Winter on the Farm

In winter, our farmers take a breath, pick and sell in the rain, organize boxes, prune, weed, fix the plows — and plan and plant for spring, summer, and sometimes years ahead.
Tim and Trini of Riverdog Farm have tables piled with greens, beets, carrots, leeks, celery, broccoli and cauliflower, winter squash, fall-harvested onions and potatoes, dried tomatoes and peppers. At the farm, the workdays are shorter, sometimes missed because of rain. On clearer days, they weed crops and keep seeding lettuce, broccoli, and cauliflower in the greenhouse. Tomato seedlings start in the greenhouse in January. This year, Tim may plant apricots and plums, perhaps for sale in the summer of 2006.
In November and December, Nicasio, Francisco, Horacio, and Celia of Kaki Farm take turns selling organic persimmons, Satsuma mandarins, walnuts, and eggs at the Markets. Meanwhile, at their farm near Gridley, they are dividing and replanting strawberries for the April harvest. By the end of October, they have already planted a cover crop of bell beans, oats, and vetch between the peaches and plums, and begun pruning.
Guru Ram Das Orchards’ stand glistens with winter fruits. In November, when he’s not selling Hachiya persimmons, pomegranates, Meyer lemons, clementine tangerines and Calif pears, Didar Singh Khalsa is pruning peach, plum, and apricot trees. In December and January, in between selling navel and blood oranges, star ruby grapefruit, Dancy tangerines and Lisbon lemons, he finishes pruning the grapes and almonds, and spreads compost and fertilizer.
Dirty Girl Produce, near Santa Cruz, has grown to five acres of specialty vegetables, many sold as babies. In November, Joe Schirmer and company pick radicchio, dandelion, kales, cauliflower, radishes, beets, carrots, salad greens, and maybe the last dry-farmed tomatoes. They sell in Berkeley until Thanksgiving, then take a long break. But work doesn’t stop at the farm. Because the field gets very wet, they sow a cover crop over 70% of it by December, and lay off half the summer crew. Three workers nurture the winter lettuces and brassicas for Santa Cruz area markets. In March or April, they’ll start greens and root crops for Berkeley in June.

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