Crops Update: Butternut Squash on the Horizon

It’s predicted to be in the 30s by early Thursday, and so we are in harvesting high gear trying to maximize 2019 yields before frost. This past Thursday, we finished the restaurant harvest just as a group of Lexington Christian Academy freshmen were arriving to help with the squash harvest. We had clipped several beds of butternut squash the previous afternoon, so they started by crating and loading them onto a truck. Next, we transplanted the last 1,600 lettuce seedlings of the year before weeding through two beds of collards. Then we handed out clippers, and the students and chaperones cut, crated and loaded acorn and more butternut squash—over 2,500 pounds of it!

That afternoon, a large group of volunteers from Perkin Elmer started by unloading all that squash into the greenhouse—we made a long bucket brigade and passed each crate from person to person, from the truck bed to the greenhouse bench. We then headed to the field where half of the volunteers harvested, loaded, and then unloaded an additional 5,000 pounds of butternut squash. The other half of the group harvested beans, tomatoes and husk cherries for Saturday’s market. What an amazing day! Thanks all for working hard and accomplishing so much.

On Saturday, volunteers from Boston College School of Theology arrived just as it started to pour. Improvising, we took shelter in the greenhouse where we worked on topping onions for an hour. We still have more to do, but we made enough space to bring in some mini-pumpkins later that day. We were disappointed to discover a lot of rot in the pumpkin patch, but it looks like this is going to be where we experience the down side of what has been a very wet growing season. On the positive side, brassicas and cover crops have been loving the rain. The buckwheat is in full flower, and those sections of the field look snow-covered (pictured above). The second successions of tomatoes, melons, and watermelons are still producing well; come to the stand today to get yours.

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update: September Transitions

It’s your last chance to register for the Fall CSA farm share program, starting Wednesday, September 11! Get your share of fall favorites, end-of-summer delights, and flavorful melons to enjoy Drumlin Farm produce throughout the season. Register online today!


Thankfully, we got hardly any rain or wind from hurricane Dorian. The fields are still wet, but getting drier. With all those pumpkins and squash sitting in the field, we’d like it to stay sunny and warm until we have a chance to harvest them. In addition to all the critters and bugs that like to nibble winter squash, temperatures below 55 will also damage them. We still need to clear the greenhouse of onions in order to move more squash in there, so we’re in a holding pattern for the moment harvesting large quantities of beans and tomatoes while trying to find a spare moment to organize the fall harvest.

On Thursday of last week, volunteers from Change Healthcare gave us a tremendous boost with field and harvesting work ahead of Saturday’s market. Together we weeded beets, harvested 150 pounds of string beans, and planted our second-to-last round of lettuce for the season. Already that was a lot of work, but they stayed on for an extra 45 minutes harvesting husk cherries. Thanks to them, we had enough beans and husk cherries for both the Union Square market (pictured below) and Saturday and Sunday’s farm stand!

Today, for the first time this year, we delivered produce to the Cambridge school system— cherry tomatoes, greens, radish, watermelons and peppers. Next week, we begin delivering to the Somerville school system. Fall CSA begins tomorrow, so register asap if you haven’t already. It’s a fun time of year to be sharing the bounty of the fields with you. On cool nights you can roast squash, garlic, and root veggies, and on hot days you can still cut open a Drumlin Farm watermelon.

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Restaurant Preparations

The Fall CSA farm share program is fast approaching and begins Wednesday, September 11. Get your share of fall favorites, end-of-summer delights, and flavorful greens to enjoy Drumlin Farm produce throughout the fall. Register online today!


We had a chill 46 numbing degrees for this morning’s restaurant harvest! Thankfully, the sun came up fairly quickly to thaw us out. It’s dry in the fields after two weeks without significant rainfall. Greens are germinating more slowly now with only morning dew to get them going, but established plants seem to be enjoying the dry conditions. Cucumbers and melons, which often suffer from foliar diseases this late in the summer, look healthy and continue to produce lots of delicious fruit. But rain is predicted for tomorrow night, and we need to seed cover crop on the next set of fields to take advantage of the potential free irrigation. We’ve been plowing and raking fields where we’ve finished cropping for the season in order to prepare them to receive cover crop seed.

With the smaller Crops Team after end-of-summer departures, Monday’s pre-harvest is the key to a successful Tuesday restaurant run. Many thanks to Maddie and volunteers Anne and Francesca for picking twenty pounds of string beans and eighty pounds of cherry tomatoes yesterday afternoon. That was a good start towards finishing this morning’s mega harvest for 15 different chefs. Our availability list for this week has over 60 individual items on it, so it’s a complicated process in the wash station distributing all that variety to so many accounts. The team has come up with many nifty organizational strategies to streamline all aspects of our work with chefs (pictures below). But then there’s still lots of old-fashioned pointing and shouting out directions, which is part of the fun and thrill of crops teamwork, deadlines, and getting more done in less amount of time than we thought possible.

