Category Archives: Organic Farming

specifically around benefits and challenges of organic farming

Farming: The Challenges and Successes, as the season winds down

Did it seem like the tomatoes were here and gone before you knew it? Unfortunately our tomato season was cut a little short because of a bacterial spot that caused them to get sick and die much quicker than we wanted.

On the bright side of things, we were lucky enough to get an extra planting of summer squash and zucchini that has lasted longer than usual.

However, spinach was planted but it failed to germinate so we will not see that this fall. Our most recent planting of corn struggled as well as August was a particularly dry month (hard to believe with our rainy September).

But, as the season begins to wind down for us, we have an abundance of sweet potatoes coming your way in addition to our most beloved winter squash varieties, AND a final planting of beans.

See you all soon!

CSA Pick-Up: September 17-21

This week’s distribution will include:

  • Kale
  • Squash
  • Corn
  • Onions
  • Beans
  • Sugaring Pumpkins
  • Winter Squash
  • Potatoes
  • Corn Stalks

We will have pick your own herbs and flowers and cherry tomatoes. The cherry tomatoes will be slim pickings, but they are still out there for the determined picker!

 

As the season is winding down, be sure to complete your required work hours. you can sign up by following this link to the sign-up genius.  If you are interested in buying out of your hours, send an email to moosehillcsa@massaudubon.org letting us know and we can give you more details.  Currently it looks as though we will be able to extend our season into the first week of October.

Farming – The Challenges and The Successes

As many people know, farming isn’t a set formula. Every season, every year brings about familiarity and challenges. While last year finally saw the end of a three year drought, this year the heat, humidity, and heavy downpours that pass as storms lately have brought their own challenges. As always, CSA shareholders share in our challenges and our successes. Here are a few of the things that have challenged us this growing season:

Our first planting of squash and cucumbers:

Took a hard hit from pests like the striped cucumber beetle. Early plantings of Cucurbitaceae (the scientific name for the family of plants including squash, zucchini, and cucumbers) are typically the most susceptible to damage from this pest because they are subject to the feeding of emerging overwintering beetles. Adults feed on the foliage while also laying their eggs on the underside of the leaves. When the eggs hatch, the larva burrow themselves into the ground to feed on the roots.  This can be damaging to the crops not only because they are being munched on, but the striped cucumber beetle is also known for spreading diseases such as bacterial wilt and the cucumber mosaic virus; which can cause the slow death of the plant through blockage of water transport and misshapen, discolored, bitter fruits (respectively).  Through diligent field scouting by our staff, we were able to spot this problem in enough time to save most of the crop. Our manager called our farming partners at Ward’s to come by and help us out.  By using an organic approved spray, the beetles are naturally killed and repelled away. The area that this first planting of Cucurbitaceae occurred also attracted other pests such as woodchuck (you know, our beloved ground hog) that were feeding heavily on our squash and zucchini.

Eggplant and Colorado potato beetle

An early heavy infestation of the Colorado potato beetle (CPB) occurred in our eggplant field early on this year.  Our staff, alongside several shareholders, who were all trained on what to look for, worked hard to eradicate the infestation.  Armed with gloves, kneepads, and a good sense of humor, every single eggplant in our field was hand inspected and protected by literally crushing the opposition with sheer human force.  All CPB eggs, larva, and adults that were found were killed to protect our precious crops from being devoured before we had the chance to do so ourselves.  Now we are all enjoying the “fruits of our labor” in the form of eggplant parmesan and baba ghanoush

Broccoli

Broccoli has been tricky for us this year.  Our initial planting did not yield nearly as much as we were hoping due to the scorching heat of the early summer combined with an inconsistent rain.

What a growing year for weeds 

This year has been the year for a battle against weeds. Conditions have been very favorable for the growth of weeds and this has caused many problems for our crops.  Weeds inhibit the growth of our crops by battling them for sunlight and nutrients. Unfortunately, the straw that we lay down between our rows to help prevent growth of weeds has not been sufficient for this years weed growth. This has caused the excessive growth of certain weeds such as different species of Amaranth (also known as pig weed) This weed grows very tall, very fast, and also develops a thick woody stem that is not easily trampled or cut down.  To combat our weed problem we run a machine known as a Bachtold, which can be described as similar to a beefed up lawnmower. The Bachtold fits perfectly between crop rows and mows weeds down enough for sunlight to reach our crops.  The machine is very heavy and also temperamental, requiring a great level of skill to run successfully. Although effective, this method can also cause some inadvertent damage to crops that may reach out of their row and into our path. In addition to fighting these weeds in active crops such as tomatoes, we are also working very hard to keep our 20 rows of strawberry plants weeded so that we can enjoy their sweetness again next June.

