Tag Archives: crops

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

Kicking off the 2019 Season: An Update from Farmer Matt

After a long winter, it’s time to get back in the field, with thousands of plantings and a few new additions!

Amazingly, April brought us 6.5 inches of rain, falling over 20 of its 30 cloudy days, with an average temperature of 52 degrees. It’s been challenging just moving around the sodden fields and working with the saturated soil. We’re identifying with the turtle, working within our shells of layered shirts and sweaters, all wrapped-up in our mud-covered rain gear; turtling along, we seeded the first greens and carrots of the season on March 28 and have been seeding and transplanting every week since. We’ve harvested over-wintered spinach for Henrietta’s Table in Cambridge, and greens and radish for our first delivery of the season to the Cambridge and Somerville schools.

Despite limitations of weather, all spring planting projects are on schedule thanks to the dedicated work of this year’s Crops Team. During the week of April 15, we pulled back the straw and weeded the half-acre of strawberries we’ll be picking this summer season, then planted 4,000 new strawberry plants for next year’s harvest.

Do you know the natural indicator to plant potatoes? In early April, 2,500 pounds of potatoes arrived from Maine. We hauled them into the barn loft and arranged them on trays in front of the windows for green-sprouting. By the last week of April, they had sprouted leaves. We cut up the largest potatoes to multiply the seed and planted them on May 1, just a few days after we noticed the first blooming dandelions of the season—our signal to plant.

We were thrilled to learn of the town’s approval for our plan to construct a hoop house
by Boyce Field to provide year-round, protected growing space. The potential for increased program offerings and more veggie sales with the help of the structure will be a boon to the farm. Thanks to our staff and our neighbors for working together to identify a suitable location for the structure; construction is scheduled to begin at the end of the month.

By the end of last week had about 40% of the onion crops (24,000 plants!)  in the ground–only 33,000 plants to go! Thanks to volunteers Anne, Sheila, Francesca, Sandra, and Anna for seeding the majority of what’s in the greenhouse—especially those onions, where they do not scatter seed, but rather place one seed at a time through a grid, 650 seeds per tray, 88 trays–57,200 plants! We’ve also been using volunteer Fred’s new cold frame to harden-off those onions before moving them to the field. Fred’s design is sturdier than previous iterations and the shed roof design allows us to roll and perch the plastic on the high end, simplifying the process of covering and uncovering the plants on cold or rainy nights—of which there have been too many!

But with a little sun and warmth, by next week we should have lots of greens to harvest for the first CSA distribution on 5/15 and the first Union Square Farmers’ Market in Somerville on 5/18.

If you haven’t secured your spot in the spring CSA, there’s still time, and we have a few slots still open. If you’re looking to learn more about farm-to-table practices and cooking, we have upcoming programs for adults, teens, and families, where you can get hands-on in the field and kitchen!

Crops Update: Week 26

Sounds like winter arrives tomorrow, so we’re doing our best to bring in the last of the parsnips, leeks, and brussels sprouts before the thermometer hits the teens! Last week and yesterday, we finished the fall carrot harvest (pictured below), stacking over a ton into the root cellar. Jobs that remain include: mulching the strawberries, rhubarb, and perennial garden; stowing away equipment and preparing the wash station and Green Barn for winter; and seeding micro-greens and arugula in the greenhouse.

You may have also noticed pea tendrils already growing on heat mats in the greenhouse (pictured below). Volunteers Anne, Sheila and Francesca seeded those last week. Many thanks! The last Somerville market of the season is this coming this Saturday, and then we’ll have a break before starting at the Wayland Winter Farmer’s Market on Saturday, January 19. Tomorrow is the last fall CSA distribution of the year, and it’s taking place in the Green Barn where we’ll be happy to turn on the heat! We’ll be stocking up on Thanksgiving essentials like carrots, potatoes, butternut squash, garlic and onions.

