Category Archives: Stories from the Field

picture posts, interesting tidbits, shareholder highlights, volunteer highlights

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!

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!

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…

CSA Update: A few things

We wanted to reach out to you about a few things that are going on and that we need some help with.

  1. We made a mistake on the sign-up genius for this coming Monday and did not create slots to help with distribution. Sorry for the short notice but, if you can make it for a distribution slot this Monday the 18th from 3:45-7:15 that would be a great help. We have three slots available. To RSVP send an email to moosehillcsa@massaudubon.org.
  2. As most if not all of you know we have peas and strawberries here!!  Pyo for peas will start Wednesday the 20th. Also a new variety of Radishes are here. We will post a full list of what to potentially expect by Monday morning. As the season progresses, we may periodically need to make changes to what you receive at distribution – it’s hard to fully predict that we will have exactly the same things available Monday and Friday (a lot can change in a week in the fields) but for the most part, the list is what you can most likely expect.
  3. We are also in need of clean towels/rags/shirts or cloth of any kind. After the harvest is brought in we use wet towels to cover everything to keep it cool and fresh. As the harvest grows more towels are necessary, so, if you have anything to contribute, bring it down to the barn next time you are around.
  4. Just a reminder that we can not take back and re-use strawberry pints, rubber bands, egg cartons, etc. We appreciate your thoughtfulness but in order to be sure that we can stay as a certified organic farm, we must use new and clean materials only.
  5. Another reminder for you that we ARE open for distribution on 4th of July, which falls on a Wednesday this year. Please remember that if you cannot make it on a certain week, we invite you to send a friend, family member, or neighbor to collect your share. If you cannot find someone and you could pick up your share on a different distribution day in that same week, with advance notice, we can switch your pick-up day for that week. We must receive an email at moosehillcsa@massaudubon.org by at least noon the day before your regularly scheduled pick-up time (no phone calls). The email should include the distribution day you wish to switch to within that week.

Thanks for all of your help so far. We look forward to the rest of the season as our harvest grows more and more every week. Keep an eye out for more recipes coming and some storage tips. Our weekly pick-up list will be up soon too.

See you on the farm,
–the Moose Hill Team

 

Some Good Lookin Veggies

Just wanted to share some photos of a few new crops that have come into the picture, as well as provide a look at what’s on the horizon. Due to a generous planting of beans, tomatoes, and broccoli this season, we have been bringing in quite a bounty week after week! As you can see below, butternut squash will be ready soon, while our acorn and delicata was just harvested this past week. The first two photos here of acorn squash and peppers were taken by shareholder Christine Malboeuf, and I simply couldn’t help but share them!

 

Our recently harvested acorn and delicata squash shining bright!

The many colors of hot (right), and lunchbox peppers (left)

Delicious butternut is looking good and soon to be ready for harvest!

Acorn squash that was harvested today

Last week the Ward’s crew uplifted loads of potatoes from below the soil using their potato lifter device, resulting in a total of 58 crates worth of potatoes that we harvested that day!

As if it had lipstick on

Soon-to-be Favorites

Several of our markee crops have grown significantly within the past week due to the ideal combination of sunshine and rain. It won’t be long before you are freezing your tomatoes and enjoying some eggplant parm! Here are a few glimpses into some of our soon-to-be favorite crops.

The green will be red in no time!

 

The peppers have been growing like bamboo this past week…Well not really, but they’re almost there!