Spring is well underway at the Mississippi NCAT Demonstration Farm! New to our operation this year is a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. This is basically a subscription program: Customers sign up for a weekly veggie box delivery, lasting 12-weeks. Sam Humphrey, farm manager, has delivered this to customers for four weeks so far, and the produce looks beautiful! A variety of greens such as kale, collards, chard, and spinach, as well as turnips, radishes, and in the most recent box broccoli, cilantro, and sugar snap peas.
It has been a whirlwind getting to this point—preparing the soil, building incubation chambers and starting the seedlings, up-potting transplants as they outgrow their trays. We did have some difficulties early on as we got our production systems up and running. For example, we learned that the water available for irrigation has a high pH, meaning that every time Sam watered his plant starts, he was increasing the soil pH above what the plants prefer. We are still working on resolving that unexpected issue. And of course, just to make things exciting the weather threw us some curveballs—wild temperature swings and super-intense rainfall events set back some of our crops. But we persevered, and when the warm weather hit things took off.
We’ve had some help from students at The Piney Woods School, who helped with a variety of farm tasks. They got to learn about starting transplants and seeded almost 60 flats with squash, flowers, and other veggies. They also helped get some starts planted out in the field that will be in CSA boxes this summer, including summer squash, melons, tomatoes, and peppers. This week, Sam has been focused on getting tomato plants in the ground, and to date he has planted approximately 250 plants in the field and hoop house. And that’s only about half of the tomatoes he’s planning to grow this season!
We love sharing recipes with our CSA customers along with their veggies, such as this fun fact: did you know you can eat both turnip greens and radish greens, too? Cook them as you would any other green. One easy way is to sauté them with a little oil and a dash of salt until they are tender. And if you don’t like how spicy radishes are raw, you can roast them in the oven, tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper, and they sweeten up deliciously!
At the demonstration farm, we don’t like to let anything go to waste. We had a bumper crop of bok choi, more than our CSA could handle. We coordinated with a group of volunteers from the Society of St. Andrew who came out to glean the excess bok choi (almost 520 lbs!) that we grew but weren’t able to find an immediate market for. We are grateful we could partner with them to get the food harvested and distributed to those who needed it.
Follow NCAT Gulf States on Facebook, or on Instagram at @NCAT_Demonstration_FarmMS or @NCAT_org to see how our season progresses!