9 ways we get the farm ready

Matt opens the barn doors ahead of a long growing season.

Late February is always a busy time around here. It’s still winter in southern Oregon. That means cool temperatures, especially in the mornings. And before Spring arrives, this is the time to welcome back our farm crew and ready our Certified Organic farm for the long growing season ahead.

Here’s a short list of what we do during our farm’s opening week.

1. Review safety protocols

The first days back on the farm are a great time to make sure the team knows how to stay safe. We review safety protocols and production methods. Then we go over what we learned from last year’s growing season so we all know what worked and what could use improvement.

2. Clean up the debris of winter

Winter snow, wind and rain bring down all sorts of branches and even trees across our properties. Sometimes, this woody debris clogs up culverts and ditches creating small floods. Now is the time to clean up the mess, usually with a chainsaw and chipper-shredder. We also mend any fences or buildings that received their share of seasonal wear and tear.

3. Prepare and repair the tractors and vehicles

We’re going to need our vehicles to play a big role all season long. So, we start the year by giving them proper maintenance and extra attention.

Matt and the team give our vehicles extra attention before the growing season gets busy.

4. Pressurize our water lines

We drain all our water lines prior to shutting down for the winter. Upon our return, we get our main lines back in action, particularly those running to the barn and greenhouse. To do that, we open the valves in our pump house and in underground irrigation boxes in strategic locations all over our farms.

Irrigation pipes resting for the winter. Soon, we will assemble them to ready our fields for the growing season.

5. Get ready for the interns

We run a residential Herbaculture Internship Program right here on the farm. Before the first interns of the season arrive, we address any needed repairs to the intern house and lab. We also stock up on a myriad of items like books, bottles, alcohol, glycerin, and beeswax for the upcoming classes.

Now is the time to make any preparations needed before the interns (like those pictured) arrive.
Now is the time to make any needed repairs before the interns arrive.

6. Sanitize the greenhouse

Much of the early-season activity on the farm takes place in our greenhouses. We get them ready by sanitizing all our trays, tables and equipment with either vinegar or a light bleach solution for disease prevention.

Soon we will fill these trays with seedlings like Celandine (Chelidonium majus) and Valerian (Valeriana officinalis).

7. Hand weeding and more

On a Certified Organic farm, weeding is constant task. If the soil is dry enough at this time of year, we will do some early hand weeding, flame weeding and possibly even tractor cultivation.

Young California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica) get a routine, rhythmic weeding using the stirrup hoe. Manual weeding is a way of life on our Certified Organic, Non-GMO farms.

8. Sowing seeds

Some of our herbs prefer to germinate and grow during cool conditions. From the first days on the farm, our team is in the greenhouse placing seeds one at a time in flats of potting soil. Herbs like Shepherd’s Purse, Cleavers, Chickweed, Celandine, Calendula, Angelica and Valerian are each treated differently. We sow each seed to the proper soil depth then give them a fine mist to provide the moisture needed for germination.

Kendra uses a seed sower to gently plant a flat of seedlings. Much of the early-season activity on the farm is careful, exacting work in our greenhouses.
Calendula seeds (Calendula officinalis) prefer to germinate while it’s still cool outside.

9. Pruning the education garden

For decades, we’ve run an Education Garden in connection with our Herbaculture Internship Program. There, we grow numerous herbs and ornamentals that give our interns hands-on experience with plants we may not grow elsewhere on our farm. During the first few days of the season, we prune vines, shrubs and trees before the buds break.

These nine steps are only the beginning. On our farm, the growing season runs from late February to November. But these first few days are a special time. We get to welcome back our friends and colleagues. And we get to put our hands in the dirt again and get back to work doing what we love… growing healthy herbs.