September 2015


jesse with potatoes

Jesse sitting on the back of the flat bed trailer with Wednesday’s  harvest of Kennebec potatoes.

Over the past 3 weeks, when someone puts out a call on the two-way radio Becca calling Jesse! or Eric calling David! the response usually is He’s harvesting potatoes in Arena! We don’t see much of David or Jesse this time of year. They lead the four man team that makes up the potato harvest crew that also includes Tonny and Sophal, two men from our Cambodian group. Each morning they drive to our Arena field which is 10 miles from the farm. Arena is in the Wisconsin River valley where the soil is sandy providing great conditions for growing spuds. Vermont Valley grows 17 varieties of potatoes on 10 acres for the CSA as well as our seed potato business. We produce potatoes to sell to other farmers to plant as seed. Did you know that potato seeds are actually just potatoes? So far the guys have brought in about 250,000 pounds of potatoes and they are about 85% done with the 2015 harvest. The entire harvest process takes 3 to 4 weeks. It could go more quickly but they balance the potato harvest with their CSA related jobs. By next week would should have David and Jesse back on the farm to answer our calls when we need them.

Jonnah

David unloading bins of French Fingerling potatoes. Each bulk bin holds about a thousand pounds.

David unloading bins of French Fingerling potatoes. Each bulk bin holds about a thousand pounds.

David organizing potatoes before they go into the potato cooler. We will be storing over 200,000 lbs of potatoes until April.

David organizing potatoes before they go into the potato cooler. We will be storing over 200,000 lbs of potatoes until April.

Jesse and David each drive a tractor. One pulls a potato digger and one pulls a potato wagon. The digger tosses harvested potatoes into the wagon.

Jesse and David each drive a tractor. One pulls a potato digger and one pulls a potato wagon. The digger unloads harvested potatoes into the wagon.

 

 

 

 

Tuesday’s lunch was very special. Sid, one of our Cambodian workers who has been with us for 8 years, treated us all to a fabulous meal. Rith, her son-in-law, told me she worked all day Sunday preparing the chicken and beef kabobs and eggrolls. Exactly at noon on Tuesday all 21 of us filled up the barn kitchen and shared a meal that we will remember for a long time. This will be Sid’s last year working with us and this meal was a thank you gift from her. We all have appreciated each other so much over the years. The Cambodian crew has become the backbone of the farm. We couldn’t do it without them. They are very hard workers and wonderful people.

Barb

What a special lunch! Look at that line-up of deliciousness. A feast that can’t be beat.

What a special lunch! Look at that line-up of deliciousness. A feast that can’t be beat.

This is fun and this is good!

This is fun and this is good!

A few of us on the other end of the table. Sid and Becky, our farm cook, are sitting next to each other. Since Becky didn’t have to cook on Tuesday she took the opportunity to freeze peppers for next season’s meals.

A few of us on the other end of the table. Sid and Becky, our farm cook, are sitting next to each other. Since Becky didn’t have to cook on Tuesday she took the opportunity to freeze peppers for next season’s meals.

Barb and Sid (she, with some help from a daughter, made all of the food!)

Barb and Sid (she, with some help from a daughter, made all of the food!)

Tuesday morning pepper harvest

Tuesday morning pepper harvest

This week defines the transition from summer to fall. I’m speaking in terms of vegetables, although the weather has certainly shifted as well. No more sweet corn or green beans or summer squash; last week was the final delivery of those. Our summer crops gave it their all this week. We harvested and are delivering 25,995 tomatoes and 7,405 red peppers. It happens every year; there is a peak week for the pepper and tomato production. The tomato quantity should decline next week, although the red peppers are still plentiful. I assume we will be delivering them up until the frost.

Our fall crops suddenly went through a growth spurt. I can’t always explain why things happen and grow as they do, but I make observations and take notes. The temperatures this summer have been very even, mostly in the low 80’s (with a few hot days). The evening temperatures were very cool compared to other summers. This all effects the vegetables. Potato harvest just began and so far the yields are way above average. The fall broccoli planting responded by ripening sooner than we expected. The bok choy was not expected so soon, but here it is. Our melons have not been as plentiful as usual. The winter squash crop looks great.

I guess I can wrap it all up by saying that when you eat with the seasons you eat what is ready just now. If there is a lot of something you figure out how to eat it or preserve it for winter. You look into your share box and say, “This week our meals will be based around tomatoes, peppers and broccoli”. Sounds good to me.

Get ready for some delicious fall vegetables which include kale, collard greens, winter radishes, lettuce heads, salad mix, winter squash, pie pumpkins, sweet potatoes, leeks, cabbage, celeriac, Chinese cabbage, carrots and potatoes. Six more weeks of vegetables to look forward to.

Barb

We spend many hours of our week harvesting food. The next step in the process is to bring it into the packing shed. The following is a glimpse into our time spent in the packing shed on Wednesday. Note: Most of the vegetables pictured were also harvested on Wednesday. It was a busy day!

Chad and LaVina hydro cooling and counting broccoli. Broccoli is harvested early in the morning so it is as cool as possible when it comes in. We soak it in tubs of cold water to take out any remaining field heat and then count it into crates. After it is in crates we ice it. Keeping broccoli cold will increase its shelf life.

Chad and LaVina hydro cooling and counting broccoli. Broccoli is harvested early in the morning so it is as cool as possible when it comes in. We soak it in tubs of cold water to take out any remaining field heat and then count it into crates. After it is in crates we ice it. Keeping broccoli cold will increase its shelf life.

Eric and Ann bagging green beans. The beans are dumped into this table and pushed down the holes into waiting bags. Each bag is connected to a scale, so we can divide the number of pounds we deliver by the number of bags we fill.

Eric and Ann bagging green beans. The beans are dumped into this table and pushed down the holes into waiting bags. Each bag is connected to a scale, so we can divide the number of pounds we deliver by the number of bags we fill.

Brush washing tomatoes. All of the tomatoes we harvest go through a brush washer and get counted into crates. Once again, we take the number of tomatoes we harvest and divide them by the number of bags we will pack. This week we harvested over 11,000 tomatoes!

Brush washing tomatoes. All of the tomatoes we harvest go through a brush washer and get counted into crates. Once again, we take the number of tomatoes we harvest and divide them by the number of bags we will pack. This week we harvested over 11,000 tomatoes!

Bagging the tomatoes; the entire farm crew getting the job done. Lots of complicated math happens to figure out how to divvy out all of the colors of tomatoes, ensuring everyone gets a well-balanced bag.

Bagging the tomatoes; the entire farm crew getting the job done. Lots of complicated math happens to figure out how to divvy out all of the colors of tomatoes, ensuring everyone gets a well-balanced bag.

Unloading sweet corn from the wagon. The tractor pulls into the packing shed so the wagon can be as close to the cooler as possible.

Unloading sweet corn from the wagon. The tractor pulls into the packing shed so the wagon can be as close to the cooler as possible.

Cleaning garlic. Upstairs in the barn the Cambodian crew clips the stalks from garlic bulbs, the first step in cleaning them up for delivery.

Cleaning garlic. Upstairs in the barn the Cambodian crew clips the stalks from garlic bulbs, the first step in cleaning them up for delivery.