Tag Archives: csa

Crops Update: Thank You’s from a Secret Admirer

I’m not saying the farm truck doesn’t need a good cleaning-out, it’s just that we really need all that stuff to do our jobs: gloves, scallion trimmers, bands, bug spray, sunscreen, Tyvek tape, rain jacket, and hermit bars (thanks Mom!). What’s more–we need that envelope on the dash containing a letter we recently received  from a CSA member—but don’t know who—which we’ve been passing around and re-reading:

Dear Drumlin Team, In this peculiar pandemic period, there’s something deeply reassuring about Mother Earth and her cornucopia of green, red & yellow goodness courtesy of your hard work. All week, I look forward to the ritual of receiving from your generous hands a box of healthy food. The quality of your produce is astonishing—gleaming, ripe, beautiful, curvy, wavy, crunchy, delicious. I don’t like not meeting you, thanking you. The touch-free handoff feels alien! Nonetheless, my gratitude is greater, surpasses our restraints. Thank you for the care with which you pick, sort, wash, pack. For the weeds beat back. For the heat endured. For the sweat running down your back. Thank you for saving our summer, bring us joy from the earth. Respectfully.

Whoever you are, thank you so much for taking the time to write that! It’s an amazing group of farmers, volunteers, and Audubon staff members who together make the CSA Farmshare happen from week to week, and they all deserve to hear your moving words, to be reminded of why we do this work.

This is the last week for the summer CSA, and next week begins the fall program. Fall members will enjoy the end of what has been a stellar tomato and melon season, and a bountiful potato and winter squash harvest will provide good eating through Thanksgiving. There are still some spots open for our fall share, so join today if you haven’t already, and help us spread the word to others that may be interested!

Out in the fields we’re hoeing fall carrots and greens, bringing in the last of the winter squash (two varieties to go!) and preparing fields for cover cropping. Two days of rain last week means we expect to have a steady supply of field greens through frost!

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Double Rainbow Moments

A few teasing thunderstorms last week brought a faint double rainbow on Wednesday evening, but little in the way of rain. Then, Sunday afternoon, it finally poured! Peppers, eggplant, cauliflower, and cabbage had been wilting in the drought and not producing much. Hopefully, in a week or so, we’ll see an improvement in harvests of these crops. Beans, tomatoes, beets, watermelon, and cantaloupe have been thriving in the drought, and we expect to continue picking lots of each in the week ahead.

We’re now harvesting from the second succession of watermelons, so we get to savor our three favorite varieties all over again starting with the small, round, pink-fleshed Mini Love, moving on to the personal-sized, zeppelin-shaped Dark Belle, and finishing with Shiny Boy, striped, bullet-proof medicine balls. On Saturday morning, Paige (taught by Margot, who was taught by Fred) taught Nina how to move and install electric fencing, and together they protected watermelons #2 from the deer and coyotes that have already started breaking them open and eating them up. Deer continue to be our primary pest problem, and, over the past two days, we’ve been forced into an early harvest of all pumpkins and most of the winter squash.

The drought caused early die-back of the vines, and the deer have taken advantage of the easy access and visibility to browse the rows, biting hundreds of squash and pumpkins only once or twice, rather than eating all of a few like a respectful pest might. We estimate we’ve lost 15% of the butternut squash and pumpkin crop to deer, but about 40% of the butternuts have scarring from shallow deer bites. In the foreground, above, you can see piles of bitten squash we had to leave behind this past Saturday afternoon. The team stayed late that day to move the butternut into the greenhouse, and we wouldn’t have gotten as much done without the help of volunteers Nathan and Jake. Thanks all for doing the heavy lifting in the heat and humidity! This morning, we finished salvaging the pumpkins and then moved on to some new varieties of winter squash we’re trialing this year like the warty Black Futsu you can see in the foreground below.

Also on Saturday, we had a successful Somerville market at Union Square thanks to help from some additional volunteers, and a busy day of sales at the Drumlin farmstand. There, the volunteer trio of Basha, Nancy and Richard (from L to R above) are now teaming up on a regular basis. Thanks to help from volunteers Linda and Leah, we were able to open the farmstand for the first time this year on Sunday as well. Both have run the farmstand in years past, so with a little training on the new technology from Visitor Services staffer Marcia, they were prepared to begin selling again putting to good use their familiarity with more unusual crops like ground cherries.  

