Packing shed


I really can’t remember weather like this. Not only the rains, but the fog and humidity for such an extended period of time. Many of the vegetables are responding positively to so much water and others are not so happy. The fall crops like cabbage, kale, collards, lettuce heads, radishes, carrots are all happy enough with the water. Then there are the crops it has posed a challenge with. The beans were all knocked over and suffered in quality, although the taste is still great. The corn was knocked down and had to be harvested from the ground. The salad mix had a good many leaves effected with black spotting, we did our best to pick them all out of the mix. The tomatoes, which always get hit with multiple diseases, got an excessive dose of diseases that brought the outside tomato season to a halt several weeks sooner than usual. But, the hoophouse tomatoes are beautiful and will be harvested for many weeks to come. The peppers are happy and thriving, turning big and red.

We do our best with the weather we get. We haven’t had to irrigate for some time now, saving us a lot of time, but we have not put the irrigation equipment away, there are still seven weeks to go and believe it or not if it stops raining we may need to irrigate.

And then there’s the mud! As long as we wear rubber boots and keep the trucks on the gravel drives, all is OK.

But it’s sure good to see the sun today!

~Barb

Monday morning fog and pepper harvest.

Abby and Eric slogging through the mud as they harvest mix.

Then the crates of salad mix need to be carried to the truck.

I wonder how long Jesse’s green rain pants are going to survive. Last week they were duct taped together, now they are looking rather skirt like. Farm fashion is definitely like no other.

The crew spent a bit of time cutting the tips off of the corn to get rid of corn ear worm damage. Although the worm is perfectly safe (a family member said: it just eats corn, so probably tastes like corn), no one really wants one. But if you do find one, cut it off and enjoy the rest of your corn.

 

Every morning at 6:30 a crew of about 10 people heads into the fields to begin harvest. We harvest vegetables 4 days a week and spend one day packing the boxes and delivering them to you. We try to spend the afternoons in the packing shed, out of the hot sun, washing and bagging. In between harvest we squeeze in weeding, greenhouse work, planting, trellising and much more. It’s a balancing act dictated by the Thursday deadline and the weather. We don’t leave the packing shed on Wednesday until it’s all done. We work well together and enjoy what we do. Enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of our labor!

Misty morning zucchini harvest. Many of our mornings are very foggy in our valley. Foreground: Abby and Jesse

Cutting the tops off the newly harvested fresh onions. Jon and Matt are Monday morning worker shares. Jesse and Abby are always here.

Washing those onions in the packing shed at the brush washer. Neing, Phalla, Abby, Yun, Ryna.

Swiss Chard harvest on a beautiful morning.

The season is indeed starting out with bounty. Much thanks to all of the rain and hot weather; plants do respond positively to both of these things. Everything looks great in the fields. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons and all of the summer crops are flourishing. Although we did have a dry period last week and needed to irrigate. Crazy how that works, so much rain then none, the plants need consistent water.

Green beans were one of the bounty crops this week. They are as beautiful as can be. We harvest green beans with a mechanical harvester, then bring them into the packing shed and run them over a bean cleaning machine. Many people stand in front of a conveyor to take out any debris (stems, leaves) that may have come in with the beans.  This cleaning process takes about 3 hours. The mechanical harvesting takes about 2 hours. This process allows everyone to work standing up and eliminates crouching over bean plants for an entire day.

We acquired this bean machines about 15 years ago, bought it from a farm near Green Bay. It was winter and I took our old Jeep pickup truck and trailer to get the machine. I had stayed in a hotel the night before and woke to a blizzard, loads of snow had fallen during the night and was still falling heavily. I headed to the farm on a completely snow covered country road. The farmer successfully loaded me up, strapped down the machine and off I went. The interstate was no better.

Now this old pickup truck was a piece of work. The gas gauge didn’t work, the head lights were mediocre at best. I kept track of mileage to estimate when to fill up, but pulling a trailer with a heavy piece of equipment of course uses more gas. The snow covered interstate was as horrible as conditions get (blowing snow, semi trucks, low visibility). I knew I was getting close to needing gas so exited on Hwy 151 and ran out on the off ramp. Was able to coast to the side of the road. Now these were the days before cell phones. I ran up to a car on the off ramp and hitched a ride to a gas station; a mom, two girls and a fresh box of pizza.  I filled a container with gas and started to walk the mile or so back to my truck, not seeing anyone at the gas station I felt comfortable asking for a ride. As I walked in blinding snow and below zero wind chill back to the truck, a man and his son pulled over and gave me a ride. I did what I needed to do and got home pretty late and in the total dark. When I asked David if he was worried, he said ‘No, should I have been?’ I guess not.

Barb

David drives the tractor and skillfully operates the harvest machine while Jesse monitors the beans dropping from the chute. The machine harvests the entire plant. All of the plant matter gets blown out of a chute (between the tractor and the stack of crates) and the beans drop through another chute.

 

Many hands picking through the beans to eliminate leaves, stem and such. The machine sits in the packing shed addition where we get nice air flow and sunlight under the shade of a roof.

Many hands picking through the beans to eliminate leaves, stem and such. The machine sits in the packing shed addition where we get nice air flow and sunlight under the shade of a roof.

