This time of year we are super busy in the fields, as you can imagine. We are out there rain or shine, and that has meant hours harvesting in the rain over the past week. Not a big deal, it’s actually more pleasant than working in that hot, humid weather. But harvest is only one piece of the puzzle. The packing shed is an incredibly busy place, the place where everything comes right after it is harvested. Each Monday, Wednesday and Friday we harvest tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and squash. Each Tuesday we harvest peppers and eggplant. We harvest everything else as it fits in best. We need to keep a really organized schedule in order to get it all done. Once in the packing shed, the vegetables get washed, cleaned, bagged, weighed, sorted. Tons of vegetables each week. The crew logs in many hours counting tomatoes, cucumbers and squash. The bagging table stays busy. I guess we all stay busy.
Jody, Abby and Kim bagging carrots. They carrots get pushed into the holes on each corner and fall into a plastic bag. The weight can be read on each side. Abby is putting on the bags.
Cleaning garlic. We clip off the stems and rub off the dirt. Chan Rey, Rhena and Sophal.
Eric (J-Mo), Georgia, Becca and Abigail washing Japanese Trifele Black tomatoes. This group of workers logs in 8 – 10 hours a week at this table washing and counting. That’s a lot of counting!
Tonny, Becca and Becky washing potatoes. They roll through a tumbler and come out on this end where any bad ones are pulled out and then the potatoes roll into a waiting crate. The stacks of crated potatoes get weighed and then bagged.
The tomato assembly line. All of the tomato varieties are put on the table; then a calculated number of each one gets put into a bag. This is a regular Wednesday afternoon task. It can only happen after all of the tomatoes are harvested, washed and counted! Over 10,000 tomatoes harvested, washed and counted this week.
Sunday’s corn boil was a fun time for all who attended. Harvesting sweet corn is an adventure, especially if you have never done it before. David encourages tasting an ear raw in the field, always a pleasant surprise. Perfect weather, ordered up just for the day. Thank you to everyone who brought such a delicious dish to pass. The food was amazing! The day was a spectacular mix of friends, families, children, grandparents, people arriving on bikes, long time members, first time members, exchange students, babies (the youngest being 13 days old). Thanks everyone for making the 22nd Corn Boil really special.
Harvesting sweet corn for the very first time!
Yum. Eating great food, enjoying a great view, relaxing with family and friends.
Barb and David welcoming everyone.
David talking with members and answering questions about the corn and the farm.
Third generation Vermont Valley farmers. Felix, Paavo and Mischa; Barb and David’s grand kids.
Every summer a group of Central American students come to the farm for a tour. They are part of a UW program and accompanied by a professor. This year the students are from Costa Rica. I spent a year in Costa Rica as an exchange student so I am able to give the tour in Spanish. Coming from a very different climate and ecosystem they are very interested in the farm and always have many questions about how we farm organically.
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.
Top Row: Pink Beauty, Japanese Trifele Black, Pink Boar, red hoophouse tomato,
Bottom Row: Red Zebra, Orange Banana, Garden Peach
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.
Pink Boar: Wine-colored fruits with metallic green striping. Sweet and juicy.
Orange Banana: Long, orange paste-type tomato. Sweet and flavorful.
Red Zebra: A small red tomato overlaid with golden yellow stripes.
Estiva, Arbason, Geronimo, Marbonne (grown in the hoophouse) and 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. Let it sit on your counter and get dark colored and soft before eating it.
Cherry Tomatoes: Yellow Mini, Sakura (red), Solid Gold, Black Cherry, Cherry Bomb and one un-named gold variety which 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, Plum Regal. Roma VF Paste, Viva Italia, San Marzano, Monica, Speckled Roman, Amish Paste, Federle, Opalka, Oxheart, Gilbertie. We invite you to come out to the farm to harvest your own Romas – U Pick details on our web site.
Note: 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.
Our Peruvian guests in the machine shed
Twenty Edgewood College students, ten of them from Arequipa, Peru, visited the farm Monday afternoon to learn about our farm’s way of farming. We discussed a wide range of topics including local economy, local food, local involvement, organic growing practices, food distribution. The class was called “Sustainability: Local-Global Connections.” The students had thoughtful questions and will be bringing creative concepts back to Peru with them. A fun diversion to my Monday afternoon routine.
We had a visitor come work on our farm last week. Jenny is a young woman I met at a farming conference last winter when I sat down at a table full of people I didn’t know. Come to find out she is a childhood friend of Jonnah’s and had been to our farm for Jesse and Jonnah’s wedding in 2010 (yes, small world). She writes a blog and I enjoyed reading about her three day visit to our farm. It’s great to get an outsiders perspective.
Jenny on the brushwasher
“I, as a new landowner in the planning stages of a farm operation, came to Vermont Valley to garner any advice, strategies and know-how that the Perkins’ family has developed over the past two plus decades farming. A perfectly unpredictable reunion. What I learned from Jonnah, her mother-in-law Barb and the whole crew, I will take with me into all future endeavors. The biggest lesson being- if you invest in working your body, your body will work for you. We started our day at 6:30am sharp and by 8:00am we were finished harvesting more cucumber than I’ve ever seen in one place. We moved quickly on to tomatoes, finding the juiciest ripe little delicacies on the vine and brought them back to the pack shed. By 10:30am, we had washed hundreds of tomatoes, zucchini and cucumber and were ready to head out to the field again to harvest garlic until lunch time. The whole place is buoyed along by the fact that they will bring 1,000 families really good food this week and the next and the next. I consider myself a pretty fit person, but I was tired! It was hot, I shouldn’t have been wearing pants, and the fifty-pound crates of vegetables were feeling heavy in my arms as I carried them from truck to pallet. I looked at the two women working with me, guiding me through the day, both smaller than I, not really breaking a sweat, skinny muscles and energy happily carrying them along. Abby, a kind agronomist and Vermont Valley employee looked at me and said, “you have your farm muscles already.” I beamed with pride. At noon we took an hour lunch. Food had never tasted so good. By 1:00, I was ready for more work. It felt good to go to bed so physically tired that night. I imagine it’s how we’re all supposed to hit the pillow. It means eating a good dinner, passing on a second glass of wine, and sleeping by 9:00pm… or 10:00pm. A lot gets done when you live this way. I consider it really good news that our bodies are capable of so much if we treat them with love and respect. I made a pact with myself to try always to live in a way that my muscles are tired at night.” Read the full essay – Go To Bed Tired
Jenny harvesting tomatoes in the hoophouse
On the packing – Jonnah, Barb, and Jenny