Farming in the Winter

January 18, 2022

Ask any teacher, and they will tell you that some of their most important work happens in the summer, when students aren’t around. Farming, as it turns out, is much the same in the winter. If you were to visit a farm today, it certainly wouldn’t be the hive of activity that it is in the summer, but there would be plenty of critical work being done nonetheless. 

As outdoor crop growing and harvesting begins to wrap up, farmers must start preparing their farm for the winter and the growing season to come. This might include adding soil amendments (for example, compost, lime, or manure) to the soil, and ensuring that the soil is protected over the winter months via cover crop.

Another critical step to winter farming is planning for the year ahead. Many of our partner farms practice rotational farming, meaning they rotate crops from year to year or season to season, with the intent of maintaining or improving soil integrity through the nutrients that specific crops add or remove from the soil. The business side of farming also takes priority – farmers must look at their crop yields and sales from the previous year, and anticipate demand the upcoming year to determine what to grow and how much of it. This can look like a winter with a messy table full of seasonal logs, sales charts, books, and a laptop.

Last but not least, just like summer school creates a limited demand for actual teaching over the summer, growing itself doesn’t stop. Thanks to season extension options such as hydroponics, high tunnels, and greenhouses, many farms keep production going year-round, albeit at a lower level. For example, winter greens grown in an unheated high tunnel, or greenhouse-grown hydroponic tomatoes can keep a farmer busy through the colder months.

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