Winter came early this year! Fortunately we got all our storage crops out before the cold. This year we barely managed to get things harvested in the knick of time. We finished our sweet potatoes before the first night under 40 degrees, we pulled all the carrots before rain settled in and with it muddy conditions that would have hindered an efficient harvest, we picked the exposed crops like cabbage before 20 degree nights, and this Monday we wrapped it all up finishing with rutabaga and turnip harvest. Currently all three coolers are pretty full of vegetables!
We did have some crop loss. In a different, milder fall we could have arugula, kale, Brussels sprouts, chard, spinach, and even lettuce up to Thanksgiving. And even cold hardy brassicas like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower could still be growing in the field. Our entire final planting of broccoli died with the cold temperatures before we got to cut a single stalk. Jury is still out on Brussel Sprouts, spinach and Kale but I’m not holding my breath. Last year we also got hit with nights in the teens early on. I’m hoping next year we get spared unseasonable cold weather! But I’m also grateful for all the storage crops we do have and all the help we had to bring them in. It was a successful fall harvest season! And staying inside all day this past Tuesday was certainly a welcome break from the nonstop hustle of the year!
Chimichurri (make this! we tossed it with roasted veggies and couscous and also put dollops on pizza)
Phew, we can put another CSA season in books! We continue to learn and grow (in multiple ways– veggies, the business, our pool of knowledge!) making the CSA a great way for folks to get their veggies. This year we were able to invest in the farm with several pack shed upgrades. A new cooler housed all of summer squash in the summer and is now nearly at capacity with potatoes, carrots, beets, cabbage, and onions. The rinse conveyer has sped up the washing process and saved us hundreds of hours (which, by the way, somehow get filled elsewhere on the farm) Even the simple fact of adding lights to the barn (which was still complicated enough that it took over 10 years to install!) has been an enormous improvement to the space and process.
We continue to struggle with equipment, which isn’t all that surprising when you are dealing with old equipment. Here are just a few of the things that broke this season: the well pump, the harvest truck’s brake lines, the undercutter while in the middle of a onion bed, the market truck’s catalytic converter AND fuel pump, one G’s transmission and another G’s clutch, the key switch on the Farmall, and the water pump on the John Deere. Don’t think that covers it all but you get the picture!
At this point equipment malfunctions come with the territory, just like variable weather. We have come to realize that there are unknowns to every season and we are often at the mercy of things out of our control. So we focus on the things we can control–crop planning, soil health, irrigation, cultivation. We and the crew work hard at these things! Despite the hiccups, the hard work pays off. For me this year’s highlight was the sweet corn! After a rough start with birds coming in and feasting on the tips of the 1st planting, the 2nd and 3rd plantings were perfect! I also liked all the new pepper varieties we tried. Remember the scallions from the start of the season? Those were the prettiest we’ve ever grown!
We hope you, too, have enjoyed the literal fruits of our labor! Thank you for your season long support!
We can’t do what we do without our crew! This year we enjoyed the return of Audrey, Dan, Courtney, Kelly and Sophia to the farm and welcomed Nate full time. Nate first learned of our farm 10 years ago when his parents participated in the first years of our CSA program! We also had several part-time workers throughout the summer, welcoming a college student, aspiring farmer, and massage therapist. At the height of the season, on the busiest days of the week, we’d have 7 staff in addition to ourselves. Most people on the farm have to be well versed in all aspects of the farm, but we do have staff specialize in certain tasks. Dan focuses on tractor work and can do anything we throw at him. This year was Audrey’s second one on the tractor and she added additional tractor tasks to her repertoire, such as mowing and bed shaping. She can also handle anything we throw at her! Nate and Courtney hold down the fort in the packing shed and pack CSA boxes, wash veggies and do the wholesale pack.
Recently we’ve called on Mile Creek alum, Brittany, to help us see the season through. We are grateful that Brittany — who last helped us make beautiful market bouquets back when we grew flowers– is able to help us a couple days a week to bring in the fall harvest! And just today we found ourselves unexpectedly short 2 crew members with a jam packed day and had to call on a friend (think harvesting, washing, and bagging for CSA, washing 950 lbs of radishes for wholesale, and picking 300 lbs of kohlrabi also for wholesale). Taking advantage of the fact that I know our fellow market gardener and neighbor, Stephen Cook, typically takes Mondays off, I frantically texted him this morning. Fortunately he is a saint (he would down play and just say “good friend” ), and left his own to-do list to come help us harvest.`
Needless to say we are grateful to everyone who has had a hand in helping our farm hum along, some days more conventionally than other days. And we are grateful to our customers! For those of you whose biweekly season comes to an end this week, thank you and we hope you enjoyed it! One more week for our weekly and other set of biweekly members left before our regular season comes to an end and our extended season begins.
