August 2015


The Tuesday morning crew harvesting that delicious sweet corn for you. They walk behind this moving conveyor which is pulled by a tractor. Each person is responsible for harvesting corn from one row. A total ‘non-stop, don’t fall behind’ job.

Vermont Valley sweet corn harvest 2

The corn moves to another conveyor which takes it up into the wagon. Two or three people ride in the wagon and count corn into crates. We need a count so we know how many ears we can deliver to you.

A view from the tractor as it creeps forward at .17 mph

Vermont Valley sweet corn harvest 5

The other way we harvest sweet corn is to walk behind a bulk bin, harvest the ears and toss them into the bin. We do this behind the house where the ground is steeply sloped. A smaller tractor is used to move the bulk bin.

Vermont Valley sweet corn harvest 4

Barb drives backwards as harvesters emerge with their corn. This is the patch that was used for the Corn Boil. What was not eaten at that festival was harvested for delivery.

 

Good Bye Shanna

Sunday was Shanna’s last day guarding the farm. She died peacefully at the wise old age of 15. For years we joked that she would never die. She had too much to do and didn’t want to leave Nasta in charge. Nasta is Jesse and Jonnah’s spunky, much younger husky, raised and vigilantly kept in check by Shanna. Shanna came to this farm in the year 2000 as a vegetable guard dog. She and her companion Blue were partners in a five year DNR/USDA pilot project to determine if dogs (in the confines of an invisible fence) could keep hungry critters out of the vegetable fields and keep the vegetables free from damage. The project was a total success. Shanna’s life work included protecting her territory and being a best friend to every person who came to this farm. She always had a smile on her face and a sloppy kiss if you got close enough to her face. She loved Thursdays; she could greet members as they came to pick up their shares, get lots of attention and occasional treats. Shanna played soccer, yes pushed the ball around as good as any player on the field. She welcomed Oby, Becky and Brian’s dog, to the pack a few years ago. She was the alpha dog. Now the dogs and people she has left behind have to reorganize and go on without her. We miss you Shanna!

Barb

Shanna (left) and her companion Blue in 2004.

Shanna (left) and her companion Blue in 2004.

Shanna the amazing farm dog.

Shanna the amazing farm dog.

 

Introducing the Vermont Valley Tomato Family 

Orange Banana, Red Zebra, Pink Beauty, Estiva lower row: Garden Peach, Clementine, Indigo Cherry Drops, Japanese Trifele Black

Orange Banana, Red Zebra, Pink Beauty, Estiva
lower row: Garden Peach, Clementine, Indigo Cherry Drops, Japanese Trifele Black

Here are the tomato varieties you can expect to see in your share box from now until the frost. This should help you identify your tomatoes. Many 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.

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

Estiva, Arbason, Geronimo (grown in the hoophouses) and Pink Beauty: Red slicing tomatoes with amazing flavor and texture.

Indigo Cherry Drops: A stunningly jet black, 1-2 oz. tomato with striking dark blue anthocyanin coloration over red flesh. When sliced it looks like a plum with its deep red flesh.

Japanese Trifele Black: A tomato that looks like a beautiful mahogany-colored Bartlett pear with greenish shoulders. A rich and complex flavor. Let it sit on your counter and get dark colored and soft before eating it.

Clementine: A round orange, 2 oz. tomato with sweet, tart flavor.

Cherry Tomatoes:  Yellow Mini, Sakura (red), Solid Gold, Black Cherry and six un-named varieties of red cherry tomatoes; the ones we are trialing for Johnny’s Selected Seeds. 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:  Granadero, Viva Italia, Tiren, Speckled Roman, Amish Paste, Federle, Opalka, Oxheart.  We invite you to come out to the farm to harvest your own Romas – U Pick details on our web site.

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.

