Warm end-of-year greetings from your farmers at Three Sisters Community Farm! We (Kelly and Jeff) are writing from the Southwest where we’re squeezing in a quick family holiday. Still, we find ourselves excitedly thinking about and planning for the coming farming season, which will be Three Sisters Farm’s 14th.
We’re always trying to improve here at Three Sisters – always trying to find better ways to care for the earth and to get more nourishing and fresher food to you, our members. Part of our winter work as farmers is to review the season just completed and to research new methods, equipment and ideas to keep moving forward. But 2023… whew! Here are a few brief highlights:
An epic drought that had us a bit stressed for a big chunk of the season. Glad that’s over!
Despite the drought, the irrigation kept working and the veggies kept coming. Some crops did as well as they ever had for us. For example:
We harvested nearly 700 lbs. of peas (!) to distribute over the course of 3 weeks. A big thank you to the many volunteer pea pickers!
Green beans (another labor intensive crop to pick): Starting in Week 8 we offered beans for 7 weeks,
which is quite a run.
Somewhat mysteriously to us, the broccoli had an epic year in 2023: Starting in Week 4 (June 29) we harvested and offered broccoli every week of the CSA, even offering it for our first Fall Share on 10/26.
Kelly kept the cucumbers coming this season – from Weeks 5 to 14. Even more amazing is that she picked most of these herself! The summer squash had a similar run.
The allium family loves the dry heat. 2023 was our biggest onion and garlic year ever. And we were able to offer scallions every week of the season. For this overabundant crop, and some others, a unique program called the Wisconsin Local Food Purchase Assistance Program (WILFPA) allowed us to contribute excess veggies to those who need them while covering our costs for harvest and delivery. We contributed over $6000 in produce in 2023. Unfortunately we weren’t accepted for the 2024 program, but are working on ways we can continue doing the same thing going forward.
Each year a few crops underperform – it’s inevitable when you grow so many. We’d hoped to have more fall greens like spinach; it prefers cool and moist conditions to germinate well. And we hope to improve our winter squash harvest in 2024. The yields weren’t bad (especially considering how the plants looked in the drought) but we’d like to find some new, more exciting varieties going forward. If you have any ideas – about squash or any other crops – let us know!
Much else was exciting about 2023. The heirloom wheat project continues to grow in scope and scale – we harvested at least 1000 lbs. this fall. And we continue to work with Wellness Found in Slinger – they have been making an excellent sauerkraut with our cabbage that we offer with the shares. Perhaps the most exciting news though, is that many of our 500 or so orchard trees (that we planted in 2019) are just starting to bear fruit. This fall we consulted with Chris McGuire of Two Onion Farm near Plattville. He is a former veggie CSA farmer now farming apples organically – not an easy task in the midwest. Chris helped us develop a management strategy so that we can begin offering quality, edible organic apples – and pears, plums and peaches – to you soon. How soon? Good question. While there may be a few things trickling in in 2024, we’re thinking probably 2025 is a safer bet. This coming year however, we want to begin convening a small group of people who – almost like our normal veggie worker share members – want to help make the orchard a success through help with orchard tasks like pruning, thinning and harvesting. We’re very excited about this new phase in Three Sisters development, and look forward to sharing more information in the new year.
Here’s to a happy and healthy 2024!