August 2011

The roma tomatoes are beautiful this year!  We will be holding several roma tomato u-picks.  Members can come out and pick up to 10 pounds (per share, not per family) at no cost; additional pounds will be available at $1.50 per pound, quantities permitting.

We need to know if you will be coming out to pick and how many pounds you want to pick.

An RSVP is required; or 608-767-3860

If there are more requests than ripe tomatoes, we will ask you to wait until the next u-pick the following week.

We ask that everyone arrives at the same time so everyone has the same access to the ripest tomatoes.  If someone arrives a half hour later than the start time there may only be under-ripe tomatoes remaining.

A note on the weather:  Madison weather is often different from what we are experiencing out here on the farm.  If the weather looks questionable where you are on the morning of a U-Pick, check our blog for weather updates.  All events are rain or shine but we will give information about how to prepare yourself for weather.

U-Pick Dates and Times: 

Saturday, August 20th, 9:00 am – FULL

Saturday, August 27th, 9:00 am

Saturday, September 3rd, 9:00 am

Saturday, September 10th, 10:00 am (same day as Pesto Fest)

Bring your own containers or bags to pick into and to transport your tomatoes home.

The farm always can use plastic bags and neatly folded full sized paper bags.  Bring them if you have them.

Roma tomatoes are perfect for sauce and salsa because they are less juicy than slicing tomatoes. They are also delicious to eat and do keep very well.  We have 6 different varieties of traditional roma tomatoes (all red varieties) and 7 varieties of interesting heirloom varieties (a mix of colors and shapes with very rich flavors).

Basil: No charge for a limited quantity.

Hot Peppers:  We have grown 9 different hot pepper varieties.  You may purchase them for $3.00 per pound

Tomatillos:  Available for $1.50 per pound.  We grow a limited quantity of tomatillos.

Garlic: $5.50 per pound

Please leave your dogs at home.

Directions to the Farm 

  • From Madison take Highway 14 (University
    Avenue) to Black Earth.  Turn left onto
    County F/Highway 78  (this is at the
    stoplight on highway 14, at the Shoe Box shoe store).
  • Stay on County F for five miles to the intersection with County FF (Cty F turns
    right in Black Earth, then turns left 1 mile outside of Black Earth).

The farm is at the intersection of F & FF. A map
is on our website at

We grow several plantings of sweet corn for you, and for us as well; it is my favorite summer treat.  Unfortunately for all of us, many of our neighbors have decided to help themselves to your/our corn; the offenders primarily being our majestic Sandhill Cranes.  They have had a very successful reproductive season; the newborns are now nearly the size of their parents.  We always experience some wildlife damage to our sweet corn; raccoons, coyote, geese and cranes.  However, this year the cranes have just settled in for a long visit in our sweet corn patches.  They tend to peck a bit at the top of the ear and move on to the next; the ears are at the perfect height for them you know.  So what we are getting is an exceptional number of tattered ears.  The cranes only nibble on the very tops, so they may feel they are being polite, only ruining the upper 20% of the ear.

Now we could just pass over those ears and only deliver the non-crane ears.  However, that would mean you would not get much corn.  So we have decided to deliver these ears;  better a partial ear than none.  Last week some of you got less than perfect ears without this introduction to crane-ears, and were a bit surprised.  Even the ears that look perfect from the outside may hold a surprise once opened, such as a bad spot or some corn fungus that we cannot do anything about because we can’t see it; please just cut off the bad part.  This week we put in the effort to cut off the crane damaged ends; so you will be getting some “shortened” ears.  If we miss a few, please feel free to shorten them yourselves.  As of this writing, next week’s sweet corn harvest has not yet been discovered by the cranes; keep your fingers crossed.

At the Corn Boil last weekend, one young girl found it particularly exciting that she was sharing her sweet corn with the Sandhill Cranes.  I very much appreciate the perspective and attitude, but will have to admit the farmer in me has a hard time embracing such a thought.  Organic sweet corn is a very high maintenance crop; so much effort goes into producing it.  To give you an idea of what I mean in financial terms, if I sold it at a market, I would need to sell it for $1.50 per ear to justify growing it, and even then I would not do it; too risky with those cranes and other critters about.  So why do you see way cheaper corn all about this time of year?  The answer is chemicals.  Several types of pesticides applied to conventional corn make it an “easy” crop to grow and relatively cheap to grow.  We don’t use those chemicals.

