September 2014


Twenty years ago we bought 40 acres (5 of which were tillable) an old farmhouse and even older barn to start this farm. Everything needed lots of TLC. The land was overgrown with weeds, the barn was on the verge of crumbling and the house, well it was livable, so we moved in. We’ve acquired more land over the years, both bought and rented, and improved it each year using organic practices. We’ve plugged away at remodeling and adding office space onto the house. And we’ve put lots and lots of time and resources into the barn. Not only have we saved it from crumbling, but we have turned it into the hub of activity on the farm. It was the hub when this was a dairy farm and it is again the hub with this farm. As I was getting ready to write about the barn I remembered that I had written something years ago. Below is what I wrote in 2007, I don’t think I can say it any better today.

This old barn is one special friend on this farm. She is over 100 years old and gets more beautiful with age. When we bought this farm in 1994 she was in need of lots of help. The first thing we did was fix her foundation. After it was all patched and put together, concrete was sprayed into the once beautiful but now crumbling lime stone walls. Her foundation was now strong. We needed a walk-in-cooler so we poured concrete, built a cooler and built walls around it. The Barn now had a cooler attached to her. We removed the cow stanchions, scooped out lots of old manure and filled in the manure gutters. After a few years we needed a packing shed to wash and sort vegetables so we added one onto her north side. First concrete was poured, then our beloved dog, River, walked through the concrete (note his paw prints some time). The steel walls were constructed with one side open to the east. It’s a beautiful place to work. Over time we needed more cooler space. A cooler couldn’t be properly built under crumbling beams so the big project of removing two sections of the upper barn floor happened one January. What a difference. A solid floor upstairs and a solid ceiling above the box packing area. (prior to that we had a sheet of plastic nailed to the ceiling to keep the crumbling bits from falling on us). A beautiful new cooler was constructed. Potato storage. The north side of the barn had housed David’s workshop and storage for small tractors and equipment. As our farm continued to grow the space was much too small. We also needed additional cooler space. Again, major renovation. The remaining three sections of the barn floor were removed and replaced, another January project two years later. A large potato cooler was constructed with a potato sorting room. (the old potato cooler is now an additional cooler for vegetables). This meant David’s workshop had to move, so a year ago he built a large shed, big enough for a workshop and storage space for the ever growing fleet of tractors and specialized vegetable equipment. But, alas, each time it rained we knew our beautiful new barn floor was getting wet. It was time. A new roof was put on.

Now I have to add to the story because more has happened since 2007. As the farm grew and we acquired larger equipment to wash vegetables, we needed additional packing shed space. We built ‘the annex’, an addition on the east side of the barn, to house our greens washer, root tumbler, and various potato sorting equipment. Cooler space was getting scarce so we added yet another large walk in cooler inside the original packing shed area. This cooler is tall and has a garage door so we can drive in with bulk bins of vegetables. And then the major facelift came in the spring of 2010 when the old wood siding was covered with metal. The old look is gone, I cried, but this old barn will stand another hundred years or more. This old barn is an amazing part of Vermont valley Community Farm’s history and future.

Barb

The addition of  ‘The Annex’ in 2009

The addition of ‘The Annex’ in 2009

Siding the barn in the spring of 2010

Siding the barn in the spring of 2010

Eric, Ken Schuster, and David working on the west side the barn .

Eric, Ken Schuster, and David working on the west side the barn.

Potato harvest, beet harvest, carrot harvest, winter squash harvest. The order of our days has changed. Last week we were spending long hours harvesting, washing and bagging tomatoes. Now our tomato plants have called it quits. All summer long we made sure we were out in the fields by 6:30am to beat the heat, now we wait for the chill to pass and the heavy fog to lift. Although we haven’t had a frost yet, we have had 35 degrees more than once. What does this all mean for you? The contents of your share will again change with the season.

I wish I could say all of this darkness means that I can sleep in just a bit longer, but no, not yet. It’s kind of fun to walk down to the packing shed in the dark and work alone for a bit before the crew shows up. I love our barn and spending time in it has always been comforting to me. It was one of the reasons I fell in love with this property 20 years ago. I wanted an old barn. It doesn’t look old any more with its new roof, new floor, new siding, reinforced foundation and several additions. We’ve saved this old barn and turned it into a very functional space. I’m writing all of this as I sit in the funky office space in the barn (old milk house). The crew will arrive soon and the pack will begin shortly after. I’ll write more about this barn next week. It’s been a very important part of this farm.

Barb

Autumn News

Storage Shares are available

Pumpkin Pick October 5th

End of season delivery schedule

One of the broccoli harvests.

One of the broccoli harvests.

Harvesting Chioggia beets. These beets will go into the storage share.

Harvesting Chioggia beets. These beets will go into the storage share.

Our winter squash harvest began this week with the Delicata squash. We will continue over the next week to bring in all of the squash. It looks as if it will be a plentiful harvest.

Our winter squash harvest began this week with the Delicata squash. We will continue over the next week to bring in all of the squash. It looks as if it will be a plentiful harvest.

This week feels like fall. The days are getting shorter, leaves are beginning to turn, it’s predicted to be in the 30’s Friday night. The vegetables are responding to all of this.

