August 2013


This year had been about as good as a vegetable farm can hope for, in regard to the amount of precipitation we have had.  We have had very little rain for the past month, but nothing compared to last season’s drought conditions.

When our crops need more water than they are getting from rainfall, we use irrigation.  The majority of our water is pumped from wells; in a few of our fields we pump water from the stream.  Without irrigation we would not be able to consistently grow vegetables.  In seasons like we are currently in, irrigation is necessary to have a consistent, high quality harvest every week, but we would still have produce without it.   However, in years like 2012 our yields would have been almost nothing without our irrigation systems.

We use five types of irrigation:

  • The majority of our crops are irrigated using traveling guns (they shoot water not bullets).  We have five different traveling guns and it is not uncommon for three or four to be in use at once.  Our smallest is able to water half an acre in one run, while our largest can water over 6 acres in one run.  This type of irrigation is mobile and gets moved to the area that needs to be watered. The cart is put in place and the gun, which is a very large sprinkler, is pulled out.  The gun retracts using the water that is traveling through it.
The traveling gun irrigating cabbage on Tuesday

The traveling gun irrigating cabbage.

Tractor pulling out traveling gun to irrigate beets.

Tractor pulling out traveling gun hose to irrigate beets.

The hose of the traveling gun will mechanically be wound around the spool.  This is how the gun is pulled down the field, irrigating as it goes.

The hose of the traveling gun will mechanically be wound around the cart. This is how the gun is pulled down the field, irrigating as it goes.

  • We have a center pivot in one of our fields.  By center pivot standards ours is a small one, but it is able to irrigate 12 acres at once, large ones will irrigate over 200 acres.  Center pivot is the easiest type of irrigation since it never needs to be set up or moved and also does the best job of watering.  Its downside is that it needs a large, properly shaped field and is the most expensive for initial cost.  It is has a computerized control panel that can be programmed to irrigate according to our needs.
Center Pivot irrigating potatoes.

Center Pivot irrigating potatoes.

  • Last year we added a traveling boom to our arsenal of irrigation implements.  This is the same as the traveling gun, but with misters on a boom instead of one large sprinkler.  This gives a gentler spray, which is good for germinating seeds and gives an even soft irrigation like the center pivot.
Traveling boom irrigating lettuces in May.  The boom is pulled over the rows of vegetables while gently misting the produce.

Traveling boom irrigating lettuces in April. The boom is pulled over the rows of vegetables while gently misting the produce.

  • We use drip irrigation for all of our crops in raised beds, these include tomatoes, eggplant, melons and peppers.  We use drip irrigation in conjunction with plastic mulch.  We lay plastic tape which has small holes spaced every 8 inches, under the plastic mulch.  Water is pumped through the plastic tape and slowly soaks the ground.  This form of irrigation is very efficient since there is no loss to evaporation.
melons

Rows of melons grown in plastic mulch. Drip tape is laid under the plastic mulch to irrigate the melon plants.

drip tape

Drip tape connected to the hose at the end of a row of melons

  • We also use solid set pipe, we mainly us this form of irrigation to frost irrigate the strawberries and to germinate certain crops, like carrots.
Setting up frost irrigation in the strawberries in May.  The plants are sprayed with water at coldest part the night to prevent strawberry flowers from thawing too quickly.

Setting up frost irrigation in the strawberries in May. The plants are sprayed with water at the coldest part the night to prevent strawberry flowers from thawing too quickly.

Jesse and Jonnah

I love stir fry, and this is why. There is no need to check to see if you have the right ingredients; you can use just about any vegetable or meat (if you choose).  Use what you have!  Stir fry tastes so fresh and is loaded with nutrition.  Preparing a stir fry is simple and forgiving.  It’s hard to use too much or too little of something.  And finally, the array of colors, textures and shapes is always so visually appealing.  And who doesn’t want to eat beautiful food.

When it comes to seasoning your stir fry most any spice will do, fresh or dried.  Garlic and ginger are wonderful.  Tamari always makes it into my stir fries.  Here is a combo that I have used when preparing lunch for the farm crew.  It’s good!

More or less equal parts:

fresh garlic, minced

fresh ginger, minced

chili sauce (I like Sriracha)

honey

tamari or soy sauce

optional: cornstarch or arrowroot powder

Add all five ingredients directly to your stir fry. Adjust amounts to your liking.  Thicken with cornstarch or arrowroot powder.

