Still Dreaming

This week, Monday morning dawned with a satisfied feeling left over from last week. It came easy, with 11,000 lbs of beautiful squash sitting pretty in the greenhouse and the promise of another week of good weather (no frost and not much rain) laid out before us. Last week felt like a new world, this time I was ready to accept my good fortune.

The regular harvest takes less time these days as the tomatoes, with their demanding picking schedule, are fading fast. In their place, we get the greens, roots, and burgeoning brassica (kohlrabi, chinese cabbage, broccoli) fields done by noon. Then we turn to the bulk crops - squash & spuds. And if we can, sneak in a little handweeding to keep up with the still-maturing late-fall crops. If the weather is good, we can just rinse and repeat until we have 30,000 lbs of squash in the storage before any real cold nights show up.

And so it went…. On Monday, we dug a quick 900 lbs of spuds, then clipped our kabocha squash (green buttercup & red “sunshine”) in short order. With a few minutes left in the afternoon, we handweeded a bed of greens. Tuesday morning, while Marlee & Ben cultivated the fall kale and strawberries, Ellen, Will, and I started clipping the mighty butternut crop. That afternoon we binned up the kabocha and the first couple of bins of tan, dense butternut. Another 8000 lbs in the greenhouse, and still time to weed a bed of lettuce.

On Wednesday, Ben led us through a quick harvest and then Ellen took the entire crew to clip the remaining butternut. With a light rain on Thursday, we had a forced pause, so we caught up by removing the early tomato & basil plants from fieldhouses (to make room for greens). All of which just set us up perfectly for the cherry on top; A morning harvest on Friday, followed by a sunshine afternoon butternut-a-palooza. Looks like an even bigger crop than last year. Wake me when this dream is over. For now, I’m just enjoying it!

We hope you enjoy the harvest,

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Ellen, Ben, Marlee, and Will)

Back To School. Back To Work

With nearly everyone back to school, three of us started the cool Monday morning in a fog as we picked a few straggler summer lettuce heads. After breakfast, the crew swelled to 6 as our Monday stalwart, Pete McLean joined us for the morning harvest. We were moving quicker now, but with 6 people you can only pick 1300 lbs of tomatoes so fast. But, still we kept at it, heads down, until the job was done. In the afternoon, September harvester Sam Newman joined us and during an afternoon rain storm, which watered the fall green while we sorted tomatoes, and clipped garlic in the loft.

On Tuesday with the weather clearing, we head to Small Ones' East Field for the main event of the week - harvest of the first winter squash - acorn & delicata. The fruit were waiting for us, and revealed what seemed like a big crop now that we were bending down to clip each one. We pushed through the morning and had about 1/4 of it done. So while Will worked the Farm Shop in the afternoon, we dug a bed of potatoes and Ben, Ellen, and I had a small scrum which brought in 550 lbs of spuds in an hour or so. We pumped up Will (who looked great), and went to West Field to handweed the fall greens for an hour.

And so it went the rest of the week - our seemingly-left-behind crew harvesting, clipping squash, distributing veggies, and handweeding the fall greens, cabbages, and lettuce. On and on, until Friday, when we finally amassed a big crew - apprentices, Karen, Pete, Sam, volunteers (Leo & Christina), and Chris Zobel - and headed for the big finish. With all of squash clipped, it was time to lug it, throw it, bin it, lift it, load it, and drive it home to the safety of the greenhouse. After all of that, we realized we had a pretty big crop - 7000 lbs of delicata and 4000 lbs of acorn - about twice the size of last year. Not bad for a few farmers, some friends, a couple of volunteers, and a sweet dog.

We hope you enjoy the harvest,

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Ellen, Ben, Marlee, and Will)

August Is Gone

When August begins, it's hot and muggy and the melons are threatening to ripen. The cucumbers are in full swing, the fieldhouse tomatoes are loaded, and the new sweet onions are ready to bunch. As the month wears on we bring in bins and bins of watermelons, then the eggplants size up, the peppers get some color, and the field tomatoes start to come on. We harvest for long days, and still find time to seed the fall lettuce and spinach. At the end of the day we go for a swim, and then fall asleep, dead in the pillow.

Then, somehow, the month comes to an end. We find ourselves on the last succession of sweet corn. And after picking it, we drive back to the farm and see kids standing on the corner waiting for the bus to school. The weeder crew goes to college or to high school, one by one, until they (and all of the weeds in the fall carrots) are gone. Then the tomatoes vines start to die back, and before you know it its time to dig a row of potatoes, and just like that, this summer is over.

This week, to add to this usual disorientation, one more exclamation point let us know that next week will be very different. Our apprentice, Lia picked her last eggplant of the season on Friday, and on Sunday is heading back to NYC to finish grad school at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. She has given incredible energy and strength to this job and we are happy that she is planning to come to the Harvest Dinner in November so we can give her a real end-of season wrap up.

