Packing shed


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.

We have visitors from around the world come to the Farm wanting to learn more about the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farming model. At these visits, we have as much fun learning about our visitor as they do about us. This week a local guy, Joe Parisi, our Dane County Executive, visited along with staff Scott and Claire. Joe is a member of Vermont Valley Community Farm and we learned a bit about his interest in good food related to his Italian ancestry; Joe is a big garlic fan. At the county level, several efforts exist to promote local food production, including extension staff dedicated to small scale vegetable growers. There are many vegetable farms that have benefited; meaning more great organic food options available to you. Setting priorities is what we do, whether it is government spending or our personal spending. The Farm is fortunate to be in a community that appreciates and supports local organic food; whether you are a bigwig politician or our neighbor down the road; thanks.

David

Joe Parisi and the farm crew

Barb tells Joe about our hot peppers and tomatoes

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.

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.

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.

~Barb

Jenny on the brushwasher

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 essayGo To Bed Tired

Jenny harvesting tomatoes in the hoophouse

Jenny harvesting tomatoes in the hoophouse

On the packing - Jonnah, Barb, and Jenny

On the packing – Jonnah, Barb, and Jenny

Our son Eric is getting married on Saturday. The wedding is on the farm. What a great reason to get everything looking absolutely gorgeous. We spent Monday transplanting spinach, broccoli, celery and lettuce. We harvested rhubarb, turnips, radishes, scallions, spinach. Then after the work day was done and employees had gone home, eight yards of mulch (for the flower gardens) was delivered. Let the party begin. On Tuesday there was more harvest and washing of vegetables. In addition, the flower gardens around the house got weeded and mulched. We transformed one hoophouse from spring share to tomatoes. The tomatoes have been growing side by side with the greens. Once we finish harvesting the greens we tear the roots out, weed the area clean and change over the irrigation from sprinklers to drip. On Wednesday we finished the harvest, bagged the greens and got the yard looking really pretty. The decorating crew came on Wednesday night to transform the barn into a dance floor. Oh yea, we had to clean out the barn too. Best wishes to Eric and Loretta!   -Barb

The last harvest of salad mix.

The last harvest of salad mix.

Cleaning out the beds we have finished harvesting. Removing the roots of arugula as we make more room for the tomatoes.

Cleaning out the beds we have finished harvesting. Removing the roots of arugula as we make more room for the tomatoes.

Harvesting fennel. One of the last standing crops in the hoophouse.

Harvesting fennel. One of the last standing crops in the hoophouse.

And now onto wedding preparations:

Mulch pile on driveway (or is it a dog bed?)

Mulch pile on driveway (or is it a dog bed?)

Garden mulching crew.

Garden mulching crew.

Eric, the groom, getting it all in shape.

Eric, the groom, getting it all in shape.

Tom doing some fine tuning.

Tom doing some fine tuning.

And things are in full swing around here. Here’s a glimpse of our week…..Monday: Harvest salad mix, saute mix, arugula, radishes. Wash them in tubs of icy water. Band the radishes. Cut seed potatoes. Spend hours in the greenhouse planting sweet corn, lettuce, summer squash, winter squash and watermelon. Transplant broccoli, kohlrabi cabbage in the fields. Seed radishes and turnips in the field. Tuesday: Harvest spinach, dandelion greens, ramps, watercress, sorrel. Wash them in tubs of icy water. Bag salad mix. Finish cutting 25,000 pounds of seed potatoes!!!! Transplant fennel and swiss chard in the fields. Wednesday: Wash and band ramps. Bag sauté mix, spinach, sorrel, arugula, watercress. Move lots of plants out of the greenhouse to make room for more. Harvest lettuce heads and tot soi. Wash them. Weed the sauté mix and around the tomatoes in the hoophouse. Power wash over 100 seed trays so we can use them again next week to plant into. Begin to trellis the tomatoes in the hoophouse. Plant potatoes. Now it’s Thursday and we will pack the spring share boxes and deliver them. While two delivery trucks head out, the rest of the crew will stay busy on the farm. I’m sure they will find something to do. We love what we do and it brings us great joy to grow vegetables for you! Thank you.

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Washing and banding radishes in the packing shed.

Washing and banding radishes in the packing shed.

Watercress harvest. We find the watercress just behind our greenhouse growing wild in a spring fed stream.

Watercress harvest. We find the watercress just behind our greenhouse growing wild in a spring fed stream.

A harvester’s view of the watercress while standing on the board. If anyone slips off the board they sink into muck up to their knees.

A harvester’s view of the watercress while standing on the board. If anyone slips off the board they sink into muck up to their knees.

Pounding posts between the tomato plants so we can trellis them. You can see our spring share crops and interplanted with the tomatoes.

Pounding posts between the tomato plants so we can trellis them. You can see our spring share crops and interplanted with the tomatoes.

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