Seasonal farming in Maine with N44° Farmstead
with Karen of North44º Farmstead
Can you share with us a little about your journey?
I'm Karen Neves, owner and operator of North44º Farmstead in Canaan. My husband and I defected from Providence, RI in 2013 after deciding the city grind no longer served us. We love Maine and Mainers and feel so grateful to have been welcomed by our community with open arms. Working hard to feed you has been more fulfilling than anything we could have dreamt up when we packed up our lives and hit the road that day nine years ago. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you!
What is your go-to lunch to make at home?
Fav lunches are seasonal! I love to graze out in the field during the farm season. I'll typically take a quart container out and stuff it full of whatever's in season. Cherry tomatoes, husk cherries, sugar snap and snow peas, and green beans are a few of my favorite things to munch on raw. In the winter, I love a good charcuterie board for lunch. Crackers and sharp cheddar cheese, salami and jerky, nuts and avocado slices. YUM.
What kind of music have you been listening to lately?
I'm musically all over the place, but most recently I'm all about the new Dinosaur Jr. album!
What's up with the plants
How do you determine what crops to plant?
We've spent a good number of years nailing down exactly what we plant. Trial and error has been a driving factor here. If a crop or specific variety grows poorly here, we are unlikely to try it again. Other things we've taken into account are demand (what sells best?), space constraints (can we fit this in somewhere?), and of course our own preferences (what do WE need to put up for winter?).
Have you saved seeds from a previous season?
Garlic and potato seed aside, which we've been growing and saving for many years, we don't typically save seeds. Only those which we are certain did not cross pollinate, which are mostly specialty flowers and herbs.
Are catalogs inspiring?
I love looking through catalogs and occasionally will branch out on a new idea/variety.. but on the whole, I stick with what I know grows well here and what I'm sure my customers want.
Please share the steps that you are taking this month for seeds and seedlings.
We have a nursery license and grow seedlings here on the farm, both for us and for sale. Being a certified organic farm dictates that we use organic seed (mostly from Johnny's and Fedco), and organic seed starting media (Fort Vee from Vermont Compost).
Do you prune your trees, bushes and shrubs (fruit)?
We prune our orchard back hard every other season, with an "essentials only" pruning in the seasons in between (dead, diseased, damaged, & excessive water spouts).
Dig Deep into Soil
What is the texture of your soil? Sandy, rocky, thick and more like clay?
Here in Canaan our soil type is called glacial silt. There's a good 8" deposit of it on top before you start to reach the heavier clay soil.
Do you rotate animals on your land?
We raise poultry here and use them to manage the orchards. They keep the grasses and weeds down, eat the bugs, enjoy the drops, and fertilize the trees. We rotate their pastures on an as needed basis. Coop cleanings get tossed into the gardens in the winter wherever nitrogen has tested low.
Do you use compost?
We have used compost in the past, but mainly stick to manure and more specific soil amendments.
How do you organize the garden beds from Winter to Spring on your farm?
Our gardens are planted by family and on a three year rotation. For example, plot #4 grew the 2021 garlic, so no allium family plants now in plot #4 until 2025.
Would there be any reason to test your soils for elements? Such as nitrogen, phosphorus abundances or depletions? What would those reasons be?
Soil testing is extremely important in farming. We test every other season to ensure we are giving the soil what it needs, and more importantly, not giving it anything it doesn't need.
How are you preparing for unexpected changes in temperature during the sowing & harvesting periods?
We watch the weather closely, but mother nature always seems to have her own ideas. Hot and dry conditions dictate that we drip irrigate and not risk bolt-happy crops like lettuce and spinach. Colder and wetter conditions require frequent cultivation and row covers.
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