We will miss her, like we will miss the weeders and the melons and corn, as they will fade from current view. We will remember and appreciate all they have given as August gives way to the big fall harvests of squash, potatoes, carrots, and cabbages to come.

We hope you enjoy the harvest,

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Ellen, Ben, Lia, Marlee, and Will)

Onion Scrum

Once again the rain came down in buckets on Saturday night ending any thoughts that we might need to irrigate. And again, with that checked off the list, we moved towards the next big crop ready for harvest - the onions - which have been a bit of a "problem child" all season.

It all started when we couldn't make our early beds due to excess rain in April. So we abandoned our plans for the sandy fields at Gray's farm, and put them where we could - in the siltier field over at Snyder Farm. This would probably be weedy, since we had to plant right away, but at least we could plant and, well, weeds are what the Weeder Crew is for, right?

Needless to say, that fateful decision was lamented time and time again from late May when the first carpet of grassy weeds bloomed, to early June when the weeders fought a valiant long-grass-slog, to late June when the grass (and a bunch of thorny horse nettle - a spiky little bugger that hurts a lot when you step on it or grab it without looking) grew back with a vengeance. At that point, I pretty much just tipped my cap, figuring that the onions were basically sized up and all we'd have to do is battle the weeds during the harvest. I even had the great idea to rig up our potato digger to harvest the onions thinking that would go faster.

Anyway, long story short, most of my good ideas turned out to be no so good ideas. There were onions, but there was no easy way to get them out of the ground. So with the sun shining on Tuesday, I moved towards a many-hands solution: I gathered up the apprentices, the weeders, and the volunteers. Made sure everyone had shoes and gloves. And let the onion scrum commence. It was hot. And it was intermittently painful. But most of those onions were eventually gotten from the thorny grass clutches. All 5400 lbs of them, safely into the greenhouse where they hopefully will begin curing, and eventually provide us with delicious dinners long into the winter.

We hope you enjoy the harvest,

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Ellen, Ben, Lia, Marlee, and Will)

Melon Town

It didn't rain this week. There were clouds, and threats on Tuesday, but after the wind whipped up, then it died down, the sun came out, and that was it. And it stayed warm - despite one cold night the temps stayed in the 80s all week. With all of that, the melons decided to all ripen at once; they can do that sometimes. So we sprung to action.

Every other day (as long as it's not raining), once the "regular" harvest is done, it's time to head to the melon patch with as many people as possible, explain how to find the ripe ones, make a nice line of pickers, and throw, pass, toss, and/or chain those melons out of the field an into one long windrow (this years' field is a solid 500'). Then get the tractors hitched to a wagon. Put four wooden bins on each wagon. Put air in the tires. Clean cardboard in the bottom of each bin. And have Lia and Will drive them out to the fields.

Then, working in pairs (a catcher and a thrower), and syncing our throws up to the pace of the tractor, throw, catch, throw catch as far as we can. Then switch the thrower and the catcher, to get some fresh energy. And keep doing it until all the bins on the wagon are filled (about 1000 lbs of melons in each). Drive them back to the farm, unload with the nifty forklift and then move them around to any available parts of the barn.

On a year like this, we hide bins in every nook and cranny, trying to keep them as cool as possible until we can get them to you. It's a tiring, but satisfying soreness, as we see bins upon bins pile up all around us. The smell of melons is everywhere. We sleep like babies. By weeks end there were 20,000 lbs of melons somewhere in the barn hopefully stored for all of us to eat for the rest of the month.

We hope you enjoy the harvest,

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Ellen, Ben, Lia, Marlee, and Will)

Down The River

Once again on Saturday, just after the Farm Shop closed, the skies opened up and poured water everywhere, soaking all of our crops with a weeks worth of rain in a couple of hours. Then the sun came out on Sunday, and stayed that way for a few days, allowing us to prep our fields for late seeding (spinach) and last planting (green kale and escarole) and pull weeds where they were still a problem. This pattern, which has now repeated itself reliably for a month or more has left me feeling somewhat repetitive and disoriented. Fine. I’ll take it.

But this week, there was something just a little different. I could feel it here and there, but it was definitely new. On the weekly farm tour with our apprentices, we just flew by most of the crops, seeing that they were weeded, watered, or just well beyond the point that we could do anything about them anyway. There was that chill in the morning air a few times, which made me want to get a sweatshirt. Then I remembered many of our summer crew was heading back to school soon. We put our last transplants in the ground for the season.

It all started to add up. The balance had shifted. We had moved from planning towards harvesting. From making towards taking. From opportunity towards reality. From creating towards accepting.

I knew what time it was. We harvested a week's worth of melons in a morning. Packed up our weeders, apprentices, volunteers, and stray kittens. Got some inner tubes, a few cucumbers, and a stray block of cheese. We headed up to the Deerfield River, and instead of working, just floated down, letting the stream take us for a couple of hours. And we just enjoyed each others company, as we prepared for a fall of reaping what we have sown.

