Tag Archives: crops update

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 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
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

Crops Update: Week 7

Looking at rainfall totals across the state from Sunday night’s storm, Lincoln was the winner with just over two inches! Not realizing just how much rain we got, we went out to the fields Monday morning hoping to transplant the second succession of tomatoes. However, we found standing water in the middle of some fields which made it too boggy to drive on with the tractor and transplanter. We satisfied ourselves pre-harvesting peas for Tuesday’s restaurant orders and catching up on some weeding. The Farm Ecologist camp group  joined us in pulling weeds from around the new strawberry plants, which they had fun with.

Before that heavy rain, generally dry and warm conditions had favored the strawberry crop. Now we will see a decline in quantities of berries, but this week will be the peak of pea season. We are now harvesting sugar snap, shelling and snow peas, so keep an eye out for them at the stand and in your CSA share. This past Wednesday was the first distribution of the summer CSA, but it’s not too late to join! If you’re interested in registering for the CSA after it’s began, you can email our CSA Coordinator Veronica Gassert at vgassert@massaudubon.org for a pro-rated share, the summer CSA includes bountiful pickups every week until September 5.

For the first time at Drumlin Farm, half-shares are available on a weekly basis as well, so if the fear of receiving too much food has prevented you from joining in the past, we have a great solution just for you. Carrots, beets, basil, peas, chard, garlic scapes, and spinach are some of the crops we plan to harvest for this week’s share. Scapes—the flower stalks of garlic—are, to this farmer’s mind, the greatest allium on earth. They are mild in flavor compared to garlic cloves, and have the consistency of firm pasta when cooked. If you cut it the right length, you have forest green penne. Delicious! 

Snap Peas

Last week, we placed straw mulch around the first succession of tomatoes. The straw suppresses weeds, insulates the soil from drying out, and prevents mud from splashing up onto the plants during heavy rain which helps reduce instances of disease. When we plow the straw into the field in the fall, it adds organic matter to the soil—the key to holding water. Over the past two days, Sarah, Veronica and Andrew ran the first line of twine along the rows. In about four weeks, we’ll have placed another four lines of twine and reached the top of the stakes. Hopefully we’ll begin harvesting lots of tomatoes around that time.

This past Thursday, we got help weeding onions and planting leeks from Athena Capital volunteers and from a surprise group of volunteers from the media company Nielsen—the more the merrier for those two labor-intensive jobs! On Tuesday, biostatisticians from Waltham’s LLX Solutions helped us plant the third and final round of sweet corn. Thanks, all, for pitching in and supporting the farm’s work.

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Week 6

With our Spring CSA coming to an end, it’s time to prepare for the summer and all the things that accompany it – most notably our Summer CSA, Farmstand, and visits to the Union Square Farmer’s Market in Somerville.

With yesterday’s forecast calling for a 30% chance of showers, we seeded 15 beds of greens, beets, chard, parsley and flowers, and then crossed our fingers, promised to be good, and lo and behold, help arrived! We had been having flashbacks to the drought of 2016 after two weeks of dry and warm weather and poor germination in last week’s field seedings but with significant rain on June 5th and 18th, we’re on track for excellent potato, brassica and onion harvests beginning in July. Our job now is to stay on top of weeds and  control populations of Colorado potato beetle, cabbage looper, and onion thrips. To that end, we started applying certified organic sprays where we have noticed pest outbreaks this past Saturday. Entrust, Trident and Dipel are the trade names of three different formulations of bacteria that target pests specific to these crops. In order to be effective, the bacteria must be ingested by the pest feeding on the leaves. We spray only in the evening, as prolonged leaf wetness gives the best result; dry and sunny conditions quickly degrade the bacteria.  

It is the peak of the strawberry harvest, and the Crops Team has been spending long periods in the patch bringing in the beautiful berries (find a quart for yourself at the farmstand right now). On Friday, we were helped by 25 volunteers with AAFCPA, the firm that handles Mass Audubon’s accounting and auditing, in picking strawberries. The volunteers picked strawberries for two hours and after lunch harvested peas (picture d below and garlic scapes, before weeding carrots–4.5 hours of top-notch work! Assistant Farmer Sarah Lang raved about the quality of the berries she sold at the Union Square Market on Saturday thanks to the careful work of these volunteers.

Back at the farm, Saturday’s Pick-Your-Own Strawberry Day (picture below) was a big success! Our thanks to the admissions staff for handling a high volume of sales, and to farmers Jill Banach and Sarah Stockdale for helping visitors find the best berries in the field.

Earlier in the week, volunteers from Marshalls and Starbucks helped us weed carrots (pictured below) and plant winter squash on two separate days. Last year, we planted the entire acre of winter squash and gourds in one afternoon with one volunteer group. On Saturday afternoon, six community volunteers helped us finish establishing this year’s winter squash patch.

While we were doing that, Farmer Andrew Kelliher was off wheel-hoeing fifteen beds all on his own—somewhere, Hercules just got an idea for a 13th labor! On Thursday afternoon, Google volunteers moved over an entire field checking off jobs in rapid succession. They weeded carrots, planted sunflowers (pictured below), harvested peas, weeded those peas, and then planted summer squash. Wow! Thanks to all the volunteers, visitors and farmers for another wonderful week in the field.  


Want to taste the fruits of our labor? Summer CSA starts next week and registration is open. Would you or your group like to help in the field too? See more details here.

Your Farmers     

Crops Update: Week 5

Have you registered for a Summer CSA program yet? Will we see you at Strawberry Day?

