News and blog

Welcome to the blog.
Posted 4/18/2017 11:51am by Melanie & Kevin Cunningham.

Dear friends and farm-ily,

Over half full and filling fast... How wonderful to be writing this with bright, warm sun beaming through my office windows!  With spring in the air, we've been receiving CSA commitment forms at a furious pace.  If you are serious about a CSA share for the season ahead, we encourage you to act now!    

Rainbow over the garden this spring.

Still soggy… This extra wet spring - or long lingering winter - just doesn't want to quit, and it's certainly been the wettest, coolest spring we've ever experienced as farmers.  We've had to put our carefully laid plans aside and tackle other farm projects as the weather permits.  Our propagation greenhouse has never been fuller, and we are fastidiously watching the weather, ready to jump on garden work when the conditions are right.  Although the rain is wonderful in many ways and a blessing to be sure, a lot of us local farmers are feeling a little anxious about our spring planting dates.  The Saturday Arcata market, which goes year round now, is very light on veggies and probably will remain so later into this season.  As for the start of the CSA, for the last 7 years, we’ve always been able to start the first week of June, but this year may be different.  It's still too early to call, but know that we guarantee 22 weeks of produce, even if that takes us into November.  The abundance of summer will be ever more delicious given the long winter, and we look forward to growing food for you and your families again this season.

Hopeful flowers on the strawberries.

Bring on the high tunnels!  This winter, Melanie applied for a federally funded grant through our local Natural Resources Conservation District (NRCS) and was awarded over $20,000 for two, 30’ x 96’ high tunnels.  These investments will be a game changer, enabling us to triple our winter production and reliably plant earlier in the spring.  We have a three year contract, but will strive to construct both by the end of 2017.  We plan on using the high tunnel space to grow more summer tomatoes for our CSA members as well.  Unfortunately the high demands of the cannabis industry have our supplier quite backlogged, so we aren’t able to get ours until mid-June.  We do look forward to the potential and increased value these investments offer the community and our CSA members.  And if we have another record-breaking wet winter ahead of us, we will be well poised and ready.

The oxen went viral... We've all heard of things going "viral" on social media.  Well, on April 4th we got to experience it with one of our posts, and I have to say, it's exciting!!  Our apprentice, Daniel, filmed our twice weekly layer move, where we use the oxen to pull our chicken coop on skids.  This super cool video has reached over 30,000 people and been shared 134 times!!  If you missed it, it's worth skimming through our Facebook posts for this gem, shared on April 4th.  Raw oxen power fully demonstrated on our mixed power farm!

Our hearty crew BBQing on a cold spring afternoon.

New crew… Our apprentices have arrived and successfully completed their first two weeks of an 8 month season.  This year's crew hails from all parts of California.  Jackie and Daniel, pictured below on the right, are returning from last season, and you may remember meeting them at Garberville and Fortuna markets.  Matt and Sage, pictured on the left, are new this year and learning quickly.  Spencer, our first oxen apprentice, was with us over the winter but has returned back to Massachusetts to start his own project there.  We are lucky to have these fine, enthusiastic future farmers in our midsts.

Baby animals… The spring brought 20 new lambs and 9 new calves to the farm. The abundant rain has been really wonderful for our pastures, and our livestock are flourishing on the green and the grubs.  We started a new layer flock over the winter, and our 300 hens are just starting to lay.  Their eggs boast a rich, golden yolk full of healthy omega-3's, due to their diet of grass, grubs and bugs.  Our first rounds of broilers and pigs are fattening up quickly on the combo of organic feed, skim milk, and pasture grubbin’.  

Whether you plan on re-joining the share or not, we hope you stay in touch.  You can do that by going to our website -  http://shakeforkcommunityfarm.com/ - and signing up for our general mailing list, or by following our farm on Facebook.  Kevin and I both have Instagram feeds - @shakeforkcommunityfarm is mine, and @westcoastoxen is his - for more insight into the day to day of life, love, and work at Shakefork Community Farm.

Happy spring, from your farmers,

Melanie, Kevin, and Clyde, and the Shakefork Community Farm crew

Farmer Clyde is undaunted by stormy weather.Farmer Clyde's play is undaunted by the stormy weather.

Posted 3/23/2017 12:27pm by Melanie & Kevin Cunningham.

Happy Spring Equinox, everybody!