New Week. (Nearly the) Same Story.

The week started warm. And then got warmer. And then a bit humid. And then got humider. We were sweating. Changing our shirts after lunch. Sweating again. Our plants were showing signs of stress. We set up the irrigation and put some water out. The heat kept building. We started to get tired.

Luckily we had some big extra help again this week as we were joined by our longtime distribution coordinator from Jamaica Plain, Joy Silverstein, who along with her daughter Sophia worked with us for most of the week, in Joy's words "fulfilling a long-held dream." We tried to wake her up by filling her day with tomato-trellising-sauna-string-weaving, carrot-handweeding-in-the-blistering-sun, and cucumber-picking-hot-yoga. Impossible - as they were both proved intrepid and helped us slog through this week with a spring in our step. (Also Farmer Dave swung back through after his vacation, and in a 24-hr blitz, completely re-built our broken wagon,just in time for our bulk harvesting season!)

When we weren't harvesting (lots of cucumbers, red cabbage, and early onions) and weeding (beets, carrots, leeks) we snuck in some time to bushhog our early cover crops (see below) and to sow new cover crop seeds in areas that were done being cultivated (tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants). Then, on Wednesday afternoon, just as things were looking pretty dry, and we were beginning to resign ourselves that we would need to start next-level irrigation operations, the skies darkened, the wind whipped, and another sweet storm dropped 1/2" of rain on our thirsty plants. We ran into the greenhouses to bunch basil and clean up some spring messes. And just like that, it was over, and back out we went; more harvesting, more weeding, and just a little irrigating for the rest of the week. All the while, some big harvests lay right around the corner. We are nearly there.

We hope you enjoy the harvest,

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Ellen, Ben, Lia, Marlee, and Will)

Timely Rain, Timely Sun, and Timely Help!

The temps last weekend reached into the triple digits, so we stopped exerting (and started sweating) ourselves by about 11am on Saturday. We finished the CSA distribution, and then mostly hid out inside. With a solid inch of rain on Wednesday and the forecast for some more on Tuesday, we could rest a little easy, figuring our plants would be able to withstand the hot blast. Sure enough, Monday dawned cool and comfortable (how DOES that happen?) and we set out to harvest as usual. But, with the forecast looking for more rain, even sooner than expected, we dug a few beds of garlic and dragged the barrels into the barn in a downpour at 1130am. After lunch the skies cleared momentarily, and we hustled to drop some cover crop seed on the ready corn & squash fields before the skies darkened again, and this time unloaded for real. This little heat wave was over

It rained steadily all night and by the time the morning came there was about 2" in the bucket (aka "the rain gauge"). With the forecast for another 5 days of sun to follow, this was an easy storm to accept with (almost) nothing but gratitude; Our thirsty plants soaking up the moisture with little danger of rot - just the rest of the garlic to harvest before they turn to mush. So, we planted our last bed of head lettuce for the season in a warm muddy field, and then set to the rest of the week - weeding, weeding, and some more field prep for our final crops to be planted next week. Opportunity knocked when a Smith College summer program contacted us looking for a productive way for 24 people spend a few hours learning about sustainable ag. We figured harvesting 8000 garlic bulbs would qualify, and they did not disappoint; pulling, bunching, hauling, and carrying them all up into the loft in about an hour. Wow. And now what? We just keep saying thank you and hope the timely rains keep falling, the timely sun keeps shining, and the timely help arrives ready to work!

We hope you enjoy the harvest,

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Ellen, Ben, Lia, Marlee, and Will)

To The Pipes!!

By Monday it was dry. Very dry. Yes, we had gotten some rain the week before - but the cumulative effect of hot and generally dry weather had left some fields looking wilty and dusty. Even though the forecast was for possible rain on Thursday, we needed to take a break from the rest of the garlic harvest; it was time to make it rain.

We have a number of irrigation systems that we use - drip, overhead solid set, and the traveling reel. Each system takes some work to get it going each season and then some figuring (and luck) to keep it running. So we decided to start with the biggest need and go from there --- no question, last week's newly planted brassicas and the big kale field over in the dry fields of Snyder Farm.

So, with our apprentices off on a farm visit, Ellen went to the west field storage, hitched the big reel to the John Deere and brought it to the field. First we needed to test the big pump (first time all season!). Water flowing. Check. Then attach the trunk line - to get the water from the pump to the field - about 400' away. Piece by piece, past the horse paddock, around the poison ivy patch, and to the reel, now sitting on the edge of the thirsty broccoli & cauliflower field. Check. Attach the sprinkler to the tractor and pull it the length of the field (450'). Check. And now the moment of truth - start the pump, there goes the water, and .... and ...... pcchhewow! There's the water - shooting out the sprinkler (called the "gun" because it really does look like an Ouzi, and because it literally "shoots" water 50' in each direction. And now, by some magic, the sprinkler goes round and round, and retracts through the field, back to the reel, so that after about 5 hours of this, one acre is watered. Success!!

