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What Goes into a Farm Crop Plan?

When you pick up a bundle of our kale at the farmers market, your decision is a culmination of months of work and planning on our farms—planning that begins in late winter, when our farmers decide how much to grow based on where it goes and what to plant based on what people will like.

On the Baker Bridge Farm in Lincoln, it’s time for Head Grower Tim Laird and Field Manager Alex Pogany to draw up field plans.

The Baker Bridge Farm crew. Tim (far left) and Alex (third from left).
The Baker Bridge Farm crew. Tim (far left) and Alex (third from left).

They start with three big questions. The first: How well can we be stewards of the land? Alex and Tim start by focusing on how much land we can afford to leave uncultivated so we can allow for a healthy rotation cycle that does not tax the soil’s nutrients.

Sustainability is key to our mission, as we strive to create a model food system that demonstrates respect and love for both land and people. This year, we are leaving about 30 percent of Baker Bridge uncultivated, with the aim of increasing this number to 50 percent next year.

“If you were a for-profit farm and didn’t care about the environment, you would plant all of the land,” Alex said. With our focus on sustainability, we are planting only 17 of our 31 acres this year.

Next, Alex and Tim turn their attention to how and where our produce is distributed. The Baker Bridge Farm primarily serves up CSA shares, with on-farm pickups and distribution sites throughout the Metro Boston area that include the Farm to Family CSAs, our innovative program that makes subsidized shares available to low-income families at HeadStart centers in Boston. In total, the farm produces close to 400 shares every season.

In addition, CSAs alow for fun and experimentation. “What actually gets planted depends a lot on popularity of certain vegetables and trends of the time,” Alex said. “It starts with what people love to eat and then you can start adding weird things.”

Among the weird things—escarole, radicchio, and celeriac. “Eighty percent of our CSA members don’t take the weird vegetable but the people who love it really love it,” he said.

Other vegetables, like celery, cauliflower, and sweet corn, aren’t grown for other reasons. Sweet corn requires more acreage to grow enough for our CSA members than is available to us. Celery and cauliflower are exceptionally hard to grow organically in this climate. 

Still, even with all of the careful planning, Mother Nature often intervenes. Some crops boom, while others come in with half of its expected yield. “The CSA customer weathers that with us,” Alex said. Last season, for instance, potatoes fell short while beets, cabbage, and parsnips turned in great yields. 

By the time the first inklings of spring arrive, the field plans have been completed and our farmers are busy planting seedlings in the greenhouses. By June, the first harvest will be ready for our CSA members, who come to Baker Bridge once a week to weigh out their vegetables, pick a bouquet of flowers, and bring home bundles of produce, enough for the whole family. 

Think a weekly share of produce from the Baker Bridge Farm sounds delicious? Sign up for our summer CSA share.

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