I don’t know why, but I am always amazed at how much has to be done by our farm partners before seeds or plants are ever put into the ground. This past week, I had the opportunity to chat with James Taylor and his wife Cara about what is happening at JACAR Produce at this point in the year. James had sent a photo to me of him prepping the fields for fall, and it got me wondering about what all is involved in order for him to bring us his amazing produce this fall.
Prepping for the Fall actually began back in late June when most of the crops are started in the greenhouses as “sets”. This allows for the seeds to develop into young plants while the fields are still producing the prior season’s corps. They will take about 5 weeks in the greenhouse to reach the stage needed to transplant into the ground.
Once a field has stopped producing its crop, and the weather and timing are right, a famer will begin to prepare the land to transplant the sets from the greenhouse into the field. The first run over the fields involves using a “disc harrow”. This is a ground leveling tool that is used to break up the dirt clods and process the soil. Based on the location of a disc, it will throw soil in a specific direction. For example, the disc in the front may throw to the right, while the disc in the rear will throw to the left. This set up facilitates a homogeneous mixing of the soil.
Once the soil has been broken up and mixed, most conventional farmers will apply a preemergent to the field. A pre-emergent is used to help control weeds, and the idea is to prevent the weed seeds from ever germinating and growing in these fields from the start. This will also, hopefully, help to limit the need to spray for weeds later. Remember, most conventional farmers prefer to spray and use chemicals as LITTLE as possible! What they use is simply what is necessary to bring their crop to harvest. These products are very expensive to use so limiting the use as much as possible creates a financial gain for the farmer.
Now the field is ready for the beds (all those little hills and rows you see in the fields) and the sets from the greenhouse can now be planted in the fields. Spacing of the sets and the depth of the roots are both important measurements that have to be maintained during this phase of the process.
If you remember, we told you earlier this year about James planting celery on plastic. About 2 weeks ago, he was able to use the same field and plastic cover and begin his winter squash plantings. These are the only crop he has that are “direct seed” (rather than starting in the greenhouse) and will benefit from the protective cover of the plastic. Just like when growing the celery, this will help in weed control. These will be squash will be ready for harvest about the end of Oct as they take approximately 100 days to reach maturity.
All that work is just to get the crops started for the season. One more reminder of why we need to thank our farmers at least three times a day, 365 days a year!