Saturday, June 5, 2021 was the opening day for the Grant County Farmer’s Market. We were there to begin our fifth Farmer’s Market season. The skies were bright and sunny as the first customers began to circulate among the farm stands just after 7:30 AM. Many of our former patrons and friends visited us—some of whom we didn’t get to visit with last season. We probably saw more of our regular customers today than we did all last season! Now that all the Coronavirus mandates have expired, the vast majority of the customer crowd felt safe to shop and converse with the participating farmers. It was encouraging to see our market activity return to normal. We shared stories of our new goat kids, the resumption of our milking operation, and our hopes for the new market season. It was wonderful to hear how our friends are doing and to catch up on all their recent exploits. The festive atmosphere of the day was best reflected by the enthusiasm of young girl, who is an avid reader, to read our farm book with all its pictures of farm life and to eventually visit our farm to play with our baby goats. She and her family recent moved to Petersburg from Martinsburg, roughly 100 miles away.
We began the day in the Farmer’s Market booth that we helped restore and repaint at the end of the 2020 season. While we only had some fresh radishes and sweet peas from our vegetable garden to sell, sales of our baked goods (banana bread and chocolate chip cookies), goat milk soap, quilt products and books were brisk, helping us achieve record opening-day proceeds. Most of our market colleagues also had little produce to sell, but it was reassuring to see so many of them attend opening day and to share our mutual enthusiasm and hopes for the season. From what we were told, virtually all market sellers did well. It was a very promising beginning for the 2021 Farmer’s Market season which we all eagerly anticipated.
Our Peeper Pond Farm vegetable garden appears to be doing very well, despite the limited rainfall we have received this spring. We have watered our garden regularly to keep our emerging plants healthy, and we hope to expand our produce inventory soon. All of our vegetables have sprouted and are showing strong growth, especially our peas, yellow onions, potatoes, sweet corn, and beans, but it is still too early to harvest them. Our radishes were a new crop for this season. We planted them early in the spring so that we might have some additional produce to sell with our peas, but many of the seeds we planted never germinated, and those that did remained in the ground too long and grew very large before we were able to harvest them for opening day. We are hopeful that we may be able to pull some yellow onions to supplement our produce inventory sometime in the next two weeks. The weather is forecast to turn hot and humid in the coming days, which might deliver some much needed some afternoon and evening showers and thunderstorms. We are prepared to continue watering the garden if they don’t materialize.
Each season, we have experimented with some different garden management approaches to improve production. This year, we laid out some black plastic to cover our tomato patch. Our tomatoes simply didn’t produce well during the prior two seasons. Although our plants did bear fruit late in the season, they didn’t ripen and turn red as they should. Tomatoes desire good sun exposure and warm temperatures to thrive, and we are concerned that the late onset of hot and sunny weather during the last two seasons may have retarded their growth and maturity. As a result, we decided to lay black plastic over our tomato patch to help warm the soil, help retain soil moisture, minimize occasional competition for water and nutrients from weeds, and help protect the lowest-hanging fruit from mold that may result from prolonged soil contact as we wait for the tomatoes to mature. We have always installed tomato cages around our plants, but we hope the addition of the black plastic will offer a little more protection for our fruit. We will continue to apply fish emulsion to fertilize the plants, as we seek to find practical, low-impact strategies to promote healthy growth of our plants.
At least our farm cat, Calli, is enjoying our garden. She likes to play among the vegetable rows when we work in the garden and hunt all the bunnies who are irresistibly drawn to the emerging plants. Not only does our garden provide her with a good early morning hunting ground, it also serves as her 4,500 square foot outdoor cat box. She so enjoys digging her potty holes in the loose soil that you can watch the spray of dirt she generates as she digs and adjusts her latrine to suit her exacting needs. We hope all our loyal patrons and fans will get out and enjoy the inspirational joy of summer and celebrate the renewal of life that abounds. There is no better way I know to truly relish and appreciate nature and the great outdoors that nourish our spirit and fuels our hope. We encourage you to come visit our farm and meet our new goats.