The fall’s incessant rain brings to mind the House of Usher, and how it finally dissolved into the vaporous bog it was built on. In Poe’s tale, it was the isolation of the family that led to its ruin and symbolic collapse. And while these days it feels as if the squishy ground could open and swallow all the farm’s barns and buildings, our story is different because we’re not alone. We have all of you to thank for supporting us through another successful growing season. Whether you worked in the field, sold produce to customers, shared the story of our farming methods with others, or cooked a meal with Drumlin ingredients, you took part and contributed to this solid community. We’re thankful for you, and wish you the best during the holidays!

See you at our winter markets,

Your farmers

Crops Update: Week 25

Saturday’s Nor’easter shut down the farmers’ market and gifted us a real weekend. We learned about the market cancellation on Friday, and so made use of the hours normally spent harvesting to finish planting next year’s garlic crop. We’ll try to mulch the patch with straw tomorrow afternoon and early Thursday before the next round of rain arrives. The mulch will even out extremes of temperature over the winter and hopefully will prevent weed growth next spring. There’s an art to spreading straw: too thick, and it smothers the garlic; too thin, and the weeds come charging through; just right, and come May all you see is neat rows of green garlic on a field of straw.

Today and tomorrow are the last times we’ll set up the farmstand for the season, so be sure to stock up on onions, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, squash and sweet potatoes. We will be distributing fall CSA shares twice more after tomorrow on November 7 and 14. We may move those last two distributions to the Green Barn depending on the weather, so keep an eye out for any announcements in your newsletters. Although we no longer have a winter CSA program, we’re excited to start attending the Wayland Winter Market at Russell’s Garden Center. We’ll be there on January 19 for the first time, then twice more in February and twice again in March. We’re starting to plan our microgreen and pea tendril seeding schedule so that we’ll have something verdant to bring to market in addition to our usual root crops, onions and garlic.

With the CSA season winding down, be sure to check out our other fun food education programs to continue the farm-to-table connection and learn more cooking skills. Sourdough Breadmaking and Simple Cheesemaking are favorites for adults, while Crow Brings the Corn and The Gingerbread Man are perfect to bring the kids along.

See You in the Fields,

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Week 24

Two nights in the mid-20’s ended the season for many crops and even froze some potatoes underground and greens under rowcover (pictured below). Yesterday, while planting garlic, we had to contend with icy soil until mid-morning when the sun finally rose high enough to thaw things out. So we’re in a rush to dig those last seven beds of potatoes and plant the rest of the garlic patch. Thanks to help from data analysts at healthcare company Verscend, we finished the seemingly interminable sweet potato harvest last Thursday afternoon.

We then passed through the pepper and tomato patches for the final time this season picking the last ripe fruit. That night, the temperature fell to 25 degrees in the field, and in the morning the frost on the fields looked like a coating of snow. Cold like this kills swiss chard, broccoli and cauliflower, and can also damage cabbage and Brussels sprouts. Thankfully, last Tuesday afternoon, volunteers from furniture company Wayfair helped us strip 75 pounds of brussels sprouts from off their stalks for the following day’s CSA distribution (pictured below). Normally, we distribute the stalks with the sprouts still attached because we don’t have time to separate them. Thanks Wayfair volunteers for giving our CSA members a rare treat!

On Saturday afternoon, volunteers with the Appalachian Mountain Club dug 1,200 pounds of potatoes and planted two beds of garlic all in about three hours. Each fall, we select 400 lbs. of our largest garlic heads to break up into cloves and seed back to the fields for next year’s crop (pictured below).

Now that the cold is here and there’s less to harvest, we’re saying goodbye to some of our team members. Susie Janik is starting a job in the Worcester County D.A.’s office. Susie has done a great job with sales to chefs and at the Union Square farmers’ market; we were thankful to have her help one last time this past Saturday at market. John Mark finished his time with us yesterday planting garlic. It’s a fitting end to his season as he joined our team on the day we started harvesting the garlic crop in mid-July. Thanks Susie and John for your good work and company. We’ll have to work harder without you, but that will keep our blood moving and our hands warm!

