Thursday, February 16, 2017

Orchard Update, From Up a Ladder

Pruning tools and piles in later winter.
With the early February thaw, orchard pruning and any clean-up from the winter is in full-swing!  The mature trees are taking their final shapes with each cut, while the young trees are being formed for future years.  

Pruning mature trees is much different than pruning the young; over pruning the young trees can stunt them for a long period of time, whereas the mature trees are able to rebound the stress of pruning more quickly.  

Soon to follow pruning will be grafting, staking out the new orchard area, transplanting trees from the nursery and sticking in those companion plants for the trees!  

Come April, the Alternative Roots Farm will have a whole new look.

Follow orchard updates on our ARF Apples page and on facebook.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Phenology Report

Follow along on Facebook to get John's phenology reports!
In 2017 I am making it a goal to post more about Phenology and what we are observing in nature/climate around our area. For those of you who are not familiar with the term "Phenology" its the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life. So, after that brief introduction here is your phenology tidbit for the week: Keep a look out for raccoons this time of year, its mating season for these guys! Yes, warm weather will bring raccoons out of their winter slumber on a sunny day in January, but right now they are more than just out for sunbathing, they are looking to find a mate! 
Another thing noticed is that with these warm day time temps and cool night time temps, you way want to start thinking about getting your maple syruping equipment out - by the weekend were are expecting day time highs of 40's and lows in the teens, perfect for sap to be running! 
Last but not least, I have always enjoyed the phenological part of farming, especially in the orchard. People ask, "when do you prune" and to be honest, there is never a specific "Date" that I start - rather I think of it much like maple syrup running, I prune when the day time temps are at or just above freezing and the lows at night are below freezing. I do this because it shortens the amount of time between when we prune the tree (literally a wound), to when it can start healing. Pruning too early in the winter can open the tree up to injury from the cold. So when do I start? Some years in late January, some years in Mid-February and maybe years even in March. In 2017 I will be starting this week!
Farmer John

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

2017 CSA Sign Up is Open!

We invite you to join us for our 6th season of CSA at Alternative Roots Farm! We will again be offering Full and Half CSA Shares, as well as Farm Shares (sold out). Apple Shares, Fall Shares and new Winter Shares, will be available later in the season.

What is CSA?  We love CSA because it connects us directly with you, our customers, but there are many reasons why CSA is a great model for food production and delivery!

2017 CSA Details  Veggies, apples, weekly newsletters - we work to support you and your use of your weekly/bi-weekly deliveries.

Email us at to reserve your share today!

What our Members are Saying...

"We have been doing this for a couple years now and the quality and service has always been exceptional! We love trying the new items and enjoy the old favorites. I like how it helps to get us to eat a little more healthy than normal. You both are so nice and always answer any questions that we have! I love being able to eat locally sourced organic food!!"

"We loved being a part of the CSA share! We did the half share and looked forward to fresh organic produce with new recipes from the newsletter. It was worth every cent. Thank you!"

A few photos of last year's boxes:

Early season CSA box: yellow cucumber, parsley, beans, celey mini, shell peas, radishes, 2 kohlrabi, green cucumber, spring onions, snow peas, garlic scapes.

Mid-season CSA box: mixed tomato quart, zucchini, red cabbage mini, basil, yellow & green cucumber, bunching onions, shallots, round summer squash, carrots, mixed heirloom beans, swiss chard, mixed wax beans, oregano, beets.

Late season CSA box: carrots, potatoes, trio sweet peppers, swiss chard, leeks, mixed quart specialty tomatoes, shallots, red & yellow onion, garlic bulb, green pepper, 2 slicer tomatoes, bunch mizuna salad greens, apples, ground cherries.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

On Climate Change & Community

It is scary to me to see climate change being denied. It's scary to me what damage can be done to our ONE environment in a short period of time. What gives me hope is YOU as individuals, making progress with individual actions, and US as COMMUNITY working together for change.

We got into farming to put conservation on the ground and to build community through food. This is one way we are fighting to combat climate change, integrating community/environmental education - while eating well.
Remember that each food purchase you make is voting with your food dollars - you can vote with or against climate change. Support a healthy environment, a healthy future for our children. Support organic and sustainable.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016 CSA Newsletters and Photos

The 2016 season was our fifth season on the farm. This is a written and photographic record of the year. Thank you to all our members and supporters that made the season great!
The "Posts" contain pictures of each box & a link to the newsletter.