Potato and phytopthera fungus (late blight)

If infection of this fungus is expected through adequate disease forecasting, an organic preventative copper based fungicide can be applied.  Phytopthera is a water based mold and therefore thrives in moist conditions. High humidity, like we have been experiencing during our summer here, is beneficial for the growth of this harmful oomycete (water mold).  The canoeing of the foliage of potato plant is an early sign of this infection that we were able to recognize with the help of our Farm Manager.  After infection has occurred, this can be combated by the removal of the foliage, which can prevent the infection of the tuber itself allowing for harvesting as normal. This year, we ended up harvesting potatoes a bit earlier and we are able to divvy them out at a more reasonable rate for you.

Do you have questions about how some of our other crops are doing? Let us know – we want to share more about our work farming for you.  Your commitment to sharing in our challenges and successes is so appreciated. Living healthy, happy, fulfilling lives all starts with what you choose to put into your body. Choosing local organically grown produce is the first and most important step. Although we have our struggles, the fight for organic agriculture is worth the effort.  It takes a community to work together to make any farm a success.  Being surrounded by a community of caring individuals who are conscious of what they put into their bodies is truly something for us all to be thankful for, and is a constant source of inspiration for us here on the farm. Thank you for your commitment and we look forward to the rest of the season with you all.

the Harvest Grows

As the harvest on the farm continues to increase, we often receive a number of questions about what happens with all the crops that we are growing. We wanted to be sure that our shareholders are aware of the many things that this farm is doing with the harvest.

The Share Bin

Unlike a farm market where a person can choose the vegetables they love, a CSA provides a mix of the vegetables. The farm chooses what vegetables to grow that season (some based on experience, some based on the availability of sourcing organic, and some based on shareholder interest). As you can imagine, there will always be vegetables that everyone loves and there will be vegetables that are not loved as much. That is where a share bin comes in – shareholders can “give” to fellow shareholders the vegetables that they don’t want and likewise they can take vegetables form the share bin that they do want. By actively using the share bin, this leaves less “extras” at the end of the night that will then either be composted or packed for a food pantry. Our Farm Apprentices have reported that as the season moves on, the share bin has been quite successful this year!

But, there are times when vegetables are not properly moved over, so our apprentices are keeping track of how many shares still need to be picked up and how much is left in the distribution bins. If they find that there appears to be lots of “extras” of any vegetable, then they will move more over to the share bins. At the end of the night, the vegetables not claimed are packed and taken to local food pantries.

Food Pantries

Each year, we make a commitment to plan for and harvest additional crops to donate to food pantries. As the season gets in full swing, we will add unclaimed vegetables at the end of distribution to the food pantry deliveries. This usually begins in July, when we start to see more vegetables coming in. This year, we are delighted to be delivering to Isle Marks in Stoughton (which is also the food pantry for Sharon), a family shelter in Attleboro, and the Foxboro Food Pantry. Thank you to those shareholders who have committed to helping us in this endeavor by picking up and delivering – we appreciate your help.

Buy-a-Bucket

As with any farm, we are always looking for opportunities to reach new audiences and diversify our income stream to create a sustainable financial future. There are so many rising costs of running the farm and we need to look at ways to bring in new income. Diversifying helps us to keep the cost of the share at a mid-range when compared to other local CSAs and still balance our expenses. The Buy-a-Bucket program is one way to help offset these costs. Our shareholders still get their fair share at distribution but if they are looking for an extra volume of a crop for canning or preserving, this is it. Plus, by offering the Buy-a-Bucket on the weekends, we get to introduce our organic farm to others; it is definitely a win-win! Whether you are a shareholder or new to our farm fields, this is a great deal for these crops and we don’t have to watch vegetables go to waste in the field. For this program, we always offer a special rate for our shareholders and a higher rate for non-shareholders. If a shareholder stops by on the weekend to take advantage of the Buy-a-Bucket, just be sure to tell Jesse or Matt that you are a shareholder to receive the special rate!

