Spring is here!

I have to tell you all, I am so excited for this season. The weather is unpredictable as always, but we are more prepared than ever for it. We have a cold frame/greenhouse taking up a bit of space in the back for all of our seedlings this year, just thought I’d share some of my joy with all of you, because seeing all these plants popping out of their blocks is one of the most wonderful things about being a farmer.

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above: winter buttercup squash  

We have started getting our garden spaces as well, we have 5 spaces this year, but we have just about the same amount of square footage as last year as most of the plots are pretty substantial in size. It’s amazing to see how much the interest in what we’re doing has grown just over the last year, though we are more focused than ever on quality, getting the most quantity out of a space is also a high priority. The next month or so is going to be a lot more of garden prep, the big garden at Lowell is going to take some work, and lots of blocking up of our little plants as they grow into fantastic food producers.

I hope you don’t let the weather throw you off too much, spring is definitely here, the plants are growing and soon we will be enjoying their fruits.                               

 

 

Lots of fun things are happening around here

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Just got our first monster seed order in and we have another one just as large on the way. Our business NSA clients are really motivated to see our program work, almost as much as we are I think. Plus we’ve had some great meetings with some local producers and restaurants. We are growing for Fresh Craft this year which is a fantastic craft beer hub and restaurant in downtown Denver and Mo Betta Greens Farmer’s Market over in Five Points. There will soon be a post about our new optional shares for members, we have a preserve share, a pasta share and a hot sauce share all in the works. We hired our apprentices for the season and next week we are starting tons and tons of seeds. So much to do but so much joy abounds that it makes the work easy. Oh ya and today I got interviewed by someone in a non-fiction creative writing class and I pretty much only talked about permaculture based systems in our human communities. Plus, we only have 4 more shares available for the 2013 season. Life is good, food is good, community is even better.

NSA: An educational opportunity

As farmers we love being able to grow great food. We also love to teach people about they food they are eating, how to prepare it, cook it and even save it for later. A huge goal for us is to bring people closer to the food they eat and to be able to see their local food system in action. As a share member you are given a unique opportunity to participate in the growing, drying and preparing of your food without all the hard work of being out in the garden or farm everyday.

We include recipes for preparing food each week and at the pickups you have the chance to talk with someone who grew the food you are taking home, to ask them questions and generally pick their brain about the growing process. Often pickups are a time where many people get involved in the conversation and we all have a chance to learn something from each other.

We will be teaching our members how to dry their own herbs, how to separate grain from chaff and how to store and keep food through the wintery months. We are growing amaranth this year, each family gets the chance to take home their own amaranth plant, shake it out and cook grains they had a chance to for as well, it’s all about getting closer to the food we eat. Poppy seed poppy heads are given to members almost fully dried, after a few weeks they are ready to be shaken out, honestly one of my favorite farming tasks, offering a great opportunity for kids to participate in their food production as well.

These are just a few examples of the many learning opportunities waiting for our NSA members. We hope you join us, littleravenfarms@gmail.com or download our registration form here, https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B5mCVHk0irqsTXZuakRCazlGaTA/edit?usp=sharing and return to us with payment.

Our business NSA program

As a person who loves to eat, and cook, it’s a struggle when I just don’t feel like cooking but I don’t really feel confident in where the food I may be eating in a restaurant comes from. On the whole, there are not a lot of choices out there from which food based businesses can source their needs. Though we love our neighborhood NSA customers, we really really do, a big goal for us is to provide great locally grown chemical free food to our favorite places to eat, that way we can all enjoy a nice night, day, or really anytime, out without having to worry so much about where the food we’re eating comes from. Since we truly believe in the NSA model, essentially supporting the whole farm and then reaping whatever benefits it may hold, we wanted to be able to expand that to include businesses.

We have come up with a model that we feel supports all parties equally. Essentially we broke down the price per square foot for the food that we grow for our regular NSA customers and apply that to businesses as well. This way we are able to grow whatever that particular business needs, without putting ourselves out too much on a limb and ensuring that the business in particular has a right to whatever produce is produced in that square foot. Of course there are some plants that are more productive than others, or who take up less/more space, but in the end it all averages out.

In this way, businesses get what they need, awesome produce, the farm gets what it needs, awesome customers, and the community gets what it needs, awesome places to go eat that they can trust and believe in. Though we encourage businesses to pre-pay for their share at the beginning of the season, we also offer a payment plan. For those paying in either of these ways we offer 10% off of our wholesale prices on anything else they may need during the season. We are also open to selling to businesses wholesale, but the prices will vary greatly from the base NSA share price.

We have a few businesses we are growing for this year using this model but are always looking for more who are interested in taking this journey with us. Please email us at littleravenfarms@gmail.com for more information or to let us know of businesses you think would be a great fit for our urban farming model.

How we grow what we grow…

Every farmer and every farm is different. We consider ourselves a permaculture based beyond organic farm. Well what does that mean exactly? Permaculture is essentially designs systems thinking.

