Despite the frost on the trees and the chill in the air there is much to do on a farm in January. January is a month of experimentation, organization, and planning for farm owners Michelle and David Church of Moonstone Farm. We sat down with farmer Michelle Church to talk about what is happening on the farm in January.
“We are trying to decide what we are going to do, and how we are going to do it,” said Michelle Church, who with her husband run a hay farm and organic farm in the Matanuska Valley.
“It’s fun, it is sort of like being pregnant, and then when the baby is here, you just get overwhelmed by everything. We are pregnant with our farms potential right now.”
Alaska Farmers Rely on Reuse and Innovation
The potential for the future is ripe on the farm. David and Michelle are planning a series of permanent raised beds to experiment with a no-till method to try and cut down on weed maintenance during the summer. The design allows the farmer to lift up the soil, rather than turning it over, decreasing the amount of seeds that are incorporated into the soil. Less weeds are a godsend for organic farmers who rely on techniques, rather than chemicals to control their weeds.
The raised beds are only one of several projects planned on the farm, according to Church. Last summer, in a typical Alaska “reuse everything” mindset, the couple built a big hoop house from a WWII Quonset hut where they plan on using raised beds to grow a variety of crops. They haven’t made the final decision on what they are going to grow, but they are excited by the opportunity to expand their growing season using the hoop house.
When they are not planning their big projects for the late Spring, the Church’s spend their time experimenting with their seed inventory to test seed germination and wading through the seed catalogues to start putting together their summer orders. At the same time, they are reaching out to their CSA customers to make sure they are still interested in the CSA and find out what they liked and didn’t like from last year’s harvest.
Put Pumpkin Soup On the Menu for 2016
One thing they know they are going to grow more of is squash.
“People really like them so you get a lot of food per pound,” said Michelle Church, who is excited about the pumpkins. “Our pumpkins did super well last year, one being over 100 pounds. I cooked one that was 40 pounds and it took me two days to cook it all. We’ve been eating pumpkin soup all winter that is super good.”
Not everything did so well on the farm last summer. Summer 2015 was a particularly hot and dry summer early on which left hay yields low for hay farmers across Matanuska Valley. Incredibly low winter snowfall this winter is concerning for hay farmers for this summer.
Alaska Summer Weather Predictions
Farmers, the ever eternal optimists have their own predictions for the coming summer, and Church put in her order for the perfect summer weather: