Phelps Farm offers winter produce and tulip bouquets

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Phelps Farm will continue to harvest and sell fresh vegetables this winter, and will have a Tulip Club, offering weekly delivery of tulip bouquets beginning in early February. (Press photo by Caroline Rosacker)

By Caroline Rosacker

Amy and Andrew Phelps, co-owners of Phelps Farm, cultivate over 40 different types of produce during the summer and fall gardening season. In the winter months their produce choices may decrease, but they still have plenty of nutritious vegetables available to customers. "We harvest lettuce 52-weeks out of the year that we grow in our unheated caterpillar tunnels," Andrew commented. 

Winter availability

During early winter they will continue to harvest fresh lettuce heads, cucumbers, lettuce mix, spinach, candy carrots, green onions, kale, celery, salad turnips, storage squash, and radishes. In January and February they will have lettuce, spinach, pak choy, tatsoi and kale. "Late in the year and early spring we utilize a minimally heated tunnel that we try getting later crops or earlier crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and celery," he added. 

To grow vegetables in outdoor tunnels during the cold months Andrew and Amy invested in row covers to add more protection to the crops. They uncover the crops each morning and cover them back up each afternoon. "This allows the crops to get as much light as possible, improve airflow, and conserve as much heat as possible," Andrew noted. "We do run trials of some crops to see how they grow, such as artichoke and zucchini. We had to make some creative modifications to get the artichokes to grow, but we were able to have enough to share with our CSA members."

The Phelps also sell raw honey, homemade goat milk soap, lip balm, elderberry jelly, freeze dried candies, freeze dried ginger, onion, peppers, and other produce that they have grown and preserved. "We have also added ducks to our farm and sell a limited quantity of duck eggs," he told The Press. "Our children, Ayden, who is 3-1/2, and Allie, who is 2-1/2 years old, have fun with the ducks. They enjoy feeding, watering, giving treats and collecting their eggs. Everyday is an egg hunt with ducks!" 

Tulip bouquets

The couple currently has over 8,500 tulip bulbs planted in compost and in the process of being forced in a temperature controlled environment. They have an additional 2,000 bulbs that are receiving the appropriate cooling time and will be trialing these as hydroponic grown tulips. "We have over 20 different varieties of tulips and many that will not naturally grow in Iowa due to the colder winters," Amy pointed out.

The tulips will begin blooming right around Christmas and bloom through Easter. Phelps Farm has a Tulip Club that will have weekly delivery of tulip bouquets.  "The tulips will provide beautiful color and happiness in the dreary winter months," Amy shared. 

The Phelps are currently working on a building project. "This building will improve our wash and pack space to improve efficiency and productivity, and increase cooled storage facilities. Adding this building will also open a space that will allow us to have a farm stand to sell fresh produce," they noted. 

The Phelps

Amy and Andrew both gardened with their families growing up. As a couple they enjoyed knowing how the fresh vegetables they were feeding their young family were grown. Even though preserving and canning used up much of the produce, they still grew more vegetables than they needed. "In the winter of 2020 we took an online course that taught us about intensive organic market gardening," Amy explained. "When we decided we were going to dedicate some acres at the farm for produce farming, we took an additional course to get one more perspective on farming so we would have options to try different things." 

The Phelps keep a diversified garden and use rotational gardening to improve the quality of their soils and decrease pest pressure, which leads to healthier produce. "Although we have utilized our experience learned from our families, combined with two different online courses, farming is still trial and error," shared Andrew. "We deal with a lot of wind at our farm and that changes the growing conditions that no one can learn in a class. Winter growing has also been trial and error for us. We have to be adaptable and prepared to try something different quickly if something isn’t working." 

The online courses the couple has taken provide new updates and learning opportunities. They also participate in learning through Iowa State University, Practical Farmers of Iowa, and reach out to other farmers if they have questions.

"We have researched different ways to grow produce and personally we feel the best flavor and healthy produce grows from healthy soil," they commented. "We have also taken several beekeeping courses to help us take care of our honey bees. Continuing education and learning new things is important in order to be successful." 

See Instagram and Facebook for Tulip Club delivery, produce availability and additional information.

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