St. Valentine’s Day was Not Just for Lovers

Have you noticed that the hours of daylight have been increasing?

December 21st is the shortest day with less than 9 hours of daylight. On January 21st this jumped to 9 hours 32 minutes and February 14th increased again to 10 hours 30 minutes. Doing the math, since December 21st we have gained 1 hour 30 minutes and these gains seem more noticeable each day.

The sun even feels much warmer when it decides to make an appearance. The combined longer daylight and warmer sun means it’s time to start planting again in the High Tunnel. Out with the old and in with the new.

This week we finished harvesting one of the beds of Asian Greens and began the process of replanting a new crop for early spring harvest.

We stagger the plantings so we can have a steady supply of greens throughout the spring. After we finished harvesting we used the broad fork to loosen the soil and then clear out the old plants and debris by hand. Just a simple tool that uses muscle to loosen and aerate the soil for the new crop. The goal is to loosen the soil but not disturb it too much and keep all the topsoil on the top layer.

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Now we are almost ready to plant, but there is one more important step.

We need to till the top 2-3 inches to smooth it out and make the perfect seed bed. Keep in mind we are planting very tiny seeds and they need the best conditions as possible. The tool for this is called the tilther and uses a cordless electric drill to power it. A very cool tool that is specifically designed for this purpose.

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Finally we can plant into that perfect seed bed.

I didn’t have to amend the soil for this planting because lettuce and radishes are not big feeders. Also, last fall we added compost to all the beds. For this job I use a little six row push seeder that does a pretty good job. It doesn’t singulate the seeds perfectly but for this job is serves the purpose.

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Half the bed is lettuce mix.

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Other half is red radishes.

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Here are the finished beds and all that is left is to cover them with row cover to keep them warm on the cooler nights.

They are not going to germinate very fast but once they get going they should be ready in early April. Also we are trying an experiment this year and we wrapped the outside walls of the tunnel in a reflective insulated wrap. The goal is the keep it warmer and reflect more of that stippled sunlight to the ground.

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Now I hope you have a new appreciation for St Valentine’s Day and we can’t wait to start harvesting the first new crops of 2019. Also new this week are micro greens and pea shoots. Be sure to stop by the market and give them a try.

Phillip

 

What do Farmers do in the Winter Time?

Fisher Hill Farm in the Winter

It seems like I get that question fairly often and certainly more folks are wondering than are actually asking, so thought I would share a bit about our winter season.

Winter is little different story for us compared to other farms because two of our ‘summer season’ farmers markets continue throughout the winter and I have a local restaurant delivery route all winter long. Between harvesting greens from the high tunnel, washing produce from storage, and taking care of the poultry we stay fairly busy.

Definitely, not summer time busy but steady nonetheless.

The first task of every winter is to order seeds.

Can’t grow vegetables without them! But before you can start placing orders you need to know what to get. I take inventory of what I had left over from the previous year and that gets the ball rolling. Then I have to look at the transplanting and seeding schedules from the previous year to see if I need to make any adjustments. I read through the stack of seed catalogs vying for my attention looking for improved or new offerings. Finally, I have a baseline of what I need and can start ordering.

Did you know that we purchase seeds from four different seed dealers?

One of the dealers is located right here in Rochester, NY. A few tweaks to the order may occur based on seed production availability or talks with the seed company reps and then the boxes start arriving. Funny thing is that even though I mostly place one bulk order with each company, they never send everything at once so it’s a steady trickle of boxes for the next 4-6 weeks, always with a surprise element of what each box actually contains!

This week I was working on getting some fields plowed for early crops.

I usually do this in the fall but it was so wet and muddy I could not get it done. Then after Christmas I started working on it and a part broke on the tractor. By the time the part arrived, Siberia had set in and the ground was frozen. Luckily, we had a February thaw and I got a chance to get back on the tractor. I finished the field that I started and got another one going. Unfortunately now it’s too muddy and I will have to wait till the ground gets a little freeze on it. There is a fine balance between muddy and frozen which can change within a few hours in the mornings and evenings.

Plowing in the Winter
Plowing in the Winter – Fisher Hill Farm

By the time the part arrived, Siberia had set in and the ground was frozen.

Another big winter task is getting all the accounting figured out for 2018 and meeting with the accountant. It usually takes a few weeks to get all the information into QuickBooks, and compile all the reports that the accountant needs to file the taxes. It’s not my favorite job of the year but a very important one.

After the taxes are all done and filed I can start working on machinery maintenance. All the tractors and RTVs need oil changes and service. Usually as you go through the machines you find little issues that need to be fixed. Then we start looking at the other equipment that gets used throughout the season. For the most part these are all tasks that we work in as time permits.

We finalized the plans this week to have a CSA pickup location in Victor, NY.

Victor Central School asked if we would be willing to setup on their campus Tuesday afternoons this market season, June-October. This will be a great opportunity for us to grow the CSA program and provide our products to the Victor area. (We did attend the Victor Farmers Market for several years from around 2005-2012.)