the Farm Stand

Another opportunity to diversify our farm and to reach new customers is with a Farm Stand on the weekends. In the past, we only harvested on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday – the days of distribution. Even though we had a Saturday pick-up, we did not harvest that morning. In essence we had 2 full days that the fields were left alone. As many of you already know, 2 whole days of not harvesting can mean the loss of some great vegetables that over-ripen by the Monday harvest. With the Farm Stand, we harvest each morning and can continue to get the most from our fields. Don’t worry, we planned for the Farm Stand with our farmer – we planned 300 shares for shareholders and an additional 100 shares for Farm Stand, Food Pantry, and Buy-a-Bucket programs.

the Farm Table

At the end of the Farm Stand sales on Sunday, any remaining vegetables are stored and then placed at a Farm Table located at our Nature Center for camp families and visitors to purchase. Once again we are increasing the awareness of our farm, and helping to cut down on waste.

Over the last 13 years, there have been many changes to our farm and we are sure that in the future there will continue to be additional changes. But, our farm began with a focus on a CSA, and that continues to be our main focus. As you may know, each year we assess the CSA through an end of season survey. It is from these surveys, conversations with our farmer, and our experiences in the fields that some of our decisions for the future are made. Most importantly, we are looking at long-term sustainability and trying to balance all the varied requests and needs of our shareholders while making sure that the goals of The Farm, Moose Hill, and Mass Audubon are best met.

We look forward to seeing you on the Farm!

Smoky Eggplant Dip

Ingredients 

  • 2 medium eggplants (about 1 pound each)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt, or to taste
  • 6 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste), well-stirred if a new container
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced or pressed
  • Juice of 1 lemon, plus more to taste, if desired
  • Pinch of cayenne or aleppo pepper
  • Pinch or two of ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons well-chopped flat-leaf parsley, divided
  • Toasted sesame seeds or za’atar for garnish

Instructions 

Heat oven to 375°F. Brush a baking sheet or roasting pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Prick eggplants a few times with a fork or tip of a knife. Over a gas flame, grill or under a broiler, evenly char the skin of your eggplants. I like mine quite smoky and like to leave no purple visible. Transfer to a cutting board, and when cool enough to handle, trim off stem and cut lengthwise. Place cut side down on prepared baking sheet and roast for 30 to 35 minutes, until very, very tender when pressed. Let cool to room temperature.

In a blender or food processor: Scrape eggplant flesh from skin and into the work bowl. Add tahini, lemon, cayenne, cumin and 1 tablespoon parsley. Blend in short bursts (pulses) until combined but still coarsely chopped.

By hand: Scrape eggplant flesh from skin and onto a cutting board. Finely chop the eggplant, leaving some bits closer to pea-sized. In a bowl, whisk together tahini, garlic, lemon, cayenne, cumin and half the parsley. Add chopped eggplant and stir to combine.

Both methods: Taste and adjust ingredients if needed. I usually need more salt and lemon.

To serve: Spoon into a bowl and drizzle with remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Scatter with second tablespoon of parsley, and some toasted sesame seeds or za’atar, if desired. Serve with pita wedges.

For a big delicious summer meal, you could serve this with a tomato-cucumber salad.

Source

Smitten Kitchen

Summer Happenings at Moose Hill in August!

We are embracing the heat and humidity because what else can you do! So go on, get outside, explore, and sweat through the fun with the rest of us.

Here are a few things to come and explore at Moose Hill this August – we hope to see you soon:

Guided Nature Hike at the Bog – join us on Fridays for this FREE program for all and explore the cranberry bog at Patriot Place in Foxboro with Moose Hill Teacher Naturalists!August 10: Concert on the Hill – We are excited to welcome Doug Day, our featured artist during Music week at our camp! Doug plays a mix of folk music interspersed with stories and choruses for all to join in. Doug is the founder of the Sweet Chariot Music Festival in Maine, which has been running for 25 years on Swan’s Island. Bring a blanket, a picnic dinner, and join us for this FREE concert brought to you in part by Sharon Credit Union.