A picture perfect day to spend sitting on a grassy lawn, gazing at gorgeous hills and valleys, picking and eating sweet corn and enjoying incredible pot luck food.  Of special note were all of the cabbage dishes.  There were two Asian slaws, two ramen noodle slaws, cole slaws with carrots, cucumbers, peppers.  At least 12 different cole slaws, maybe more.  I chuckled as I cleaned up the food table and collected the food name cards; I’m happy there was a way to use up that cabbage.   Most of the dishes gracing the pot luck table contained lots of farm-grown veggies. (Too bad we don’t grow cocoa and can’t take credit for the delicious deserts).   It’s fun to see the food we grow and deliver come back to the farm in such a beautiful and delicious presentation.  Thank you to everybody who was here, you made the day!

 Barb

Harvesting sweet corn and eating it raw in the field.  It’s a tradition, David insists everyone taste the corn raw, so if you have never tried it, please do.

Harvesting sweet corn and eating it raw in the field. It’s a tradition, David insists everyone taste the corn raw, so if you have never tried it, please do.

Brian boiling the corn.

Brian boiling the corn.

Look at all of that delicious food!  Flowers compliments of Joe Schmitt, flower grower and Vermont Valley site host.

Look at all of that delicious food! Flowers compliments of Joe Schmitt, flower grower and Vermont Valley site host.

Picnic in the yard.

Picnic in the yard.

This is the view everyone took in as they sat on the lawn enjoying the good food and good company.

This is the view everyone took in as they sat on the lawn enjoying the good food and good company.

 

Good ingredients create great food. No need for fancy recipes to create amazing dishes. This recipe is a particularly tasty way to use potatoes and tomatoes.

DSC_4931

Potato, Tomato & Cheese Casserole

8 medium sized potatoes

3 Tbs butter

4 medium sized tomatoes, sliced

18-20 leaves fresh basil, roughly chopped

1/2 lb. mozzarella or monterey jack cheese

salt and pepper to taste

optional: 6 hard-boiled eggs

Cut potatoes into 1/4 inch slices and boil until just tender.

Melt the butter and pour over bottom of 9×13 casserole.

Arrange the potato slices in buttered casserole. Lay sliced tomatoes on top of potato layer. Sprinkle chopped basil over tomatoes.

Cut the cheese into large strips and arrange on top of tomatoes.

If using hard-boiled eggs, peel, slice and lay on top of cheese. Top off the casserole with salt and pepper.

Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.

DSC_4937

The produce you receive from the farm originates from a variety of processes; by knowing your farmer you have the opportunity to better appreciate that complexity.  This time of year begins one of those periods when the farm begins growing the fertility and soil quality that becomes your vegetables the following year.  “Cover cropping” is an ancient practice which is used by many organic farmers, but today seldom used by others; it is very important on this farm.  Cover cropping captures the sun’s energy and turns it into “vegetable energy” the following year.  What I particularly like about this energy process is its perpetuity, as long as the sun is here cover cropping will be; say as opposed to fossil fuels.

The practice in August is primarily the planting of alfalfa, a leguminous crop that is excellent at producing nitrogen, a critical element for almost all your vegetables; it also does an excellent job improving the soil structure because of its deep tap root and high amount of biomass.  Alfalfa is also a very important crop for dairy farms because it is high in energy, which for dairy farms means milk; you see it growing all over the State on dairy farms.  Although not done for cover cropping purposes, all the alfalfa on dairy farms is good for the soil and subsequent crops.

We harvest the alfalfa and use the hay to mulch certain vegetable crops.  This harvest is done just like our dairy farm neighbors, and since they are so good at it, I keep an eye on them to know when it is time to cut and harvest.  The entire alfalfa crop is eventually tilled into the ground to provide fertility for vegetable plantings.  We essentially keep as much land in cover crops as possible to keep the sun working for us, capturing that perpetually renewable solar energy.

David

Different soil types determine which type of machine is used to plant the cover crop.  This machine tills, drops the seed and then compresses it into the surface of the ground.  This is a particularly good way to plant alfalfa on “heavier” soils.

