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Journal

Herbal CSA

The Earth may be sleeping right now and cold, grey skies are the rule. But underground, in our bee colonies, in bear dens, in darkness, the slightest change is happening. That energy will gather and spread as the days get warmer and longer. Before long, we’ll wonder where the cozy, winter hibernating time has gone.

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The Seasons here, in the Northern Hemisphere, guide so much of what we do, wear, eat and feel. It is my intention to bring the healing power of herbs into more people’s lives by using the seasons as a guide. My herbal CSA is a community supported agricultural endeavor. Members of my herbal CSA will receive 4 months of herbal products around the time of the Equinoxes and Solstices. The offerings will be tailored to each season and include specially made elixirs, tinctures, soaps, bath salts, and so much more. This is a chance for me to share helpful information about specific herbs. Information about how to use these herbs, how I’ve used them and benefitted from them and their individual stories, as I know them. A CSA also provides the farmer, myself, much needed capital to fund the great Spring Work: planting. All of the supplies are necessary in a short time, including seeds, soil, trays, fertilizer, hand tools, netting, t-posts, etc. The CSA model is a beautiful way to support a farmer while receiving the bounty from their farm at the peak of it’s freshness! Win-win situation.

I’m so excited about this project and will have so much to share with anyone who joins the herbal CSA. It’s been fun to decide what items I’ll include and has definitely sent me into full-blown garden planning mode! You can read more about the herbal CSA and get the nitty gritty HERE.

I hope you’ll join me as the seasons change this year! Thank you for reading,

Joan

Joan Jach
Weather, seasons and farmers market

It's Go Time!!

Finally. The temperatures are warmer and the Earth is starting to really wake up! Some folks may think that talking about the weather is small talk, that it doesn't really mean anything. But to farmers, the weather is do or die, it's a crucial part of their short and long term plans. I'll be writing about weather, climate and weather related stories on a regular basis here. If you have a weather/climate related question, shoot me an email!  Now, back to this thing called Spring. It was bound to happen, despite the bleak beginning to April and all of the cool temps and cloudy skies.  The Earth can't help but warm up at this time of year!  When I taught meteorology I would give my students a pre-test that included the question "Why do we have seasons?". The answers usually included the following: 1) I have no idea. 2)In summer the Earth is closest to the Sun and in winter the Earth is farther from the Sun. 3) Because of the tilt of Earth's axis. Do you know the answer? In the next newsletter I'll write about this more but I encourage you to take note about where the Sun rises and sets. Choose a stationary landmark (a tree, your neighbors satellite dish, etc.) and make a mental note of the Sun's rise/set as compared to that landmark.  Over a week or two, you will see a change.  This change is related to the seasons!! 

Farmers Market

This will be my 4th year at the Champaign Farmers Market in downtown Champaign.  I'm so excited to see all of the other farmers and vendors again after a long winter! I've participated in a farmers market since 2010 and have learn a lot over the years (always bring snacks).  The best thing about doing a regular market is talking about gardening, flowers, food, bees and life with my customers! This year Market starts on Tuesday 15 May, 3:30-6:30pm next week!! See you there! 
For more information see the market home page HERE.

Upcoming events

Flower Watercolor Class--at Hopscotch Bakery--Friday June 1, 5:30-7:30--This is going to be a fun class with farm fresh flowers for inspiration! $30 All supplies included and you get to take home a finished painting. More information and registration HERE.

Kids Summer Camps at Old Town Flowers--Outdoor camps that will inspire any child's imagination!  Information on the Flower Camp and the Plants + Potions Camp HERE.

If you have an event you'd like me to list, let me know!      oldtownflowerscu@gmail.com

Joan Jach
April Fool's Snowstorm, Women Farmers and Local Events

April Fool's Snowstorm

As a farmer I'm super interested in the weather and climate where I grow my flowers: Central IL. Technically speaking Champaign-Urbana is in USDA plant hardiness zone 5b (click HERE for more info on USDA zones and find yours!). We moved here from Ames, IA, (zone 5a) and, even though we are just one zone warmer, the growing season here is at least a month longer!  So the April snow we got was a surprising start to the month.  Easter snowstorms have occurred in the past, but the cold temperatures on April 2nd were unusually cold even for us.  Check out the statistics from NOAA HERE and scroll to the bottom of the page for Easter records. Mother Nature never fails to surprise and I find the opportunity to organize, plan and write while we wait for Spring! As for the long term forecast, it looks to be wetter than normal out to June and cooler than normal for the next month.  