We kept some variation of this going for the next few days, and then, on Wednesday, without any real warning, the sky opened up to drop an inch of water from the sky, setting us up for our 2nd-to-last big planting of the season. And just like that, we were set up for the big heat coming our way this weekend and getting back to the garlic harvest. This train keeps on rolling!!

We hope you enjoy the harvest,

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Ellen, Ben, Lia, Marlee, and Will)

Starting To Turn The Page

Once again, after a week of sun and heat, it rained on Saturday afternoon - hard. We got a deluge - the farm shop flooded, minor bed wash-outs - nearly 1" and with that, we were given yet reprieve of a week from the irrigation pipes. Incredibly lucky.Where does this leave us? We are still in the daily grind of the summer - harvesting loads and loads of food three days a week - with squash leading the way, and now being buffeted by carrots, cabbage, and incredible greens. Working to stay ahead of the weeds - the weeder crew cleaned up the sweet peppers and eggplants, then the cucumbers, and the cutting flowers. And whenever we have a spare moment - it's off to the tomatoes to get those trellises higher and higher as the plants explode up.

All the while something is shifting ever so-slightly; For one thing some crops are moving through the question and into the answer; Will you be wiped out by weeds? Will you create a thousand beautiful melons? This goes, as usual, in both directions; The winter squash, the melons, corn, and peppers are all looking mighty FINE right now - spread out like an ocean of vines and stalks and promise of fruiting glory. But on the other hand we lost 1/4 of our sweet potatoes to a terribly grassy June that ate them alive. And of course with other crops it's still too soon to tell

Midsummer has a few other markers that set the tone for us to start to turn the page and start to transform the farm towards fall; Our apprentice crew begins their "vacation-rotation" where they each take a week off to renew and refresh while we hold down the fort and while keeping the basic work going (weeding, harvesting....). Ellen and Lia put all of the row covers and hoops that we used for early season crop protection into storage. Ben turned in the old crop of strawberries, and mowed the first-year crop so it can be renovated next week. When we got a little rain (on Thursday) everyone worked to get first big fall planting of cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli and the last successions of lettuce in the ground. It felt slightly darker when we get to work Friday morning.

We're not quite there yet. Still a couple more big weeks of striving to stay ahead (leeks, onions, carrots....). For now, it's still weeding. harvesting. trellising, but with our eyes set a bit on the future.

We hope you enjoy the harvest,

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Ellen, Ben, Lia, Marlee, and Will)

Just Add Heat And.....

Our perfect week continued into a perfect weekend - an all-day-drizzly-cloudy Sunday to cap off a full week of sun. Then the thermometer pointed north and stayed there. Once the stage is set like this (all of our crops settled into their places, their roots tied strongly to the earth, water pumping through their veins) if we add heat..... We know that sound....that's the sound of cells dividing. Blammo! Away they go, and away we go trying to keep up with them.

Of course, as you know by now, that it's not just the plants that we are tending, that start to explode as we start to sweat. The plants we aren't tending (aka 'the weeds') also ratchet up their desire to choke out best laid plans. And, it seems, our crops conspire to keep us exhausted providing us with days of heavier and heavier harvesting.

The week of July 4th generally provides important milestones for us: The winter squash needs to be hoed, so that the remaining plants can spread out a three-acre sea of leaves. The majority of our fall roots need to be seeded so they are ready for harvest in October. And, the tomatoes need to be trellised so they won't flop over from the weight of themselves and create a tangled mess of a harvest in late August.

The heat merely brings a little sass to the scene. The zucchinis grow faster. As do the grasses trying to wipe out the sweet potatoes. We just have to keep our cool; plenty of water to drink, one foot in front of the other, methodically moving from one impossible job to the next. And at weeks end, where are we now? 2750 stakes are all pounded and standing tall in the tomatoes. 1 acre of fall roots seeded in hopeful, clean beds. 3 acres of squash hoed and ready to go. Waiting for rain. Did you see the forecast for tonight? I did. Here's hoping this string continues.......

We hope you enjoy the harvest,

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Ellen, Ben, Lia, Marlee, and Will)

It won't last. We know. It's okay.

Last week I pondered how we manage our diverse farm with only one day of sun in a week, and now we have the opposite problem. Although, in this case, there really is no problem. With the weather turning warmer, the forecast turning sunnier, and the harvest flowing faster, it was not time to dwell on our good fortune, but to just go out to revel in it. So, we did.

The tractors rolled, the hands pulled, and the hoes scuffled on a beautiful Monday as we shined up our potatoes, cucumbers, and peppers in the summer sun. Then, on cue, Tuesday saw showers in the morning, which fell soft enough to still pull some weeds in the cukes and hard enough in the afternoon to leave us feeling good about sowing our fall escarole in the greenhouse and fully clean up the cold frame from a spring fever of planting.