The sure sign of spring is getting the greenhouse ready for the first seeds. Around mid March we start early transplants of beets, chard, and tomatoes. Then every week after that the planting continues until July.

 

Phillip

When Bad Things Happen to Great People

Fisher Hill Farm Blog Post

Back in 2011 I decided that I wanted to try growing turkeys for Thanksgiving.

Over the years customers had been asking where to get them and I thought it would be a great sideline to the vegetable business. Little did I know that this would be the catalyst to our poultry business. 2012 we raised the first meat chickens and 2014 was the beginning of the egg layers.

But if you’re going to sell poultry you’re going to need to get them processed.

I was eager to raise them but wasn’t ready to start processing them. After talking around I was recommended to a Mennonite family in the Penn Yan area. That fall of 2011 was the beginning of a long friendship with the Hoover family. We had been no strangers to Mennonites and had done business with different families before that. Since the beginning we had built a strong friendship and began to watch our families grow. His kids where starting to get married and ours were just starting. Even though we came from different up brings we still had many common interests including Kubota Tractors!

Unfortunately the Hoover family was dealt a devastating blow Wednesday afternoon January 30, 2019. A small fire started in their woodworking shop and quickly spread to the rest of the barn, including the horse stalls, buggie garage, and poultry processing area. All the horses, buggies, and small animals made it out safely. No one was hurt and their house was unaffected (thank goodness).

It’s truly amazing how fast the community comes together to help someone else out.

But the truly amazing part is how the Mennonite Community comes together to help out a family in a time of need. The fire was  Wednesday and next day a whole crew was clearing the debris away, making the plans, and had already started to rebuild. By Friday afternoon they were ready to set trusses and by Saturday night the building may be closed in already. Mennonites don’t believe in insurance but rather they pay into a community fund that is managed by the church. Then when a crisis happens the church steps in and helps the family out.

It’s truly amazing how fast the community comes together to help someone else out. I hope that everyone can take a step back and take a macro perspective.

Too often we are so concerned about the little things in our own life and we too easily forget about everything around us.

I’m very sad that The Hoovers will not be able to process our poultry for a little while but they recommended an Amish family that can get the job done.

Phillip

 

Photo for this post by Walter Adam

 

Winter on the Farm

Fisher Hill Farm Winter

Even in the winter it’s business as usual on the farm. Even in these cold temperatures we still have to tend to our land and animals, although there might be a little more argument on who goes out to feed the chickens!

We can’t stress enough how much we love our job. There’s always parts of the job that we don’t like, and there’s probably parts of your job that you don’t like either, but we take a lot of pride and joy out of our work. Getting up and being at your job might sound terrible to some of you, but for us it’s a dream come true.

Our sincere enjoyment is yours actually. We have many repeat customers and many new customers who come to us for the food that helps sustain their family, themselves, and their friends. There is no greater feeling in the world than a job well done and when we hear the success stories of the dishes you made that your family and friends loved with our products it gives us true joy.

Shoppers at the Brighton Winter Farmers Market

Winter on the farm is a bit slower than in the spring, summer, and fall. It’s certainly a lot darker (although that’s slowly changing) and much quieter. But this time is essential for us to plan out our crops, spend some quiet nights with our girls, and think about spring!

We’re ready for it some days and other days we’re glad we have a few months. We hope this year is a good growing one not only for our crops that we bring to you but also for our three most important crops, our girls!

For the next few months you can find us at the Rochester Public Market and the Brighton Winter Farmers Market.

Check out our Farmers Market page for information and directions. 

It’s not too early to start thinking about our CSA either!

See you at the market!

Our Family, Our Farm

The Fisher Hill Farm Family poses for a picture

Everyday we are so happy to do what it is we do. Farm life for us isn’t just a job but it’s our identity and our way of life. Growing takes a lot of patience and time, sometimes a little luck, and a deep understanding of the land and the crops. It’s not meant to be completely cerebral but a combination of established practice, research, and accountability.

It some ways, it’s much like raising children and sometimes we see our kids walking through the crops, amazed at how fast they’ve grown, how quickly they adapt, and how much more they know than we can account for.

Our family farm is just that, a family farm. And it sounds simple and looks simple in words but honestly it couldn’t be any simpler. We would never feed our family something that we wouldn’t sell and we treat our crops and animals with the same careful persistence as our kids.

We like to share news, pictures, and crop reports with everyone because if you shop with us it’s like your part of the family too. Our ties to the community can only feel stronger when we are recognized at one of the markets we attend!

Rochester is an awesome city with a great group of people living in it. The Rochester Public Market is one of the most amazing places we’ve ever been and studies have shown that its one of the most multi-cultural meeting places in the northeast. Up there with Chicago city markets and New York city!

We couldn’t be happier to be at any of the markets we attend. And we also have on farm pickup on Wednesday’s from 4:30pm to 6:30pm. So stop on by! We’re easy to find and we’d love to have you.

Here’s a recent gallery of pictures from the farm!