Winter Farmers

Willy St. Co-op
Colorful organic produce all year round at Willy St. Co-op

Something folks always ask us once the snow starts falling – what do farmers do in the winter? Good question. There’s never really a complete break from the farm, since there’s always planning and seed orders to figure out, not to mention advertising CSA shares. Or, this year, knocking snow off the greenhouse. That said, winter is a nice change of pace and things on the farm do slow down. Lots of farmers have some form of off-farm employment, especially in the winter, and we’re no different. I’ve been filling some of my time working in the produce department at Willy St. Co-op in Madison, which I find to be not only a great group of folks to be with, but it allows me to keep handling fresh vegetables even in these cold months of the year (and many of them are still local – winter storage crops like carrots, cabbage, and beets still fill the shelves from Wisconsin farms like Harmony Valley and Tipi Produce).

Knit Sweater
Only Anne’s second knitting project, if you can believe it!

Anne tends to waitress for part of the winter; she worked for a while at the Black Sheep in Whitewater these past two winters, which regularly orders many of its ingredients from local farms.  At a certain point, waitressing season winds down as the marketing and planning responsibilities increase. She’s also been working on a few personal projects, finishing up a partially-completed sweater that her grandmother started knitting years ago, for example. Pretty amazing if you ask me!

Also, we’ve learned some great card games to pass the time too – Canasta and Nertz are favorites.

But we’re both winding down with off-farm activities, because soon enough we’ll be firing up the greenhouse and getting seeds started! Gladstone onions will be our fresh market onion and among the first to plant. We ended up getting some last year as a complete experiment after several other of our preferred varieties were sold out, and it was fabulous! They’ve earned a place on the favorites list, for sure. Leeks, spring broccoli and bok choi won’t be far behind, and before you know it we’ll be picking that first red ripe tomato…

~Dennis, 2/6/2013