What a difference a year makes. As I prepare to harvest the first share of the season, memories of last year’s drought have vanished like last year’s weeds – buried beneath a verdant cover crop so thick and green it almost seems unnatural. Today, the second day of Spring, I was covering our warm-weather crops as a blustery wind tore down from the North – a continuing pattern of rain and freeze that seems ice-ages removed from those record-breaking days of last summer.

What a difference a year makes. We have a cistern filled to the top with water. We have tall pastures that supplement our goats and pigs. And we have vegetables that are thriving rather than barely surviving.

Don’t get me wrong. Farming in wet years has its challenges. But I’ll take flood over drought, ice over fire. And doesn’t it seem that our choices have become more extreme? While scientists and politicians contest whether we’re gripped by global warming or just another 1000-year aberration, we farmers in Central Texas have plenty to grouse about when it comes to weather.

What a difference a year makes. Erin and I were on mesquite pins and cactus needles last year at this time as we started what became a 10-month quest to become landowners. In January we finally closed on our river farm: 18.5 acres in Bastrop County. Although we plan to stay here at Green Gate Farms for years to come, we now have a sense of security should we be unable to extend our lease. A farmer without land is not a happy farmer and the land we found is a rare combination of great soil, plentiful water, and a little slice of the Colorado.

What a difference a year makes. As we contemplated owning land rather than leasing, we knew we wanted to certify Green Gate Farms as organic. The task, however, seemed overwhelming on top of everything else. This winter we slogged through all the paperwork, completed a five-hour in-depth inspection with plenty of rigorous follow-up.

What do all these changes mean for you? The most obvious will greet you when you arrive for your pickup. Our vegetables look great. The rain is a big factor but also our new fertility plan. For the past year we have been making compost from Whole Foods’ discarded vegetables. This winter we applied tons of it – by hand – on several fields that were looking a little tired. We are still improving our compost skills but the vegetables are greener, hardier, and hopefully, tastier.

The next obvious difference is at the farmstand and CSA pickup area. We never liked the layout but it got us through the first year. This spring we have rearranged everything, put in lower tables so you can access the coolers easier, and fixed the walkway area. We’ve also moved the freezer there so you can purchase meat (including Loncito’s Lamb) without going to the barn.

Our on-line farm – greengatefarms.net – also has undergone improvements thanks to Erin’s persistence and some training at the Apple store. We aren’t web developers but hopefully you will see the difference as you navigate through the pages including a Goodle calendar and an expanded events page. We’re also excited to announce that LocalHarvest.Org has chosen Green Gate Farms to beta test its new CSA software that allows you to add to your share. More on that later.

Other changes to the farm include an assortment of baby sheep and goats – 10 in all, including our Nubian orphan, Callie, who shadows us around the farm. We also purchased Abby, a purebred Saanen doe, the oldest and largest of the diary goat breed. With some more training, she should be giving goat-cart rides later this spring. And our passel of piglets born this winter are no longer babies: we plan to start harvesting them in May (put your orders in now for half/whole hogs!), and by then may have some little Guinea hogs to add to the collection.

So, finally, Spring has arrived. We have high hopes for a great year thanks to your support. We look forward to seeing you soon.
Farmer Skip