And, just like that, the sun came out again, allowing us to bring in a big harvest of greens and cabbage and begin tending our crops again. For three days the sun shone, and the temps stayed in the high 80s. Again, the tractors rolled and the weeders plucked. The winter squash field started to shape up. The kale, the flowers, and the leeks all started to gleam. We took off the row covers and (supporting) hoops from the peppers and eggplants - surely signifying that summer was here for real. And, just like that, the harvest picked up, with loads of squash pouring down on us and into the cooler.

I'm not going to think about it for too long. I know it won't last. It never does. And it just can't. But when it happens - the perfect week - I'm not going to ignore it either. I'm going to remember it and enjoy it. And even ask (who? what?) for another one. Rain from the sky. Sun to dry the plants. Warmth to grow more cells. That's it. A farmer's dream come true.

We hope you enjoy the harvest,

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Ellen, Ben, Lia, Marlee, and Will)

One Sunny Day A Week? (Mostly) No Problem.

With one day of sun forecast for the week, we thought about the strawberries and the weeds and went to work. The berries hate rain when they are ripe. If they get wet for a while, they turn into fuzz-balls. And then the rest of the small berries rot too. Before long, it's one big patch of mold. As for the weeds - "when the sun is shining, they are dying."

So, we we sent out an email on Monday at 7am, encouraging people to come pick. We figured some people would be able to come and a bunch of berries would get taken out of the field, and that would help. While people were picking we would be cultivating as many crops as possible. Everything done all at once, right?

By 8am there was a full parking lot of cars and pickers in the field. It stayed like that for the rest of the day; People just kept coming. And picking. Then things went nuts; By 5pm the parking lot was full and the cars were lined up on Hulst road. There were pickers everywhere. Now we were getting reports that one of the patches had no more ripe berries. By 7pm the other patch was clean too. Literally every ripe berry was picked from the fields. Not everyone got berries. We never expected so many people would pick on a week day. I guess one sunny day can have that effect. We kept the tractors and hoes rolling and cleaned up tomatoes, onions, corn, and on and on.

Then, right on cue, on and off rain from Tuesday thru Friday left us shifting from weeding to planting; from picking to waiting. Meanwhile, the early summer crops began ripening with all of the good moisture and moderate warmth. Leaving us, at weeks' end with a cooler full of food and more ripe berries to pick from a clean field. We will hope for more sun in the coming week to make the whole thing work a little smoother, but all in all we are glad that we got through this one, mostly okay.

We hope you enjoy the harvest,

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Ellen, Ben, Lia, Marlee, and Will)

In The Weeds

With most of our planting done, our vegetable harvesting begun, and our CSA distribution off-the-ground, there's really only one thing to focus on at this time - tending to all of our plants. On a 30-acre vegetable farm, that doesn't use chemical pesticides, this can really be boiled down to one thing - time to kill some weeds!

We were pretty happy when the week dawned hot and sunny (despite the crops actually needing rain for a change). Thing is, weeds don't die in the rain. So when the sun shines, we fan out across the farm with hands, hoes, tractors, more tractors, and different tractors to get the weeds before they choke out our plants (and our dreams).  We harvest on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (for about 3 hours these days). Besides those times, if the weather's good  (or mostly good), we go weedin'! Monday we set off on the Farmall cub (Marlee in the tomatoes), the Hak finger weeder (Lia and Ellen in the sweet potatoes), the sweeps on the IH 265 (Ben in the greens), and the Lely tine weeder (Will in the fall carrot & beet beds before  seeding).  The Weeder Crew crawling through the chard and beets before heading to the weeks' main event - the onions.

We continued like this whenever we could; Through the winter squash, leeks, carrots, corn, potatoes, and on and on. Thursdays rain saw us back in the planting game (another succession of lettuce, fennel, radicchio, and scallions) and then back to join the weeders, still fighting the good fight, in the cold rain.  By weeks end, it looked mostly like a draw: Weeds still working and growing. Farm crew still clawing and scratching. The onions halfway done. Meanwhile the lettuce is other-worldly and the strawberries are just starting to ripen - 'tis the season.

We hope you enjoy the harvest,

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Ellen, Ben, Lia, Marlee, and Will)

And, We're Off!!

Every season starts with a dream. A simple dream;  An acre of land. A few seeds. Enough rain to germinate them. Enough sun for them to grow. Enough time to pull the weeds. A great crew to harvest the crops. And some people who are hungry and will give us a few dollars for something to eat.  Somehow, it all gets more complicated than that eventually, but this is how it always starts.