So, visitors now have access to our food on Saturdays and Sundays, and more people are getting involved in the process of selling and producing it. When I farmed for a nonprofit on Long Island, a neighboring large-scale potato producer would object that our CSA didn’t “feed the world” like a real farm. Perhaps he meant we didn’t put bags of potatoes on shelves in grocery stores the world over. Yes, we are not commodity farmers, but community-based ones who endeavor to promote health, both environmental and individual, through meaningful work and delicious, beautiful food. And we’re trying to engage as many people as possible in all parts of the process, from camp kids picking cherry tomatoes (thanks for the one hundred pounds this past Friday!) to volunteers like Jake and Christine whose continuing connection to Drumlin began with a commuter rail ride to Lincoln to help us plant garlic last fall. Check out Christine’s wonderful retelling of that experience in her recently published comic.

Your Farmers

Squash

Crops Update: Persevering through Drought & Deer

What a relief the past two cloudy, 70 degree days have been! Last week was a real trial for plants and farmers alike with several days in the 90s and the soil surface completely dried out and often hot to the touch. Nina described kneeling on the ground during the drought and heatwave as similar to dipping your foot into too hot bath water: you retreat and then try again after mentally preparing yourself for some pain. Many, many thanks to the team and volunteers who continued to get the job done under these challenging conditions!

Above, you can see the effects of the drought in the winter squash patch. Despite the early die-back of the vines, it looks like the plants got enough moisture when they needed it, and we have a huge crop. With the vines no longer protecting some of the squash, we’ll start bringing them into the greenhouse this week when we’re not harvesting tomatoes and melons.

Betting on the forecast finally being accurate, we seeded a half-acre to greens and turnips yesterday afternoon. And, after 13 frustrating days without rain, we got about a quarter-inch last night. Hooray! Last week, we had to skip our weekly seeding of greens and radish, because, given how hot and dry it’s been, it would have been a waste of seed and time. The turnips you see germinating above were seeded two days before our last precipitation from Isaias on August 4. It’s amazing to witness what the Drumlin soil can do with so little water.

The fall kale and broccoli patch you see above is bordered on the left by the second-to-last succession of summer squash, and all of it was planted by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) on July 18. We’ve had less than an inch of rain since that day, so it must be the high percentage of organic matter in the soil that’s retaining moisture down below and supporting these beautiful plants. Kate from AMC brought another group of volunteers to the farm this past Saturday, and they finally got to work with us on a reasonably cool day. Together, we planted 3,200 lettuce seedlings before harvesting some cherry tomatoes. We donated those to Concord Open Table the following day. Volunteers from Concord Open Table now pick up donations from Drumlin twice per week, and we continue to deliver produce to food for free every Thursday as part of our restaurant route.  

If you’ve wondered about all the additional fencing in the fields, the berserk deer population is the explanation. In addition to battling the extreme weather, we’re fighting the deer for our food. They’re trying to eat melons, chard, lettuce, beets, carrots, and sweet potatoes, and we’re responding with a combination of electric fences, repellant sprays, and small sections of twine fences. At the farmstand, you may have noticed umbrellas, a black shade cloth, and up in the rafters, an enormous, white, kite-shaped cloth, all put in place by Property Manager Geoff to help keep the sun from baking volunteers and veggies in the CSA farm share boxing area. Geoff also cleared brush from along the back of the farmstand to provide more space for people to spread out on Wednesdays while weighing and bagging produce. Thanks very much Geoff for helping us stay cool and for helping keep the produce as fresh as possible!

Your Farmers

Tomatoes

Crops Update: Hot Weather & Flavorful Yields

The First Winter Squashes

It’s looking like fall in the greenhouse with the arrival of the season’s first winter squash: Sunshine orange kabocha. We harvested them last Thursday as soon as we saw the vines dying back leaving the fruit exposed. If we can detect orange in the field, so can the deer, and the deer love to bite into all types of winter squash, especially the orange kabocha and pumpkins. Those are storage onions you see drying on the benches around the crates of squash below, and those seedling trays behind them hold the second-to-last lettuce planting of 2020.

Lower & Lean

With transplanting nearly complete, we are spending most of our time weeding beds and harvesting melons, potatoes, peppers, and tomatoes. In the hoophouse, the cherry tomato vines are over twenty feet tall, so it’s time to “lower and lean” them. We get up on the ladder, clip the top growth to the twine, then let out three or four turns on the spool allowing the whole plant to sit down. Then we lean the plants to the side by jumping the spools to an adjacent zip tie or by sliding the tie along a truss. The lean provides easier access to the fruit and prevents a crimp from forming at the base of the vine. The red Sakuras on the right have been lowered and leaned, while the orange Golden Sweets on the left await their turn.

Why Are Our Crops So Flavorful?

