Author: Chris

Redefining the Notion of Success

I’ve been thinking a lot about what “success” feels like for me and for the farm.  I think part of this fascination has been a direct result of my new obsession with constantly listening to farming-related podcasts as I work.  This is a double edged sword. Typically, to become a guest on one of these podcasts, you need to be a pretty “successful” farmer in some way. On some days these podcasts can be inspirational and provide me a cornucopia of ideas to try out on our little farm.  On other days, though, listening to all these people’s seemingly instant success just really pisses me off. What is it about other people being successful that, on our worst days at least, make us intensely, irrationally, immaturely jealous? I mean, how in the hell can these people be so successful, so quickly?  What are they doing that I’m not doing? What am I doing that I shouldn’t be?  What’s closer to the truth is that we’re all slogging through the swamp of life.  Everyone’s boots get …

Microgreens are not Sprouts

It was announced yesterday that a salmonella outbreak has been linked to sprouts that were sold on sandwiches at Jimmy John’s. Some consumers use the terms “sprouts” and “microgreens” interchangeably, but they are actually very different crops that are grown in very different ways.  At Finding Eminence Farm, we grow only micro greens, not sprouts. Since they are often so easily confused, we thought it was important to highlight the differences.  Even the Center for Disease Control posted on their facebook about this breaking news story about sprouts with an image of micro greens. Here are the main differences between micro greens and sprouts. Sprouts: Sprouts are germinated in water. To prevent mold growth, they are rinsed one to two times per day Very little light and nutrition is needed for sprouts to grow They require high humidity to grow To ensure their safety, it is recommended that sprouts are cooked to prevent food borne illness since they are grown in dark, humid, and wet conditions (a perfect situation for icky stuff to grow) Micro greens: …

Fall Update

I’m sitting here at about 4:30 p.m. on this first day without daylight savings, peeking out the window mournfully as I know that darkness will soon be here.  The increased darkness this time of year is a good sign that it’s time to slow down a little, hunker down, and enjoy the harvests of our efforts.  Things have definitely slowed down around the farm, but we still have a lot to accomplish before winter truly arrives. Our field production is almost completely done, except for one last bed of lettuce that is growing frustratingly slow with the cooler temps and limited daylight.  I’m hoping it will provide us more good harvest before a hard frost takes it out.  We have ripped out the majority of our fields at this point, but a handful of beds still need our efforts.  Inside, our micro green production is starting to expand.  We continue to deliver weekly to Green Top Grocery, and we’re starting to do some restaurant business as well. Yesterday our sunflower shoots were used in the …

Our BCS Tractor

After months of research, this past winter we finally made up our mind and bought a BCS two-wheel tractor.  Though the expression is overused, we will still say that this tool has been a “game changer”.  When we talk to people about our new tractor, we often get some raised eyebrows, especially since we’re in corn and soybean country and when we say “tractor” that conjures up images of much bigger vehicles.  So, here’s the skinny with our BCS. These Italian-made, two-wheel tractors have been popular in Europe for decades.  With the resurgence of small-scale farming in the U.S. the past few years, they are becoming standard fare for little farms like ours.  Our BCS looks like a tiller, but it is actually a whole heckuva lot more.  The tractor is entirely gear driven, so no belts to break.  It’s built as sturdy as a full-size tractor, but in a much smaller package.  It has a PTO that allows the user to attach all sorts of implements to the unit. We have just three implements …

Micro Greens at Finding Eminence

One of our most exciting new ventures on the farm this year has been growing micro greens. As we continue to try to identify and establish markets for our micros, we’ve found that quite a bit of education of consumers is needed.   So here’s the deal with micro greens.   Micro greens are immature versions of the fully grown plant. Most of our micro greens are harvested within two weeks of being planted. Most are still in what is called the “cotyledon” stage, which means that the plant hasn’t even gotten its first “true leaves.” These little beauties are jam-packed with flavor, and perhaps more importantly, all the nutrition in that seed that was intended to help the plant fully grow. Studies have shown that micro greens are loaded with nutrients, such as vitamins C, E, and K, lutein, and beta-carotene, 40 times that of the mature leaves of the same plants. At this moment, we are growing a “mild micro mix,” which is a mix of all sorts of vegetables like kale, cabbage, broccoli, …

