Greetings CSA Members-
Many of you know by now that winter production of fresh greens for CSA boxes has been a major focus at Featherstone Farm for the past 2+ years. I think we have really stepped this up over the past 3 months, making fresh cut spinach, lettuce and arugula available for most winter share boxes. Although these greens are produced in a covered, protected environment, they are nevertheless subject to harsh weather… in this case, sustained cold.
As the sun is coming up this glorious morning, we are preparing to pick, but the severe cold from the previous few weeks have really impacted our spinach leaves and therefore the amount we have to offer this week. We were planning for a final winter box full of spinach for everyone, but our harvest fell way short and we’re sure sorry about it.
The issue is damage to mature leaves from prolonged freezing and, to a lesser extent, from big variations in temperatures. Spinach is remarkably hearty. It can survive all winter under snow, and regrow with the first warmth of spring. It can produce a great crop in an unheated, plastic covered high tunnel, provided it is protected from temperature extremes (overheating on a sunny day in January is just as bad for it as freezing solid!). And as you know by now, the eating quality can be completely fantastic through it all.
However… it does have to warm up sufficiently at soil level in order to be able to pick spinach or any other winter green (harvesting frozen leaves is impossible). So 2+ weeks of extreme cold like we’ve just experienced can impact production; it simply never warmed up enough in the run-up to your last CSA box. There was simply too much leave damage from the cold and the harvest suffered because of it.
High tunnels are a major investment in risk management as well as season extension. We are building them as rapidly as we can: currently we have 7200 square feet of tunnels, next winter it will be 11,400 square feet. We are actively planning for a 3rd large tunnel, which could raise the area to 19,200 square feet for the winter of 2022-23; we are committed to diversifying “off season” production as much as possible. But of course we are learning as we go, and suffering occasional setbacks along the way.
All of us at Featherstone Farm thank you immensely for your support, your kind words of encouragement, and your dedication to make seasonal eating from Midwest farms a way of life. We will be seeding the first lettuces and onions for 2021 in just 10 days; we’re hopeful for the possibility of having you out to pick strawberries in June, to seeing you again after such a period of isolation.