Different soil types determine which type of machine is used to plant the cover crop. This machine tills, drops the seed and then compresses it into the surface of the ground. This is a particularly good way to plant alfalfa on “heavier” soils.

This machine is the best for planting alfalfa in sandy soils where most of the potatoes are grown.  It cuts a furrow about one inch deep, drops the seed and presses soil over the top.  This planting will be tilled into the ground one week before we plant potatoes next spring.

This machine is the best for planting alfalfa in sandy soils where most of the potatoes are grown. It cuts a furrow about one inch deep, drops the seed and presses soil over the top. This planting will be tilled into the ground one week before we plant potatoes next spring.

An alfalfa field close-up.  This alfalfa was planted last August.

An alfalfa field close-up. This alfalfa was planted last August.

Jesse mowing a grassy area that is too wet to plant vegetables or alfalfa, but does a fine job of growing grass for mulch.

Jesse mowing a grassy area that is too wet to plant vegetables or alfalfa, but does a fine job of growing grass for mulch.

Round bales of harvested hay wait to be put onto vegetable fields as mulch.  The mulch improves the soil, suppresses weeds, and provides  a clean and dry surface for the vegetables and the harvest crew.

Round bales of harvested hay wait to be put onto vegetable fields as mulch. The mulch improves the soil, suppresses weeds, and provides a clean and dry surface for the vegetables and the harvest crew.

Elizabeth, Paul and David transplanting the roma tomatoes into a freshly mulched field.  You will see this field as you walk out to pick your corn for the corn boil this weekend.

Elisabeth, Paul and David transplanting the roma tomatoes into a freshly mulched field. You will see this field as you walk out to pick your corn for the corn boil this weekend.

Large crews and long hours are spent harvesting vegetables.  But then what?  It all comes into the packing shed to get washed, weighed, bagged, bunched, sorted, counted.  Here’s a glimpse into this week’s packing shed.

Brush washing cucumbers.  Rozalyn, on the left, feeds the harvested cucumbers onto a conveyor belt.  They roll over soft brushes and get sprayed from above as they pass through the washer unit.  Then out they come onto a rotating round table.  The people standing around the round table (Clara and Ann) check for quality and count the cucumbers into crates (60 per crate, exactly).  The crates get stacked 7 high and moved by hand truck to get weighed; then recorded onto a spread sheet.  This is the same process we use for summer squash, eggplant, tomatoes and peppers.

Brush washing cucumbers. Rozalyn, on the left, feeds the harvested cucumbers onto a conveyor belt. They roll over soft brushes and get sprayed from above as they pass through the washer unit. Then out they come onto a rotating round table. The people standing around the round table (Clara and Ann) check for quality and count the cucumbers into crates (60 per crate, exactly). The crates get stacked 7 high and moved by hand truck to get weighed; then recorded onto a spread sheet. This is the same process we use for summer squash, eggplant, tomatoes and peppers.

Washing carrots in a barrel washer.  Chris, at the far left, dumps crates of carrots onto a conveyor belt which carries them into the barrel washer.  Water is sprayed onto the carrots as the barrel turns.  The clean carrots exit through a chute and move on another conveyor to a waiting crate.  Brian inspects the carrots and then stacks the full crates of carrots.  Each full stact is hand-trucked to the scale where the weight is recorded.  Thye move into a 34 degree cooler until they are bagged.

Washing carrots in a barrel washer. Chris, at the far left, dumps crates of carrots onto a conveyor belt which carries them into the barrel washer. Water is sprayed onto the carrots as the barrel turns. The clean carrots exit through a chute and move on another conveyor to a waiting crate. Brian inspects the carrots and then stacks the full crates of carrots. Each full stack is hand-trucked to the scale where the weight is recorded. They move into a 34 degree cooler until they are bagged.

Washing lettuce heads.  As lettuce is harvested it is packed into crates.  We drive the truck full of lettuce to the packing shed.  The washing is done by our Tuesday morning worker shares (members who work each week for their share). Cathy takes the crates of lettuce from the truck and sets them out for Jamie to spray.  Claiborne moves the sprayed crate to a stack so Kristin and Sandy can dip them into tubs of water.

Washing lettuce heads. As lettuce is harvested it is packed into crates. We drive the truck full of lettuce to the packing shed. The washing is done by our Tuesday morning worker shares (members who work each week for their share). Cathy takes the crates of lettuce from the truck and sets them out for Jamie to spray. Claiborne moves the sprayed crate to a stack so Kristin and Sandy can dip them into tubs of water.

