07 April 2011

Sun Gold Farm Springs to Life

Sun Gold Farm at the Market

Spring is the season of growth and renewal, a cycle that is even more apparent out in the fields.  Vicki Hertel of Sun Gold Farm shares a vivid account of life on the farm below:

Greenhouse at Sun Gold Farm

An amazing transformation takes place on Sun Gold Farm this time of the year.  Just three weeks ago the cover crops were short and dormant.  Small field pea leaves barely showed between the six inch tall rye.  The cover crop had successfully performed its winter duty of stabilizing the soil throughout the seasonal rains, but were not yet showing the spring growth that, when tilled under, will add the plant matter and nutrients that healthy soils crave.

Carrots growing in the greenhouse

In an adjoining field the mighty rhubarb was still sleeping peacefully – resting up for a huge growth spurt at the first sign of warmer temperatures.  The strawberry fields were still wearing their customary winter red and the blueberry patch was just sticks – beautiful reddish orange sticks – but still sticks.  The fruit trees still bare of leaves, were standing like ghostly sentinels row after row.  The greenhosues were still being used as winter storage units for trailers, irrigation equipment, and the grandkid’s sandbox and basketball hoop.  And the farmers were in the office making plans and in the shop repairing last year’s breakdowns, with a healthy game of cards or an occasional road trip thrown in for entertainment.  Basically, the entire farm was still dormant.

Vicki planting cabbage

What a difference a few weeks makes during the month of March!  Almost simultaneously, giant rhubarb leaves burst from the ground and strawberries begin to turn a brilliant green with new leaves.  Buds are covering the blueberry bushes and some of the fruit trees are already in bloom.  Cover crop pea vines are growing with a promise of necessary nitrogen for future crops.  But,the biggest change this time of year is in the greenhouses.  In our new germination room, thousands of pepper, tomato, and eggplant seedlings are rapidly growing on heated tables.  Basil, cucumbers, celery, and flowers for cutting are not far behind.  Equipment and toys have been moved outside and the first tomato and pepper seedlings have been transplanted into the cooler greenhouses.  Within weeks all of the greenhouses will be filled from end to end with plants for sale and many more for our fields.

Baby pea plants

This is a busy and exciting time on our farm.  After months of short days and cold temperatures, we are ready to start a new growing year with all the high hopes and expectations that farmers everywhere have after enduring their dormant season.  No more time for card games or road trips now.  While a couple of us will tend to the greenhouses for the coming weeks, the others will be preparing fields for planting peas, favas, potatoes, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, raab, beets, and carrots.  Even the grandchildren will be moving their toys from their indoor sand box to wherever the dirt is the softest in the field.  The entire farm has broken dormancy and is ready to get back to work!

Sun Gold Farm is owned and operated by fifth-generation farmers Vicki and Charlie Hertel, along with their son Chris. The Hertel family currently farms 120 acres in the fertile Tualatin Valley, near Forest Grove.  You can find them selling their pesticide-free fruits, vegetables and plant starts at our PSU, King and Shemanski Park Markets and can also sign up for their CSA Harvest Box which includes optional honey and greenhouse shares.