A very Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you from all of us here at the farm and “winter” greetings as well. However, for most of the winter it has seemed like Spring or Fall here – like many of you are also experiencing. It seems like every day requires a decision on what outer gear to wear, from tall boots to mud boots, to sweatshirt layers or a full blown parka! Maybe this means strawberries will be early this year?!! Whose ready for a Michigan strawberry?
Our orchards and vineyards must surely be confused as some of our “winter” days have been near 50 degrees! We’re up to our usual winter activities, mainly pruning. All of the apple orchards are trimmed and we are two thirds done with our grapevine pruning. While these perennial crops should be deep into their dormant winter’s sleep, we sense they aren’t sleeping well with the weather changes! When we are pruning on some of these warmer days I swear I hear the grapevines saying “ouch” as we cut them!
You might have noticed that our greenhouse plastic roof blew off in one of our Fall windstorms. It was replaced a few weeks ago and many thanks to the crew of 7 who helped get the 100-foot piece of plastic pulled over and secured. Now the greenhouse would like to have some sun…..no, the black and white filter was not on for these pictures, it has been a grey winter for sure:(
Our greenhouse is up and running, the tomatoes were planted Monday, and so far, so good. The red strings you see coming off the trellis bars are for training the tomato plants to grow tall for maximum tomato yield. Next week we will be planting 20,000 onion seeds in our greenhouse, this will be our first time doing it ourselves. We’ll keep you posted on how it goes (or if we need help!)
One of our annual winter activities is continuing our own education and learning from others. We take turns going to conventions. With Brenda being a “snowbird” and returning to Florida for winters, she goes to the ones in the south. Brenda attended the annual NAFDMA (International Agritourism Association} Conference last week in Charleston, SC. This international conference was attended by over 400 people mainly from the US and Canada who have a farm, farm market, bakery, and/or distillery with an agritourism component to their business. Even though the conference was held in the South, the weather was nearly identical to that of Michigan!
Day 1 was spent on a 15-hour bus tour seeing the operations of 4 local farms. The plantations were quite beautiful and delighting with Southern charm. It was interesting to see how they handle group tours and how they presented antebellum history through education. Her favorite stop was touring the only commercial tea plantation in the US and learn how tea is harvested, processed, and packaged. Being a tea lover, she enjoyed the tastings at the hot and cold “tea bars”. Dinner that evening was aboard the USS Yorktown at Patriot’s Point.
Days 2-4 were spent visiting exhibitors and attending education seminars. There were over 100 vendors with products to support farm markets such as jams, jellies, playground equipment, donut machines, custom corn mazes, packaging materials, gift products, and more. She attended sessions on planning and hosting events, photography, graphic design, staff scheduling, retail strategies, food and beverage management, generational differences, and future trends.
One of the best parts of the conference was meeting congenial peers with operations similar to ours. She left loving her new NAFDMA family and knows just the person to contact when she has a question! The constant idea exchange between attendees was great and she left with bushels of new insights, projects to consider, and proven ideas! Stay tuned to see what we will do with all of this for 2020!
We are enjoying the quiet of winter, the chance to sleep in and read books by the fire before going to the farm for the day, catching up with friends and family, playing with Emma-Grace in the snow, when we have some! But…..we do love and miss our many wonderful customers, so again, Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us here at the farm!