A big Badger Bus pulled up to the farm, I hopped in and directed the group to the field where we are conducting tomato trials (see last week’s post). This group of 40+ was a scientific community of graduate students, researchers, farmers, and industry professionals gathering for the fourth year to build relationships and form collaborations as they develop the organic seed movement. Now that’s important work!!! They came from around the country and around the world. The group spent an hour with Jesse and David in our field in Arena where we grow State Certified/Organic Certified seed potatoes to sell to other organic farms. They spent another hour with me in our tomato trial field. We talked about what our practices in these areas and were told that the work we do on our farm is incredibly important to the organic seed community and movement. On a daily basis, my time is spent working hard growing vegetables. I do what I do because I believe it is the right thing to do. It was affirming and empowering to have the opportunity to share our work and expertise with industry leaders (heads of seed companies, seed breeders, professors, graduate students). Together we are working to strengthen organic seed quality and availability.

Barb

Jesse Perkins talking about the Organic Seed potatoes he and his dad, David, grow on this farm.

Jesse Perkins talking about the Organic Seed potatoes he and his dad, David, grow on this farm.

Barb Perkins talking to the Seed Symposium group about the tomato trials she is doing together with Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

Barb Perkins talking to the Seed Symposium group about the tomato trials she is doing together with Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

The Seed Symposium group interacting with Barb as tomato trials are discussed.

The Seed Symposium group interacting with Barb as tomato trials are discussed.

Vermont Valley seed symposium

Each year we grow new varieties of vegetables in small quantities to see if they are varieties we want to include in future years. We keep good records so we don’t have to rely on our memory. This year Johnny’s Selected Seeds, a high quality seed company with whom we have a long standing relationship, asked us if we would participate in tomato and lettuce trials. As a seed company, they develop new varieties of vegetables. These varieties are grown out on their farm in Maine but they also want to see how they perform in the Midwest, where many of their customers are. So we planted nine different varieties of cherry tomatoes for them. Each variety was carefully labeled with a red flag and when harvest began we kept each variety separate in a plastic clam shell container. On Tuesday of this week, the Johnny’s team came to the farm to see the tomato trials. Two breeders and two sales reps. A very fun and interesting morning. The following pictures tell the story.

Ken (our sales rep) and Emily (the tomato and lettuce breeder) looking at their notes as they begin comparing each variety.

Ken (our sales rep) and Emily (the tomato and lettuce breeder) looking at their notes as they begin comparing each variety.

Emily taking notes while we are in the thick of the trial tomatoes. Luke (a sales rep) and Ken look on.

Emily taking notes while we are in the thick of the trial tomatoes. Luke (a sales rep) and Ken look on.

We have now moved into a different area of the field where we repeated the trial. It is important to have two repetitions of the same trial. Let the tasting begin. Emily offers one of the varieties to John, another breeder.

We have now moved into a different area of the field where we repeated the trial. It is important to have two repetitions of the same trial. Let the tasting begin. Emily offers one of the varieties to John, another breeder.

Emily, with the help of Luke, begin to organize our five harvests of the nine varieties of tomatoes. She will be looking at shape, color, consistency and flavor.

Emily, with the help of Luke, begin to organize our five harvests of the nine varieties of tomatoes. She will be looking at shape, color, consistency and flavor.

As we were looking at the tomatoes, the farm crew came in for lunch. Emily (who by the way was an employee on our farm several years ago, before getting her awesome job at Johnny’s) captivates them as she explains what she is looking for and observing.

As we were looking at the tomatoes, the farm crew came in for lunch. Emily (who by the way was an employee on our farm several years ago, before getting her awesome job at Johnny’s) captivates them as she explains what she is looking for and observing.

Then the Johnny’s team join us for a delicious lunch prepared by Cook Becky Perkins (in the blue tank top). She prepares lunch for us three days a week in our barn kitchen.

Then the Johnny’s team join us for a delicious lunch prepared by Cook Becky Perkins (in the blue tank top). She prepares lunch for us three days a week in our barn kitchen.

After lunch we continue with more tasting. Note the corn chips. They are the palate cleanser between each variety.

After lunch we continue with more tasting. Note the corn chips. They are the palate cleanser between each variety.

Although these tomato varieties are still being developed by Johnny’s Selected Seeds, you will be receiving them in your cherry tomato bags.

Barb