And speaking of keeping our blood moving and hands warm, this week also brings our annual family-friendly Halloween event, Tales of the Night. Stop by Thursday or Friday, 6:30-9:00 pm to meet nocturnal creatures, travel by haunted hayride, and have a few treats (and tricks!).

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Week 23

Finally, we had our first frost of the season last Saturday night and are expecting harder freezes this coming Wednesday and Thursday. In light of this, we are hurrying to finish the sweet potato harvest (half the patch yet to go), and will need to cover tender greens by Wednesday afternoon. Today at the stand you’ll find the last heirloom tomatoes of 2018, harvested slightly under-ripe on Friday, but beautiful and flavorful right now. You’ll also find a number of pumpkins and gourds for sale, prefect for pies from scratch, carving, or decorating your home this autumn. It’s easy to impose characters and personalities on the eclectic collection of various sizes, colors, and abnormalities, all of them eagerly awaiting a home!

Harvesting sweet potatoes ends up being very time consuming, in part because of their complicated root systems.

Our other big job we’re looking to complete as soon as possible is garlic planting. October 15th is our target date to have that finished, but we’ve been taking advantage of the warm weather to maximize harvests of summer crops. On Tuesday of last week, volunteers from AER (Atmospheric and Environmental Research) came back to the farm for a second year in a row and harvested carrots, tomatoes and more sweet potatoes (pictured above). They worked so quickly that we had time to weed a few problem areas while moving between harvests.

Harvesting the last of our tomatoes.

On Friday, volunteers from Upland Software helped us pick paste tomatoes for market (pictured above), and then they pitched-in digging, yes more, sweet potatoes. Thanks all for helping us bring in what these amazing fields have to offer! If you’re interested in volunteering in the crops fields during the end of this season or the next, please email our Volunteer Coordinator. We could always use help around the farm!

See You in the Fields,

Your Farmers

Anne Patterson Recognized with Volunteer Award

This past Saturday, Drumlin Farm’s annual farm-to-table fundraiser gala, Moon Over Drumlin,  honored our incredibly talented and hardworking volunteer, Anne Patterson, with the Jonathan Leavy Award for Outstanding Volunteer Contributions. Since 2001, Anne has been a stalwart Drumlin Farm volunteer, contributing thousands of hours to the farm during that time. Nearly every day in the winter and spring she can be found in the greenhouse, where she manages our seedling operation, planting seeds – one by one, flat by flat – to grow the plants that fill 30 acres of farm fields and feed thousands of people before the harvest ends. She trains other volunteers and tackles the toughest of field chores year-round, making her an indispensable member of the crops team.

Anne (center) with her fellow volunteers.

Noted for her excellent, calculated, and precise methods of planting and willingness to always lend a hand, Crops Manager Matt Celona expressed, “It’s difficult to measure or put into words all that Anne has given to Drumlin—she’s part of the team, and she stands alone doing her own thing year-round, in all weather, bringing others here, teaching and delighting them with stories and brain-melting explanations of ‘simple’ mathematical concepts. Over time, Anne has taught me to introduce her to others not as a ‘retired mathematician,’ but as the voluntary farmer she most certainly is. Thank you, Anne.”

Anne Patterson receiving her award and standing ovation. ©Sara Colket

Upon receiving the award, her heart warming, comical, and poignant acceptance speech sparked inspiration in the audience, which they showed with a standing ovation. The Jonathan Leavy Award for Outstanding Volunteer Contributions was established in 2017 in his memory, to recognize a volunteer who has made significant contributions to Drumlin Farm during the previous year and who demonstrates the qualities of dedication, collaboration, and commitment that Jonathan brought to his work. Moon Over Drumlin has become a night to not only taste creative plating’s by local chefs, but also honor and recognize all the pieces that make Drumlin Farm the special place it is, in which volunteers are at the heart.

