Hello Friends and Neighbors,
Here we are in the first days of September and as I sit down to write this, I realized how long it has been since the last newsletter.
These last several months have been full of new opportunities and challenges that have expanded my work as a grower, taking me into farming for retail production. [I can now install long rows of drip tape, direct seed with a seed wheel 100+ foot lines, drive a tractor, kind of].
Taking stock grown here in the nursery, a 1 acre field on the campus of the University of Redlands SURF garden was planted this May/June. In addition, using plugs grown exclusively for Unity Farm in Cherry Valley, summer has been filled with growing over 5 acres of warm season organic vegetables & herbs; from seed to grocery store shelf - and beyond.
May I say summertime in the field is NOT fun. In the 1 acre Redlands plot, the rows of heirloom tomatoes I had high hopes for was a complete disappointment as was the watermelon patch that the birds enjoyed more than anyone else. Hot peppers, Ogen melon, Egyptian spinach have done the best but the volume needed to be worthwhile simply was not there [erratic water lead to pest and disease]. Donating produce from this field on three separate occasions to Family Services was simply the best. Nothing like knowing kids and grownups alike were enjoying locally grown watermelons on a hot miserable day. Hopefully they spit the seeds!
The silver lining to this multi-month adventure/learning curve/dark night of the soul is that I have learned how to grow in a larger scale, learned about building relationships with retail partners and seen first hand the beauty and challenges of the organic growing of not only nursery stock but produce and cut floral.
All of this has lead to:
Rolling Hills applying for and receiving national USDA Organic Certification. July.
Our expansion to include organic cut flowers NOW available at Clark's Nutrition & Natural Foods Markets [Loma Linda & Chino]
Our leaving the Redlands Saturday Morning Farmers Market to focus time and energy on the expansion of cut flower growing
Scaling back considerably production of artisan products [look for product mainly around the winter holidays].