2022 Farm Update

Fog settles into the Williams Valley in late Winter

2022 has been a great year on the Farm so far. We have been blessed with abundant spring rains, cool weather, and lots of opportunities to work with students in the school gardens and at the Farm. With the constant stream of terrible news and regressive steps on the national stage it has been somewhat surreal to experience one of the most pleasant and beautiful springs and early summers I can remember in Southern Oregon. But, despite the challenges facing our country and the world, we are doing what we can in our little corner of it to make a positive difference and try to turn the tide one day at a time.

Burning branches and small trees thinned from our forest in early spring

Winter and early Spring found us busy in the forest, cutting, piling and burning small diameter douglas fir to increase forest health, decrease fuels, and hopefully make White Oak Farm (and the neighborhood) more fire resilient. Much thanks to Josh Weber of Greenpath Landworks, Jake, Stephen, Martin, Amber, OSU Alternative Spring-breakers, and the the Lomakatsi Youth Crew for doing the hard work in the woods. Woods-work is some of the most satisfying and challenging work there is: poison oak, steep slopes, hot sun, runaway burns all challenge the mind and body. The reward is the feeling of doing the good work to set the forest up for success down the road. We look forward to seeing how the woods respond to all this hard work (36 acres of thinning over two years), and to sharing the changes with students young and old over the coming decades.

Moving soil to the nursery in early spring

On the Farm, plant growth has been amazing with the moisture delivered by La Nina (my favorite personified weather phenomenon). This has been especially beneficial in the nursery where growth of native trees and shrubs has been far more robust than in past drier years.

Black Oaks (and an amphibious friend if you can spot her) in the Nursery

Sarah and Hannah have been extremely busy at Ruch, Williams, and Applegate schools, teaching in the school gardens, delivering fresh farm produce to students and families, hosting school field trips, and welcoming children to summer camp on the Farm.

Student Art at the Ruch School Garden
Ruch Outdoor School students on a field trip to the Farm
Perennial hedgerow in the foreground and Pac Choi seed crop flowering behind

On the Farm, seed crops such as Pac Choi, Delicata Squash, Resina Calendula, Cosmos, Sunflower, and Peacevine Cherry Tomato are planted, weeded, watered and growing well. Our perennial and native plantings are also thriving with the moisture and cooler temperatures, making for a good year to be a pollinator on the Farm.

A honey bee working the native milkweed seed patch (Asclepias speciosa)
Resina Calendula seed crop

As we enter the dog days of summer, we are watering deep, prepping for fall school visits and the return of students to the school gardens, and harvesting produce for the local food bank and the first seed crops of the year. In this time of profound challenge to our democracy and our planet, White Oak Farm is more committed than ever to do the positive work of education, restoration, and community food security. We believe more than ever in the right of all people to make decisions about their own bodies, to have an equal say in the direction of our nation, to live on a healthy planet with clean water and good food, and to have a hopeful future to look forward to. We also continue to experiment, grow new crops in new ways, mulch, plant more trees, and appreciate the many people, plants and animals that work together to a make the Earth our favorite planet. Below are a few images that capture 2022 so far….

Hard frost the morning of April 12 (the flip side of La Nina).
Not a positive development for fruit set on peaches, pears, plums or grapes.
Getting ready to plant out the Delicata seed crop – truckaroo still going strong in year 28
Cover crop breaking down in beds destined for fall brassicas (kale, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower)
for the food bank and local schools
Native hedgerows planted and mulched in the lowest field on the Farm with cover crop in between. In future years we will be able to harvest seed, cuttings material, and medicine from these hedgerows while also providing great pollinator habitat
Old growth forest in the marble gulch watershed above the Farm. White Oak Farm is working with amazing local groups like the Williams Forest Project and the Applegate Neighborhood Network to protect these forests from BLM logging in the Late Mungers and Penn Butte Timber Sales. Old growth forests like this are key to the Earth’s ability to sequester carbon and mitigate humans’ negative impacts on the climate. It is unimaginable that the Federal Government continues to give them away to corporations for a quick profit.
An unnamed and off-trail lake deep in the wilderness of the Klamath Siskiyou Mountains. These are the landscapes that inspire us to keep on planting, growing, teaching, and learning. May we all have the opportunity to swim in snowmelt waters that take our breath away and make us feel alive and renewed to live another day!
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