Last night, CSA coordinator Veronica Gassert hosted a gathering where CSA members and farmers met and exchanged ideas. Nearly all agreed on the value of eating freshly harvested food in alignment with the seasons as a motivation for joining the program. By eating locally and with the seasons, you’re reducing the environmental costs that come with having your food travel thousands of miles to you. Many expressed interest in having access to more recipes and kitchen strategies for making better use of the bounty. Some noteworthy suggestions also included having a program where a chef teaches others how to use the various crops in their share; providing a recipe tab on the website organized by seasons; providing a forum, or in some way incentivize the sharing of cooking tips and tricks amongst CSA members. Along those lines, I shared my own tip and favorite way to prepare my CSA greens:

  1.  Start cooking rice in a rice cooker.
  2. While the rice is cooking, make a dressing of you choice to jazz it up
  3. Near the end, add in your greens (baby bok choi, broccoli raab, spinach–cram in a whole pound!)
  4. Drizzle dressing onto your cooked rice and veggies. Eat this over the sink (no dishes!) while listening to the Red Sox (optional). Voila, caveman’s dinner!

While that’s jone way to expand time in the kitchen, while in the field, the time to accomplish tasks shrinks as hands multiply. On Tuesday, volunteers from Harvard Business School’s IT department—many with a love of gardening and the outdoors—came to the fields despite a forecast for rain. All went well for about twenty minutes, but then it poured, and it wasn’t warm. On the bright side, they were so happy to be out from behind their desks that they voted to work on. The fields eventually became muddy to the point where we had to stop planting cucumbers and switch to weeding strawberries up on the straw. The resulting patch looks great, bravo and thanks again to all! 

On Thursday morning, Emma and the Crops team oriented all the camp counselors to the fields and to the upcoming weed-outs. We then weeded in the carrots before picking strawberries to sell at the farmstand. Thank you, counselors, for your good work! On Thursday afternoon, volunteers from Goldman Sachs planted rosemary, scallions, and basil before weeding carrots. This is the second group this season to make a donation to fund our purchase of rosemary plants, and we have been selling all we can harvest to Iggy’s Breads. Thank you Goldman Sachs volunteers for your good cheer and speedy work. On Friday morning, volunteers from Boston Scientific planted the dahlias they had helped us purchase, and then harvested four flats of strawberries (pictured below), all of which we sold the following day at market.

 2,500 sweet potato slips arrived in the mail from Tennessee on Thursday, and because The Boston Scientific volunteers had helped us finish the strawberry harvest before noon, we had time after lunch to plant almost all of them. Ten volunteers from the community helped us finish the sweet potato job, put away row cover, and, of course weed, on Saturday afternoon.

In Dr. Who, the spaceship The Tardis, because of inter-dimensional stabilizers (wink!) is in two places at once, and simultaneously small and enormous. At Drumlin, a police-box of a week becomes as roomy as Versailles, not because of weird science, but because of what we do together. In one antechamber of the week, Andrew Kelliher and volunteer Fred Costanza put electric fencing around the strawberries to keep deer and turkeys out. In another, Sarah Lang and Sarah Stockdale delivered veggies to our newest restaurant account, Eataly, in the Prudential Center.

There are two distributions remaining in the spring CSA, but the fun doesn’t have to end. The summer CSA program begins on June 27th and it’s not too late to join. With the summer brings options for Pick Your Own, Full and Half Shares, Flower Shares, perfect for enjoying the warm sunny season! You’ll find strawberries at the stand this week, with a broader variety of veggies becoming available this weekend. On Saturday, June 16th we’ll also be celebrating Strawberry Day on the farm, where you’ll have the opportunity to pick your own strawberries (while supplies last!) and take part in special activities throughout the farm.

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Week 4

After four days in the 80’s with no rain last week, so we’re grateful for today’s cool and wet weather. We had been trying to stay out of the greenhouse on hot days, but by the end of last week, we had fallen more than a week behind schedule on indoor work—a problem considering most of our successional seedings are separated by 14 days. On Friday, despite the temperature being over 90 in the greenhouse, volunteers Francesca, Sheila, and Sandra breathed shallowly and repotted the second succession of tomato seedlings—1,000 plants in need of more room to grow. And on Saturday morning, the Crops team seeded over 70 flats in the muggy heat. Nice work powering through, all! We’re caught-up for the moment with only one large-scale greenhouse seeding project left for the season—40 flats of pumpkins scheduled for later this week. We’ll be moving 50 flats of winter squash out to the cold frame to make way for those pumpkins.

This procession of plants from greenhouse, to cold frame, to field, is our focus in May and June. All this transplanting and seeding is like laying hemlock boughs on a pyramidal bonfire—for a moment you see only smoke (radishes?), then the core grows hotter and becomes a mountain of flame—summer’s harvest. And toward that end, last week we transplanted cantaloupe, watermelon, the second round of sweet corn and cauliflower, and the popcorn we’ll be harvesting come October. We were helped with this from four master gardener volunteers on Tuesday and four community volunteers on Saturday. Volunteers also helped us weed in the onions—fifteen beds down with one to go! Thanks to all for helping us establish and maintain the plantings. Many crops are faring well this spring, but we are seeing more damage from leafminers in chard, beets and spinach than in any previous year. You can view the latest newsletter from May 24 2018 Vegetable Notes for more information about this and other pests. Next spring, we’ll have to consider covering those crops in addition to the onions and greens we already protect.

This coming Saturday, as part of the celebration marking the opening of the Environmental Learning Center, we’ll stock the farmstand for the first time this season. Stop envying those savvy spring CSA members and come get your own! Or, register for our Summer CSA and get regular, quality produce every week!

Your Farmers