Category Archives: Farming

Crops Update: Week 17

Thank you to John, Andrew, and Sarah for working on Labor Day, pre-harvesting peppers and beans in preparation for today’s big restaurant run (the team is still loading the truck as I write this with 16 stops to make before the day is done!). And thanks to the rest of the team for working late on Friday to finish the harvest in advance of Saturday’s market—one of the most successful since 2005! A special thanks to CSA work share Nancy Allen who helped me cut sunflowers in near total darkness. The low light helped us appreciate what’s so great about a variety of sunflowers called Sunfill—they’re meant to be green!

Green Sunfill Sunflower

Now that vacations are ending, people are back in town and apparently hungry for fresh produce! If this describes you, know that we have all the summer favorites at the stand today—watermelons, cantaloupe, and tomatoes. We’ll have the melons for only a few more days, so come and get them! If you’ve been shopping at the stand on weekends, you’ve probably run into one of our three regular stand volunteers: Caroline Cook, Linda Conrad, and Elizabeth Kloss. They do great work restocking the display, sharing cooking tips, and making it a pleasure to shop there. Thanks all for your consistent help at the stand!

Tomorrow is the last summer CSA distribution of the season. The following Wednesday marks the start of our fall CSA program. It’s not too late to sign up for the fall CSA, and we’ve re-designed the program so that members now receive late summer crops such as tomatoes and peppers, as well as the fall staples: winter squash, potatoes, onions, Brussels sprouts, and more.

Volunteers from Brandeis University

We’ll soon turn our attention to bringing in the winter squash, but over the weekend, incoming freshmen from Brandeis University helped us pick string beans, tomatoes, and potatoes, while also doing some weeding. Students from as far away as China, San Diego, Chicago and Atlanta, loved harvesting, grumbled about weeding (that’s normal!), and all in all gave us some much needed help. Thank you!

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Week 16

“Now listen to me very carefully. Don’t put the candle back! With all of your might, shove against the other side of the bookcase…Is that perfectly clear?” And so, in the voice of Grover squished under a brick, young Doctor Frankenstein (it’s pronounced Fronkensteen) posits an elegant solution to that tricky pickle occasionally encountered by mad scientists and farmers alike—what to do when you find yourself violently wedged between a castle wall and a secret rotating bookcase! In a manner of speaking, that’s where we found ourselves this past Tuesday when the delivery truck got a flat, Sarah expertly steered into the Rt. 2 breakdown lane, and she and Susie were stranded there with thirteen more stops left to make, the clock ticking and the chefs awaiting the arrival of their produce. Sarah immediately contacted the chefs letting them know of the delay, while back at the farm, Andrew and volunteer Fred Costanza quickly headed out in the minivan to meet up with the truck. While waiting for the mechanic to arrive, the four loaded as many crates as would fit into the van, and Susie and Andrew continued the delivery run. Once the tire was changed, Sarah and Fred went on to the remaining restaurants. Thanks all for staying calm, improvising, providing excellent customer service, and working late to finish the job, i.e., shoving against the other side of the bookcase to free yourselves. Well done!

And while that scene was unfolding on our smartphones, the home team was preparing for the arrival of volunteers from 128 Technology—designers of routers. Half the group had helped us dig sweet potatoes last fall, and this time we picked tomatoes and dug potatoes for the following day’s CSA distribution (pictured above). We finished the day weeding several beds of fall leeks.

On Friday, community volunteers once again helped with the market harvest and flower cutting, so much so that we also found time to rescue two beds of beets from weeds. A special thanks to volunteer Sheila Vince who has been weeding the beet beds often, making it feasible for a group of us to tackle the job. On Saturday afternoon, twenty incoming Tufts freshmen spent the afternoon in the fields as part of their day of environmental community service. Together we harvested beans and cherry tomatoes, before planting lettuce (pictured below) and weeding the sweet potato patch. Thanks to the crew and all the volunteers who helped us through this busy week.