Bagging potatoes and recording lettuce.  The potatoes are dumped into our bagging table.  Two people slide potatoes through a hole into a waiting bag.  Jamie is looking at the scale readout to see that she has put the correct weight into the bag.  We use this bagging table for everything that gets bagged.  In the backround Barb is recording the weight of stacks of lettuce.  The stacks of crates are sitting on a scale.

Bagging potatoes and recording lettuce. The potatoes are dumped into our bagging table. Two people slide potatoes through a hole into a waiting bag. Jamie is looking at the scale readout to see that she has put the correct weight into the bag. We use this bagging table for everything that gets bagged. In the background Barb is recording the weight of stacks of lettuce. The stacks of crates are sitting on a scale.

A look at the bagging scale from the bagger’s perspective.  The full bags of potatoes are placed into crates.

A look at the bagging scale from the bagger’s perspective. The full bags of potatoes are placed into crates.

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.

Orange Banana: Long, orange paste-type tomato. Sweet and flavorful.

Black Prince: A 3-5 oz. tomato with a deep reddish/purple color and unusual brown shoulders that become orange-red as they ripen. Distinctive, rich, fruity tomato flavor.

Red Zebra: A small red tomato overlaid with golden yellow stripes.

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

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

Cherry Tomatoes: Sun Gold, Jasper(red), Red Velvet, Yellow Mini, Tronjina (orange), Sakura (red), Solid Gold 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:   Plum Regal, Granadero,  San Marzano, Monica, Viva Italia, Speckled Roman, Amish Paste, Federle, Sheboygan, Opalka, Oxheart. 

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.

top row, left to right:  Black Prince, Pink Beauty, Ruth’s or WI 55 (they look similar), Debarao bottom row,  left to right:  Garden Peach, Orange Banana, Red Zebra, Japanese Trifele Black

top row, left to right: Black Prince, Pink Beauty, Ruth’s or WI 55 (they look similar), Debarao
bottom row, left to right: Garden Peach, Orange Banana, Red Zebra, Japanese Trifele Black

 

Sweet corn and new potatoes; now that says summer!  This sweet corn was started in the greenhouse on April 29.  Yes, we start all of our sweet corn in the greenhouse and then transplant it into the fields when it is 4 weeks old.  We do this for several reasons and the outcome we strive for is that all of the corn from each planting is ready to harvest at the same time.  We want perfect germination and one plant every ten inches.  By starting it in the greenhouse and transplanting it out we assure just that.  We also want a jump start on the weeds.   Shortly after we transplant the corn we are able to cultivate between the rows to rid the patch of weeds.  Obviously this whole process is labor intensive, but the end result is delicious!

Look at that sea of sweet corn!  The Monday afternoon crew walks behind ‘The Veg-Veyor’, through the corn field, harvesting ears of corn.

Look at that sea of sweet corn! The Monday afternoon crew walks behind ‘The Veg-Veyor’, through the corn field, harvesting ears of corn.

Each ear placed on the conveyor and gets lifted to the wagon

Each ear placed on the conveyor and gets lifted to the wagon.

For two hours the tractor sets the pace and the crew keeps harvesting.

For two hours the tractor sets the pace and the crew keeps harvesting.

Back at the packing shed the wagon gets unloaded by Elizabeth, Clara and Leah and the corn gets moved into coolers.

Back at the packing shed the wagon gets unloaded by Elizabeth, Clara and Leah and the corn gets moved into coolers.

The new potatoes are harvested differently than the storage potatoes.  New potatoes are dug from the ground while the plant is still green and growing.  The skins on new potatoes are so tender because they have not yet cured which happens after the green growth has died.  We use a different machine to harvest new potatoes, one that simply lifts the potatoes up and lays them on the surface.  A crew of people then scurries behind and picks up the potatoes and places them into crates.  The soil that the potatoes are growing is is very sandy, nice and soft to crawl through.

David  lifting the potatoes out of the ground, with a little help from the tractor and digger.

David lifting the potatoes out of the ground, with a little help from the tractor and digger.

Randy picking up potatoes.

Randy picking up potatoes.