Hello Spring!

Even though it’s currently snowing…

Nursery News

Blueberry, strawberry, gooseberry, grapes, raspberry, blackberry, elderberry. Apple, plum, peach, and pear trees too! And Chestnut trees! Even some Ginko and lots of Figs!

We added some more heirloom veggies to our offerings, and are testing a few others in the production beds before we give them our stamp of approval.

We are growing more of our own flowers this year (and learning lots!) We have natives and wildflowers, lots of succulents, and plenty of edible flowers too!

Growing Grove

Things are jamming down in the production beds.  Even with the snow predicted today, on Friday we put in a few early tomatoes.

There’s a little bit of everything here, from the big 1lb monsters like Cherokee Purple and Brandywine Pink to the small Black Cherry, with some funky stuff like Cosmic Eclipse, Dark Galaxy, and Atomic Grape thrown in too!

The lettuces are really starting to look beautiful, and the other cool season crops are in and growing too.
Outside, we trimmed the grapes WAY back, hoping for a harvest this year to make jellies and jams from!  Under some of the grapes, we built up a hugelkulture bed to plant sweet potatoes in later this spring.

Kids Corner
When you come into the greenhouse, ask us to show you what the kids have planted for sale this year!  They’ve been hard at work filling and seeding trays, dividing and transplanting starts, and propagating various other plants.  Sales of some of these plants will go directly to fund future projects for the kids to do.

Raising chickens is next, methinks.  A friend dropped by Friday and left behind an incubator for us to use!  Now all we need is literally egg money.

Lots is happening here on the farm. And we want to share it with you!!

Hello everyone,

Maggie here, dropping you a line with a quick update on what’s shaking for 2018! So much is going on! I’ll try to keep it short, but…I get carried away.

We’ve been having a great time working with ‘the kids’ from Easterseals Midwest and the NKC Work Experience Program. Right now, we have groups at the farm every weekday. They are a tremendous help! In fact, lots of the bedding plants we’ll have this year have been seeded or propagated by them. Technically, we teach them skills they can use to find employment. In my brain, I’m teaching them survival skills. How to grow food, take care of livestock, and what to do with the harvest.

In the upper greenhouses, Sean has been busy getting a great start on the bedding plants this year. We’re focusing on heirloom and non-gmo hybrids for the edibles, native and/or non-invasive flowers and such, and lots of other stuff not found in a typical nursery. Opening day will officially be April 2nd.

On the farm and in the lower greenhouses, production is starting! Mikey has lettuces, peas, beets, and cabbage in the ground. Carrots are going in today. The garlic we planted last fall is sending up shoots. Green things!! GREEN!!! Our focus this year is to grow what we like to grow, things we actually eat ourselves. And grow extra to sell at the farm, the farmers market, and a few crops we’ll grow significantly more of to sell to local restaurants and grocery stores.

Now that the days are longer and the temps a bit warmer, the chickens have started laying more eggs again. Eggs are available for purchase at the farm now! We’re going to hold some back, too and teach the kids how to care for broody hens, and in 28 days, baby chickens.

The goats…are fun and ornery!! They’ve got a nice warm stall in the barn, and spend plenty of time out and about on the farm eating up all that stuff growing along the fence lines, and back in the woods.

In other news, we took the plunge and borrowed money (thanks Mom!!) to get the materials for two new layers of plastic for each of the four greenhouses. The plastic on the greenhouses was old, like decades old. It had holes and rips and tears. And there was only one layer on each. Now, all four have at least one new sheet, and we’re waiting for a nice, calm, warm day to put up the rest. The two sheets are separated by a pocket of air that’s kept inflated by a blower. We’ve noticed a significant difference in how warm the greenhouses get during the day, and how warm they stay at night.

We’re starting a crowd-sourcing campaign to raise the funds to pay the loan back, and to start an infrastructure improvements fund. This Spring, we’ll have wildflower seed bombs, special four packs, and lots of other goodies that the sale of will go directly into that fund. I’m working out kinks on our website before it launches. We’ll have these items available for direct purchase at the greenhouse, and with us at the farmers market.

There’s tons more I want to tell you!! Hope to see you soon and get caught up!

Blessings and love from all of us to all of you!!

Kids are the Future

For the past 6 weeks, through a work program partnership with Easter Seals Midwest and the NKC School District, four young adults with autism have been sweating alongside of us, learning various aspects of what we do here, gaining experience and skills to prepare them for entering the work force once they graduate.  They’ve helped us spread mulch, pull weeds, dead head plants, paint, haul soil, clean produce, take care of the chickens, and much more!

Their last day with us was this past Thursday.  We had a farewell lunch for them and their families and sourced everything locally from our friends at the Gladstone Farmers Market.  Hamburgers made from Bartholomew Beef, buns from Great Harvest Bread Co, homemade pickles (thanks Shelly!), and veggies from our own gardens.  Special thanks go out to our friend Liz from Lend a Farmhand who prepared it all.  Dessert was cookies and cupcakes from Aunt Mary’s Cookies!

Before leaving, there was one last task.  City Union Mission’s City Camp dropped by for a field trip.  The kids got to share what it had been like working there, and stuck around to help with the tour and activities.

It was an incredible day and one we will remember forever!

Independence Celebration Update:

Happy 4th – Independence through the urban food chain

What ways do we celebrate our independence?