In addition to our CSA and 2nd Street Market stand we have a third outlet for our produce- wholesale through our Co-Op, Great River Organics. I’ve mentioned our Co-op here before but now I’ll talk about our main contribution to the Co-op. Each of the farms that makes up the Co-op has agreed to grow certain crops so individual farms can grow a lot of just a few vegetables but as a collective we can pull all the different vegetables we grow together and send a nice lengthy list of available produce to grocery stores, restaurants, institutions, etc. Our main crop for the co-op was summer squash. We grew over 20,000 lbs of it for the Co-op!
To do this we planted 4 rounds of around 2,500 plants each and picked daily from the end of June to end of September!
Lots of squash to pick!
weeding the plastic edges with the cultivating tractor
Looking at the fields today you wouldn’t know they produced thousands upon thousands of pounds of squash. We were diligent about mowing the old plants as soon as we were done harvesting to help keep the cucumber beetle and squash bug populations down. We also managed to stay on top of lifting the plastic out. On Friday we chisel plowed the fields and on Sunday Ben spent all day seeding cover crop and discing to cover the seed, finishing just in time for Monday’s light rain!
Assorted Peppers (the only hot pepper is 1 jalapeño and the rest are sweet peppers)
Winesap (red and tart) and Fuji (red and sweet)
We had great weather, a nice turnout, and a delicious spread of food for our CSA member farm tour and potluck! I sadly forgot to take pictures, which is something I actually forget to do every year. Thanks to everyone for coming!
We were so ready for the change in weather and have been loving these past few sunny and mild days. On Friday, before the cold front moved through, we finished up our sweet potato harvest. We got the final sweet potatoes out just before the rain settled in which was nice, but unfortunately for us, we still had things to pick. With a frost advisory in effect for the weekend, we wanted to pick some peppers for CSA and basil and beans for market before the crops got toasted. We scouted for any remaining peppers while rain dripped from our hat brims and lugged our crates of peppers through the increasingly muddy fields. While I’m grateful for the rain, I’m a farmer and can’t help but complain that it could have waited a couple hours! The crew got dry and headed home and Ben and I remained out in the field. Tomatoes were also on the list but we ran out of daylight. Fortunately for us, on Monday the tomatoes were still alive! So we pulled another 350 lbs of maters off the plants for CSA. Hard to believe we’ll have tomatoes in both week 21 and week 22 of the CSA! Savor these last few tomatoes!
McIntosh (good cooking apple, green and red) and Golden Delicious (sweet and crisp)
SAVE THE DATE!!
CSA Member Fall Harvest Potluck
This Sunday Oct. 13 from 4:30 to 7. Rain or Shine. We’ll tour the farm from 4:30 to 5:30 and then share a meal to celebrate the harvest! Family and friends welcome. Outdoor attire recommended. We ask that you bring a dish to share and folding chairs if you have them.
It’s October and our work load has shifted from planting and weeding to harvesting. In addition to our weekly CSA and market harvests, we have several large bulk harvests of crops that store nearly all winter long to complete. This week we will focus on the sweet potatoes as those can’t tolerate too many cold nights. We did an initial scouting of the crop and they are nice and big! After we harvest them this week, they need to cure in our barn to get their signature sweet flavor! So look for those in final few CSA boxes.
Growing very nicely are a series of brassica roots including several types of turnips and radishes. And we also have 5 beds of carrots and a couple beds of beets. We will wait to harvest carrots and beets to let them size up. The upcoming cold October nights should also sweeten their flavor, so we aren’t in a rush to harvest them. We haven’t quite finished harvesting our potatoes yet and have 5 beds still hanging over us. Storage cabbage is also growing well and will hopefully provide something leafy and green for us in December! Unlike this week’s share of fresh picked cabbage, some varieties of cabbage keep really well. We have 4 varieties of cabbage growing and maturing at different times with the goal to have lots stored in our cooler for the next few months.
Overall the fall harvest is looking to be really great! Which reminds me, we will be able to offer an extended season CSA again this year! Look for an email from me detailing this extra season soon!
Cortland (larger, green/red, crisp and sweet/tart) and Jonathan (more red, smaller, softer flesh, sweet/tart)
Still no rain and still hot on the farm. Last week I was bragging about how smart we were to move our fall broccoli planting later, and here we are, later, yet still picking broccoli in 90 degree heat! We have 2 varieties ready right now and one of them is clearly outshining the other. Imperial used to be a favorite, but it seems to be very susceptible to alternaria, a fungal disease that effects brassicas and causes brown beading on broccoli heads. I was only able to harvest 60 lbs for market from a 300 foot bed–not good!! Fortunately we planted way more of a different variety, Arcadia, and it is doing really well so far and hasn’t succumbed to alternaria. After this week’s harvest, I’ve made a few mental notes, and next year we will get rid of Imperial, focus on Arcadia, and trial more varieties in search of one that matures sooner than Arcadia but holds up to disease. You can’t get too comfortable vegetable farming — this job certainly keeps us on our toes!