Our Long and Fulfilling Days

During the school year, I usually go to bed with a tired mind and a restless body.  These days, though, I’m typically going to bed with a tired body and a mind full of ideas for what needs to get done the next day.  I’m not that old, but it only takes so many 10-12 hour days in a row to remind myself that I’m not getting any younger here.  The work is good, though, and usually provides a tangible result that teaching doesn’t often give to those of us crazy enough to keep at it.  Right now, though, this farming thing seems pretty crazy.  After a wet and cold spring, we were a little behind on our planting schedule.  Now, though, we’re struggling to get seeds to germinate with all this incredibly hot and dry weather we’d had so far in June.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s been absolutely beautiful weather, but a little moisture would go a long way.  And it’s amazing how different 80 degrees feels compared to 90 degrees, especially when …

Spring Has Sprung!

The grass is growing, the birds are chirping outside, and our hoophouse walls are having to be opened each morning and closed each night.  Spring has definitely sprung at Finding Eminence Farm.  Our “high tech” seed starting setup is full of tiny new plants in our commercial seed starting facility, which we sometimes refer to as “the basement.”  The hoophouse is starting to pump out spring blooms of anemones and angelique tulips, with ranunculus and sweet peas soon to follow.  We’re still in the calm before the storm, but only for a few more days.  I was on spring break last week from my job as a teacher, so we decided to use the opportunity to zip down to Florida for a few days to stay with some of Audra’s family and enjoy some warm weather and sandy beaches.  To be honest, I was initially reluctant to go.  This time of year, I am chomping at the bit to get back out there and grow some stuff, and I had plenty of things I could …

The Words In Our Heads

Though we try to end just about every day with a book in our hands, during the growing season Audra and I often don’t take nearly enough time to read.  Unfortunately, by the time we stop working and make it to bed, our ability to focus on reading for very long is a losing battle.  This time of year, though, on these cold winter days and nights, we have been reading a lot more.  We thought we’d share with you some of the books that have filled our heads and hearts this year.  Some are farm related, others aren’t, but who wants a farmer who isn’t well read? As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner First published in the 1930s, this book chronicles a poor “country” family whose matriarch is on her deathbed and wishes to be taken back to her hometown to be buried.  In their efforts to honor her wishes, her family embarks on a misguided odyssey which, instead, dishonors her in just about every way imaginable.   Faulkner’s famous “stream-of-consciousness” writing style is at …

Taking Care of Us and Ours

Sometimes around here it seems like most everything is just a little bit broken.  Some of our bathroom tiles are almost completely free of the wall.  Under most of our windows the plaster is damaged and cracked from moisture that got in long ago before the windows were finally replaced.  Our little tiller needs the carburetor rebuilt.  I need to tear down the shed that was serving as our chicken coop before it decides to just sit down on its own.  And the list goes on and on.   Our son is very into pretending to fix things right now.  He has a little tool belt with plastic tools which allows him to fix just about anything his creativity desires.  Hopefully that sentiment lasts.  Those are important life skills when your parents make you grow up in an old, drafty farmhouse. A week or two ago the doorknob fell off on the door leading upstairs.  I help direct a play in the fall at the high school where I teach, so of course it happened …

This Place

Today topped out over 80 degrees.  Later this week it’s supposed to get close to 90 a few days.  These summer temperatures aside, fall is certainly in the air.  And our farm is a little bit of a hot mess right now.  We desperately need to start clearing out beds, tilling in crops, and tidying this place up.  Weeds have absolutely kicked our butts this year.  We didn’t know it, but we never stood a chance.  “Next year will be different.”  That’s our current mantra.  I think one of our strengths is our willingness/passion/unending desire to learn, and this year has not disappointed on that front.  With a few minor investments and a redistribution of labor, we’re going to make those weeds wish they were never born.  But unfortunately for us, our inability to keep them under control this year will result in increased weed pressure for years to come.  Learnin’ ain’t free, ya’ll.   Today we cleaned up and re-organized the shed.  You know, the shed that we’ve somehow FILLED UP in less than …