While we’re working on restaurant work, we’re also separating out the produce that needs to go to the farm stand. This morning, Veronica and Kari, with unexpected and welcome help from Maricella, displayed beautiful cantaloupe, watermelons and tomatoes at the stand. We’re just now starting to pick from the second succession of peppers, tomatoes and melons. So as the first successions begin to decline, the quality of produce should remain high into the fall.

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Crops Team Departures, Deer Arrivals

The eggplant, tomatoes, and melons are loving this warm, sunny weather. There are lots at the stand today, and we’ll start picking the larger watermelon varieties tomorrow. Without much rain over the past two weeks, fruit flavors are concentrated and at their best. There has been some morning dew, and a sprinkle here and there—enough moisture to get the cover crops going that we seeded last week. Teachers, now is a great time to walk the fields and investigate the different shapes and sizes of the young cover crop plants!

It’s that time of year when people on the Crops team start heading in different directions. Last week, we said goodbye to Kirsty, who had been helping us part-time since April and on Saturday, Margot finished a month of full-time volunteering. We already felt their absence this morning during the restaurant harvest, but we got it done thanks to the pre-harvesting Erica and Maddie did with volunteers Anne and Francesca on Monday afternoon. To those moving-on from Drumlin, thanks for your hard work! To those of us staying, it’s time to step up our game! 

At this time of year, we could spend every daylight hour harvesting and marketing the produce, but there are still weeds to control. Last Thursday, our Teacher Naturalist Sally once again brought high schoolers in Lowell’s summer employment program to the farm for a tour and some field work. Together, we weeded through the entire sweet potato patch (pictured below).

Nice work! My only concern is that now the deer will have an easier time finding the sweet potato leaves—one of their favorite crops. I haven’t been seeing deer lately, but their tracks are everywhere, and they are damaging carrots, chard, lettuce and beets. Based on the number of hoof prints, there are more deer in the field than at any time since I started here in 2005. If you see one out there, kindly make it scram!

We’re also looking forward to the Fall CSA farm share program starting September 11. Shares include summer favorites like heirloom tomatoes, peppers, and carrots; the best of fall, including parsnips, winter squashes, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and other root crops; and variety of fresh and cooking greens. Register for your spot today!

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Tomatoes, Melons & Corn

It’s the only week of the season when we’ll have tomatoes, melons, and corn for sale at the same time–and all are at the stand right now! We just started picking cantaloupe yesterday, and the flavor is superb. We’ll have corn for the next few days, and possibly over the weekend, but then we’re out. We eliminated our last succession of corn, because in our no-spray corn system, those late ears get too buggy for people to enjoy. Watermelons are only a few days away, so keep an eye out for them as well.

We’re currently in the process of moving electric fences from the sweet corn to the melons. The coyotes have already started to enjoy a few melons, so it’s time to exclude them. We love having coyotes in the field because we believe they keep the deer on edge and moving, but we know from experience that they don’t know how to exercise portion control when it comes to the melons!

Garlic was step 1 of the fall harvest and we’ve almost completed step 2, the onions. Step 3 begins in late August and September with winter squash and pumpkins, wrapping up with root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, parsnips) in late September and early October. On Thursday, volunteers from Definitive Healthcare of Framingham helped us search around in the weeds (pictured above) for what looks like a very promising crop of storage onions. They had already weeded in the strawberry patch for an hour before hauling the onions, but survived the heat and humidity and got lots done. On Saturday, community volunteers helped us bring in more of the crop. The onions are drying in the greenhouse, and the shade cloth we’ve stretched over the top of the house keeps the temperature down and direct sun off the bulbs (pictured below). If exposed to direct sun while drying, the onions will turn green.

On Tuesday of last week, volunteers from ENGIE Insight helped us dig potatoes and harvest eggplant for the next day’s CSA distribution. They have helped us in years past, and we’ve really appreciated having help from all individual and corporate volunteers during these hottest days of the summer. Hopefully those hotter days are behind us. The dragonflies continue to help us with pest control, and you can observe hundreds of them patrolling the fields in the evening. A few nights ago, there was a school of them at the edge of the bobolink field, more easily heard than seen. But, if you looked toward the lighter sky you could see them silhouetted against it. In this picture below, you can see two of them towards the left. However, we recommend taking walk out there one evening to get the full experience.

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Garlic Time!