With all these warm days, tomatoes continue to ripen, and we are now harvesting from both the first and second plantings. Tomato quality and flavor are outstanding, so please take advantage of the great selection we’ll have at the stand all week. We’re also harvesting the second round of cantaloupes and watermelons, the perfect accompaniment to this late summer heat wave! The Summer CSA season is almost over, but right behind that comes the fall, filled with roots crops and more. Save for your spot today before they run out!

See you in the field.

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Week 15

We got lucky on Saturday: it only started pouring after the end of the farmers’ market. With that, customers were able to come out and bought up every last watermelon and cantaloupe! Thanks to the crew and volunteers who pitched in during Friday’s hot and humid market harvest. We would have been out there until dark had we not had extra help picking beans, peppers, tomatoes, and flowers.

But oh, that Saturday rain! We were determined to stay dry, and had both trucks parked close to where we were weeding so we could take shelter in a storm. When the skies opened up, I was already sitting in the driver’s seat expecting volunteers and crew to run for cover, as we had discussed. But no! Some casually put on rain jackets, and all worked on as the field turned white with the splash back from the pelting drops. The petulant words of replicant Pris in the movie Bladerunner crossed my mind—“Then we’re stupid and we’ll die!”—as I flopped into a puddle and started working alongside these determined and unstoppable humans. Instantly soaked through and accepting that fact, I noticed the warmth of the ground and how it heated the water pooling there. Then, when the rain stopped falling, I heard it continue to pour nearby. At first I thought the storm was slowly moving away; then I realized that the roaring sound was water filtering and falling through the leaves and pine needles of the trees in the woods at the edge of the field. I wish I had timed how long that lasted, but it was minutes not seconds, and I was reminded of the value of woods and unpaved ground, and how it wasn’t a love of food that brought me to farming, but a sense of alignment with what Thoreau wrote in his great essay “Walking”: “In Wildness is the preservation of the world.”

The possibility of preservation can arise through the communities that form around open spaces, farms, rivers and beaches. It was volunteering on a family farm in Iowa that changed my direction. And thankfully, Louise Hatheway foresaw the need to preserve Drumlin Farm as a gathering place for those drawn to agriculture and nature.

Weeding Sweet Potatoes.

On Saturday, despite our soggy selves, six community volunteers and three farmers together harvested 800 pounds of spaghetti squash! And on Thursday, teacher-naturalist Sally Farrow once again welcomed Lowell high schoolers in the Spindle City Corps to the farm (pictured). These teens have spent the summer working for the park service. While here, they helped us weed, and they also spent time with the Wildlife Care and Livestock staff. Thanks, all, for making Drumlin Farm a magical meeting place where lives cross and are transformed.

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Our Fall CSA begins in just 3 weeks! Register today to secure your share of fresh local produce throughout fall.

 

 

Crops Update: Week 14

“For the rain it raineth every day.” And we need it to stoppeth already before we contract trench foot kneeling in all these muddy puddles in our undrying boots! It’s wet and humid out there, and the fields are sodden, making it impossible to work the soil for seeding greens and fall cover crops. Cultivating by tractor or hoe is also impossible, so we’re inching along, pulling weeds out of the muck. But so far, the crops are thriving (along with the weeds), and we haven’t seen the foliar diseases often associated with wet weather: alternaria, and blight and downy mildew. Tomato ripening is speeding up, and today at the stand you’ll find heirlooms and cherries, and a super sale on specialty melons Snow Leopard and Sun Jewel.

Rain and flooding impacted the last two Somerville markets causing a mid-market closure on August 4 and keeping attendance low again on August 11. Thanks to the Crops team for continuing their good work at market despite dreary conditions.

Andrew preparing watermelons for market.

After Andrew finished loading watermelons onto the pickup truck in preparation for market, a two person team—a sprayer and a melon-turner—dance around the bed of the truck blasting mud from each fruit. Then, we drive the pickup to market that way, and the team bucket brigades the watermelons directly onto the display. Now we need some dry weather so people can come out and enjoy these delicious fruits! We also need dry weather to get back to spraying certified organic products for pest control. These pesticides need to remain on the leaves for several hours so that the target pest can ingest them. That won’t happen if a shower comes along and rinses them off. Right now, we’re most concerned about cabbage loopers on brassicas and bean beetles on string beans.

