Barb


As the crew bags garlic in the packing shed for the final delivery of 2016, I am in the office compiling harvest data from this season so next season’s planning can begin. The planning for 2017 begins by looking closely at what we planted and harvested and delivered this season. That will be a basis for next year’s plans. Enough? Too much? Earlier? Later? Some things we have control of, other things we don’t, so we need to be in control where we can be. I will have the seed order placed by the end of the year. That means all varieties and quantities decided. Along with figuring how many seeds of each variety we need, I also lay out the greenhouse, transplanting and direct seeding plan.

There are 7 of us working through next week. Then we go down to a skeleton crew of everyone whose last name is Perkins! (Barb, David, Jesse, Eric, Jonnah) These Perkins’ keep the farm running over the winter. Jonnah is in the office managing 2017 sign ups, Jesse is busy with the seed potato business, Eric does odd (and necessary) jobs, Barb and David prepare for next season. And all of us get to go on vacation!  Thanks for all of the support you give to the farm. This farm only exists because of you! Happy winter time and see you next season.

Barb

Here are the folks that grew your vegetables. Jonnah, Jesse, David, Barb, J-Mo (Eric), and Nasta just sent off the last delivery of the year!

Here are the folks that grew your vegetables. Jonnah, Jesse, David, Barb, J-Mo (Eric), and Nasta just sent off the last delivery of the year!

Becky and Abigail washing crates in the cold, wet packing shed. Thousands of crates and containers get washed and sanitized at the end of the season. All the little details that are part of farming.

Becky and Abigail washing crates in the cold, wet packing shed. Thousands of crates and containers get washed and sanitized at the end of the season. All the little details that are part of farming.

The calendar says that it is November 10. We are sending out the first Storage Share today. The temperature will get near 60. This is exactly how it was last year at this time. It’s not quite normal, but it does helps us get our work done. When we got flooded this summer, it wasn’t quite right either, but we made the most of it. We take what we get and make the most of it. It’s a treat to work outside without freezing fingers and toes.

As we packed up the Storage Share we could see the ups and downs of the season. We had a bumper crop of winter squash, probably our very best sweet potato crop ever and a fabulous garlic crop. We are able to deliver more of these vegetables than planned. We are delivering collard greens for the first time ever in a Storage Share because the fall temperatures have been so mild. A few crops suffered from the flooding rains we got early in the season. Fewer onions and Brussels sprouts. They both had disease issues. Not bad for all the rain we got.

We thank all of you for plunging into seasonal and local eating. It’s satisfying for us to grow vegetables for you and for us to know who’s eating what we grow. We appreciate the ability to tell you details about specific crops.

Enjoy the bounty of the Farm.

Barb

An end of year celebration. A great big mix of Perkins family, employees and worker shares celebrating another good season.

An end of year celebration. A great big mix of Perkins family, employees and worker shares celebrating another good season.

And what better way to celebrate than to fry food. A fun twist on healthy eating. We did have lots of healthy non fried food too.

And what better way to celebrate than to fry food. A fun twist on healthy eating. We did have lots of healthy non fried food too.

Harvesting collards. Becky Perkins, Michelle Riel (worker share), Barb Perkins

Harvesting collards. Becky Perkins, Michelle Riel (worker share), Barb Perkins

 

It was in August of 1994 that David and I started this farm. Jesse, our oldest, was 13, now he has two kids. The passage of time is interesting. But right now I am looking back on this season and all that it brought us. It was in general a challenging growing season. Not that every season doesn’t come with challenges, they do. We accept what comes our way and do the best we can with it. This season was rainy. Rain is good, don’t get me wrong. We need it. We love it and too much of it can cause problems. One good rain will irrigate the whole farm and no rain means up to 40 hours of work for one person running irrigation. This year we got rain and humidity and hot weather all bundled up. Microorganisms love it and it is the perfect host for disease and fungus. We deal with plant disease every year. Mostly it is minor and has very little effect on the final product. When something shows up that we have never seen before we take our plant matter to the UW Plant Diagnostic Lab to find out what it is. We had a new one this year that infected our melons, squashes, cucumbers and pumpkins. Yikes! That’s acres of food. David was able to spray an organically approved material to stop the spread of this disease, although it had done a bit too much damage in a few crops already. We had a very small melon crop and lost our zucchini earlier than usual, thankfully our other summer squash did quite well.  The other effected crops fared well.

Then there are the animals that live all around the farm and love that we plant vegetables for them. Turkeys, Sandhill cranes and deer are a particular nuisance. Deer eat lettuce heads and beans so we put up 8 foot fencing around these crops. It kept the deer out of the lettuce but there were some high jumpers in our bean field. When we realized they were still getting in, we re-worked the fence. They still got in and ate beans. The turkeys pulled up oodles of small beet plants and were responsible for the lack of corn stalks at the pumpkin pick. Pulled up all of the young corn plants two times! And the Sandhill cranes love sweet corn. Their tall height is perfect for walking through sweet corn and pecking the tops of the ears of corn. I think there were three cranes living in our sweet corn this year, because they were always there!

The excess of rain was spectacular. We had a flood like none I or the neighbors had ever seen. It subsided quickly and our wetland did its job by holding water and raising up to look like a lake. Many of the fields were left saturated. The carrots had some tip rot because they didn’t like all of the water. There were times we couldn’t get into the fields with any vehicle but a tractor. This put an interesting twist to harvest since we usually use our 16 foot box trucks and one of our pickup trucks for harvest.  Again, we had to get creative.