It is finally feeling Springy on the farm, and with sun in the extended forecast, we are hopeful indeed.  We have ground opened up, farmer talk for a start on the fieldwork that makes it possible start planting in the weeks ahead.  We have some gorgeous brassica starts slated for planting out the first week of April; fingers crossed, all things will align to make it so!  You all know how exceptionally wet this winter has been – the wettest on record, in fact.  It started raining in October and hasn't really stopped.  We were lucky to get our strawberries and garlic in last October, in the three days it didn’t rain that month.  Some of our farmer friends did not fare as well.  Cummings Creek is up and raging, and we experienced a little flooding in our garden fields earlier this week. Most of the flood water is being captured by a drainage ditch we built last fall, and we have plans to do more work once the ground is dry enough to get equipment in.  Now we’re just hoping for a stretch of sunny days, so we can get compost spread, beds prepped, and crops in!  

We stay busy over the winter months, caring for the many animals that make up the Shakefork farm-ily.  If you follow us on Facebook or Instagram  – which we definitely recommend that you do! – you’ve seen lots of pictures of lambs, calves, cattle, and oxen.  Perhaps you’ve wondered, what does all that effort have to do with growing good vegetables? The collective accumulation of ox and dairy cow poo in the barn over the winter months, as well as the bedding accumulated in our chick brooders, is piled and composted, providing the annual fertility for our vegetable garden.  Through a combination of cover cropping, crop rotation, and ample compost, we’ve been able to produce more food on less acreage every year we’ve farmed.  We also benefit from the healthy meats, milk, and fats our primarily grass-fed animals provide us, as well as the tremendous value of being in relationship with other living beings. They teach us so much!  

Spring lambs... up to 20 this year!

We attended a Food Safety workshop this month, hosted by the Community Alliance for Family Farmers at Deep Seeded Community Farm in Arcata.  We affirmed many of the good agricultural practices we already have in place and gained new ideas for improving our systems.  Farming is certainly the “Dirty Life”, complete with muck, mud, and manure, but we strive for a very clean operation in all areas and take cleanliness and sanitation very seriously in all aspects of our production.

Fertilizing our spring pastures with our first round of meat chickens.

We’ve added an additional CSA drop site in Old Town, Eureka!  The owners of Humboldt Bay Coffee Roasters have been shareholders since the inception of our CSA and have offered to host a pick up spot at their Old Town Eureka location. Boxes will be available from 3p till close, and then all day Wednesday.  Please help us spread the word!  Our St. Joseph Hospital drop will have extended hours, 11a-7:30p every Friday.  

Keep those CSA member agreement forms rolling in!  Distributions will start in early June and go for 22 weeks.  We offer two share sizes, 6 pick up locations, payment plans, and accept  cash, checks, and credit cards!  We’re close to half full; help us get there by sending in yours today.  Print your form here.  Get CSA info here.

May you stay healthy and soak up the sunshine,

Love from your farmers,

Melanie, Kevin, and Clyde Cunningham

One of our favorites.

Posted 2/22/2017 5:21pm by Melanie & Kevin Cunningham.

Rainy day greetings to you all...  

I don’t know about you, but we’re growing weary of winter storms, sleepless nights spent listening to howling winds, regular flooding from Cummings Creek, and a long list of things to worry about this time of year.  We're riding it out with as much grace and good cheer as we can muster, making time for self care practices like good food, meditation, and yoga that help us cultivate gratitude and equanimity.  I feel like the child in one of Clyde’s beloved books who asks over and over, “Mama, is it summer yet?” Our greenhouse, now teeming with young veggie starts, suggests that summer’s abundance is just around the corner.  And in the pastures, the grasses and clover are sure starting to grow tall and green.  All this water should make for a very productive growing season!

Spring floods.

With that in mind, it’s time to send in those member agreement forms and secure your share for the season ahead.  We’ll be extending the St. Joseph’s Hospital pick up hours, making shares available from 11a till 7:30p.  I will also be sending reminder texts on pick up days for every shareholder willing to provide me with a cell number.  We are talking with our friends at Humboldt Bay Coffee Co. in Old Town, Eureka about offering an additional Tuesday/Wednesday pick up option in their tasting room.  Stay tuned for details if you think that might work for you or a friend.  Member agreement forms are available here.

Remember, we can take many forms of payment, including cash, money orders, checks, credit cards, and even EBT!  

Spring grass growing fast!

Southern Humboldt shareholders, connect with us at Organic Grace in Garberville this Friday, the 24th, from 10:30 to 11:30a.  Please pre-order ghee, stewing hens, or whole broilers so we can be sure to have what you want!  We’ll bring whatever veggies we have available, including winter cabbage (great for kraut!), purple sprouting broccoli, and brussels sprouts.  All these things are also available for everyone else direct from the farm.  Just make an appointment!  