Seed Starting Tips

I'd love to share some of my tips with you! No matter what type of seed you are starting (veggie, flower, herb, etc.) you need to find out what conditions are necessary for germination. If a seed needs warmth, put a heating pad on low under the tray or, better yet, buy a seedling heat mat, which puts out the right amount of heat for a whole tray. Once the seeds germinate, get them under the lights! Consistent light, 1-2 inches above the sprouted seed is needed for about 14-18 hours per day. Installing a timer on the lights is helpful. Check out the tips to the right and have fun!

TIPS
*See this list of helpful articles on seed starting.
*use fresh seed; old seed isn't as reliable for germination.
*use sterile seed starting mix, not soil from your garden.
*start seeds according to your last frost date
*harden your seedling off before putting them in the ground
*protect tender seedlings with coffee cans, milk jugs or juice containers cut in half
*keep a record of which seeds you started and when
*save your seeds for next year!

Women and Minorities: Farming, STEM and beyond

The number of women farmers tripled from 1978-2007 according to a study done by the USDA. Before 1978 gender information about farmers was not collected by the USDA. These numbers, and the others in the study, are encouraging but women operators still only account for 14% (in 2012) of farms in the US.  Blackhispanicasianamerican indian and women account for about 20% of principal farm operators in the US. The links for each group lead to a fact sheet about what each group grows and where they farm (info is change from 2007-2012).  I think these statistics reflect the current socially accepted, and acceptable, roles in our country for these groups. A look at STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) will show the same trend in statistics. One of my goals as a farmer and a teacher is to encourage diversity in farming and STEM, as well as bring awareness and education about inequalities in our society in general. Always learning and growing, I look forward to exploring more about gender, race, equality and privilege as related to farming in this space. Comments or questions? Email me at oldtownflowerscu@gmail.com

Life with Plants

I'm planning a series of classes about herbs this summer for those who are interested in plants and how we can include them in our life through diet, medicine, spiritual practice and gardening. Stay tuned for more info! For now, you can check out my online Apothecary for some of the products I make with local herbs and beeswax from our farm. 
Old Town Flowers online Apothecary

Upcoming events

The Boneyard Arts Festival is coming up! Many events in C-U and surrounding areas from April 12-15th.  More info HERE on FB and HERE.

Food Evolution Screening (narrated by Neil de Grasse Tyson) --- Boardman Art Theater, Sunday April 8th, 1-4:30pm. Presented by Champaign County Farm Bureau. FREE! Reserve a spot HERE. Following the screening will be a panel discussion (with Q & A) consisting of area farmers, scientist and nutritionist.

If you have an event you'd like me to list, let me know!      oldtownflowerscu@gmail.com

Joan Jach
Marching into Spring
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Flowers take time.

Welcome to meteorological Spring!  The temperature swings and longer days have a lot of us itching for the green leaves and heady abundance of Summer (I know I am!). But, flowers take time.  Weeks of planning and preparation go into the timing of when to plant, transplant and harvest a flower crop.  It takes a few months (or more) for some flowers to make it into a market bouquet. This is why, in the cold, dark days of January, I start sowing seeds and don't stop until August! 

This notion of taking the time to nurture a seed into a beautiful, locally grown flower is part of the Slow Flower movement (based on the concepts of the Slow Food movement).  Slow. It means "moving, flowing, or proceeding without speed or at less than usual speed".  To me, it also means growing flowers that do well in our climate, without using chemicals. 

If you follow my Instagram account, you probably saw my photo of flower trash from a local florist shop right after Valentine's Day: boxes piled up to my height; most labeled from various South American countries. I love flowers and think everyone should have and/or grow them. That is why it makes me so sad that the "fast" flowers produced abroad have become the norm for Americans.  Besides the carbon footprint when shipping the flowers (internationally and within the US), there is the issue of chemical use when growing the flowers and again when the flowers enter US customs.