Then things happen. We hire our crew. We make our field plans. We buy our seeds. The greenhouse is fired up in March. The team assembles in April. The equipment is greased. And we're off. Where to? Not sure! We have the road map, but then we meet so many unexpected events along the way. And where will we end up? In a rain slog through the North Field grubbing for sweet potatoes? In a dust-storm harvesting green kale by headlamp? The truly exciting thing about each season, is that we just don't know. We have to venture forth to find out.

So, where have we been so far? Well, April dawned right like we hoped - not too cold and not too warm. We got our earliest fields plowed and seeded. And then it started to rain. With the shell-shock from last-season's epic rainy fall, we pretended it wasn't going to last. We didn't talk about it much - just hoped it would go away. It didn't. It rained again. And again and again. It rained half of the spinach rotten. It rained half of the carrots un-germinated. It rained many fields impassible mud puddles.  

We tried to adjust. We found little windows of dry weather and sneaked the harrow in to a little corner of the field. We re-sowed the carrots. We sowed the peas tw0-weeks late. We changed the field plans.  And then, just as we started to feel a little desperate; admitting our wonder as to what might happen if we could not plow our fields or plant our plants at all. Just about then for, of course, no reason at all, the skies generally cleared, the sun generally shone, the rain generally did not fall, and the temperatures generally moderated.

So, like pent up animals we moved with great focus.  Ben sailed around all of the fields with the harrow and Will moved compost where the soil needed to be replenished. Lia made miles of planting beds and pulled the transplanter while Ellen orchestrated the methodical filling of nearly 20 acres of fields with barely-patiently waiting plants. Karen moved the cows to new pastures and then got the Farm Shop all set up and ready to receive thousands of people looking for food each week. Abbe kept the books straight (and thwarted cyber-threats). The weeder crew showed up in late-May and cleared the weeds from the early fields. And then our final apprentice, Marlee, graduated from college, jumped on this full-speed merry go-round and took us all the way across the finish line of today.

So, this is about where we find ourselves now; with a bagful of lettuce, a few radishes, fields full of promise, contentedly grazing cows who have thrown off their winter mange, nearly all of CSA shares sold, over 28 acres of fields cover-cropped, and most of our machines working. We are ready to spend the next few weeks remembering how to harvest, trying our best to stay ahead of all of the weeds (trying their best to lay waste to our big ideas), and looking forward to meeting and feeding you all in the days to come.

Recap: Farm teeters on the brink of early rain-catastrophe, only to receive a late-reprieve as we re-set sail on smoother waters. We stand ready to venture forth with you, to see where we will go - where this road, this track, this field, this sea will lead. We are, as usual, thankful mainly for your company on this journey. We will keep you posted as to what we find and look forward to sharing what we gather.

We hope you enjoy the harvest,

Your Farmer,
Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, Ellen, Ben, Lia, Marlee, and Will)

Inching Closer

After a very wet April, we have moved to a somewhat wet May, with a little cold thrown in for good luck. There have been lots of stuck tractors and cold hands, but, just when we think the end is near (or maybe the beginning will never get here?), the sky brightens, the tractor makes it through the field, and we get the plants in the ground. The growing "plan" has been pretty much modified EVERYWHERE around the farm to enable us to make this all work, but somehow, someway, we are moving forward. Nearly everything has been seeded or planted on time, most crops have not rotted in the excessive rain, and we have enough acreage prepared for all of our planting for next week at least!

The crew has been hard at work with the typical work of the season: Will slings the compost onto the field. Ben works it in with the harrow and gets the fields nice and flat. Lia makes the very straight planting beds. Ellen leads the planting crew (lettuce, swiss chard, scallions, fennel, radicchio, tomatoes, zucchini, onions, sweet corn, and leeks are all in the ground) or Lia and I sow the seeds (peas, arugula, spinach, radish, carrots, beets, cilantro, dill are all germinated). Karen has gotten all of the fences set and moves our herd of cows through the pastures at Snyder Farm. And we all work in the greenhouse getting plants ready and tending those plants in the field after they have been planted or seeded (row covers installed and removed, weeds cultivated with tractors or pulled by hand, mulch installed on our half-acre of blueberries, etc).

Many days it feels like we are waiting and waiting for the rain to stop or for the fields to dry enough for us to walk or tractor in the fields without sinking. But lately, we look around, and slowly, slowly realize that the farm is getting planted, bit by bit - that this thing is coming together, inching closer every day to the real prize: when we get to harvest food from the earth for you and your family to eat.

Of course, at this time of year, everyone (including us) wants to know......when is our first distribution? Well, given the cold and wet, we are certainly not ahead of schedule for harvest. So that would lead us to estimate our first week of distribution will be from Saturday June 8 - Thursday June 13. However, the lettuce, greens, spinach, and radish have germinated. They've also been cultivated and the weather forecast is for 70F or higher for the next 6 days. So we are going to be prepared just in case it's a little earlier than that.  If it is earlier we will send an email, post on social media, and let you know.  In any case, with a little luck - it won't be long now and we will be happy to see you soon.

