2 acre farm: May 2010

2 acre farm

The experiences, trials, and lives on a small farm in rural Illinois.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Something Unique

I have made it my goal to be the person at the market with the unique goods. Sure we plan to show up with green beans and red tomatoes but we will also have purple streaked beans and black tomatoes. So sticking with the plan I tried a whole host of unique vegetables to bring to market.

My current favorite unique veggie is our heirloom carrots named Dragon they have a reddish purplish skin and orange core. One reason it is becoming a favorite is its ability to grow and grow. They were planted at the same time and right next to two different hybrids; Napoli and Interceptor. Napoli is supposed to take 55 days to harvest and Interceptor is a 125 day carrot. Dragon is an 85 day and will clearly be mature as soon as Napoli. We have had an odd spring with long spells of rain, a hot streak in the 80’s in April and an all around inconsistency. Yet Dragon has pushed through and kept growing while the others lie dormant. Not to mention it is incredibly flavorful. Today I pulled two to cook up and I needed to see how close they were to harvesting. As you can see the tips are still a bit white so they could grow some more. I will probably begin harvesting them next week.

Friday, May 21, 2010

2 Acre Farm Lunch

A fresh picked 2 Acre Farm lunch, straight from the gardens...Yummy! Featuring some of the produce available at this Saturday's Farmers Market. The strawberries are first year plantings and won't produce enough to sell at market until next year. However, Nathan and I will pick a few to take for market goers to try, we hope the samples will plant a seed and they will come looking for 2AF straberries next year.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


At the market last weekend someone ask Aimee what kind of fertilizer we use. I wasn't around at that moment so I didn't get to ramble on about cover crops and compost. Aimee gave the short answer "nothing".

To tell the truth we do use fertilizer but not in the traditional 10-10-10 petroleum based concoction everyone associates with fertilizer. We do several things which include the application of manure, compost, crop rotations, mulching, and cover crops.

We currently have two cover crops growing, one is hairy vetch interplanted with our sweet corn and the other is New Zealand White Clover interplanted with bush beans and the brassicas (the Latin name for the Cabbage family). The manure, compost and mulching materials supply a vast majority of the main nutrients like phosphorus and potassium as well as trace minerals. More importantly they supply the soil with organic matter which feeds the worms, which do all kinds of wonderful things I will never fully understand.

[Pictured Right] The clover is small compared to the crops because I
gave the crops a several week head start. This keeps 
the clover from competing with the crops.

Alas, I started writing to talk about cover crops and point out the power of cover cropping, which is widely under used. The clover I planted has the potential to produce 165 lbs of nitrogen per acre. I don't do acres I do square feet so this is 165lb per 43560 square feet. This reduces to 0.378 lbs per 1000 square feet which is more on my level (each one of our gardens is 1800 square feet). So, confused yet... checking my math? Now what this means for you and I is that, if you buy a bag of 10-10-10 fertilizer it will generally recommend you apply 1lb per 1000 square feet, this isn't straight nitrogen though it is 1/3 nitrogen which is 0.33 pounds per square foot. In conclusion and confusion, my New Zealand White Clover is equally or even potentially more effective than 10-10-10 fertilizer. Actually it is creepily similar, where did you think they dreamt up the application rate, nature of course.

P.S. My clover holds moisture in the soil and smothers weeds, fertilizer won't do that.

[Pictured Left] The clover came up thick using my Earthway Seeder
so I will have to go through and thin it with a hoe.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Gardener in Training

The newest addition to the 2 Acre Farm models his new 2AF gear.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Picked By Children?

When I was a kid it was pretty common practice for children to work on farms in the summer time. I spent a few summers picking and weeding the modest fields of a small market farmer that was located down the road from my family’s home. My brother spent several summers’ detasseling corn and even raised the ranks to ‘supervisor’ after a few seasons. He was still young enough that he rode his bike about three miles to work every morning, probably around 5 a.m. A good percentage of the kids I knew also did similar jobs: weeding, picking, detasseling, operating sprayers, tractors, and combines. One thing you must understand though, is that when I say “when I was a kid” I am referring to the 1990’s, the very near past; after all I am only twenty seven years old. For those who are not familiar with agriculture, this is the case because child labor laws exclude agriculture. It was never much of a problem in the past but now that agriculture has turned big business a very serious problem is popping up.

All of the kids, including my brother and me, were between the ages of twelve and fifteen. Once you got a car and could drive yourself into town, you would go out and get a job that didn’t involve itching and sweating. As children we worked for these farmers voluntarily, to earn some extra spending money or to save up for something special. The video accompaning this post tells a very different tale from the one I've shared.

Any thoughts?
We'd like to hear your input. You can either comment on our blog or visit us on facebook and tell us what you think under the discussion tab labeled "Picked by Children".


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

2 Acre Farm on Facebook?

Today, 2 Acre Farm officially joined the Facebook revolution. To visit our page simply scroll down the blog and click on the facebook badge to the left of the screen. We're hopeful that Facebook will provide us the opportunity to reach the local market audience and keep in touch with our customers with quick posts and updates. We've even tossed around the idea of posting a weekly list of produce that will be available at the market on the coming Saturday, however, I'm not too sure I want to add one more thing to do Friday evening after harvesting...we'll see. Another great Facebook feature we're excited to try out is the discussion tab. There's so much to discuss about what's going on with the agricultural world and I think we have a lot to learn by creating a dialogue with our fellow farmers and eco-conscious shoppers.