 

 

Yea, spring finally came, and along with it the needed warmth for vegetables to grow. We’ve had a lot of fun harvesting greens from the hoophouses. This year we are growing more than twice as much food in those hoophouses and needed to be creative about how to squeeze it all in. We decided to make the paths between the beds of greens a bit narrower. Weeding and harvesting and maneuvering in a 12 inch row is not the easiest thing to do, and all without stepping on the crop that’s flowing into the row. For the past three days, with sore backs and lots of laughs, we harvested our way through beds and beds of greens. The sunshine makes the houses warm and when it’s raining outside somehow the rain manages to leak in, creating a slick muddy walkway. A balancing act all around.

Welcome to the Spring Season!

Barb

Sauté Mix harvest in those 12 inch rows! Note how we need to balance the crates on a bucket since there is not enough room in the row to place the crate. Casey and Yun harvesting arugula. Sophon, Ryna and Neing harvesting different beds of kale and mustard greens.

Ryna, Yun, Casey harvesting spinach. We pinch off one leaf at a time. This way we can leave the smaller leaves on the plant to grow bigger for next week.

The hoophouse a couple of weeks ago. The red lettuce in the foreground is what was delivered this week. It even looked like this when there were piles of snow outside. A lovely place to be.

Wednesday night after all of the employees had gone home Eric, Barb, Jonnah, Jesse and David (all with the last name Perkins) rallied for another hour to get every little bit done. We were all on our 11th hour, ready to be done yet still having fun! Balancing a phone on a sawhorse was the only way to capture the moment. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to grow your food.

Our Storage Share week ended on a mild note, making it easy for us to get out and harvest the kale and Brussels sprouts. We’ve been harvesting, washing and bagging for this share for the past two weeks. We wait until a day or two before the delivery to harvest the kale and Brussels sprouts and always hope for warm temperatures (actually unfrozen is all we really need). It gets kind of tricky this time of year working around and with the weather. It wasn’t snowing or raining as it often does but last week there were ice pellets sprinkling down on us as we harvested the cabbage.

The crews are smaller, the work days are shorter and the outside work will not end for about five more weeks. David spent the better part of yesterday chisel plowing the fields, incorporating the plant debris into the ground. The fields across the valley are now a beautiful patchwork of brown.

As we prepare the farm for winter, we look back on the wonderful season of bounty and community we shared with all of our members. We will spend our winter preparing for next season and look forward to sharing it with you.

Barb

Jesse rolling a bin of cabbages into the cooler so they don’t freeze.

J-Mo (Eric Friedricks), cleaning daikon and ruby heart radishes.

A chilly, sunny morning for Brussels Sprouts harvest.

Fall equinox tomorrow. Ninety degrees, warmer than any day in August. It’s a unique time of year on the farm when summer collides with fall, meaning the summer crops are winding down and the fall crops are ramping up and we are delivering both. But this year’s collision seems more extreme than most. August was such a cool month that some of the crops slowed down, now many of them are picking back up again. Peppers reddening like crazy, summer squash still going strong, broccoli growing before our very eyes, all of the fall greens getting super big and beautiful.

We harvested more summer squash this week than last while also delivering winter squash, our eggplant harvest was much bigger than the last one, outside tomatoes are still producing (they were finished by this time last year). It’s dark at 6:30am but warmer than some August mornings when we were already outside harvesting. Until last evening’s brief rain, it has been so dry that we have been irrigating. Believe it or not, it is not unusual to get our first frost right about now. What can I say, we take what we get and make the most of it. Think I’ll go swimming after work.

Barb

On Wednesday Dream Lens Media spent the morning on the farm gathering film and photography for various projects. They did a great job capturing the energy of our morning!

Last sweet corn harvest of the season. photo: Dream Lens Media

The harvest crew putting corn on the conveyor. (Jesse, Yun, J-Mo) photo: Dream Lens Media

Jonnah and Sophal counting corn as it drops into the corn wagon. Photo: Dream Lens Media

The scary eyes leaving the field. These giant balls were successful in keeping the birds from pecking at our corn. Photo: Dream Lens Media

Cooling down the broccoli after bringing it in from the field. photo: Dream Lens Media

A crate of delicata squash as it was packed in the field. photo: Eric Friedricks

August into September is all about tomatoes. I look forward to the tomato rush all year, which is good because we can’t escape it. Our workdays, weekends, and meals are based on tomatoes. To be honest, there are some vegetables I grow tired of, but tomatoes are not one of them. With the broad spectrum of colors and textures of tomatoes we grow, I am fully engaged from first blush until the first frost takes them down. Then I am left with a bit of sadness in my tomato loving heart.

Tomatoes are harvested Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, we wash and count tomatoes two ways a week, and we hold tomato u-pick events for our CSA members on the weekend. That’s five days a week of tomatoes! To further our passion for tomatoes, we work with a seed breeder from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Emily Haga a former employee, to trial new varieties in development. Our CSA members get to try new varieties that will hit the seed market in future seasons.

Being the end of August, we are up to our necks in tomatoes, and we are perfectly happy with it.

Jonnah

CSA members: Tomato U-Pick info!

Emily Haga, from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, visiting from Maine to sample some tomato trials we grew for her research.

Currently being harvested, from top row, left to right: Chef’s Choice, Red Zebra, Pink Beauty, Garden Peach, Estiva. Damsel, Japanese Trifele Black, Wisconsin 55, Martha Washington. Orange Banana, Arbason, Be Orange, Pink Boar.

Cherry tomatoes are pouring in by the crateful!

Crates of tomatoes stacked up in the back of the truck. All varieties are separated until we bag them for the CSA delivery.

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