Week 12: To bee or not to bee

The farm has transformed so much in the past few weeks as the crops seem to have grown overnight in the switch from spring to summer. We have begun harvesting our first cucumbers and zucchinis. I have seen cherry tomatoes half full of color in the high tunnel. Hopefully, the large slicing tomatoes will not be far behind.

These juiciest vegetables of the year remind me of the summer solstice (June 21, my mother’s birthday this year). The summer solstice reminds me of where we have come from and where we are going.

In the past four months, we have learned a lot. And even in the past few weeks, as I look through the gallery on my phone and think about what to write, I realize we have been exposed to so many new things I’d really like to share with you via photos.

A couple weeks ago, we learned about honeybees from a farm school board member, Todd Peterson. He keeps three hives at the farm school and took us along as he checked on the bees’ health. We’re lucky our savvy class was able to scrape together enough bee suits almost our entire class could go see the bees at once (thanks, Shannon). We saw a queen bee for the first time and everyone came home thinking about how we can farm in a way that benefits our pollinators.
Speaking of the pollinators, I have been learning to grow some cut flowers while here. The Organic Farm School is focused on vegetable growing and not flowers, so this has been largely a self-guided project a small group of my classmates and I took up. We have direct seeded amaranth, Bachelor’s Buttons, nasturtiums, calendula, and pollinator strips. We also started zinnias, cosmos, yarrow, marigolds, and asters in the greenhouse and transplanted them outside this week.
We also took a field trip to a livestock-focused farm, Beachview Farm, in North Whidbey Island. This farm had wagyu beef, broiler chickens, egg-laying chickens, pigs, and sheep. All animals were moved regularly to catch the grass at its peak, stimulating its growth and leaving manure that has dramatically improved the quality of the soil over time.
We continue to sow seeds at the farm, though only very warm-season crops (like the Tiger Eye beans in this photo) and fall crops like cabbage and brussels sprouts. These late summer/fall seedings are another reminder that our time learning at this farm is so short and that we must absorb as much as we can before we leave in November! We felt accomplished, then sad when we realized it would be our last time planting beans with this very special class.

Last is a photo of me using the tractor. This is one of the last places I ever expected to find myself when I was younger, but there I am. Driving large vehicles was one of the farming skills I was least confident about at the beginning of the season… and it still is. I honestly didn’t know I could do it until I did. With some basic understanding, driving a tractor is not difficult, but I think that as a female, these types of mechanical skills always seemed elusive and even off-limits. I am proud of what I have learned, at the exact pace I needed to learn it, thanks to our Field Supervisor, Jeff Markette.

Thank you for support from staff, classmates, friends, family, and farmers as we continue on our journey.

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Week 14: Our farm to table meal