Cambridge Institute hard at work.

Two volunteer groups gave us a boost last week and managed to avoid getting rained on. On Tuesday, civil engineers from Green International weeded strawberries, planted squash and lettuce and helped harvest tomatoes for the following day’s CSA distribution. On Thursday, 40 employees of the Cambridge Innovation Institute picked beans and tomatoes, weeded leeks and harvested orange kabocha winter squash. Thanks all for the much-needed help!

If we don’t turn into pillars of mold, we’ll see you in the field.

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Week 13

Ever seen a professionally groomed poodle metamorphose into a Neanderthal with a pronounced under bite? How about a presidential toupee served on a bed of angry marbles at sunset? No? Then I’m guessing you haven’t been out watching the shape-shifting clouds recently! Some years we remember as the year of the healthy tree, or the abundant rabbit, 100,000 fireflies, or the waterfall of eggplant, but with all these magnificent thunderstorms passing through, it’s definitely the year of the storm cloud, with theatres of transformation occurring at the cauliflowered edges.

Of course, with all this heat and water, this is also the year of the weeds—in particular amaranth and purslane. Last Tuesday morning, the Drumlin Farm campers and counselors did great work during the final Weed Out of the season. Check out these weedy scenes from before and after the campers arrive and thanks all for rescuing that round of brassicas.

Before weed out, note the greenery growing in between the rows.

Campers receiving instruction and learning about weeds and crops.

Post camper-weed out. Looks amazing!

That same afternoon, 30 internet security coders from IBM helped us finish 2018’s onion harvest. They also planted kale and broccoli, and weeded a quarter acre of strawberries. Thanks, IBM volunteers, for your outstanding work! On Thursday of last week, 5 volunteers from the 1369 Coffeehouse returned for the fourth year to harvest the shallot crop, weed beets and melons, and harvest string beans for Saturday’s market. Thank you!

IBM helping with the final onion harvest.

With all the onions and garlic harvested and curing in the barn and the greenhouse, we can focus our attention on the tomato and melon harvest. Pink Berkeley Tie Dye, Indigo Cherry Drop and Sunrise Bumblebee are some of the new tomato varieties we’re trialing this year. Cantaloupe will be available all week, with Sun Jewel and Snow Leopard honeydews appearing as they ripen. Although fall is most definitely not in the air, we will begin harvesting spaghetti squash and orange kabocha winter squash later this week, hopefully before the deer decide to start taking bites out of them. Adirondack Red is the potato variety available at the stand and in the CSA share this week. It has red skin and pink flesh and is the perfect oblong shape for cutting into spears and roasting, enjoy!

If you, your group or club, or you place of work would like to come and help in the fields with us, please email Pam Sowizral; if you’d like to learn more about our CSA and the upcoming opportunities to incorporate our produce into your meals, visit our web page.

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Week 12

Feeling like the movie Goodfellas this week, we’re frazzled, minding our own business, watching the sauce on the stove top, picking up nephews from the airport, ect. when you glance up and notice a helicopter hovering overhead…look closer and you’ll see there are hundreds of them silhouetted against the evening sky above the fields. Up close, they are turquoise and red, small but enormous relatively, nearly stationary and cruising along above the tractors, others are low to the ground and darting sideways from plant to plant. Yes, it’s dragonfly season, and they are everywhere in the crop fields right now! Take a walk through our trails and fields, and you might be treated to an experience similar to snorkeling through a school of fish, the dragonflies zigging past all around you at impossible angles—right at your face, then straight up and away…

Dragonfly. Photo Credit: Pamela Kelly

If you could hover above the fields like an insectoid helicopter right now, you’d see all our campers spread out over the field for Weed Out #3. You’d see volunteers from IBM planting broccoli and bringing in the last of the storage onions and us hauling basket after basket of corn, tomatoes and watermelons up to the farm stand. Today at the stand, you’ll find more   awesome Awesome-variety sweet corn and outstanding Little Baby Flower watermelons. They are the size of a candle pin bowling ball with pinkish red flesh that is both tangy and sweet and most delicious near the shell-thin rind–and is my favorite watermelon variety of the season. Tomatoes will be occasionally available this week until we expect to be inundated by the weekend. It is that sacred time of year when you can have a basil, corn, cucumber, tomato salad every night! Drizzle it with olive oil, rice vinegar, and salt. To experience the fullness of the flavor, do not cook the corn, eat it raw right off the cob, or cut it off the cob and into your salad. If you’re interested in joining the end of the Summer CSA at a prorated fee, email our CSA coordinator Veronica Gassert at vgassert@massaudubon.org. See our CSA page for more information on our Fall CSA coming up in September.