We think about how each garden space is unique and ask ourselves questions like, what types of microclimates exist in the space? what natural patterns are already occurring within that space? where is the water coming from and where should the mini watershed start? what does the soil already have growing in it (from a micro-organism and mycelium stand point)? We work hard to incorporate every aspect of a yard into the overall design in multiple ways.

In permaculture thought, every aspect has multiple functions and every function is covered by multiple aspects. As an example we can look at water in a landscape. If there is only one way that water gets into a garden it is destined to fail, and at some point, the garden will be getting no water. So let’s say that instead of just having an overhead watering system, bare ground and row planting, a pretty traditional way of farming, we decide to build water holding features into the planting scape so water trickles through the landscape. Then we mulch all the paths (reducing weeds, run off and increasing filtration), place the plants closer together (crowding out weeds and reducing evaporation) and grow plants with different root lengths in the same space (reducing the chances of competing for the same water and nutrients). For just that one function (water) you have given your plants multiple ways of getting the water they need, and around here where our spring and summer may be quite water sparse, it can really make a difference.

When we plant our vegetables, fruits and flowers we think about plantings that can give sensitive plants shade or protection through the season, placing plants that repel pests close to those that may be insect prone. We inoculate the soil with mushroom spawn, providing an outdoor mushroom crop for us and a great mycelial network for the soil. We do not till our gardens, we do a lot of sheet mulching in order to enrich soil and increase organic matter. We cut most weeds at ground level, decreasing soil disturbance and lessening the chances of more weed seeds sprouting. We never use chemicals of any kind on our seeds or our gardens, there is a lot of compost, very aged manure and mulching happening out there though. We do our best to create “closed-loop” systems, essentially ones in which there is very little outside need for input, the system works so well together that there is very little we as the farmers must do in order to keep the system happy.

We do all of these things because of our intense love for the soil and the belief that in order to feed ourselves and our communities we must regenerate the soil. We do not want to be sustainable, we want to be regenerative. Healthy happy soil is our ultimate goal and growing food is just a really nice side affect of that soil state. We want to contribute to a vibrant healthy community and ensure our friends and neighbors have access to the food that will help them get there. We love providing for our community while we provide for ourselves and hope that you decide to join us on our journey.

So, what’s in a share?

Every farm has their own idea of what goes into a share. Along with providing an educational and community involvement opportunity, participating in the share program means that every week you get to take home a box (or bag) for your family. Our favorite CSA/NSA programs have always had a wide variety of vegetables and fruits to offer with enough to complete our family dinners for a week. We strive to do the same while still growing chemical free heirloom plants that do well, and are sometimes native to, our arid climate. To give you an idea of what we are planning, we thought we’d provide a few samples of things we are planning to end up in the shares for this year (of course things happen in farming so there may be all, or just some of these items that make it into the share.) These are not definitive boxes, just examples of what we are going for.

June 26-

arugula, beets, carrots, chives, flowers, kale, lettuce, parsley, radish

choice: broccoli, chard, kholrabi, mustard, oregano, spinach, savory, marjoram, tatsoi

August 7-

arugula, carrots, cucumber, flowers, ground cherry, leeks, mint, onions, squash, tomato

choice: beans, chard, dill, mustard, peppers, radish, tatsoi, tomatillo

September 25-

arugula, amaranth, chard, kale, leek, onions, shallot

choice: carrots, dill, ground cherry, lettuce, summer squash, tomatillo

Shares for the 2014 season, which is 18 weeks and runs from June 19th- October 16th, are $500. By joining the share program you are supporting the farm and the growth of the local community. We also have a share program for restaurants and other food based businesses to participate in, by making these community connections we hope to support other businesses as well as ourselves, and in doing so creating a stronger neighborhood. We would love for you and your family to join us this year. Please email us at LittleRavenFarms@gmail.com for more information

Yum Yum Food for the 2014 season

We are getting very excited around here about all the wonderful stuff we are going to be growing this year. In order to get all of you excited as well I thought I’d post a list of the fruits, vegetables and more that we are planning on growing this season. We have a few surprises up our sleeve as well, but for now that’s going to be our little secret.

amaranth
Arugula
basil
beans
beets
borage
broccoli
brussel sprouts
carrots
chard
chives
cilantro
cucumber
dill
flowers (poppy seed poppies, bachelor button, mallow, yarrow, asters, nasturtium, hyssop, bee balm, chamomile, echinacea, calendula, celosia, cosmos, love-in-a-mist, pom pom poppies, zinnias)
ground cherry
kale
kholrabi
leeks
lettuce
mint
mustard
onions
oregano
parsley
peppers (both hot and sweet)
potato
radish
shallot
spinach
summer savory
summer squash
sweet marjoram
tatsoi
thyme
tomatillo
tomato
winter squashstrawberries

popcorn

litchi tomato

watermelon

peas

Alright, that’s all for now, off to do some planning and enjoy this beautiful day we are having.