If you thought farm work ceased over the winter, think again. Before Christmas, Kristi Burnett of Burnett Farms in Bovina Center was figuring out the water system for the pigs: they have a boar, two sows and a couple of piglets to “winterize”. At the beginning of December, the pond had frozen and when they ran the hose, it froze. They put a heater in one of their big cow troughs, so they can pull water out of it. December and January are months during which the Burnetts work out ideas for the forthcoming season. Farmers swap notes and share ideas at community dinners. “You definitely need a bit of rest time, but if you have animals you have to take care of them. The fence goes, water freezes, you carry buckets of grain and you’re slipping. It’s hard.”
They have been turning their basement into a root cellar, storing and canning, curing winter vegetables, which involves laying them out in the greenhouse for four to six weeks. “You have to keep the stems on, so it makes harvest more tedious – you don’t want to break those stems”.
Kristi is growing broccoli, kale, cauliflowers. Inside she’s growing thyme, lemongrass, sage, a lemon tree, cinnamon tree and avocado tree. She’s also growing succulents like aloe because they propagate so easily. If you have a leaf that falls off, it develops roots.
At the beginning of the year, seeds get ordered, frames get built and sheds get cleaned out. February 1st will see a delivery of organic soil.
So plans for the coming year? Kristi would like to put a couple of raised beds more in flowers and grains: one 150ft bed all in flowers and perhaps add two more with three out of seven beds all as flowers because this invites the humming birds and helps the soil. She cut some of the sunflowers and sold them on their farm stand, fed some to the pigs and chickens, leaving the rest for the birds because, she says, “my interest is feeding the earth, not selling things”. She’s also hoping this year to grow for schools after attending a Catskills Farm Meeting where she talked about growing salad for them.
The Burnetts also grew some tobacco this year, which they had to hang and dry.
So farming is back-breaking work. What exercise does she do to cope with the backache? Stretching and getting the heart rate up. “It kicks my ass to carry a five gallon bucket of grain – and now in the snow, so I took a 25lb dumbbell and walked around with it. I reached for it slowly and carefully and stepped away and put it down. I mimic movements that I would do on the farm”.
When’s their busiest month of your year? “It goes in spurts. Physically busy – harvest is hardest.”
What’s their biggest crop? Tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, onion, berries and fruit. Steve makes tomato sauce out of the tomatoes (see below).
The biggest news is their restaurant plans and they hope to have it open by 2018. The Burnetts have farm dinners all throughout the year, so they’ve been thinking about this for a while. What made them take the leap? “Steve thinks big!”