Our winter work load has been quite manageable thanks to the dedicated help of our first oxen apprentice, Spencer.  Rain or shine, cows need milking, ox stalls need mucking, and the sheep, cattle, and layers need fresh pasture and care.  Spencer hails from Massachusetts and this ultra wet winter has really been an adjustment for him (and probably for all of us!)  He’s got a little extra time on his hands before the season gets going in earnest, and he’s looking for some extra work, preferably close to the farm.  If you need a qualified handyman for indoor or outdoor work, Spencer is good with a chainsaw and all power tools, takes direction well, and has an eye for detail. He charges $20/hour for odd jobs and no job is too small or too big.  Just give us a call at (707) 215-4000 or e-mail, and we’ll put you in touch.

Love from your farmers!

Melanie, Kevin, and Clyde

New piggies on the farm!

Posted 2/2/2017 2:29pm by Melanie & Kevin Cunningham.

Greetings, everyone!

We enjoyed the recent break in the weather and a hint of spring just around the corner.  It sure takes a lot of imagination to recall summer's abundance when the farm looks like this:

Winter flooding in the pasture and garden from Cummings Creek....

Water in the boots is always a treat!

In general, flooding has been milder this winter, thanks to the earthworks we put in place last season.  We're still harvesting from the garden for the Arcata winter market and have only been deterred by flood water once.  Thankfully our road is still in great shape, and we've maintained our access, even during flooding events.

We've been staying busy, as always.  Our two Jersey mommas calved in January, so we're milking again and processing ghee a couple times a week.  We've had the momma cows, their new calves, and our two oxen teams in the barn all winter, collecting manure for next season's compost.  It doesn't take long to build up a lot (literally, tons) of fertility!  We like to say that we are ox-powered in more ways than one.

Our golden Ghee, one of our favorite ingredients...

Golden ghee, great for cooking veggies in.

In January, we started our first rounds of sugar snap peas, and yesterday we finished sowing 18,000 onions.  Next it's peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, broccoli and more, all vegetables that will appear in CSA boxes and on our market tables throughout the season.  Although summer's abundance may seem far away, the seeds are literally being sown on these blustery, wintry days.

The year's onions begin here...

The start of 18,000 onions.

If you're thinking about purchasing a CSA share, now's the time to sign up.  We're investing in the season ahead, hiring employees, purchasing bulk soil for the greenhouse, mineral amendments, and seeds - all big expenses at a time of year when your farmers experience very little cash flow.  CSA members play a crucial role in providing upfront support at a time when it is most needed.  A leap of faith, we know, and we are honored and humbled by your commitment and belief in us!

Print a member agreement form HERE.

You can find details about our CSA program, including what's in a share HERE.

We recently processed our older hens and now have stewing hens available at the Saturday market, or by appointment at the farm.  They are delicious, with a rich, yellow fat - perfect for nourishing winter soups.  They range from 3-5# and cost $3/lb.

Our website also recently received a makeover.  It's still a work in progress, but we feel it captures the energy and mission of our farm.  Let us know what you think.  http://shakeforkcommunityfarm.com/

In gratitude, your farmers,

Melanie and Kevin Cunningham

Posted 5/5/2014 1:03am by Melanie & Kevin Cunningham.
Greetings from the midst of May Mania!  
 
We love this time of year.  The days are long and bright, affording us plenty of time for planting - onions, potatoes, winter squash, lettuce, broccoli, and more! - and other important early season work.  The grass is lush and green, which means the cattle and sheep are well fed.  We have 2nd and 3rd graders from Hydesville and South Fortuna Elementary Schools visiting to participate in farm life for a couple of hours.  And soon, our plates will be brimming with the first rewards of our labor - spinach and arugula salads, juicy sugar snap and snow peas, spring sweet onions, over wintered leeks, and eggs with yolks a deep earthy gold.  Life is good!  
 
Our first vegetable CSA distributions will be begin the first week of June, just a few short weeks from now.  In addition to on-farm pickups, shareholders can pick up pre-packed boxes of organically-grown goodness from Fortuna on Tuesdays and Garberville on Fridays.  Shareholders have access to garden surplus for canning and preserving projects and get first dibs on other farm products like our pasture-raised eggs, chicken, and turkeys.  Is a regular share too much produce for your small or busy family?  Try our half-sized garden share.  It's not too late to reserve your spot by sending in a commitment form.  
 