This past week, with the help of some new and returning faces, it finally felt like we had enough hands to get the job done and more! Thanks everyone for bearing down, harvesting quickly, weeding the perennial garden in the downpour, and placing the shade cloth on the greenhouse during that same storm. The placement of the shade cloth to keep direct sun off the curing onions means that we are very near the end of greenhouse seedling production for the season—only a few rounds of lettuce left to go! Harvests are in full swing, with campers once again picking beans for market and about a dozen community volunteers cutting flower stems for market bouquets. We’ve never had so many people involved with the flower harvest, and it really helped the team have a great day at market. If you or your business are interesting in volunteering and helping us in the field, please email our Volunteer Coordinator Pam Sowizral at psowizral@massaudubon.org.

Thanks to all who worked on the harvest, and thanks to Sarah, Veronica, Susie, Bodhi, and the market volunteers for doing such a great job in Somerville bringing corn, watermelons, beans and flowers to our fans.

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Week 11

How about a chilled corn, fennel, cucumber and basil salad for dinner tonight? Or how about some spring onions and summer squash on the grill? All these goodies plus string beans and even the first few half-pints of husk cherries are available at the farm stand right now. The corn variety we are harvesting this week is a bi-color called Providence. It’s longer and narrower than Awesome, last week’s variety, and the taste is just as good.

While we are saying goodbye to some team members and hiring others, several farmers have been working extra hours to fill in staffing gaps. Thanks all for the additional harvest hours this past Thursday and Friday evening, especially those that started at 5 am, making the last two restaurant harvests much more manageable. Campers and their camp counselors ran Weed Out #2 this past Tuesday, doing excellent work clearing weeds in the rhubarb and celeriac patches and in a bed of string beans and dahlias. This past Saturday, ten volunteers with the Appalachian Mountain Club helped us plant over 3,000 broccoli and kale seedlings. They also brought in the last 15 crates of Bridger onions and even helped us lug them up the stairs and into the barn loft for drying. Thanks for your help, AMC!

We finished the garlic harvest last week thanks in part to help from new team members Natan Charytan and John Mark. Natan will be a junior at NYU in the fall, and John has recently moved to the area after working on food policy in NYC for the past several years. Thanks all for improvising with us as we figured out our new system for washing and clipping the garlic heads before spreading them on screens to dry. In a few weeks, we’ll taste the garlic to find out if this is a system worth replicating. This week we’ll be rescue-weeding the storage carrots and beets, transplanting storage cabbage, turnips and kohlrabi, and harvesting the first slicing tomatoes of the season. Watermelon and cantaloupe will be ready for picking any day now. With the harvests increasing in volume and duration, we are grateful to all those who are contributing now.

If you’d like to taste the local difference and get weekly orders of our sustainable produce, our CSA is perfect for you! Those interested in joining the remainder of the summer CSA for a prorated rate can email our CSA Coordinator at vgassert@massaudubon.org. Those thinking ahead and eager for root crops and our Fall CSA can register today online or at Drumlin Farm.

 

See you in the field.

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Week 10

Vampires beware! Our focus this week will be bringing in the garlic crop. We plan to use a power washer to remove dirt from the bulbs to save time on cleaning after the garlic has dried. Add our fresh garlic to your next homemade pizza night for a burst of fresh flavor!

It’s also the start of our sweet corn season with the variety “Awesome” arriving at the stand and in the CSA share this week. Evidently, the taste lives up to the name! The storage onion harvest has also begun with 90% of the early variety “Bridger” already curing in the barn. Cherry tomatoes are beginning to color on the vines, and eggplant and pepper quantities are increasing to the point where we’ll soon have them available for you. Security is in need of beefing up around the watermelon patch as the coyotes are already scratching away at the fruits to see if they’re ripe!