Out in the field it’s hot and dry. You can check out your town’s drought status too–if looking at the powdery soil or your burnt lawn is not informative enough! Hurricane Isaias blew down some of our tall flowers and brought a little rain, but we’ll need more precipitation to ensure a bountiful fall harvest. In the meantime, we’re wearing our hats (check out Greg’s superb chapeau below) and enjoying the intensity of flavors in melons and tomatoes brought out by these extreme weather conditions. Jill’s theory is that our field cherry tomatoes taste better than those from the hoophouse because those in the field are not irrigated. If true, that would be the first on-farm example of something we’ve been saying for years: Drumlin produce tastes this good because it’s not watered- down. But the hoophouse cherries are also more fibrous than those from the field, which is strange considering that the fall and winter hoophouse greens were far more tender than their field counterparts.

Extreme Weather

Leaving aside the mystery of the watered hoophouse cherry tomatoes, we know for certain that we need more water on crops in the field! And some days not in the 90s would be much appreciated. This past Friday, we had to harvest the watermelon and cantaloupe first thing in the morning just to keep the fruit cool. We then stored them under tents (pictured above) to keep the sun off until we had a chance to wash and load them into the box truck and walk-in cooler. We’re doing our best not to overburden the under-sized reefer unit on the market truck, and if you let the sun hit the melons for any length of time, you wind up with dozens of molten crates radiating heat for the rest of the day.

Volunteers Needed

While it’s hot out there under the August sun, amazingly, volunteers continue to come and help us harvest in the fields and box CSA shares at the admissions area. But some of our regular community volunteers are beginning to quarantine themselves in preparation for college, so we’ll be needing more help through the fall. If you’ve been considering volunteering at the farm, now would be a perfect time. It’s a great way to get out, meet other masked people, and join in meaningful work that supports Mass Audubon’s conservation goals. In the past, at the end of August volunteer sessions, we’d gather round and cut into some watermelons and cantaloupe. Now we just send volunteers home with a melon to enjoy later. It’s different, but everyone who helps should know the sweetness they make possible.

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Impeding Crop Pests

August arrives on Saturday, and we’ve mostly finished establishing crops for the season. What we’re thinking about now is the harvest—when to go after it, how best to move it, and where to put it all. We shifted today’s harvest session from the afternoon to the morning in order to escape the worst of the heat. By 10 a.m., we had lugged around 500 pounds each of potatoes, cucumbers, and summer squash!

Friends & Family Volunteering

We were joined by my sister’s youngest, Bea, and it has been a joy for me to work with both Margot and Bea over the past two days. However, it’s time for Margot to prepare for college, so after two months of some of the best volunteer help imaginable (more than 50 hours per week!), we need to say our goodbyes. It’s fitting that on Saturday morning Margot taught Paige how to install deer fencing around a crop. Over the years, volunteer Fred has taught many Drumlin farmers how to do this job, including Jill and Margot, and together, the two of them have done all the fencing of strawberries and corn this year. But on Saturday, with Jill at market, Margot took on the instructor’s role, and together with Paige, they made sure the second planting of corn got protected. Thanks Margot for all your great work since the end of May (and during the previous three seasons), and to Bea for your help hauling heavy crops on this the hottest day of the year! And thanks as always to the farm team for warmly welcoming my family members into our group.

Tomato Hornworm ©William Hottin

Combating Deer & Tomato Hornworm

All that fencing we’re doing is a response to the growing deer population on the sanctuary and the damage they’re causing. They’re even getting into the hoophouse through the side vents! We were installing a deer barrier around the second chard patch on Thursday afternoon when a lightning storm surprised us and delivered a much-needed soaking to the fields—the last significant rain had fallen on July 5. We admired the storm from the hoophouse where the cherry tomatoes have almost reached the ceiling. The plants are producing lots of fruit now, but are also being munched by tomato hornworms—snake-thick caterpillars filled with an alarming amount of goo. They are well-camouflaged amongst the vines, and finding and removing them has become a bit of competition amongst us. Jack got 13 today—impressive!

More Crops on the Horizon

We are half-way through the onion harvest thanks to the continued good work of the afternoon community volunteer groups. Friday’s group helped us harvest beans and mini eggplant for market before crating up the first storage onions of the season. Some of those volunteers then stayed into the evening to cut flowers for sale the next day at Drumlin’s farmstand. Saturday’s volunteers planted collards and storage kohlrabi—the last of the fall brassicas. They also weeded beans and carrots in addition to harvesting more storage onions. We finished the day’s work  by hoisting the shade cloth up and over the greenhouse where the onions are drying. By the end of this week, the greenhouse will be completely filled with onions, and we’ll be wondering where to put the last of the lettuce seedling trays. Also, by the end of the week, we hope to harvest the first watermelons and full-size Italian eggplant of the season.