Want to see our farm in person?  Please come visit on Sunday May 18th, from 2-4p for a farm tour and meet your farmers event.  We're excited to show you the garden and animals and share with you some of what makes us unique as a farm.  We'll introduce you to our oxen team, Tex and Joseph, and show you how they respond to voice commands.  It's a family friendly event, and you are welcome to bring anyone interested in possibly joining our CSA or just checking out a local farm.  All are welcome, especially the little ones.  Farm treats will be provided.  
 
We hope to see many of you here on the 18th.  To find the farm, travel east on Highway 36 about 7.5 miles from the 101.  We are the driveway on the right, just before the new Carlotta fire station.  You will see our mailbox marked 7914, as well as a yellow traffic sign with a black fire engine on it about 100 feet before the driveway.  Once on the driveway, stay left, cross over Cummings Creek, and look for parking on your right.    
 
Now off to bed... your farmers,  
Melanie & Kevin  
 
Our ecology and our food systems are simply a visible manifestation of all the value systems, or thought processes, of every individual in the culture. One person, or one organization, or one group cannot fundamentally change things. It's the collective understanding of many that moves things from peripheral lunacy to cultural shift.
Joel Salatin in Folks, This Ain't Normal
the farm family
Posted 5/20/2013 1:44pm by Melanie & Kevin Cunningham.

Greetings from Shakefork Community Farm,

Our vegetable CSA is scheduled to begin the first Tuesday in June (June 4th), or Friday June 7th for So-Hum shareholders.  We've still got a few open spots available for you late-comers!!  This is your last chance to sign up before the season gets started, so don't put it off a moment longer.  Download our commitment form from our website using this link:

http://sfc.smallfarmcentral.com/dynamic_content/uploadfiles/1533/2013.Veggie%20share.Commitment%20Form.pdf

and mail it in or drop it by our Fortuna Farmers' Market booth this Tuesday, May 21st, from 3-6p.  Thank you so much!

Our May planting rush is over and the fields are full, full, full.  Feel free to stop by and check out our gardens when you have the chance!  We have eggs available at the farm for $5.50 a dozen and our first round of broilers will be processed next Monday the 27th and will be regularly available after that.

Enjoy the warm weather!

Melanie and Kevin

Posted 10/12/2012 10:03am by Melanie & Kevin Cunningham.

Hi y'all!

Although the weather has turned a little moist down here in the mid-county, we're still ON for our corn shucking party tomorrow, October 13th, from 10a-4p.  Come all day, or just for a few hours... dress in layers and bring gloves if you have them... please provide your own snacks to keep you nourished through the day... bring your kids, your neighbors, and your friends!!!

We will feast around 4p!  We're making some farm favorites, including chili, cornbread (with our own cornmeal!), coleslaw, and potato salad, but potluck dishes are appreciated.  We've opted not to BBQ in favor of building a big, warming fire instead.  Live music will fill the air, weather permitting.

Our pumpkin patch also opens Saturday, so feel free to shop for a Jack O'Lantern while you are here!

We hope to see you!  Directions to our farm can be found on our website, here: http://shakeforkcommunityfarm.com/map/directions/119, or look for the pumpkin patch sign on Hwy 36, just before the fire station.

Wishing you a wonderful fall,

Melanie, Kevin, and the Shakefork farm crew


Posted 9/17/2012 11:57am by Melanie & Kevin Cunningham.

Greetings to you all.  It's been a long while since we've sent any news from our farm, a testament to the busyness of the season.  But now fall is here, and although we are still bustling about from dawn to dusk, slower days are soon to come.  Our farmstead continues to evolve with each season, as we learn from this land and continue to transform ourselves.  We anticipate changes and new additions in the years to come, starting with the birth of our first child - due sometime around Christmas 2012!!

Help us with the corn harvest.  We're turning this year's corn harvest into a work party and harvest celebration.  Our field corn, which we dry and grind into cornmeal, requires tremendous amounts of hand labor - from harvesting and shucking the ears to removing the kernels from the cob.  We all know many hands make light work, so this year we're asking for your help on Saturday, October 13th.  We'll work on the corn harvest from 10 to 4p and then enjoy a BBQ and potluck feast, with live music and drinks.  Most of the work will be gathered around the greenhouse, where we'll shuck the corn and arrange it for drying.  Although we'd love your help for the whole day, we invite you to join us for any portion of the day that works for you.  Please bring your own lunch or snacks, as we won't be feasting until the late afternoon.  Additional helpful things to bring are: gloves, drinking water, sun hats, and layers, for who knows what October weather will bring.  Kids are welcome, dogs are not.  RSVPs are most appreciated, and feel free to bring anyone and everyone – the more the merrier!

