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Notes from Katchkie Farm: Closing 2022 and Looking Forward to 2023

2022 KATCHKIE FARM IN REVIEW

By Jon Ronsani

Katchkie Farm is Great Performances’ NOFA-certified organic farm located in upstate New York. A source of ingredients and inspiration, it is managed by Jon Ronsani who lives on the farm with his wife Jen and three children. Each year, Katchkie Farm offers a CSA available at select Great Performances locations for community pickup and at participating workplaces. To learn more and find out how to participate in the CSA, visit our farm site by clicking the link here.

The farm fields are covered in snow as the earth beneath lies in its deep winter slumber. Walking across them, following deer tracks with my children, one would never know the visible vitality that the earth held many months ago. This seems like a different farm from the ever fruitful one that bore so much in the summer sun. Now the farmers breathe deeply in the frosty air and take a moment to enjoy the sparkling of the snow and their children’s laughter.

Wintertime is upon the farm, and it is the time the course is mapped for the next season. However, before the course onward is charted, the course already traversed must be weighed in upon. The metrics are garnered through all of our weekly harvest records and compared to those that were anticipated before planting. Some crops were on target, some were below, and others exceeded expectations. One of those crops that did not exceed expectation was also one my favorite stories of the growing season. This year was the first time we have attempted to grow popcorn during my tenure on the farm. The first attempt at growing any crop is usually more of a learning experience than anything else. This was no exception. The variety “Dakota Black” was chosen for its superior eating quality as well as its open pollinated nature, which would allow us to save seed if it was a good fit for the farm. Much care was taken into preparing the soil for planting and tending the crop to reach its full potential. My two sons even got involved in pulling weeds under the tree like canopy that the leaves developed by mid-summer. Once we got close to harvest time, every critter within walking distance decided to make a visit to the farm. Foxes would stop by and pull whole ears off the stalks and take them back to their den for their winter store of food. Grey squirrels and red squirrels were dragging ears back to their trees to shell and store the kernels away safe and sound. Crows would stop by to perch on the corn stalks and peck kernel after kernel off of the ears. All in all, we harvested an armful or two of ears, but the fact that so much diversity abounds on the farm is another way for us to tell we are not producing our crops at the expense of nature.

Our two most outstanding crops this year were our field tomatoes and sweet potatoes. The prior year brought endless summer rains that hampered the development of these crops substantially, but with all the heat and irrigation available this year, we had bumper crops. There were days in August that were solely dedicated picking tomatoes. Crate after crate would be filled in the warm summer sun, staining our hands and shirts greenish black from the sap of the plants. This was everything that was hoped for and even more. The sweet potato crop shared equal success. Little by little the plants grew and made a vibrant green carpet of leaves catching all of the warmth of summer, bringing it down into the earth to produce the vibrantly colored roots. Crate after crate was filled with them and stored, until our cooler could hold no more sweet potatoes.

The course for the 2023 growing season is slowly coming together. Finding a balance between what is wanted, what grows well, what is profitable, and what will contribute to the health of the farm is the puzzle that must be put together every year. Finding a hibiscus that will flower in Upstate NY, planting more chicory, cauliflower, broccoli, and herbs would be wonderful pieces to add. 2023 will also bring my wife Jen into the fields and greenhouses to add a flower element to the farm. With all of the potential, I look forward to embarking on the journey ahead.