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Farming by Hand
Organic Roots - Gwenyn Hill Farm - Waukesha, WI

Farming by Hand

By Laurel Blomquist | A couple of weeks ago, I discussed several of the machines we use at planting time to help us do our work. We certainly get a lot more done with these machines, as they work much faster than we could by hand. The truth is, though, that most of our work is in fact, done by hand.

Greenhouse Planting: With relatively small amounts of many varieties of vegetables it can be more practical to plant the seeds by hand rather than use a mechanical seeder. Starting in March, I hand seeded 80 flats of onions, approximately 35,900 onion seeds, by hand.

Tree Planting: Sure, that industrial-sized auger really helped us dig holes faster, but first a team measured the entire hillside by hand, carefully placing flags where each tree would eventually stand, making sure that the lines of flags were straight in both directions. Then the tree planting itself was done by hand. Around 500 fruit trees and berries were planted in this way.

On-Soil Transplanting: We planted thousands of flowers, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, salad mix, celeriac, fennel, winter squash, leeks, parsley, potatoes, collards, and rhubarb by hand when soil conditions didn’t allow use of our transplanters.

Weeding: We have a couple of tractor-driven cultivators, but the majority of the weeding so far has been done using small hand tools. We use wheel hoes, stirrup hoes, and hand hoes to get the job done.

Harvesting: Once the season begins, nearly all of the harvest work is done by hand. That means carefully selecting the best produce, at a time when it’s ripe and delicious, and using a knife or other tool to cut it off the plant, or dig it up out of the ground. Every bite of food you eat from Gwenyn Hill Farm will be chosen by hand by the harvest crew.

Washing / Packing: After the food is harvested, it goes into cold storage. Before it is presented at CSA pick up or the Farmer’s Market, it is washed of surface soil. There are some machines help wash the larger, more durable root vegetables, but most of the produce is washed by hand.

Displaying: our CSA and Farmers Market displays will be laid out by hand each week, giving a unique feel to each pick up. For the CSA, the idea is to start with the heavier items and end with the lighter items. This is so our CSA members (who are filling their bags by hand) will have a balanced bag without crushing the more delicate items. And of course the Farmers Market display will be designed with the beauty of the bounty of the harvest in mind.

Small-scale produce farming is often done with this amount of attention to detail. That’s why we are fortunate to have such an experienced crew–they make sure your food is carefully handled, from start to finish.

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