March Farmer Notes

Farmer Notes

Spring has sprung. At least for the time being as I write this on April Fools morning. Most all the snow patches have disappeared while meadowlarks, robins, flycatchers, and BLUEBIRDS have arrived back to the valley here. Deer have moved back up to graze and owls still sound at dusk.  Resilient and wonderful bunchgrasses are begin to green up along the foothills as yellow bells, spring beauties and bluebells brighten everywhere in between. Freshets trickle down the buttes and the poignant smell of moist sage fills the windy air. Wind. Spring. Wind… the northwest wind that waits until spring to kick up often makes this time of year in the Methow seem colder than winter. No joke!

As a follow up to last notes, we did actually receive one more decent snowfall here which extended winter a couple more weeks and added to our moisture profile. That hope was fulfilled.  At this point I believe we have very good soil moisture given the late fall rains, and a decent snowpack here in the valley. Up in the Cascades more snow and what is estimated as average or above snowpack prevails. So… a promising farm season is upon us.

Spring cover crop peas just arrived and I plan to begin planting them this weekend. With the aggressive no-till seed drill we bought a few seasons ago, my aim is to sow the peas directly into last year’s grain straw.  This drill should get a good test when I pull it through last year’s massive rye stubble!  However, with the soil surface still pliant with winter’s moisture I’ve good hope I can plant the peas accurately enough to give them a solid jump. Peas are tough yet I’ve never planted them this early.  We’ve planted winter peas in September and had decent wintering-over results, but spring peas are a bit more delicate. I missed the fall planting, and therefore I’m anxious to get the spring peas in as early as possible, so that they may put on early growth and we can get a similar amount of nitrogen fixing and biomass from them as we might from winter peas.

Another reason for an early planting is that I can double up the cover cropping on these grain fields. If I take down the peas in late June/early July I can follow that crop with a warm season cover of buckwheat and thus, give the soil a double hit of goodies.  Our soils deserve this. They’ve been working hard for us and giving us some good crops of grain these past years.  Thank you!  Time to rejuvenate. Or dare I say, Regenerate!  

As to the follow up on my hope for Peace: Not so good.  Horrible, actually.  So sad in this day and age that certain cultures need to fall back into history and take the bad from it. Ukraine has some of the loveliest, richest soils in the world.  Oddly, even healthier before the fall of communism back in 1991.  Ukraine had large community run “state” farms wherein an entire village lived around these farms – sometimes 15,000 acres – and all tended the soils.  The community planted long crop rotations of ten years or more, and over time built the biology in these organic soils to higher and higher levels every year.  These farmers were truly farming “Regeneratively” before it was even the buzz.  In twisted irony, once the communist “curtain” fell, so did the market for these farms as these government farms were no longer such.  And with little if any preparation for a “free market” and what it looked like, many of these vast farms fell dormant.  

What is worse, as a consequence when many of these acres were idled as families left for the urban interface and to find new jobs, not so surprisingly in swooped large Agricultural enterprises from North America and  Europe. These companies begin treating these fine soils far, far differently and more to their own benefit. Now, with the battle and apparent want of some Russian individuals to reinstate communism full bore,  things are far worse.

Food security is an age-old security. One that most often is fought for. Still. Sad as it is, in this way war gets people thinking about their food security as prices rise etc etc. Yes, this thought of questioning food security has affected us even at tiny Bluebird Grains where we’ve been very busy filling direct orders to those who want to make sure they have a solid supply of good grains and flour.  For this, we are grateful and happy and always glad to help. However, this comes at the expense of so much suffering in Ukraine, and so this is not the way we ideally gain in the marketplace.  This also is why we will not increase our pricing beyond previously scheduled increases during this time. We operated the same way during the pandemic.  In this fashion, we are not affected by the greater commodities markets beyond it simply costing us a bit more to operate. In the big picture, taking advantage of a dire situation always pays short dividends.

We feel grateful to be able to operate on our own model and we wouldn’t be able to do so without you great customers. Thank you.

At present, our inventory is solid enough to protect our existing customers, with minimal growth allowances. Farming and customer relations are all about consistency.  We are grateful for our farming relationships and, of course, our customer relations.  And as we continue to crank away in what will soon be our “old facility, ”  we look forward to building new relationships as we transition to our new digs.  Stay tuned.  

And… hope for PEACE.

Yours, Farmer Sam