We are looking forward to a great season to come!!

Your Farmer,
Dan (for Karen, Ellen, Leila, Abbe, Ken, Ellen, Ben, Lia, and Will)

Spring Has Sprung!!

Its happening again. The snow has melted. The soil is warming. The peepers are making noises. The trees are budding. The soil is drying (sometimes). Our new farm crew arrived to work on April 1. The seeds are being sown in the greenhouse. The machines are getting greased and moving. It's starting to feel like a farm again!

As usual our new apprentice crew has jumped right in. We have two new crew members, Lia and Will who have joined Ben (our seasoned veteran) and are hard at work all around the farm. Will spreads compost, Ben plows and harrows our fields (that aren't too wet), Lia marks the planting beds, Will drops fertilizer and then Lia swoops back, finishes the beds and sows the seeds.  In addition, there's plenty of work for all of us tending our perennial crops (blueberries, strawberries, etc), sowing thousands of seeds in the greenhouse, working on construction projects, and doing all of the other work that goes into getting this circus up and running again. Next week we will put our first plants from the greenhouse in the ground.

Supporting the work of our apprentice crew, our long-term staff has also been hard at work getting this farm going this season; Karen sowed the early greenhouse seeds in mid-March, then began getting all of our fences set up for the cows and pigs, and has the apprentice lunch program off to a great start.  Ellen has been hard at work in her first season as our Assistant Manager. Most of her attention this month has been training Ben & Lia in plowing and bed making, getting supplies set up for irrigation, and implementing our marketing strategy for attracting new CSA shareholders.  Leila has had a steady string of school groups out to the farm already this spring and is sharing cooking duties with Karen for the apprentice crew. Abbe continues to do all of our administrative work - collecting payments, paying our bills, and keeping us legal. And Ken has returned to the workshop where he has been getting the winter out of our trucks and tractors!  I have been mostly occupied with making plans and keeping our new crew busy with tasks that are mostly new for all of them. There's a lot of learning around the farm in the early season, as people need to learn to use the tools and participate in the systems that will take our food on the journey from seed to harvest to your kitchen.

We have the usual plans for this upcoming season: to grow 30 acres of vegetables and feed 700 families using sustainable techniques which leave our soil as good (or better) than we found it. And to use this work to train our apprentices in how to manage these techniques and develop their own. In addition, we have a few special projects in mind that we are hoping to get done - building a new cold frame, repairing damage to our roads and field edges due to last years excess water, etc.  So, we have plenty to do, and are thankful for the people to help get this work done.

Around the fields, the question on everyone's mind right now is whether we will get a real break from the the excess water we began receiving last fall. So far this spring, it has rained less than last fall, but still more than average, leaving the fields a bit waterlogged. We have had some good early heat, which should help evaporate some water. And we have been able to put our early spinach, carrots, beets, and peas in the ground, but there are some fields that are still too wet to work.  As to where this will go - we are just never sure......  Certainly things are wetter than they were last year at this time, but anything can happen (and it usually does). In other words, that's what this farm is all about! Where our food is actually the result of a living, breathing farm, being worked by living, breathing people, on a living, breathing earth. We are excited for the opportunity to connect you to this life-affirming process and hope that you will enjoy being a part of it as much as we do.

We will be in touch with you periodically via email to keep you up-to-date with what's happening here at the farm (and any related events that might be of interest). We have also updated our calendar on our website so you can check out our plans for the coming season. And, if you are so inclined, you can also stay in touch by "liking" us on Facebook, and following us Instagram  and Twitter where we post pictures of current activities around the farm. We also encourage you to come and help out anytime on the farm - just send us an email and we'll tell you how to plug in.  If you have any questions or concerns, in the meantime, feel free to reach out to us via email or phone.

We are looking forward to a great season to come!!

Your Farmer,
Dan (for Karen, Ellen, Leila, Abbe, Ken, Ellen, Ben, Lia, and Will)

Making Plans & Turning The Page

February and early March saw the return of some more winter-like weather. We were staring out at some actual piles of snow in the parking lot and the farm was covered in a restful bright blanket. Last weeks' warm weather started to change all that; Now as the light returns more and more each day, so does the hope inside all of us for what the coming growing season might have in store.

After having taken stock and written our yearly newsletter (hopefully you received it in the mail) it felt like the right time to start to turn our attention towards the future. For some seemingly-innate, definitely-unknown reason, that future always appears bright from this vantage point: enough, but not too much rain, plenty of sun, lots of warmth, and food flowing from the earth everywhere we turn. The seed catalogs help with this fantasy-land, but so does the amnesia that seems to be a necessary condition of a farmer's mind;  Always seeming to conveniently forget whatever tribulations we have just passed through to now viewing the possibilities on the road ahead. Of course, the road looks clear from here - nothing has happened yet and, yes, apparently hope springs eternal!!

