Harvesting


Yesterday was a gorgeous warm, overcast day as we harvested the last of the greens for the Spring Share. We experience beginning and ending three times as we prepare for, plant, harvest and deliver the different shares we offer. We divide our growing season into three seasons in order to give you, our members, choice. Early season greens, main season a bit of everything, late season roots.

Along with completing the harvest we also transitioned the hoophouse from a bounty of greens to a tomato house. The tomatoes had been planted alongside the greens, but not until we had all of the greens out and all of the weeds out and all of the trellis poles up could we see the impact of this transition. Then we layed the drip irrigation alongside each row of tomatoes. The tomatoes get watered from below and the greens got watered from above. The last thing we did before walking out was turn on the irrigation. There are already tomatoes on the plants!

Thank you so much for participating in our Spring Share season. You may not know this, but ALL of the vegetables we grow on this farm are delivered to you through our CSA (except potatoes which we also grow for our seed potato sales). Let your friends know that we still have CSA shares available for the rest of the season.

Barb

The last harvest from one of our hoophouses (the one we call “The Colossal”). The crops pictured are sauté mix and arugula.

Abigail and Eric harvesting lettuce heads between the rows of tomatoes.

Tonny and Eric (J-Mo) harvesting fennel.

Five hours later………No more vegetables or weeds! And the tomatoes are getting happily irrigated with the drip irrigation.

Another view of the tomatoes.

Rhubarb harvest in the smallest of our rhubarb beds.

As I drove around the farm today, I was completely taken by its beauty. The air is heavy, waiting for rain to fall. The spring green on the hillside is soft and gentle. And the fields are full of promise. The peas were standing in beautiful rows of bright green. The potatoes are under the ground, covered by hills. The plastic mulch has been laid, waiting for squash to be planted. The greenhouse is bursting with transplants; each week thousands of plants are transplanted outside and thousands more are started. So much new life, so much promise. I feel fortunate to be able to immerse myself in such a cycle of life.

Barb

The farm road into one of our fields. Ahead are peas and to the right under the hills of soil are potatoes.

The peas. These peas were started in the greenhouse and transplanted into the field. We do this to guarantee a solid stand of peas. If we plant the peas directly into the ground and then there is a lot of cold, wet conditions, many of the seeds will rot. (We are certified organic; we don’t use fungicide treated seeds as the chemical agriculture farms do).

Plastic mulch, just laid. We use plastic mulch for many heat loving crops. The plants get planted directly into the plastic. We mulch the bare dirt heavily with alfalfa hay. Irrigation hose runs under the plastic. The plastic acts as a weed barrier and holds the moisture in.

Rhubarb harvest for the Spring Share.

It’s 10:00. The trucks just pulled out laden with spring greens; a crew of 6 is out in the fields transplanting cabbage, Swiss chard, spinach, kohlrabi and fennel; David is on his tractor planting radish and turnip seeds, Eric is in the potting shed seeding popcorn. We packed 225 Spring Shares and cut 1,000 pounds or so of seed potatoes. The squash, watermelon and sweet corn transplants were moved out of their cozy warm germination chamber into the greenhouse and the salad mix transplants were moved into the area where we harden off the plants to prepare them for transplanting. Now what?

The transplanting will continue most of the day, the delivery drivers will pull in around 3:00, Eric will stay busy with farm tasks, David will likely be on his tractor all day, Jesse will be planting potatoes and Jonnah and I get to catch up on office work.

We couldn’t have been happier to see the sun come out yesterday and the soil begin to dry out and warm up. We spent a cold rainy Monday in the damp potting shed seeding all day. We spent a cold windy day Tuesday harvesting in the hoophouses. We totally enjoyed Wednesday as we continued harvest and started the week’s transplanting. It’s May on the Farm!

Barb

Watercress harvest. The watercress grows in a little spring fed stream on the border of our wetland. The most fun and challenging part of this job is figuring out how to set up the harvest to avoid stepping knee deep into muck. We’re not always successful, Sophal slipped off and filled his boot with water.

Washing tot soi. We all stand around the tub of ice cold water rubbing off dirt and removing bad leaves. Barb, Yun, Ryna, Eric (J-Mo), Neing, Phearo.