The hot days and extended season allowed us to harvest some crops longer than usual. Our first frost didn’t come until last night, weeks later than usual. Tomatoes, peppers and eggplant just kept coming and we harvested nearly every fruit from these plants. The winter squash was possibly our best crop ever. Broccoli had some disease but just kept coming. The sweet potatoes were definitely our best ever.

Each season has its highs and lows, fantastic crop yields and some disappointments. That’s why we grow 50 different vegetables; if one isn’t as great as hoped another is. Thank you to all of you for supporting our farm and eating with the seasons. It’s a fun adventure and we all look forward to whatever next season brings.

Barb

The summer flood that brought a lot of rain to our valley.

The summer flood that brought a lot of rain to our valley.

The tractor in the broccoli field ready for harvest. We couldn’t drive the trucks into the field since they were too wet. Note the dark sky, looks like more rain on it’s way.

The tractor in the broccoli field ready for harvest. We couldn’t drive the trucks into the field since they were too wet. Note the dark sky, looks like more rain on it’s way.

Amazing eggplant!

Amazing eggplant!

Bountiful squash!

Bountiful squash!

Incredible sweet potatoes.

Incredible sweet potatoes.

 

Yes, it’s true. We know it’s coming, but why does it catch us by surprise every year? Summer vegetables are on their way out and fall crops have arrived. Gone are summer squash and cucumbers and soon tomatoes and peppers. Eggplant seems to be hanging in there longer than most years. Welcome winter squash, fall greens (collards and kale) and the return of lettuce heads, to name a few. The pumpkins are orange, the hills are getting ready to burst into color and the sun is rising later. Each fall we adjust our work hours so we can work in the daylight. A 6:00 start time would mean headlamps; starting a bit later seems easier. Our daily routine has changed a lot. Change is good. Gone is the Monday, Wednesday, Friday harvest schedule of tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, repeat. We spent last Friday clipping delicate squash and pie pumpkins. The unique aspect of this fall is rain, rain, rain. As I wrote last week, we do what we need to do to get the jobs done. Never two days the same, never two seasons the same. That’s what keeps it fun.

Barb

The crew headed out after lunch to harvest broccoli. The rain had stopped and the storm was just north of us. The sky was black and thunder was rumbling. Really beautiful.

The crew headed out after lunch to harvest broccoli. The rain had stopped and the storm was just north of us. The sky was black and thunder was rumbling. Really beautiful.

Heading out to harvest the broccoli.

Heading out to harvest the broccoli.

Eggplant harvest. Yes, everyone is standing. This is some tall and healthy eggplant.

Eggplant harvest. Yes, everyone is standing. This is some tall and healthy eggplant.

Potato harvest. As eggplant was being harvested, another crew was harvesting the Australian Crescent fingerling potatoes.

Potato harvest. As eggplant was being harvested, another crew was harvesting the Australian Crescent fingerling potatoes.

Delicata squash harvest. These squash were clipped last Friday and picked up and placed into bulk bins on Tuesday. We then spent Tuesday afternoon running them through a brush washer to take off the dirt.

Delicata squash harvest. These squash were clipped last Friday and picked up and placed into bulk bins on Tuesday. We then spent Tuesday afternoon running them through a brush washer to take off the dirt.

It only takes a little rain this time of year to have a big impact. We can have 2-3 inches in the summer and watch it soak into the fields and still be able to drive our vehicles wherever we need to go. But not this week and not in the fall. We headed out to harvest leeks on Tuesday morning and it started to rain while we were harvesting. We all hung in there and harvested leeks for four hours in the rain. It wasn’t a cold rain, so we weren’t chilled to the bone, but wow did it get muddy! We had our trusty 16’ Isuzu box truck out with us to hold all of the leeks. She’s pretty good in wet conditions. But try as I may, I just couldn’t get her out of the field. We were at the far end and had to choose one of two routes out. Almost made it, but not quite. Jesse had to come to the rescue with a tractor.

We headed back out after lunch to harvest acorn squash, this time with a tractor and bulk bin.

Now comes Wednesday harvest. We need to get back into that field and absolutely can’t drive anything but a tractor. This put added complication into our day. As dawn is breaking, David goes and hooks up one of our box trailers to the tractor so we use that to harvest kale. We also use it to harvest broccoli. We couldn’t even drive our super duty, duel wheeled, 4 wheel drive pickup truck out into that field without getting stuck. And all of this with less than an inch of rain. It’s a fall phenomenon, our soils hold water so well and don’t want to give it up in fall.

Oh, and you should have seen us. We looked like mud creatures from another planet. And when Jesse had to come rescue the stuck box trailer, the crew walked on the road back to the farm. What a sight.

~Barb

Georgia and Abigail covered in mud after leek harvest.

Georgia and Abigail covered in mud after leek harvest.

Worker Share Becky and Crew Member Georgia walking back from the field covered in mud.

Worker Share Becky and Crew Member Georgia walking back from the field covered in mud.

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.

~Barb

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

Barb

Harvesting sweet corn for the very first time!

Harvesting sweet corn for the very first time!

Yum. Eating great food, enjoying a great view, relaxing with family and friends.

Yum. Eating great food, enjoying a great view, relaxing with family and friends.

Barb and David welcoming everyone.

Barb and David welcoming everyone.

David talking with members and answering questions about the corn and the farm.

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.

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.

Eric

Costa Ricans

 

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