The garlic harvest is complete! We spent some part of four days last week pulling, cleaning, trimming and laying out the heads. We usually bring in the crop some time during the first three weeks of July, the timing depends on the state of the leaves. Ideally, you want to harvest when 60% of the leaves are green and 40% yellow. The base of the leaves wrap around the bulb and protect it from decay. If you let the leaves get too yellow, the bulb has a weak wrapper and poor storage potential.

The harvest was on the late side for us, probably due to the cool spring and frequent rains. Animal care workers from AstraZeneca arrived on Thursday and spent their entire volunteer session pulling half the garlic crop (pictured below). That’s the boost we really needed, and we were able to finish the job on Saturday with drop-in volunteers from the community.

The Crops team, with help from volunteer Fred, did a great job power washing all the bulbs and carrying them up into the barn for drying. Last year, we first experimented with washing the bulbs before drying them, and we were happy with the result. The garlic seemed to store better from having the mud blasted off the roots. Thanks all for your good work taking care of this important crop, and a special thanks to my sister’s eldest, Margo, who is currently helping us out, and who seemed to really enjoy all aspects of working with the garlic, even the hot work of hauling the tops out to the compost pile (pictured below)!

The tomatoes are beginning to ripen more quickly now, and, having had a preview, I can tell you they taste exceptionally good this year. We hope to include some in this week’s CSA share, and by the weekend, look for them at the farm stand. We’re harvesting our second round of sweet corn, but we’re likely to have picked through it all by the middle of next week. So if you like corn that hasn’t been treated with any pesticides, get some soon! My favorite summer salad is cucumbers, corn and tomatoes. Don’t cook the corn, just cut it off the cob and mix it with the cukes and tomatoes–delicious!

See you in the field,
Your Farmers

Crops Update: Surviving the Heat

We made it through the one hundred degree days without spontaneously combusting, which might come as surprise given the dire tone of the media’s coverage of the heat. We moved a little more slowly, drank more water, and sweated, but the breeze blew and cooled our bodies and we got things done. Then it rained again, and the mud tried to twist our boots off as we plodded up and down the sodden fields carrying crates of greens. We took advantage of the cloudy and cool weather to begin the garlic harvest—lots of heavy lifting.

Last week, before the warmest days arrived, we got great help from three volunteer groups. We’ve been working with groups from Care.com for many years, and this past Tuesday about twenty volunteers from the company helped us weed beans, dig potatoes, and harvest the first of the storage onions (pictured below). They also helped carry the onions up into the barn loft for drying, which is a workout similar to holding a thirty pound kettle bell on the stairmaster!

On Wednesday afternoon, the Virginia-based Church of the Brethren visited after having spent the morning weeding at another area farm. This congregation focuses its volunteer efforts on agriculture and food justice. After planting many trays of fennel, basil and lettuce, the chaperones gave the kids the choice of weeding beets with us or touring the farm. They voted to weed with us, and it was a pleasure to have their help a while longer.

On Thursday afternoon, civil engineers from Green International returned to the farm for a second year of volunteering and planted many trays of fall broccoli, cabbage and turnips (pictured below), totaling over 4,000 individual seedlings. And on Friday, volunteers from the community helped us dig potatoes and pick beans for market, before weeding two beds of carrots.

Thanks all for helping us in the fields, and a special thank you to the Crops team for setting up the stand on Sunday and pre-harvesting for restaurants on Monday while I was enjoying a rare two days away from the farm with family and friends on Cape Cod. We ate corn and cucumbers and were grateful for those who work in all kinds of weather to feed us.

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Harvest Time

We’ve reached that point in the season when the majority of our time is given over to the harvest. All the garlic will need to be brought into the barn in the next week or so, and some of the storage onions are ready as well. We’re picking from three successions of cucumbers and two of summer squash, and digging potatoes twice per week. Peppers and eggplant are starting to produce—especially the tiny shishito peppers, which take a long time to pick, but chefs love them. The flower patch is also cranking out blooms, meaning we’re harvesting well into the evening on Fridays in preparation for bouquet-making at Saturday’s market.

In the fields, the pea trellises have come down, the old strawberry patch has been mowed, the third line of twine is on the first round of tomatoes, and we’re spreading straw mulch in the second tomato succession. It was a hot week punctuated by two soaking storms, but we had lots of help. Last Tuesday, Volunteer Fred and Jill teamed up to move an electric fence from the strawberries to the first round of sweet corn. Pictured below is Fred summarizing Ampere’s Law on electrical currents. For all those who’ve had the privilege of working with Fred on electric fencing, the lecture is part of the pleasure!

