will be officially open on May 26 and stay open until November.  Stop by for some delicious produce, u-pick events and harvest parties.

For information on joining our CSA, please e-mail thecloverleaffarm@gmail.com.

Throughout this year we’ll be updating the happenings of the season and letting you know about ways to get to know the farm.  We hope to see you there!