Your Farmers

Crops Update: In the Scrape

We had the best kind of fireworks Sunday night—lightning, thunder, and rain! Three separate storms soaked the farm around 9 p.m., and after a very dry June, July is blessing us with plenty of water. On Sunday, wagering on nature to help us out in our no irrigation system, we seeded a half-acre of greens, carrots, beets, and beans. On Friday, with help from volunteers, we planted broccoli, lettuce, and cucumbers—over 3,000 transplants in all.

In the Scrape

Above, you can see Jill guiding the water wheel out in front of volunteers, and Margot, obscured behind the tractor “in the scrape”, as the team has taken to describing it–scraping mud from the marking spikes. It’s a challenging role because as the tractor is creeping along, there are three marking wheels with spikes spaced as closely as 6 inches apart, all of which need to be kept mud-free in order for water to flow through them and into the holes where the seedlings will go. On top of that, the flow of water to each separate wheel must be balanced by adjusting knobs on each of three hoses—open one hose too much and it reduces flow to the other two. The flow rate is also constantly affected by the amount of water in the tank, the shift in pitch of the bed, and whether the tractor is traveling up or down a slope. Never having pumped the bellows or thrown the stops on a pipe organ, with hands flying between spikes and knobs, I still think of the person “in the scrape” as Bach at the keyboard, mid-fugue.

Volunteers Needed

In addition to helping us plant all those seedlings, the Friday volunteer group also cleared weeds from our overgrown eggplant beds. We had left the Proteknet over the slow-growing eggplant since the moment of transplanting in order to exclude flea beetles and Colorado potato beetles. But we had achieved good control of beetles in the adjacent potato patch using organically certified sprays, so it was time to uncover the eggplant and get after those weeds. I’m not sure how long it would have taken us to complete the job on our own, but all those volunteers got it done in about twenty minutes!

We will need more volunteer help for some big upcoming harvest jobs including string beans, potatoes, garlic, and cherry tomatoes. We will start picking beans and digging new potatoes this week, and we usually start pulling garlic and harvesting cherry tomatoes by the third week of July.

New Potatoes & Spring Onion Bouquets

A “new potato” is the result of pulling the plant before it has fully matured. It’s like green garlic in that you’re sacrificing volume to enjoy the crop when it’s most tender and mild. The skins of new potatoes often flake off in the washing process because they haven’t fully set, and when you’re separating the tubers from the plant, you see some marble-size ones that would have become full-size. Farmers charge more for new potatoes to offset the reduction in harvest quantities.

Spring onions are the other exciting crop coming in from the field right now. They need to be eaten fresh as they don’t dry down and keep like storage varieties. Above, from L to R, Paige, Margaret, Margot, and Jen are making bunches of the spring onion variety Purplette. The soil has been loosened by the tractor passing by with the undercutting bar, and you can see their focus and attention to technique following the picking mantra we teach: “make each bunch a bouquet of flowers; make it for someone you love.”

It’s unusual not to see a single weed in a bed of onions—onions with their slender leaves don’t do a good job of taking up space and shading out competing weeds. Volunteers who had been helping us pick strawberries on Wednesdays and Fridays, rounded out their sessions by weeding in the onion patch. So helpful! Thank you.

Your Farmers

Array of veggies

Crops Update: Rain & Visitors Back on the Farm

Adapting to Rain

Wow, that was a lot of rain! Several sizzling thunder and rain storms have hit Lincoln, and below, you can see the before and after state of our soil. On the left, Paige and Margot proudly stand over the third succession of summer squash they planted into the dust on Saturday morning—just the two of them! On the right, Monday morning, the oats and field pea cover crop is breaking through the mud in a field that will lie fallow this year. While all this rain will reduce the quality of the remaining strawberries, all other crops will greatly benefit. We were able to maximize the value of this year’s strawberry crop thanks to the harvesting work of volunteers and the farm team.

Stop by our Farmer’s Market Stand

This past Friday afternoon, another group of volunteers helped us pick about fifteen flats of berries for sale at the Union Square Market. Margaret, Jill, Nina and volunteer Avril did a great job selling them, and to date, sales at the market are far closer to average than we had predicted heading into a retail environment greatly altered by COVID regulations.

Reopening for Visitation

Thanks to the hard work and careful planning of many Drumlin staff members, the sanctuary opened to the public (who registered ahead of their visit) for the first time this weekend. It was great to see so many masked families exploring the farmyard and fields, and several people stopped to watch us hurriedly planting before the rains came.

If you’ve been missing Drumlin Farm and are overdue for a visit, please reserve your spot here so that we can safely manage our capacity limitations. Stop by the fields to say hi and see what the farmers and volunteers are working on!