Sorrel harvest. Sorrel is a perennial and is one of the first plants to come up in spring. It’s cut, then washed and spun dry and bagged.

Harvesting Red Russian Kale, one of the greens in the sauté mix. Notice how the crew has to work around the tomato plants. We inter-plant tomatoes in our hoophouse alongside the greens. Once the greens are all harvested the house turns into a jungle of tomatoes

Today is the first Spring Share delivery and as I sit down to write this there are flakes of snow falling from the sky. I rub my eyes and look again, yup. OK, April in Wisconsin. The trucks have left the farm with an amazing assortment of greens. We do our best to work around Mother Nature in April, hence our hoophuses.  We have two lovely structures where we plant directly into the ground, so if it snows or freezes or rains like crazy outside, the crops are protected and happily growing. We don’t worry too much about cold weather, the tender spring greens can easily take temperatures down to 20 degrees and will make it through with only minor setback at even colder temps. They look fragile but are some of the toughest vegetables when it comes to withstanding cold.

We have also had some fantastic spring weather and have been able to transplant (plant the plants that we have grown in the greenhouse) onions, lettuce, scallions, peas and leeks outside. We have also seeded carrots outside. We haven’t had much rain, but have irrigated each time we have planted. Many times we have very different weather from Madison and other surrounding areas. Less rain can be better because we have the ability to irrigate. Too much rain can keep us out of the fields.

April is full of new life and is a super busy time on the farm. Let the season begin! Hey, it stopped snowing.

Barb

Harvesting salad mix. Yun carrying his full crate down the aisle between two beds of spinach. The isles are very narrow and we really have to be careful when harvesting. Note, we balance our crates on waste baskets because the rows are even too narrow to set down a crate. We maximize the valuable space in hoophouse.

Radish harvest. The largest radishes are pulled and set in the isles in bunches of 10. They can be easily counted this way. We harvest many things to a specific count.

Transplanting onions. A machine laid the plastic and another machine poked the holes marking where the onions should go. Two people walk ahead and lay down the onion transplants and the others follow and plant them.

Barb has a new role this season, driving the tractor for transplanting. I needed to watch the front wheel to keep it in the tire track as I sped along .1 mph. Not easy driving that slow.

Tonny and Phearo riding the transplanter and planting lettuce.

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.

 

With the arrival of cool weather this week, there is a new energy on the farm. The crew heads out for harvest wearing a few more layers in the morning, which is an ebullient reminder that the growing season will be winding down in a few weeks. This time of year we are not only harvesting for the Main Season CSA shares, but we are also beginning to bring storage crops in from the fields. Our CSA members will see these late season vegetables in their shares throughout October and have the opportunity to keep their local, seasonal eating experience going strong through the winter months with the Storage Share.

The Storage Share is consists of two deliveries, November 10 and December 8. Most of the produce will store well into the winter months in a cool garage, basement, or cupboard. Storage vegetables are heavy and don’t take up much room. A few items will need space in your refrigerator. We provide detailed storage instructions, cooking ideas, and recipes for your late season bounty.

When the subject of seasonal eating comes up with my non-farmer friends, I am usually asked if I buy vegetables from the grocery store in the winter, and my answer is no. But don’t you ever just want to eat a salad? they ask. Well, we do eat salads – shredded celeriac, carrots, and winter radish with a vinaigrette is a refreshing way feed fresh produce to my family all winter long. Storage vegetables are just as versatile as summer favorites, it just takes a seasonal state of mind.

Jonnah

STORAGE SHARE Potatoes, carrot, onions, winter squash, garlic, cabbage, kale, leeks, daikon radish, beets, sweet potatoes, celeriac, rutabaga, turnips, Brussels sprouts, winter radish, pie pumpkin.

See our website for Storage Share details and purchasing options

Sophal showing off the his beautiful sweet potatoes.

Sophal showing off the his beautiful sweet potatoes.

Abigail and J-Mo (Eric) harvesting pie pumkins

Abigail and J-Mo (Eric) harvesting pie pumpkins

All three Perkins kids working together to harvest carrots: Eric, Becky, and Jesse.

All three Perkins siblings working together to harvest carrots: Eric, Becky, and Jesse.

This is the last potato harvest of the year!

This is the last potato harvest of the year!

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