So, tonight when your checking what Susie had for dinner or how many times Jim tied his shoe, check out 2 Acre Farm. Be sure to add your Facebook page to our News Feed by clicking on the "like" button at the top of the 2 Acre Farm page.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

First Day at the Market

(Backpost for Saturday, May-8-10) Today was 2 Acre Farm’s 1st day at the 2010 farmers market in Edwardsville, Illinois. Although last night’s low temperatures were great for keeping the produce fresh, today’s high winds and low temperatures (mid 50’s) were far from ideal Farmer’s Market weather. Also, after talking to some of last year’s returning and more regular vendors, we were told that the turnout was low compared to normal. That being said, despite the low number of market goers we did pretty well.

[Pictured Right] Here is one of the new produce stands built last week. In the past we had setup on folding tables and this worked fine for our old cavalier ways. But our new plans call for something more refined, giving 2 Acre Farm a more professional feel. The new displays setup and worked wonderfully. The entire setup is completely hardware free and ‘snaps’ together in about ten minutes. It all breaks down into a stack of wood pieces about twelve inches tall, twenty inches wide (except the thin legs), and eight feet long. In other words it takes up hardly any space for what it is. When it is all setup there is a twenty inch deep bottom shelf, a twelve inch deep middle shelf, and the top shelf is ten inches. We ended up using a folding card table to complete sales transactions but we have an idea floating around of a stand similar to the other one built but with only one level, which would be shorter and not quite as long. This would be where we would make sales transactions in the future. This is my next project.

[Pictured Left] Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) flyers share a shelf with the French Breakfast Radishes, Cilantro and Green Onions. Not many people are familiar with the not for profit so during the market we handed out a lot of flyers that explained exactly what Certified Naturally Grown is. We decided with all the organic hype, we would make it our mission to educate people about CNG, the alternative to the expensive USDA “organic” label. As a result, we hope our certification will earn the respect it deserves. Aimee and I were really excited by the response we received, the majority of people were extremely receptive and full of excellent questions!

When the market ended at twelve noon I would say we were satisfied, had lots of good observations, and are ready for another round.

[Pictured Right] The French Breakfast Radishes, a very mild variety, were by far the biggest seller of the day and sold out by 10:30am.  [Pictured Left] The Purple Plum Radishes, a stronger spicy radish,were quite popular too.  Both varieties sold much better than we had anticipated, we'll be sure to bring extra for next week!

Monday, May 10, 2010

First Harvest of 2010

(Backpost 2 for Friday, May-7-10) It’s nearly 2:30 Saturday morning (that’s right folks, 2:30am) and we are finally packed up and ready to crawl into bed! Only 5 hours until the market opens at 8:00 and 3 hours before we hit the road. We started picking around 6:00 this evening and due to the fact that a minimum of crops are ready this time of year we anticipated the harvest moving more quickly. This turned out to be a huge mistake! Despite the actual harvest taking 3-4 hours, we have spent the last four hours washing, bagging, and bunching. On a brighter note, the weather conditions outside turned out to be ideal. The wind has remained strong but we have officially escaped the possibility of rain and although quite unseasonal, the temperatures have dropped into the low 40’s… almost better than keeping everything in a walk in refrigerator and perfect for preserving the produce.

[Pictured Left] A while back I was able to purchase twenty something milk crates for only fifty cents apiece at the local Catholic Charities. I thought they might come in handy for something, and they did. As it turns out they make exceptional picking baskets. They also sped along the rinsing because the spinach, which just needs a quick dunk in cool water, got dunked while still in the milk crate which of course drains beautifully. Since we picked six milk crates worth of spinach, approximately 9 lbs, I imagine that this saved us an extra hour of rinse time. Now if we could just develop a more efficient system for cleaning and bunching the radishes and onions, after all I do like my sleep!

Harvest Totals – Week 1
Spinach – 9 lbs.
Green Onions – 150ct.
French Breakfast Radishes – 126ct.
Purple Radishes – 48ct.
Turnip Greens – 6 lbs.
Baby Turnips – 3 lbs.
Cilantro – 18 bunches

[Pictured Below] The French Breakfast Radishes and Green Onions have been rinsed, cleaned, bunched and are ready for market!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Market Season is Here... Getting Ready For the First Harvest

(Backpost May-7-10) Spring’s here, the last day for frost was May 1st and the 2010 market season has finally arrived! Tomorrow is opening day for Edwardsville’s Goshen Market and this week I've been busy designing and building produce stands, planting more seed, and attempting to keep up with the endless supply of weeds. However, today is Friday and the time has come for our first harvest. We will begin harvesting for the farmer’s market later in the afternoon, waiting as long as possible in order to preserve freshness. Last fall, after we moved to our 2 Acre Farm, we planted a small garden for ourselves which produced so well we were able to sell at the small farmers market here in Carlinville. Since the market was on Wednesday evenings, we had plenty of time in the morning and afternoon to harvest and clean, only to drive a mile up the road and straight to market with produce only a few hours old.

So with only a few hours left before heading outside to harvest we will finish packing up the tent and produce stands (made completely from scrap wood and recycled materials) and tend to all the other last minute preparations!

[Pictured Above] Looking out on the 2 acre farm, the sky has begun to darken with clouds and the wind has picked up.  The forecast called for a slight chance of showers after midnight but with the harvest still several hours away I'm keeping my fingers crossed.