All of this is to say that the time I take in growing chemical-free local flowers is not just for the benefit of the bees, or soil, or birds, or children that visit my gardens. It's because my flowers are a small part of the larger, global picture of sustainable small-scale farming. My flowers are part of the solution to an unsustainable industry. Good things take time. Great flowers take time

If you are interested in learning more, watch this great short film (15 min) about the local flower industry in America. It's produced by the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers (ASCFG), of which I have been a member for the past 3 years. 
See the film HERE.

Next week I'll talk about exactly HOW I start all those seeds! I'll give you tips to start your own seeds at home and make sure they grow into beautiful, healthy plants. What will you grow???

Have a great weekend,
Joan

Plant and Flower Events! 

Kodedama at Illini FS Farmtown

"Kodedama is a ball of soil, covered with moss on which a plant grows."  This class sounds super-fun and you get to take home your own kodedama! March 10th,Saturday, 10-11, $15 More info HERE

Orchid Sale--Plant Biology Conservatory
~200 plants for sale, cattleyas, miltonias/miltonopsis, oncidium hybrids, dendrobiums, phapiopedilums, and some species orchids. You can also visit the conservatory after you shop! It's so warm and green in there. Especially nice when it's cold outside! March 10th, Sat. 10am-2pm, and 11th, Sun. 1pm-3pm. 1201 S. Dorner Dr., Urbana, Plant Science Lab.

Broadway Food Hall Spring Fair
Come find some flowers or plants to perk up your space for Spring. Old Town Flowers will be there along with other local artists and makers to welcome Spring to Champaign! March 14th, 15th, 16th (Wed, Thurs, Fri) 11am-2pm each day. Click HERE for more info.
 

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Summer Camp!

Old Town Flowers is hosting two weeks of summer camp packed with kid-friendly programming!
Flower Camp--June 25-29
Plants+Potions Camp--July 23-27

See the webpage HERE for more information about the camps and pricing. 

 

 

 

 

Seed starting for happiness
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Winter does not agree with me as a flower farmer and as a person.  There’s always an element of surprise when I go outside to tend the chickens or check on my baby plants under the low tunnels.  I get out there and kinda…freak out.  Anxiety gnaws at me about plants and animals freezing and dying, low tunnels blowing away or collapsing and water freezing where it shouldn’t.  I’ve learned a few things help: warm clothes (we’re talking Carharts), lots of lights inside the house, St. John’s Wort tincture, exercise and starting seeds. 

For the past 15 years I’ve been starting seeds of one kind or another in February (now January, because: poppies!) and it’s become a natural phenomena; like the groundhog coming out to see it’s shadow.  Sometime around the end of January I pop my head out of my hibernation cave beneath the duvet and think “It’s time to start the seeds…”.  Except I don’t go back into my cave because, unlike the groundhog, once I’m awake, there’s SO much more to do!  In late February the mid-day sun will peek back over my neighbors house to the south.  The crocuses aren’t far behind.  Then the daffodils and tulips pop up next to the anemones and ranunculus I fell in love with last spring.  Near the middle of March I’m officially out of winter and running straight for the bulk of flower farming season. 

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Starting seeds is one of the easiest and hardest things I do for my job.  Easy: seeds just want to GROW!  It’s what they do.  Hard: cover/don’t cover, light or dark for germination, heat mats/no heat, weeks to transplant…and so on and so forth.  Within this simple task are a million and one ways to screw it up and end up with no plant at all!  Then when the tiny plants are up and growing I inevitably drop a tray or run out of time (or room) to plant or the cat lays on the tray and squishes all the baby plants.  So I’ve learned to start more seeds than I think I’ll need and that having no Bells-of-Ireland really sucks. 

The magic of starting seeds lies in that trust and dedication to Mother Nature’s rhythms.  Because when it’s 15 degrees and everything is frozen outside, including the ground, starting those microscopic poppy seeds is the RIGHT thing to do. 

Joan Jach