Volunteers are vital to Drumlin Farm’s success, contributing to a wide range of projects in the field, at programs and events, admissions, and beyond. Without volunteers like Anne and Jonathan, we would not be able to cultivate and share the bounty of nature, farming, and education that we do today. If you’re interested in volunteering, please contact Pam Sowizrol at psowizrol@massaudubon.org.

Many thanks and congratulations to Anne from everyone at Drumlin Farm!

 

Crops Update: Week 19

The rain from hurricane Florence reached us (and sank us!) this morning while we were harvesting for Saturday’s Moon Over Drumlin—our annual farm-to-table fundraiser gala where various local chefs prepare delectable plates using our produce, eggs, and meat. If you’re planning to attend the event, get ready to be wowed by the flavors and the spectacle! The Crops team is especially excited that volunteer Anne Patterson will be receiving the Jonathan Leavy Award in recognition of her outstanding volunteer work in the fields and in the greenhouse over the years. It’s difficult to measure or put into words all that Anne has given to Drumlin—she’s part of the team, and she stands alone doing her own thing year-round, in all weather, bringing others here, teaching and delighting them with stories and brain-melting explanations of “simple” mathematical concepts. Over time, Anne has taught me to introduce her to others not as a “retired mathematician,” but as the voluntary farmer she most certainly is. Thank you, Anne.

Even though we’re continuing to pick tomatoes and beans, this past week we finally began the fall harvest thanks to three volunteer groups. On Tuesday, volunteers from the publisher Elsevier (who, Anne informed them, published her mother’s book on math!) harvested ornamental gourds. We sold some of those gourds this past Saturday here at the farm during the Fall Harvest Celebration and also at market.

Gourds for sale at the market.

Thanks Elsevier, and thanks to volunteers Susan Vecchi and Meg Ashforth, who staffed the Pick-Your-Own tent during the harvest celebration and helped visitors pick cherry tomatoes and flowers. This past Thursday morning, focused freshmen from Lexington Christian Academy weeded celeriac and rhubarb before crating up tons of winter squash.

Volunteers unloading gourds

A special thanks to the Lexington chaperones, who, for the second year in a row, worked hard and helped us load all those heavy crates onto the trucks. On Thursday afternoon, half the coders from NetApp harvested string beans for market, while the other half clipped and crated butternut squash. All but two of the NetApp volunteers had volunteered with us the previous year. They were so happy to be back that they stayed late to unload the squash into the greenhouse. Thanks to all those who helped with the fall harvest this past week! We have more winter squash to harvest before we begin work on the pumpkin patch, and then sweet potatoes are next on our list. Lots to do before the first frost!

To register for our Fall CSA, please contact our CSA Coordintor at vgassert@massaudubon.org or 781-259-2200.

See you in the field.

Your Farmers

Local Business Lends a Hand

Drumlin Farm is a lively and active place, filled with big and small jobs throughout the farm completed by staff, program participants, and volunteers. As a nonprofit, we rely heavily on the generosity of local volunteers who donate time, and funds, to maintain our crops, care for our animals, handle operational tasks, and more.

Last week, employees from Green International Affiliates, a civil and structural engineering firm based in Westford, visited the farm to learn more about what we do and lend a hand in the fields. As a corporate member of our Community Partners Program, Green International employees receive memberships and passes to Drumlin Farm and opportunities to get more involved.

Sandy introduces Drumlin Farm’s screech owl to the volunteers.

Their visit started off with a presentation by our educator Sandy and animal ambassador Screech Owl. Sandy introduced the small owl to the group and told them the remarkable story of its recovery. This owl was hit by a truck and lost vision in one eye, which deemed it non-releasable to the wild. Screech Owls can be found throughout Massachusetts, and have exceptional camouflage. This one has been a great help as an animal ambassador, teaching children and adults all about owl habits, life cycles, and ecological services.