August 18: Star Gazing Night – if you have never joined us for this FREE program for all, you have been missing out! We’re already watching the forecast and hoping for clear skies.

August 25: Family Camp Out – not sure if camping is for you? Just want to get away for the night? Join us for an easy camping experience! Space is limited and registration is required.

Plus, we still have some space in our summer camp – we run camp through August 31!

AND the Farm at Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary has opened a Farm Stand on the weekends from noon-2 pm.

Not sure you want to pre-schedule your time? You can always come and enjoy a hike on our trails between 7 am and 7 pm – make sure to have your bug spray, sunscreen, and water!

No matter how you spend your time with us at Moose Hill – we look forward to seeing you here, exploring the nature of Massachusetts at our sanctuary!

A few things

We would like to introduce to you our farm manager, Matthew Noiseux (on the right). This is Matthews fifth year as the farm manager here at Moose Hill. He has been working hard to maintain the farm – not just during the summer but year round! Matthew, a local resident of Norfolk, is excited for the farm season which is now upon us – a season which we are hoping to make our best yet!

On the vegetable news side, we will be a bit behind on zucchini this year. We got a second planting last week and hope to have it at distribution as soon as possible! Ah, the joys of farming…

Slow Grow

Ever wonder how the weather affects our crops? As we have all been aware, the weather the last few months has done a lot of roller-coasting. Really hot, then cold, lots of rain, and then not so much.

With a less full sun days, and not much rain over the last few weeks, our crops have been slower to grow than we anticipated. It can make the start of our season feel a little slow – we have variety in what is coming in, just not always the bigger sizes we all love seeing in our early season greens!

However, the radishes have been a mix of larger and smaller sizes – but they are a root vegetable and thankfully we have great soil for these root veggies!

But, you might be wondering how we deal with little rain, or quick rainstorms, which often run off the vegetable mounds rather than soaking in to properly water our crops. In the fields by the Barn, we do some drip irrigation. Not all of the vegetable are irrigated, just some that will truly need it. In our upper field, we have no irrigation – we must rely on good soil health to best maintain those fields.

If there is something you have been wondering about, be sure to mention it to us – the Farm Apprentices. We are happy to share more information through the blog on the successes and challenges of farming organic!

And, as always, thank you to the shareholders who have helped us down at the farm thus far – we have enjoyed getting to know you and it has been a very fun start to the season!

Black Rice And Broccoli With Almonds

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup black rice
  • 1 pound broccoli, cut into small florets, stems peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced

Instructions

In a heavy-bottomed medium pot, bring rice and 1 3/4 cups water to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook until rice is tender and water is absorbed, about 35 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl. Let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss broccoli and garlic with 2 tablespoons oil. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Roast, stirring once, until tender, about 20 minutes. Remove and reserve garlic; transfer broccoli to bowl with rice.

Remove garlic from skins. Place in a small bowl; mash. Whisk in mustard, vinegar, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Drizzle over salad. Add almonds, parsley, and scallions; toss. Season with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper.

Source 

Martha Stewart

Mango Slaw With Cashews And Mint

Ingredients 

  • 2 mangoes, peeled, pitted and julienned
  • 1 to 1 1/4 pounds Napa cabbage, halved and sliced very thinly
  • 1 red pepper, julienned
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 tablespoons of fresh lime juice, from about two limes
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons oil of your choice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste (or omit this and whisk in a chili paste to taste)
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup toasted cashews, coarsely chopped

Instructions

Toss mangoes, cabbage, pepper and onion in a large bowl. Whisk lime juice, vinegar, oil, salt and red pepper in a smaller bowl and pour over slaw. You can either serve this immediately or leave the flavors to muddle for an hour in the fridge. Before serving, toss with mint leaves and sprinkle with cashews.

About your mango: This salad will work with almost any variety or ripeness of mango, whether sour or sweet. Use the one you can get, or that you enjoy the most. In general, a firmish not overly ripe mango (unlike the very ripe, sweet one I used) holds up best but all will be delicious in this salad.

Source 

Smitten Kitchen