Campers learning about farming through hand-on projects, while helping to harvest!

Last Friday, a group of campers harvested most of the green beans we sold at Saturday’s market. Thanks Emma for leading the campers! That same day, volunteers from the community harvested more beans, some peppers, the last of the fava beans and the cut flowers for our market display. We were short-handed that day, but the unexpected help made for a successful market. Last Tuesday, the second volunteer group of the season from Athena Capital helped us plant 2,600 broccoli plants and harvest potatoes. And on Thursday, volunteers from Needham software company PTC weeded strawberries, planted lettuce and sunflowers, and harvested potatoes and green garlic. What a pleasure it was to work with all these volunteers. Thank you!

Hope to see you at our farmstand, market, picking up your CSA, or in the fields soon,

Your Farmers

 

Crops Update: Week 9

This Is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
and which
you were
probably
saving
for breakfast
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

-William Carlos Williams, 1883-1963

 

And while it would be very annoying to find Williams’ apology in word magnets on your fridge on the morning you were anticipating plums, working in the glaring sun today made me appreciate his words in a new way—cold relief during a heatwave! While I haven’t had any cold plums lately, last Tuesday we received the equivalent in the form of help from all the campers during Weed Out #1. The heat index on that day was 108, but the counselors kept sprinkling the kids with water, and everyone did a great job clearing weeds from the leeks (pictured below). We got a boost from hearing the kids chattering and their music playing.

On Thursday, again in the high heat, eight community volunteers helped us weed, plant cabbage and Brussels sprouts, and harvest potatoes for the first time this season. Look for Red Gold new potatoes at the farm stand and in your share. New potatoes are harvested when the plants are still alive and growing, unlike fall potatoes which are harvested after the top growth has died back and the potatoes have reached full size. New potatoes have very delicate skins that might flake off in the washing process. There’s no need to peel these tender spuds, and they are perfect in potato salad.

On Thursday evening, we seeded half our crop of fall storage carrots in anticipation of Friday’s thunderstorm. Thankfully, it rained on the seeds and the temperature came down for a few days. On Saturday, we planted the second round of watermelons with four volunteers from the community. So, we keep pushing on with help from all sides: volunteers Anne, Sheila and Francesca have been coming in early to avoid the heat and keep us on schedule with greenhouse seeding; Fred has been helping us take down pea trellises and move electric fencing to protect our first round of sweet corn. This week we’ll be harvesting string beans, cucumbers, summer squash and spring onions. Peppers and eggplant are starting to bear fruit, which means tomatoes are not far off!

If you’d like to join our Summer CSA mid-season please email CSA Coordinator Veronica Gassert at vgassert@massaudubon.org.

 

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

 

Crops Update: Week 8

Hi Friends

Storms on June 24 and 28 brought a total of almost 4 inches of rain to the fields last week! Crops and weeds are very happy right now with this hot weather on top of all that water. The wet conditions delayed transplanting and field work, but we finally finished planting the pumpkin patch on Sunday, and the next round of lettuce, basil, and scallions today. We are looking forward to Tuesday’s first Camp Weed Out, especially since last Thursday’s wash-out cancelled morning and afternoon corporate volunteer groups.

We had originally been expecting 40 helpers that day, and so have been struggling to keep pace with the work. However on Tuesday of last week, good-humored planners from National Grid helped us plant cauliflower, pick peas, and weed onions. On Wednesday, volunteers from pharmaceutical company Alkermes, many of whom had helped us in the fields last year, planted 4,000 broccoli and cabbage seedlings before weeding onions and harvesting peas for the following day’s restaurant orders. Thanks everyone!

Wheel hoeing the new carrot bed.

We are beginning to harvest many summer favorites now. Look for summer squash, shelling peas, cucumbers, broccoli, spring onions, fava beans, celery and potatoes at the stand and in your share in the days ahead. Happy Fourth!

Your Farmers