The volunteers were present for a special treat when the owl coughed up a pellet right in the middle of Sandy’s talk! Owls produce pellets as part of their digestion cycle and by studying them we can see what the animal has been eating.

This lucky group got to see an owl pellet in the making.

After the owl visit it was off to the field to meet Matt, our Crops Manager. Matt provided a brief history of Drumlin Farm, including notable visits from Henry David Thoreau and a long tradition of using the land for agriculture and cropland, which makes our soil remarkably fertile.

 

Matt explains to volunteers how they can help with weeding.

Next, it was time to get down to work! Today, we needed to weed out the strawberry rows. Matt explained how weeds can take over an area if not properly removed and how to distinguish between them and smaller strawberry plants. Rain began to set in, but it was a cool break from the humid heat of the day and our volunteers grabbed a basket and got right to work. At the end of the day, the team weeded strawberries, planted 600 summer squash and 700 lettuce seedlings, and helped harvest tomatoes for the following day’s CSA distribution. Thanks to all at Green International for their help in furthering our mission to protect the nature of Massachusetts.

Despite some rain, our volunteers welcomed the cool-down and started getting their hands dirty.

Our Community Partners Program allows local businesses to give the gift of membership to their employees, as well as providing opportunities like those last week to get out of the office together, and work towards making our communities and environments more sustainable.

Volunteers walking the fields that have been used for cropland since America’s settlement.

Thanks again to Green International Affiliates and all of our volunteers that continue to donate time and resources to the bettering of Massachusetts and the planet. See you next time!

Crops Update: Week 3

What a busy week! We’re halfway through our Spring CSA and gearing up for a bountiful Summer. We did a lot of planting and began weeding in earnest with much appreciated help from three volunteer groups. On Tuesday, thirteen volunteers from the insurance company AmWins planted our first round of broccoli and all of our peppers. Then, we ended the day by covering the broccoli to protect it from flea beetles. The next morning, we removed the cover from the first four beds of onions that we planted in the last week of April, as the onions have reached a size of maturity where they can withstand damage from the onion fly. Also, weeds had grown up so thickly in the warmth under the cover that it was difficult to even make out the onion plants!

The team did a great job hoeing between the onion rows and knocking down the majority of weeds. We were helped by twenty-one volunteers from Care.com who pulled the in-row weeds, which was a big job. Some volunteers also helped us remove the flowers from the first-year plants in our newly planted strawberry patch, while others began transplanting 4,500 leeks. The flower clippers joined the leek planters, and many stayed late to finish a bed.

Seniors from Middlesex School planted the last tray of leeks the following day, weeded two more beds of onions, and planted the next succession of basil and scallions—2,200 seedlings in all. Thanks to all the volunteers for your amazing help. With many different groups of volunteers working on different parts of the same project, your contribution allowed us to meet our goal for the week, which was to finish planting all the nightshades. Because of what we accomplished earlier in the week, we had time to plant the first succession of eggplant on Friday and tomatoes on Saturday.

While the rest of us worked with Care.com volunteers on Wednesday, Andrew Kelliher and Sarah Lang broke away to prepare a room for a meeting of area farmers. Farmers from Lexington Community Farm and Clark Farm in Carlisle gave presentations on crop planning and microgreens growing to an audience of beginning farmers, finishing with a tour of Drumlin Farm’s crop fields. Around dusk we saw five deer coming down the Drumlin and across the bobolink field. For now, they seem to be eating only cover crop but if they find the carrots, we’ll have to begin spraying Liquid Fence repellent, a natural product made from rotten eggs and garlic oil; deer hate the smell. In the week ahead, we’ll plant melons, the second round of sweet corn, and more flowers, as well as harvest cilantro and kohlrabi for the first time.

See you in the field, 

Your Farmers