Gather friends and family

FOOD…more on this later

Thank a soldier

Pray that we can keep our independence

Pay it forward…

My favorite way to show independence is by creating independence through making food and pollinator gardens the buzz around town. Let’s grow things to eat and become independent in the food chain, the urban and suburban food chain. We can share food and kindness across backyard fences and rotate crops to each other from harvested seeds. It’s timely and starting small is the key, as well as starting now. Simply grow a plant in your house or outside then move from there. Grow it, Harvest it, Share it, Eat it, Save seeds or take cuttings for next year. Sorry, now you’re hooked because it’s so fun savoring life and the delicious fresh food you just grew.

We have the freedom, let’s use it to our advantage and Grow, Grow, Grow!


Cottonwood Farm: Ready, Set… Summer Harvest!

The tomato harvest has begun!! Be still my heart.

We are entering the days when I make dinner plans based on what looks ready to pick. Granted, that means we will mainly be eating lots of tomato/basil inspired dishes, a variety of squashes, and the last of the cabbages, but this is not exactly a hardship around here. 😉

I’ve had several people ask me why I chose to plant so many cherry and pear tomatoes when large tomatoes are easier to preserve in sauces and salsas. Aside from their candy-like deliciousness when eaten out of hand, here is the short answer:

Read more summer harvest tips here.IMG_6266

Cottonwood Farm: Summer Solstice Salad

It’s starting to get hot, hot, hot.

Which means: tomatoes! (Well, other things, too, I’m sure… But mostly, TOMATOES.)

Yet while my tastebuds are languishing in a quivering state of salsa/ sauce/ caprese anticipation, there are a few stars in my spring garden that deserve some first-day-of-summer love.

I just didn’t realize how much love, until this salad happened. It’s light, fresh, crisp and utterly unexpected. And made from all that Antioch Urban garden goodness!IMG_5947 (1)

Get the recipe over at Cottonwood Farm

Guest Blogger: Potato, Po-tah-to

Sweet potatoes are not potatoes at all, so really, you can pronounce them any way you like. They are, however, delicious. And their vines can be incredibly lovely.

I stopped in to visit my friends at Antioch Urban Growers to pick up my sweet potato plants and clear up a few mysteries. Mark, as always, answered my endless questions with grace.

Read more and join the Grow Along here!


Guest Blogger: Ode to the Not-So-Ornamental

In my previous garden, I planted herbs and vegetables in neat rows in raised beds in the backyard, and I planted flowers in the front and along the sides of the house: day lilies, daffodils, hydrangeas, lilacs, and a rogue patch of mint. I don’t know why I did this, except that it seems like what I’d always done, what everyone does. You look at your front yard; it’s a post card. Curb-appeal.

But the backyard houses the real business of lettuce-growing and soccer playing and burger eating.

I no longer really have a front yard per se, so the line has grown fuzzy.

Flowers don’t look merely ornamental to me anymore. Unless by ornamental, you mean that bees are gold diggers, and flowers are the diamond earrings that lure them into spending quality time with the squash. Read More…


Guest Blogger: Spring Planting Surprises

When I say this farm is an adventure, what I mean is: despite the predictable circuit of the seasons, you never really can predict what’s going to happen next. For instance, our family was just adopted by a cat. Believe me when I say we did NOT see this one coming. He was one of a new litter of feral cats that have been sadly multiplying in our area, but instead of scrambling into the brush at our approach, as his brothers did, he nosed his way closer, curled up on the seat of Aaron’s tractor and staked his claim. Read More…

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Why Are Honey Bees Disappearing?

Many people don’t realize this, but the global population of honey bees is at a record low. The primary reason for this decline has to do with pesticide accumulation inside the honey of bee hives. Pesticides are used so much in this day and age. In fact, there are billions of pounds of pesticides being sprayed all over the world each year. Farmers use them to keep insects off their crops and government officials use them to ward off mosquitoes. The problem is these pesticides are also killing honey bees, which are responsible for producing honey and pollinating flowers. Not only are pesticides linked to the death of these bees, they also cause bees to become disoriented with the inability to nurture their colonies.

According to researchers at the Department of Environmental Health of Harvard Chan School of Public Health, neonicotinoid pesticides are the cause of the sudden loss of honey bees throughout the entire planet. Researchers at the school analyzed 53 honey samples and 219 pollen samples that were extracted from 62 different hives in Massachusetts. These hives were taken from 10 of the state’s 14 counties in order to be diverse. The results of the analysis concluded that neonicotinoids were in both the honey and the pollen of each sample that was collected. This proves that neonicotinoids are not just in one particular location, but rather everywhere. These same conclusions were made by Canadian researchers who studied bees up in Ontario. The Canadian government is ready to take action by limiting the amount of pesticides that can be used throughout the province.

The simple solution to this entire problem is to stop using pesticides all together. There are already dozens of countries that have banned the use of pesticides on their crops and food. Unfortunately, the United States has not gotten to this point yet. The country has sustained its reputation for wanting the cheaper and most cost effective way of preserving crops.

Did You Know?

Without honeybees, human beings would lose 33% of the fruits and vegetables we eat. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has calculated that honeybees pollinate about 80% of our food crops. These crops are what give us apples, strawberries, broccoli, blueberries, nuts, cucumbers, asparagus and more. It also affects our beef and dairy supplies because cows won’t have enough alfalfa to eat, which is also pollinated by honeybees.