Farm preserves.

This week’s CSA newsletter is posted online here.  Just in case you don’t quite have a chance to get to it, here are the good bits:

On Monday, last week, the Spearfish City Council voted to annex the area east of Evans Lane. This is a stepping stone toward annexing a larger area of the valley (including Cycle Farm). While many residents of the valley are opposed to annexation due to obvious tax reasons and increased infrastructure and maintenance costs, we feel that there is a larger concern.

According to the annexation study and our City Administrator, the valley’s remaining open space and agricultural land is “underutilized land”. Land in the County has a minimum lot size of 2 acres per residence. Under City zoning, the potential number of houses per acre increases dramatically. This means the land that is currently agricultural or open space will become much more valuable as potential housing developments.

Access to land is one of the biggest hurdles facing new farmers today. Having substantial increases over the already high price of land makes it that much harder to get started – or continue – in farming. We understand the City has offered to grandfather-in certain ag-related elements and operations. This is great for those of us using the land for ag purposes right now, but it removes this possibility on parcels of land not currently utilizing them. This limits options available for beginning farmers as well as homeowners looking to become more self-sufficient. Spearfish Valley is one of the best spots for growing vegetables in Western South Dakota. Sacrificing this resource is not a sound option for the long term resiliency of this community and is in direct discord with our agricultural heritage. There is currently a petition in circulation to get Council’s decision brought to a city-wide vote. We urge you to find and sign this petition, and get your friends to sign too.  Even more importantly, please vote against annexation in November…at least until the City has better plans in place for the long term preservation of agricultural lands.

While on the topic of agricultural heritage. Spearfish Valley was historically an orchard growing valley. Apple tree saplings were first brought to the valley in 1878, first harvest in 1881.  Agriculture in the valley began as a means to supply fresh fruits and vegetables to the northern hills mining communities. By the 1920’s the valley’s produce market stretched all over the place: from western North Dakota, eastern Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota and Nebraska. And now there are a few relic fruit trees scattered about the valley and in town. Our plan for next year is to put in more fruit trees on the farm. Nuts too. Revitalize orchard production in the valley.

We borrowed a gorgeous cider press to help process the crab apples we’ve collected from the front two trees. One tree was blown down before the apples had ripened. (It was devastating: it was a huge tree, the branches were so full of fruit, but the trunk insides were all rotted out. We let the whole thing lay there for so long, the fruit ripened up just fine on the down tree.. suppose now it’s time to clean up).  We pressed the apples and strained the juice to ferment, with their own wild yeasts, into cider. We gave the pomace (apple mash) to the birds.

We’ve slowly been putting things up. Not as much as anticipated. Time is a big factor in this. Filling CSA shares also plays a part. Once the weekly shares are full, and things haven’t sold at market, and we have time – then it’s put up. It’s hard to get all those stars aligned though. Hopefully we’ll have a better hold on time and quantity next year.

And on a very different note. There’s an incredible diversity of insects we are getting to know these days. Lots of good healthy predators. Striped garden spiders all throughout the tomato plants. A praying mantis playing jungle-gym on the bike trailer. And two lady bugs on the corn smut. We’re getting to know them. They’re getting to know each other. Summertime. It’s wonderful.

9 thoughts on “Farm preserves.

  1. Great post, Jenkins. HERE HERE to farming in Spearfish Valley! And we have a praying mantis guarding our humming bird feeder from the periodic ant invasion. He is very well fed….

  2. What an important post — so well-written, full of thought, outstanding recap of the importance of the preservation of agricultural land for both ecology and beginning farmers. Let us know what happens in the coming days regarding annexation in Spearfish Valley. (As a side note, I’m really excited to take a look at the Black Hills Historian link. How did you guys dig that up??)

    1. Regina!! We’re missing you lots, channeling Regina-vibes everyday. I wish you would grab your superhero cape and get up here – QUICK!
      Good luck with your wonderful new job. Keep making this world a better place and helping new farmers. We need all the help we can get.
      Lovelovelove, from cycle farm, Radish too

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