Preseason {1}  April Newsletter
Preseason {2}  May Newsletter
Member Supplements:
Storage Guide • Herb Guide • Honey Add-On Order Form
Week 7 Post • Newsletter
Week 13 Post • Newsletter
Week 16 Post • Newsletter
Week 18 Post • Newsletter

Week #4 CSA Box
French Breakfast heirloom radishes

Fresh Snow Peas
Week #17 ~ Sept. 28, 2016

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Sir Renfred Moves on to New Pastures

Sir Renfred Leaves the Farm

It was a bitter sweet day yesterday as Sir Renfred moved to his new home. You can see below that he is eager to get to know his new lady friends (as evidenced by the mouth foam). We are grateful that he has moved to a fantastic new home, with large pastures to roam. We know Farmer Drew, Full Boar Farm, will take great care of him.

Sir Renfred gets a first peak at his new ladies.
That doesn't keep us from getting a little emotional about the change! Sir Renfred means "mighty, but peaceful" and indeed he always lived up to his name. He was our first boar and has been an important part of our pastured pig operation. Below, Farmer John says goodbye. The night before he left we hung out and gave the good ole boy a beer, for old times sake. Good, good pig.

John says farewell.

So what's the story? Why the change? 

We have decided to take a break from farrowing (breeding pigs). We had been discussing this off an on for a little bit. When we, kind of, begrudgingly, made our final decision that was about the time Farmer Drew contact us looking to see if we had a boar for sale. Very serendipitous.

Taking a break from farrowing is like a two year process. It's a little laughable. Now, we have fewer pigs and fewer groups of pigs, which eases the work. The sows, Elsa and Suzy, will farrow in January. Post-weaning in March we will look for good homes for them. All of the weaner piglets (which already have good homes set), except about 3, will move off to other farms. With a group of 3 for us to raise over the summer it will be the smallest number of pigs we have had on our farm. When that trio is harvested in late Fall we shall enjoy a winter without pigs - our "break."

Summer 2017 we have one (or more) large projects going on, which we would like to put our focus towards. Our Deep Winter Greenhouse will be built and next winter will be our first winter growing. It will be nice to have more time and energy to dedicate to this, as pigs do take considerable time to care for (which we love, don't get me wrong). This also gives us great opportunity to rejuvenate the pastures, which really took a beating in the muddy, muddy, mucky never-ending rain this year.

So, while sad, it's all good. Hard decisions need to happen on the farm. It's definitely more difficult with animals that have been around a while. Scroll on, for a little Sir Renny slideshow.

Sir Renfred Slide Show!

 Here he is the day he moved in. He moved all the way from Ohio. Such a little guy!

Renny has brought us much joy.

His first wallow.

Always gentle and sweet.

That boy snoozed hard. Gotta love that nose...and those ears!

He surely produced some beautiful bacon bits and delicious pork chops.

He is a wonderful Dad. Loved the kids to pieces.

He even let them try and nurse him.

What a lover.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Making a Blessing out of Fighting

Eternal mud season. That's what it feels like. Sometimes it seems like we are always fighting. Fighting the mud, the wind, the weather. Fighting time. Daylight. Sneaky chickens. Fighting for organic. Fighting the consumer mindset. Fighting for environmental and good food education. Time. Fighting bugs, disease, loss. Fighting to meet our sales goals. Fighting off exhaustion.

Right now the mud is a downer and it exacerbates this feeling, so pig chores became a meditation on fighting today. As I wrangled the kids hay rack out of one mud pit and into theirs I could feel the frustration (and triumph). (Fighting that fleeting thought that I just want to turn everyone into bacon!) The kiddos were delighted, grateful, exuberant over their alfalfa hay - my heart is full.

Hogs enjoying some good hay, despite the mud.
It's difficult to remind myself that it is a blessing to be able to fight these things, fight for these things. (I'll have to remember this in summer, when I'm trying to sleep with rain and 40 mph winds.) To have choice in these elements I'm fighting, and fighting for. Farming will never be easy, there will always be something to fight against, but we remain vibrant, grow strong.

We have the privilege not to have to be fighting for our livelihood. When there are others out there fighting for their homes, their lands, their water (our lands, our water), who have much less choice.

I think about the mud - the water in our ground. I am grateful that my family, my farm, my farm animals have access to good, clean water. The mud makes me crazy, but it's Minnesota...hopefully it will freeze soon. "This too shall pass." Meditating on gratitude that this is a temporary fight.

Mucking it up with my muddy buddies.
We stand with Standing Rock. We have to keep fighting for our environment, for our children for the next seven generations. We cannot give on this, but keep pressing forwards - each of us where we can.

The Seventh Generation Principle
"This principle states that we should make decisions about how we live today based on how our decisions will impact the future seven generations. We must be good caretakers of the earth, not simply for ourselves, but for those who will inherit the earth, and the results of our decisions. This value is found in the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Great Law of Peace (Gayanashagowa) and is common among a number of indigenous peoples in the Americas." - Woodbine Ecology Center