Into the fields we go...

Prepping for spring.

People always ask "what do you do in the winter?" (as if we sit around sipping chamomile tea!!). While that actually sounds quite lovely, the type of holistic farming we practice requires constant vigilance. While the warmer months are consumed by feeding the people, we spend the colder months feeding the soil, prepping the fields, and making the ever necessary steps for nutrient-dense food in the coming spring.

Here's a behind-the-scenes peek at what we've been up to this winter. As an educated consumer, it's so important to understand the arduous hours that go into small-scale organic food (even in the off-season). Sheesh...just looking at the pictures makes me tired! And this is the easy part!! On Monday, spring planting begins, and we don't come up for air until late fall.

I don't know what go into me, but I decided to raise the beds in three of our larger fields to improve drainage. This back-breaking project has been my winter opus! I've been chipping away at it here and there for months!!
This epic bed-raising was quite the process. First step: Dan came through the fields with a borrowed BCS walk-behind-tractor in early November. A rotary plow attachment kicked up the soil in the aisles onto the marked beds.
Second step: I came back through with a hoe, bringing up the loose soil left behind in the aisles and giving the beds more height and shape. This part was A LOT of work, so I'd tackle two or three beds a day while juggling a myriad of other farm tasks. Thankfully, weather conditions were decent this winter, which allowed me to work the ground.
Third step: I mulched each and every aisle with oat straw to prevent erosion on the sides of the beds and to provide us with nice walking paths during planting & harvesting.
Last step: We covered the fields with silage tarps to promote biology and to create a "stale seed bed". Here's how it works: weed seeds will germinate under the warmth of the black tarp, then die in the absence of light. Over the course of the next few weeks, I will remove the tarps and seed/transplant a variety of crops (beets, carrots, spinach, brassicas, onions, and leeks) and (in theory) I'll be planting into loose yummy soil teeming with worms and microbial life, and free of weed competition!! I'm so EXCITED!!!
Prior to all this bed raising, mulching, and tarping - two hundred chickens ran through those fields - fertilizing, eating pests, and building soil. We rotate several flocks of chickens through our fallow veggie fields and orchards to improve the soil, minimize gas-powered equipment, and replace chemical fertilizer. It's a lot of work to move the birds around (especially in winter) but it's the healthiest system for the animals, the crops, and YOU!
Pigs move through the fallow veggie fields too!! These gorgeous, intelligent animals till-up nutrient dense cover crops with their powerful snouts. We use them to build soil for crop production, while producing some of the best pastured pork in KC!!
Farmer Dan spends a great deal of time messing with the orchards in the winter. Pictured here he's applying a dormant spray consisting of organic ingredients like neem and liquid fish.
Pruning is the real time sucker. Dan spends weeks slowly but surely making thousands of artful cuts in apple, pear, and peach trees. He's just about finished with this year's pruning, but a nasty fever consumed him these past few days. We're keeping our fingers crossed that he gets the rest of the peaches pruned before they bud out. A never-ending race against time...
While he may be smiling in this picture, we are both in a deep dilemma over the time-consuming management of our fruit trees. We've spent the last ten years establishing organic orchards on our urban land. However, pest & disease pressure is simply too much in our humid Missouri climate. Everybody told us organic tree-fruit was a joke in this part of the country. We (of course) didn't believe them and forged ahead with lofty romantic orchards full of antique varieties. Par for the course, the trees hardly produce marketable fruit despite our endless efforts. Our veggies, pork, and eggs pay for this expensive orcharding hobby. If we were sane, we'd rip out the trees we so passionately established, but it's hard to destroy ten years of blood, sweat, and financial investment. 
At least somebody's enjoying the fruit trees...
Greenhouse work starts in late January and ramps up steadily as the weeks fly by. Thousands of onions (pictured here) will be planted out in several weeks. We start all the seeds for our own field production, and we produce high-quality transplants for KC organic gardeners. Seedlings can be purchased at the Brookside Farmers Market in April and May. 
Egg cleaning has got to be my least favorite job. I prefer working the land and being super physical. Nonetheless, these gorgeous eggs must be collected three times a day, wiped down, and packaged for market. I find myself doing this late at night even though I swear I'll get it done during the day!!
Kiddos!! Yikes! While farming challenges me to the core every single day, parenting has got to be TEN TIMES HARDER. Percy is eight. Can you believe it? I'm sure many of you remember us building our farm with this kid strapped to our backs. Nowadays he wants nothing to do with the farm. Pictured here he's listening to Lizzo and likely telling me to choke on an egg. Defiant and willful doesn't even begin to describe this kid - but hey, he takes after me so who's to blame!
Solomon is three, soon to be four. He loves the land, the animals, and the wind in his hair. He's my easy kid, but then again, nothing is all that easy around here! Dan and I constantly struggle to find balance between farm and family. The winter is our time to regroup and get it right. Problem is, we never get it all figured out before spring swallows us whole yet again! We'll die trying...

At market this week!!

You can find us this Saturday at the second-to-last Brookside Farmers Market "Winter Market". We'll be in our cozy indoor spot at 6675 Holmes Rd. from 9 to noon toting Pastured EGGS and mouthwatering Pastured PORK in a variety of organic-fed offerings including: Nitrate-free Belly Bacon & Jowl Bacon (brined in brown sugar and sea salt then smoked!), premium Porterhouse Chops (thick and juicy), Ground Pork & Breakfast SausageBoston Butt Roasts (for pulled pork), succulent Loin Roasts, stately Racks, spicy Mexican Chorizo, specialty Italian Sausage (with whole fennel seed and sheep's milk cheese), Spare RibsOsso Buco (my favorite!), fresh Kilebasa Sausage, and pre-cooked Smoked Shredded Pork (the bomb). For a full list of offerings (including bones, liver, and all the wonderful organ meats) please see our menu by clicking below. Pork pre-orders are welcome. Just respond to this email by Friday at noon.

Nose To Tail Pork Menu
Hope to see you Saturday locavores!! Until then, enjoy the sunshine, and send good thoughts our way as we plant the seeds for another season of sustenance.

Yours Truly,

Farmer Brooke & Family
Winter Market, March 7th & 21st
9:00 am to 12:00 pm
6675 Holmes Rd. KCMO 64131
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