That same day, eighth graders from the Fessenden summer camp helped us pick almost 400 pounds of fava beans for the next day’s CSA distribution. On Thursday, another group of campers from Maze Makers in Newton arrived at the farm just as a beautiful thunderstorm hit. We took shelter in the new hoophouse, and then ventured out into the mud to pull down old peas from the trellises and to yank enormous weeds out of the brassica patch. On Saturday, a great group of drop-in volunteers weeded beds of flowers and planted cabbage and broccoli. Throughout all this heat and humidity, Anne, Sheila, and Francesca have miraculously been keeping up with the seeding in the greenhouse. On some of the hottest days, they have been setting up work stations outside the greenhouse to escape the stifling conditions. Thanks all for your good work!

We’ll start picking sweet corn in the next few days, hopefully for Wednesday’s CSA distribution. Thanks to our marketing team, there’s now a new Facebook group where you can go to share your enthusiasm for corn, and all other things related to eating locally! Whether you are a farm-to-table enthusiast, local-vore, Drumlin Farm CSA member, or sustainably minded food shopper in the Boston Metro/Metro West area, this group is for you. Request to join “Drumlin Farm’s Eat Local Community” to share recipes, tips, and ideas on going local!

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Cucumber Arrivals

Well that was a long harvest! In addition to all we’ve been picking, we’re now also harvesting cucumbers, fava beans, summer squash, and new potatoes. And sixteen different restaurants placed orders for yesterday, so it was a maelstrom kind of morning. Off in the distant strawberry patch, we saw the campers weeding-out for the first time this summer. Thanks to Food and Farm Educator Maricela and all the counselors for teaming-up with the kids on this important job.

All crops are thriving thanks to the heat, sun, and Saturday’s downpours. Just before the storms arrived, a fantastic group of drop-in volunteers helped us plant brussel sprouts and the second round of cantaloupe and watermelon—11 beds in total! They also had time to do some weeding (pictured below) and eat a few of our very last strawberries before the rain forced us all to run for cover. The electric fences that have been keeping the deer out of the strawberries will now be moved to other crops that are ripening and in need of protection—sweet corn and melons. 

Yesterday, we put the second line of twine on the first planting of tomatoes, one week after stringing the first. Typically, four or five lines brings us to the top of the stakes, then it’s usually time to start picking the cherry tomatoes. So I estimate we’re about two weeks away from the first cherries, with slicing tomatoes following by the end of the first week of August. The second succession of cucumbers is about ready for harvest, so soon we’ll have cukes and summer squash available on a daily basis, alternating harvests between the first and second plantings. Today, at the stand, there’s a small amount of cucumbers for a few lucky people.

A big thank you to volunteer Elizabeth for staffing the farmstand this Sunday afternoon. This was the first time this summer we’ve had a person there to promote the veggies and make on-the-spot sales. Not surprisingly, there were almost no leftovers by the end of day. We love to see those empty boxes. It means lots of people are eating well!

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Summer Harvests & A Need for Straw

The season for strawberries, garlic scapes and peas is winding down, but we’re beginning to harvest summer squash, cucumbers, cabbage, and broccoli. We got a downpour on Saturday morning, but Sunday’s severe storms passed us by, and we were grateful not to experience the damage to leafy crops hail storms can cause. The few showers we did get helped water-in the fennel and summer and winter squash we planted with Saturday’s drop-in volunteers. We’ve now finished planting all the gourds, pumpkins, and winter squash—which takes about three acres to accommodate those crops! Now we just need to control weeds, fertilize before the vines run across the beds, and close off access to those fields until harvest.

It has been difficult to find a source for straw this season because all the rain has made it tricky for farmers in the Northeast to cut and bale grains. I believe last fall’s wet weather also affected the supply going into the winter, which doesn’t help. We were wondering if we would need to leave our tomato patch un-mulched and just commit to fighting the weeds all season long.  We held-off stringing the first succession of tomatoes hoping that some straw would turn up before it would become difficult to add post-stringing. At the last moment, Colby Farm in Newbury, MA came through for us and delivered bales on Thursday, just as a group of volunteers from National Grid returned to the farm for the third year in a row. They jumped right in, spread the straw in the entire patch (pictured below), and then stayed late to help us plant some brassicas.

On Wednesday, volunteers with Google Chrome weeded strawberries, and then did an awesome job planting our entire second round of tomatoes (pictured below). On Friday, a large group of MathWorks volunteers planted over 1,500 cauliflower transplants and then picked peas for the next day’s market. All three corporations that sent volunteers this week have done so in the past, and some of the individuals were returning for the second and even the third time. We can happily say they like coming here and connecting with nature and Mass Audubon through shared farm work! Thanks all for making it a successful week.

See you in the field,

Your Farmers