We have continued out winters work; Ellen feeding the cows hay, distributing the winter share, and figuring out clever ways to attract new shareholders to the CSA. Abbe recording the payments and keeping our database up-to-date. Karen setting up the apprentice lunch program and keeping us stocked on products in the cellar. And me making new field maps, ordering supplies, and hiring next years crew.  And now, we head for the real turning point - the end of the winter distribution season, the beginning of greenhouse seedling production starting today, and welcoming our new apprentice crew on April 1.    Ready, set, here we go!!

We hope you have enjoyed your winter and are ready for the season to come,

Farmer Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, and Ellen)

A Tough Season, But We’re Still Standing.

Here is the electronic version of our annual year-end newsletter  (We also are sending it your way through the mail in case you like to curl up and read it by the fire).  Either way, we hope you check out the sweet pictures of the year that was and start to thinking about fresh greens in the spring and the barefoot days of summer to come!! 

Winter comes and goes these days, but even if it does feel like spring sometimes, there are still a few minutes to take some time for a good look back at last year.  It’s tempting to turn away from the past season; from what ended with one difficulty after another. It might be more fun to forget about all of the rain, all of the mud, all of the rot and set our sights on a mythic future – a hopeful place where all seeds turn into bountiful fruits. That’s how I approached this year-end review, but, as the ray-of-light-curmudgeon that I am (at times), I was pleasantly surprised by the results. The mud was certainly there. And the rutted roads. The rotten broccoli and non-existent Brussels’ sprouts. But so was the bounteous sweet potato crop, and big melon harvest, the new young families making first memories in the sandbox, the unsolicited donations, and acts of kindness.  Eventually after it was all written down, and we began to try and make some sense of it all, a picture of our vibrant little farm, in the midst of a turbulent world, emerged.   

Overall, the growing season was the most challenging in our history as managers here at the farm (24 years). Record rainfall caused widespread crop losses after August. Still, with a great crew and three very big storage crops (squash, sweets, and spuds), we harvested and distributed over 250,000 lbs of fresh produce. We were not able to successfully implement our desired management restructure. However, we learned some very important lessons along the way, and re-committed ourselves to our previous management scheme with enthusiasm. And, largely due to cost control and some timely unsolicited donations, we find ourselves with a larger profit margin than anticipated, a fully-funded capital account, and all loans paid off on time. Our senior share was three times more popular than we expected and our overall retention rate remained steady-and in some categories hit an all-time high. We were able to maintain a full and dynamic slate of outreach activities, which continue to help us to live up to one of our commitments-to make this farm about “more than just vegetables.”

None of this could be possible without the continued contribution and commitment of shareholders, donors, friends, and relatives who support us financially, emotionally, and spiritually. This is brought into focus when we go through such a challenging season. We are more convinced than ever that the most important work we do on this farm is stewarding our relationship with our supporting community of eaters, cooks, nature-lovers, parents, seekers, children, activists, sisters, and our land.  For this we thank you, as always, and hope that through the following pages you can get a glimpse of some of what your contribution has helped to grow and nurture in the past year.  

Your Farmer,

Dan (for Karen, Abbe, and Ellen)

Taking Stock & Hunkering Down

January had some cold days. And some not so cold days. There was a thaw every week which threatened to flood the cellar each time. And then there was some very cold weather which helped us bring the cellar to it's sweet spot - in the 30's with humidity in the 90s. But it didn't really seem like winter until just this past week.

When we weren't keeping an eye on the cellar or feeding hay to the cows in the Snyder Farm barnyard, most of our attention was turned towards looking at what happened last season. Ellen spent some time devising a new survey and then compiling the (many) results into a form that we can use to guide future decision-making. Abbe spent much of her time making sure all of our financial record-keeping was up-to-date and correct from 2018. Karen kept the products stocked in the cellar, and I spent much of my time figuring out membership, production, and equipment stats. We are nearly done with all of this counting and re-counting (keep an eye out for a bright-shiny pictorial wrap-up that we will send you in mid-February) and look forward to turning our attention to in-depth planning for the season to come.

And, just when we thought we might dodge a bullet and never get any snow during any actual winter months, the weather forecast turned exciting; Cold and then snow, then ice, and then much more cold. Since it was a planned vacation weekend for me, I taught Ellen how to plow (with no snow) before I left, handed her the keys, reviewed what to do in an emergency, and high-tailed it up to the Green Mountains. While I was enjoying some r & r, Ellen turned the key, cleared the first snow of the winter, fed the cows, and made sure the cow fence wasn't damaged by the ice. Then, declaring victory, she went home to make a fire and take a nap. Just like a farmer in winter; Counting, re-counting, feeding cows, plowing snow, eating roots, hunkering, and reading by the fire.    

We hope you enjoy the winter bounty,

Farmer Dan
(for Karen, Abbe, and Ellen)