As we harvest the summer crops and leave only vegetable matter behind in the fields, new plant life comes as we plant cover crops.  Cover crops are planted for the purpose of enriching soil fertility, preventing soil erosion, sending roots deep down to break up soil compaction and to increase the soil’s organic matter content.  The cover crop is planted, mowed down and tilled back into the soil.  Sometimes it is referred to as ‘green manure’.  Just last week we planted 20 acres into cover crops, including: field peas, Austrian winter peas, oats, alfalfa and tillage radish.  We also plant rye, wheat, barley, clover, fescue and hairy vetch.  A basic concept in organic farming is to keep the sun working for you with cover crops; collecting solar energy by converting it into plant matter which is then converted into soil and subsequently into the nutritious, delicious vegetables you eat.  The cover crops are an integral part of this farm’s soil fertility program thereby reducing off-farm inputs; “We grow our own fertility”.

Oats, Peas and Tillage Radish planted where the garlic once grew. Garlic was harvested in July.

Weekly Harvest Routines

You have been receiving squash for many, many weeks.  It is a plant that continues to bear fruit seemingly endlessly.  It hides under foliage and gets enormous overnight.  We have had to stay very vigilant for the past 8 weeks lest the squash takes control of the farm. We harvest squash every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.  The daily harvest often takes 6 – 8 people 2 – 3 hours.  With the onset of cooler weather we think the squash will give us a break!  We will reduce our harvest commitment to three days per week without any sadness.

Searching for squash in the ‘squash jungle’. The plants have scratchy spines on their thick stems so long pants, long sleeves and gloves are a must.

Ohn, Elisabeth, Chad and Clara empty their buckets of squash into crates, then back for more.

I have talked about ‘year of the eggplant’ several times in “This Week’s Harvest”.  It truly feels that way.  We have not had such a bumper crop of eggplant in the farm’s history.  Although eggplant is such a beautiful fruit, the harvest is no fun.  Eggplant plants have pollen or dust or some such thing that cause all of us harvesters to sneeze and cough and get itchy throats.  The following picture shows how Elizabeth and I deal with crawling through those plants.

Elisabeth and Barb harvesting eggplant.

Our resident Sandhill Crane family walking through newly planted lettuce heads. The mom and dad are in the front and back and the two young are in the middle. We have watched the adults raise their young all season. They are usually in our big field announcing their presence as we get close. Rarely do they become frightened enough to fly away.

Barb and David