Welcome to the March video in our Harvest of the Month: Featured Farmer Spotlight series. Each video will feature an amazing local farmer in our community and explore a Fun Fact question to look for in the interview. This Month’s Fun Fact Question is “What do farmers do in the winter to prepare for the growing season?” 

In this month’s episode, Patricia-Marie, our Education and Marketing Assistant, visits our featured farmer, Ernesto Calixto, at Singing Earth Farm in Waynesboro, VA. Together with Ernesto we explore how farmers prepare for the spring and summer growing seasons in the cold months of winter.

Student Objectives

In this episode we will…

  • Identify how farmers prepare for the growing season.
  • Meet a local farmer and learn what vegetables and other plants he is preparing for a spring harvest.
  • Learn how to make Easy Baby Arugula Salad in a Jar.

Meet Ernesto Calixto!

Ernesto handles the Sales and Farmers Market side of Singing Earth Farm. Ernesto looks forward to farming this season because he enjoys helping the community and spreading out fresh vegetables to the families in the area.  The Calixto family has been farming for around 20 years in the Waynesboro area! They farm over 18 acres at Singing Earth Farm. 

You can visit Ernesto’s farm stand at the Waynesboro Farmers Market!

During the winter, perennial plants become dormant, which means they stop growing temporarily and store nutrients underground to survive the harsh temperatures and weather of winter. Most vegetable plants, however are annual plants, which complete their life cycles by producing seed and then dying in one season or year. In the winter in Virginia, it is too cold to plant annual vegetable seeds into the ground.

Question: So what do farmers do in the winter to prepare for the growing season?

Answer: During the late winter, farmers start their vegetable seeds inside, in flats with soil inside greenhouses, where temperature controls allow for a warm, sunny space that is the perfect environment for seeds to germinate. It’s important that the seeds are watered (either by hand or by timed irrigation systems) because the rain does not reach them while they are in the greenhouse. 

While seeds are germinating inside, farmers are in their high tunnels or outside in the fields, preparing beds to be planted. Soil can be prepared by digging, turning over, and breaking up the soil (tilling) and by making amendments to improve soil quality (like adding compost or minerals). Once the beds are prepared, farmers can “direct seed” straight into the beds, or they can transplant the new seedlings from the greenhouse into the ground.

Starting seeds and preparing soil both help farmers plan for a successful growing season in the spring and summer.

Ernesto, as well as the Project GROWS farm crew, are preparing for our very first harvests of the year: greens! Download our Baby Arugula Jar Salad Recipe to mix up an easy side salad with a favorite spring green.