At the Kitchen Table: March Madness
In like a lion out like a lamb?
With all this beautiful weather we have been enjoying, you are probably asking yourself, “How are crops doing? Will there be crops that won’t make it to market? Or “How will this early bloom effect our fruit trees?” I was asking myself the same questions, so I turned to David Cooper from Oak Hill Farm. I wanted to know what he thought about this crazy winter we are having and what we could expect when harvest came along. Are we on schedule for spring plantings? This is David’s second year at the helm since Farmer Paul left to work his own farm. David was nice enough to take time out of his busy day to give me a tour so I could see the crops up close and personal.
I don’t know about you, but I get excited seeing rows of planted vegetables and flowers. Greens of all shades, the almost perfect order and neatness, all lined up and ready for a little sunshine, water, and of course, good soil. Frankly, there is nothing better and it is something of a miracle to witness day to day. I asked David if it felt like March had arrived like a lion. Shaking his head in agreement, he said, “It’s been kinda crazy.” He told me, “Almond trees are the first to flower, then peaches and pears are blooming. Soon we will have apple blossoms. We will probably be OK if we don’t get days and days of rain. The blossoms need time to dry out. You don’t want the flowers rotting.”
The early flowering and warmer weather has encouraged pollination. I have noticed my own bees happily alighting on our large rosemary bush. As we came around the bend, Oak Hill’s many hives were busy with activity. David said, “It’s been great for our bees, they have had nice long foraging days and lots of blossoms to pollinate. If we have rain, they will be OK. Last year because it was so cold, there was no spring forage.”
Along with making their own honey, Oak Hill farm creates enough produce to supply several restaurants here and in San Francisco and about 60 winter CSA boxes (Community Supported Agriculture). My last CSA box was abundant with lettuces, chard or kale, green garlic, carrots or beets, arugula and even pea sprouts.
As we walked by wintering favas and fading Brussels sprouts, there were plenty of lettuces (they love this cool weather), kale on its way out, and Swiss chard in full stride. Onions will get planted soon and green garlic is tall. David said that the cover crops were taken out earlier than last year, and some flowers have been hurt by last month’s below-freezing nights. However, it hasn’t hurt root vegetables, like carrots and beets. Along with lettuces, they are very happy with the cool nights.
What can we expect for the next couple of months weather-wise? “I am not sure, but it’s different every year,” said David. I guess that helps keep farming fresh and farmers on their toes. It’s a wait and see lifestyle that allows farmers like David to stay flexible and in the moment, something we could all learn from. Oak Hill Farm is hoping to open for the season the first Wednesday of May. Look for them at the Friday farmer’s market near the Veteran’s Hall in Sonoma and returning to the Tuesday evening market on the square, also in Sonoma, at the beginning of May.
Thanks for the great tour! For more information or a tour of Oak Hill Farm, please see their website for more information. www.oakhillfarm.net.
Tricia O’Brien writes the Vegetable of the Month column for the Oak Hill Farm newsletter and lives in Glen Ellen. You can visit and follow her blog at www.cafetrix.blogspot.com.