Grain shares are now available.  We've harvested about 70% of our grain crops and a new grain share season is soon to begin; our first distribution is scheduled for October 4th.  A hearty thank you to those of you who have already re-joined or have signed up for the first time.  This season's share will look a little different from years’ past.  We are consolidating the full and half share options into one moderately sized share.  Distributions will consist of 8 pounds per month and will take place for 6 months instead of 10.  We plan on beginning on October 4th and distributing through April, with our customary break in January.  The share price is $275, with a $100 deposit required to hold your spot.  Some of our products will only be available through the grain share, but crops with abundant yields will likely be available at our Farmers’ Market stall.  As the share starts in just a couple of weeks and spots are filling fast, we encourage you to contact us as soon as possible if interested.  We hope that you will!

Broilers and select cuts available this weekend.  We'll have a freshly processed batch of broilers and cuts available at the end of this week at our Garberville and Arcata markets and will hopefully be well stocked until the end of November.  We have been selling out quickly, so if you are planning on stocking up, let us know sooner than later.

We're offering Thanksgiving turkeys this season, for pick up at our farm in Carlotta from Tuesday, November 20th.  Our turkeys are rotated weekly through our pastures and cut grain fields and fed an organic feed.  We are now taking reservations.  Birds will be sold for $5 per pound, and we expect them to be abundantly sized - averaging 20 pounds or more.  Perfect for your big family gathering!

The 2012 barley harvest...

a barley harvest close-up      barley and sunflowers

A picture from last year's corn mob...

corn harvest

With abundant gratitude, your farmers...

Melanie and Kevin

Posted 5/12/2012 8:19am by Melanie & Kevin Cunningham.

 

This week started off with Melanie attending a millstone-dressing workshop with Roger Jansen at Grindstone Bakery in Rohnert Park.  As grain farmers, we have inadvertently found ourselves embracing the art of milling as well.  Stone mills need regular attention, just like every other small machine on the farm.  As Melanie has been handling much of the milling at Shakefork Community Farm for the last year, she was eager to learn how to clean and care for the granite stones.  After spending three hours working an air chisel, disassembling and reassembling our 8” stone mill no less than 5 times, Melanie successfully removed the veil of mystery surrounding the internal workings of our grain mill and is now empowered to clean, sharpen, and “dress” the stones that make our 100% whole grain flours possible.

 

dressing millstonespainting the stones


In other farm news,
 Monday we finished planting our onions; Tuesday we started the Fortuna Farmers’ Market; Wednesday we hosted 58 2nd and 3rd graders from Scotia Union Elementary School in a Farm-to-School event where the kids got their hands dirty learning about compost, seed saving, and insects and harvested from the garden to create “lettuce tacos” garnished with toasted barley and edible flowers; Wednesday afternoon we planted 350# of potatoes and our dent corn (a month earlier than last season!); Thursday we planted our pumpkin patch, winter squash, and zucchini; Friday we got our first round of cucumbers in and started our Garberville Farmers’ Market!!!

This week's offerings include:


Grass-fed lamb... the newest addition to our farmstead offerings.  Assorted cuts available.

Meaty bones... 2.5# pounds of chicken bones and chicken parts (and occasionally a thigh or wing) for making a rich and nourishing stock.


Eggs from our pastured hens... now full size and $5 a dozen.


Lettuce... red & green leaf, red & green butter, and a variety of baby romaines.


Radishes... crisp and fresh, great for spring salads or sauteed.


Cornmeal, buckwheat flour, and rye flour...  Our flours contain all of the naturally occuring nutrients found in the original grain that are most often lost with conventional milling. 

Hope to see you soon!

Your farmers,

Melanie and Kevin

Posted 7/8/2011 9:28pm by Melanie & Kevin Cunningham.
Today's harvest was a glorious cap to an incredibly full, sunrise to sunset, bountiful in every way kind-of week. We hope to share some of the bounty with YOU at the Arcata Farmer's Market tomorrow!!  

We will have a fresh batch of broilers, with plenty of 3 and 4 pound birds, a selection of parts including legs 'n thighs, regular skin-on breasts, airline breasts, wings, tenders, and meaty bones for making your own stock.

As for grains, freshly milled rye flour and whole rye berries continue to grace our market table as we await this fall's harvest.  Rye berries are surprisingly excellent in summer salads when toasted, soaked overnight, and cooked like brown rice.

In the produce department, we have leafy green bunches, lots of lettuce, loose leaf spinach, radish and beet bunches, scallions, zucchini, cucumbers, broccoli, fennel, parsley, and dill leaf!!

May you have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Melanie & Kevin