New Veggies on the Way

On Saturday, in addition to the 640 summer squash Margot and Paige planted, we also set 2,400 Brussels sprouts and 1,100 flower seedlings, and seeded the next round of greens and radish. The last four rounds of greens have been affected by high heat and lack of rain; we’re looking forward to having a renewed supply of them in about three weeks.

In the meantime, a new set of exciting crops will start to appear in your CSA shares this week. We’re beginning to harvest the March 23rd seeding of carrots; it’s about two weeks later than we had anticipated due to the cold spring and subsequent lack of rain. We’re also harvesting the mid-April seeding of red and gold beets (our thanks to Volunteer Anne for weeding and thinning them!) and the first spring onions, fennel, fava beans, and field cucumbers of the season.

Food Donations

We continue to donate food to area pantries, and this past Tuesday we made our first delivery to the Lincoln Food Pantry—dinosaur kale, scallions, and salad turnips for 90 families. We also continue to bring produce to Food for Free in Cambridge. All told, we’re approaching  $20,000 in food donations since mid-March! Thanks to all who are making it possible for us to contribute in this way.

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Moon Over Drumlin’s Flower Team

For those of us lucky enough to be at Moon Over Drumlin this past Saturday, we were treated to an event thoughtfully orchestrated in every detail. The tent looked beautiful, and every dish the chefs created amplified the love and attention that goes into raising Drumlin’s livestock and crops. I felt especially grateful to have a moment to relax with the Crops team away from the fields and say thanks for a job well done—both in preparing for Moon and throughout the season. Here we are as a team cutting flowers for the event, that would become table centerpieces:

From L to R in the back is Highsmith, Jill, Erica and Veronica. In the front is your narrator (Matt), Maddie, and Kari. We were joined by many flower cutting volunteers that night, and more volunteers assembled the table bouquets on Saturday morning. Congratulations and thanks to all who participated in making the event a success! A special thanks to Jill for designing the bouquets and leading so many new-to-harvesting folks. Thanks also to CSA member Jocelyn Finlay (and her daughters) for help with the flower harvest and for taking this wonderful picture!

It looks like two nights of more serious frost coming our way this Friday and Saturday. Thankfully, we’re already half way through the sweet potato harvest because of the work of four volunteer groups over the past week. Volunteers from Wayfair, Appian Way Energy, Paytronix and Wellesley College all dug one bed of sweet potatoes each. On Tuesday, Wayfair volunteers also dug regular potatoes (lots of digging for them!) and picked tomatoes for CSA distribution. On Thursday, Appian Way volunteers weeded the strawberry patch and picked beans for Saturday’s market. On Friday, Paytronix volunteers picked tomatoes, eggplant, beans and peppers for market. Thanks all for keeping us on pace with the fall harvest. As soon as we finish the sweet potatoes, we’ll start filling the root cellar with storage potatoes.

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update

Tuesday morning’s harvest was especially long because of all the additional food going to chefs for this Saturday’s Moon Over Drumlin—our annual farm-to-table gala and live auction. Moon Over Drumlin features one-of-a-kind tastings from seven local partner chefs made with ingredients from Drumlin Farm. A few tickets are still available too! We’re looking forward to seeing you all there, and to tasting what our talented partnering chefs concoct.

If you were wondering, yes, it did freeze at the farm Thursday and Friday mornings of last week! This is one disadvantage of farming at the bottom of an ancient lake—cold air settles there. Beans, cucumbers and husk cherries are the first casualties of the fall, but tomatoes and melons continue to produce, and you will find some beautiful fruit at the stand today.

We did get all the edible squash out of the field before the frost. And thankfully, the pumpkins were exposed to only two cold nights before volunteer coordinator Pam pulled together an emergency volunteer group from the Appalachian Mountain Club to help clear the patch this past Sunday. Maddie, Veronica, and Kari worked an extra afternoon, and the volunteers (some returning to the farm for the third time this season!) got a serious workout loading the pumpkins onto the trucks and then ferrying them into the greenhouse. Thanks to all your hard work, the greenhouse is very crowded (pictured below)!

We would have been even more behind schedule this morning if not for the harvesting help given to us on Monday by a volunteer group from Middlesex School. Together we picked over 100 pounds of cherry tomatoes for chefs, and also started digging the sweet potatoes. We’ve worked with Middlesex students before, and they always do fabulous work.

We’ll continue getting ready to celebrate the intersection of the community’s labor and the Hatheways’ vision for what this land can provide on Saturday. Looking forward to raising a glass with you at Moon Over Drumlin!

See You in the Field

Your Farmers

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