This week will be our last delivery of sweet corn. The melons are nearly finished. The tomatoes are winding down quickly and the peppers are ramping up. Potato harvest began this week and the fall broccoli has begun. Salad mix returns and lettuce heads are looking good in the field. The winter squashes are beautiful and the pumpkins are orange. We have a lot of fall vegetables to look forward to for the last seven weeks of our delivery season. Only seven weeks, it’s hard to believe.

We have been working hard since the beginning of March. For the months of March, April and May we spent all of our time in the greenhouse and hoophouses. In April, May, June and July we planted and transplanted hundreds of thousands of plants into the ground. Beginning in June we began harvest for weekly deliveries. The greenhouse emptied out at the end of July and we quickly filled it up again with onions that needed to dry. The crew has started work at 6:30 since the beginning of June. Next week we are switching to 7:15 so we don’t have to wear head lamps to see the crops. It’s going to get cold and we will wear more layers. The seasonality of farming is what makes it so interesting, and of course at times challenging. At least we didn’t get the predicted 3 inches of rain and flash flooding yeseterday!

The change in season also means that it is time to sign up for your Storage Share!

The final roma tomato u-pick was held last Sunday. Thousands of pounds were picked at each u-pick and there were still tomatoes left for us to harvest for this week’s delivery. We harvested and washed 10,900 roma tomatoes for your share boxes.

The final roma tomato u-pick was held last Sunday. Thousands of pounds were picked at each u-pick and there were still tomatoes left for us to harvest for this week’s delivery. We harvested and washed 10,900 roma tomatoes for your share boxes.

The first salad mix harvest of the fall.

The first salad mix harvest of the fall.

Tonny, Elisabeth, and Hillary bagging Goldrush Russets for the shares.

Tonny, Elisabeth, and Hillary bagging Goldrush Russets for the shares.

Twenty two years ago David and I joined a CSA. That was the first year of CSA in the Madison area. We lived in Madison at the time and were totally taken by the concept. We were told that CSA originated in Japan and the Japanese word Teikei has to do with knowing the farm and farmers who grow your food. As a side note, David and I had the honor of meeting one of the first Japanese CSA farmers when we spoke an international CSA conference in California two winters ago. We were so taken by this CSA concept that we decided to start our own CSA farm. In 1994 we moved our family from Madison’s Isthmus to the Town of Vermont and started Vermont Valley Community Farm. Our goal was to distribute all of the food we grew to our CSA members. We wanted to put all of our energy into developing a meaningful relationship with those eating our food. This is why we have so many opportunities for you to come to the farm, why we have worker shares as part of our labor force and why we involve members as pick up site hosts. The CSA concept goes much deeper than the contents of a weekly box of produce. There becomes a connection to the farm and farmers who grow the food. David and I continue to believe deeply in the concept of CSA; keeping the distribution of food local, keeping your food dollars local, getting to know the people who eat the food we grow. Of course we spend lots of time being the best farmers we can, maintaining healthy soils and growing delicious, nutritious food. And our children who we dragged out of the comfy confines of Madison are now helping us run the farm. We are incredibly honored to be voted Madison’s #1 Farmers in the 2014 Isthmus Readers Pole. The concept works!

Season One: 1995; David and Barb transplanting onions in April. I can remember that day like it was yesterday. I was frozen cold to the bone. It was misting and 40 degrees. Likely my face reflects the feeling. I had to pick up every wet, cold cluster of onions. David must not be so cold, he’s smiling.

Season One: 1995; David and Barb transplanting onions in April. I can remember that day like it was yesterday. I was frozen cold to the bone. It was misting and 40 degrees. Likely my face reflects the feeling. I had to pick up every wet, cold cluster of onions. David must not be so cold, he’s smiling.

Our first tractor. The Perkins children, Becky(9), Jesse(13) and Eric(11) pretty happy with the new blue Ford. All three kids are an important part of the farm 20 years later.

Our first tractor. The Perkins children, Becky(9), Jesse(13) and Eric(11) pretty happy with the new blue Ford. All three kids are an important part of the farm 20 years later.

Barb

This week your bag of tomatoes is huge, over 4 pounds! This pasta sauce is a great way to use most of the bag. Plus it’s super easy and delicious. It tastes great with meatballs or you could add cooked ground beef to create a meat sauce.

Becky Perkins Red Sauce

Fresh Pasta Sauce

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 ½ – 2 hours
Yield: about 1 quart

Ingredients
3 ½- 4 ½ pounds tomatoes, any variety
1 onion
3 teaspoons Italian spice blend
(you choose the combo: oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme, rosemary)
½ teaspoon both salt and black pepper
optional: 2 tablespoons red wine
optional: 3-4 cloves garlic, minced

Remove the tomato cores and cut tomatoes in half. Over your sink or a bowl gently squeeze the tomato halves. This will remove most of the seeds and some the juice, don’t worry if some seeds remain. Slice halves into quarters and place in food processor. Blend tomatoes until a smooth paste is created (or slightly chunky if you prefer). Transfer tomatoes to a medium-sized pot. Peel and quarter the onion, place in food processor and pulse until diced (this will only take seconds). Add onion to tomatoes and place over low heat. Add spices, salt and pepper plus red wine and garlic if using. Allow to simmer for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally. This will thicken the sauce. The sauce will have a bit more water than your typical store bough sauce (and a wonderful fresh taste you won’t find in a sauce from the grocery store). Enjoy immediately over pasta or freeze for later use.

Farm Cook, Becky Perkins is a Certified Health Coach, visit her blog at www.therealfoodmama.com