Friday is my day to work with Farmer Kate near Iowa City.
I made 30,288 soil blocks for plants at Wild Woods Farm this season. Add in additional work at Sundog Farm and my total production was 59,688 soil blocks since Feb. 25. That’s a lot of vegetable seedlings.
We’re planting lettuce, squash, cucumbers and zucchini which indicates we are more than halfway through spring production. Last year I finished at both farms on June 25 to get ready for the apple season beginning in August.
Soil blocking is specialized. I use unique tools and soil to make the 72 and 120 block trays. This is my sixth year and I’ve incorporated soil blocked seedlings into our kitchen garden. Better propagation through this process makes a difference. Soil blocked seedlings are a part of growing better plants which produce great tasting vegetables. With retirement, healthy seedlings combined with additional weeding and better cultivation should result in higher yields. Importantly, it is all about freshness and flavor.
I receive fair compensation for my farm work. Over a few years we arranged a part barter – part cash settlement that works out for both parties. Each season has been a little different. This year I exchange labor for standard CSA shares in the spring and fall, then secure crates of tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and onions for preservation and storage. If my labor is more than that, I get a cash settlement. It is probably unnecessary to place a monetary value on these arrangements. Vegetable shares supplement our kitchen garden which produces much of what we need along with some specialty crops not grown on the farms. In turn, sourcing some crops from the farms reduces work in my garden. The arrangement is part of an ecology of food our household developed over time.
Over the course of spring, soil blocking at the farms has become part of our culture. I intend to continue as long as I can and the farmers are willing.