Staff


Yes, it has been a very rainy season. And vegetables are happy and thriving! The rain pattern has been a bit unusual. Small isolated storms have been passing through and popping up. Where they hit and how much rain they drop is extremely variable in a relatively small area. We did not get the 4+ inches of rain Sunday night, as the west side of Madison did. We got less than 2 inches. For that we were thankful. We did get more rain Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

Vegetables love water. They need water to grow and thrive. We have deep, rich soils on this farm that can absorb lots of water. We have a lovely wetland and stream where excess water finds it way. It is very, very unusual to have standing water in our fields. While the vegetables and weeds are happily growing, the people and mostly the vehicles have a difficult time getting into the fields to work. We do more walking and use vehicles that hopefully won’t get stuck, like tractors. When we aren’t harvesting vegetables we are pulling weeds! Rubber boots and rain pants get lots of use.

Barb

Looking down at my boots as my feet slowly sink into the wet soil; harvesting salad mix.

Salad mix harvest. We waited until Tuesday morning so the ground could firm up a bit. Not only is it hard to walk in such muddy conditions, it is not good for the beds of vegetables.

After lettuce head harvest we turned to next week’s bed to rid it of weeds. Weeds will out-compete the lettuce heads and cause the lettuce to stretch towards the light. Weeds also inhibit air flow, causing rotting leaves at the bottom of the plant. And weeding is so satisfying!

Cabbage harvest. We were able to use the tractor to transport the bins of cabbage. The tractor could easily get through the field after the rains.

We get asked that question every year and the answer is always the same: oh, just farming. The truth is that the farm doesn’t stop for national holidays. If we have a CSA delivery to get out, we work – so that would be 20 straight weeks June through October. Vegetables don’t take a vacation day so neither do we. That doesn’t mean we don’t have a little extra fun and show our patriotism in our own farmy way. While most of our CSA members were off  having cookouts and sipping cold beverages on boats, the farm crew was going about our average Tuesday business of harvest, planting, and packing shed work. At the end of the day the crew cracked open a few beers and set off some fireworks to celebrate along with the rest of our compatriots. On the flip side of the no-days-off coin are the winter months. While most of the world is going to work 5 days a week, we have discretion with our schedules. Winter means that the Perkins family holds down the farm in between multi-week vacations while the rest of the farm crew gets 2 months off. Although the vegetable farming schedule is polarized to the extreme, it’s a lifestyle we have come to love.

Jonnah

Sophal and Neing harvesting fennel before the heat sets in.

Tonny, Sophal, worker-share Matt, and Jesse harvesting Swiss Chard.

Yun, Tom, J-Mo, Eric, and Tonny toasting with Budweiser’s “America”  to celebrate the 4th of July (after work!).

Tom setting off some fireworks to celebrate the holiday!

 

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 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.

Members Dawn and Eliza Clawson picking up their share

Members Dawn and Eliza picking up their share

I was fortunate enough to meet Dawn and Eliza while delivering shares in Middleton last week. It’s not often that I have interactions with our members and I very much enjoy knowing where the food is going. The sweet mother-daughter duet excitedly unloaded their vegetables as I unloaded my truck. Little Eliza took a bite out of one of the peppers I had helped harvest, only to turn to me and say, “I’m really enjoying this pepper!” She brightened my day with her questions and love for peppers.

Peppers come from one of the most diverse families in vegetables, Capsicum, derived from the Greek word meaning “to bite”. Take notice of little Eliza taking a bite, or rather large bite in her case, of the pepper in the picture above ☺. There are over 30 species of peppers currently known and only five have been cultivated. The modern peppers we enjoy – chipotle, jalapeño, bell, poblano, serrano, and ancho—to name a few are all from one species (Capsicum annuum). Peppers are constantly being maintained by seed growers in order to breed out bad qualities and increase pleasing flavors. The Carmen peppers little Eliza enjoyed so much is a very recent variety developed organically by Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

All peppers begin green in color. The Carmens shown here demonstrate different phases of ripening into a deep red.

All peppers begin green in color. The Carmens shown here demonstrate different phases of ripening into a deep red.

Throughout countless years of attempting to survive in a world seeking to eat them, peppers evolved a chemical alkaloid, capsaicin, to protect from herbivory. Capsaicin, the spicy component, resides in the inner membrane and seeds of the fruit. Think of it as a loving mother giving all of her warmth to her children to protect them on their journey. This spicy component efficiently deters pests, even silly little squirrels know not to nibble on the pepper  fruit! A word of wisdom to all of you spicy pepper lovers: capsaicin is fat (not water) soluble. So Dawn, if Eliza happens to bite into a spicy jalapeno by mistake, give her some milk to take calm down those heated taste buds.
Keep on loving those peppers, Eliza! We’ll keep growing them ☺

Abigail, crew leader on the farm

Abigail and Georgia having fun in the peppers!

Abigail and Georgia having fun in the peppers!

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.

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