The most common question I was asked at the Corn Boil: why does your corn taste so good?  Answer: it is fresh, harvested when it tastes the best, and kept at the proper temperature.  Large growers supplying grocery chains get paid by the ton, so there is an incentive to let the sweet corn get big kernels; that means overripe corn.  Sweet corn should not be left unrefrigerated.  All the local sweet corn you see sitting in the heat of the day on the roadside stands is getting worse by the hour.  It loses eating quality unless kept cold.  Even then, corn is significantly better fresh.  So eat it up right away.  Alternatively, a fresh ear freezes extremely well if par boiled for 3 minutes, then dunked in cool water to cool down, kernels cut off, bagged and frozen.  When you want it, just lightly reheat it.  We eat fresh tasting corn all winter following this process.

I hope you get a chance to enjoy the beautiful Sandhill Cranes on our farm sometime.  That would be your payback for some tattered sweet corn.

Harvesting Sweet Corn. The people harvesting the corn follow behind a conveyor. Each ear of corn they pick is put onto the conveyor and lifted into the wagon. Two people are waiting to receive it and count it into crates.

Corn traveling on the conveyor.


Introducing the Vermont Valley Tomato Family.  We are now harvesting from every tomato patch on the farm.  Here is what you can expect to see in your share box over the next couple of months.  Hopefully this will help you identify it when you see it in your share.  Most of our tomatoes are Heirloom varieties.  An Heirloom is an open pollinated variety that has been passed down for generations.

Garden Peach:  These 2oz yellow fruits blush pink when ripe and have fuzzy skins somewhat like peaches.  Soft skinned, juicy and very sweet.  Light fruity taste is not what you would expect in a tomato.

Green Zebra:   A 3-4 oz. tangy salad tomato with green stripes and a yellow blush.   Eat them when they get soft.

Red Zebra:  A small red tomato overlaid with golden yellow stripes, the red version of Green Zebra.

Roman Candle:  A long, yellow colored, paste tomato.  Great for drying, sauce and fresh eating.

Ruth’s, Estiva, Wisconsin 55, Pink Beauty:  Red slicing tomatoes with amazing flavor and texture.

Cherry Tomatoes:  Sun Gold, Sun Cherry, Yellow Mini and Black Cherry.  We mix them up for you. 

Roma/Paste/Plum/Processing Tomatoes:  These tomatoes are drier than most slicing tomatoes, making them perfect for cooking, drying, sauce and salsa making. We grow a mix of traditional red paste tomatoes and others with fascinating shape, size and color.  Here are their names:  Debarao, Super Marzano, San Marzano, Monica, Mariana, Viva Italia, Speckled Roman, Amish Paste, Federle, Sheboygan, Opalka, Orange Banana. 

Black Krim:  A slightly flattened, deep red/mahogany colored tomato with heavy green shoulders; interior is a deep reddish-green color, sweet and tasty.  Unbelievably rich flavor. The Black Krim is ready to eat when it has turned a very deep purplish-black color, the shoulders may stay green. My personal favorite! (Barb).  

Japanese Trifele Black:  A tomato that looks like a beautiful mahogany-colored Bartlett pear with greenish shoulders.  A rich and complex flavor.

We aim to harvest our tomatoes just before they are vine-ripe. We do this so you don’t receive an over ripe tomato.  But it also means that you may receive a tomato that needs to sit on your counter for a day or two before it is perfect to eat, heavy and quite soft.   And when you do receive a very ripe tomato, eat it up.


(left to right): Black Krim (slightly under ripe), Black Krim (ripe and ready to eat); three red slicing tomatoes: Ruth’s, Estiva, Pink Beauty; Japanese Trifele Black, Garden Peach, Orange Banana, RedZebra, Green Zebra