Tag Archives: csa

Crops Update: Hoop House Discoveries

Two more downpours Monday, and then the temperature hit 86 degrees when the sun finally came out! Before that, during the cloudy morning, we harvested close to 100 pounds of greens for the Cambridge and Somerville school systems. We’re looking forward to Wednesday when we’ll be harvesting the first Japanese white turnips of the spring for the second CSA pickup. Now that we’ve had a few sunny and warm days, spinach, salad mix and head lettuce are ready for picking and the first scallions are not far behind.

This past Saturday, we planted out the first round of summer squash (pictured below), and we plan to put in the majority of our peppers tomorrow with the help of a volunteer group. In other words, we’re betting that the danger of frost has passed, though we know that we’re not truly safe in Drumlin’s frost pocket until the first week of June.


The squash plants appear white because we dip them in a chalk slurry to keep cucumber beetles off them while they are young and without much foliage. After a few heavy rains, they’ll look green again.

Over the weekend, Veronica, with the help of Maddie and Jill, ran our first farmers’ market of the year in Union Square, Somerville. They sold out of all the veggies we brought except for five individual potatoes, and in the process set a new earnings record for opening day! Way to go and thanks to the volunteers who helped fill bags of greens as customers whisked them off the display!

Back at the farm, volunteers from medical device makers Boston Scientific helped us weed rhubarb and plant a round of lettuce and sunflowers this past Thursday (pictured below). It was our first corporate volunteer group of the year after a couple of rain outs, and we were grateful for their assistance.

We’re well under way with the the construction of the new hoop house and the installers expect to finish by Wednesday. The only hitch in the process so far was on the first day when they ran into hardness driving the posts at an even 18 inches of depth along the entire length of the house. When they went to excavate to a depth of 26 inches for the concrete footers, they discovered the hardness was caused by a gravelly material that Adam (the head installer, pictured) described as what’s found beneath a lake.

Because of the evenness of the hard pack and the composition of the material, he hypothesized that Boyce was a lake at some point in the distant past–something we often say by way of explanation for how we get by without irrigation: water wants to be there, and by building soil organic matter, we encourage the moisture to linger in the soil’s network.

Those interested are encouraged to get their hands a little dirty by volunteering in the field with us–we could always use more help! And if you haven’t registered for your Summer CSA yet, shares are still available.

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!

Springing Ahead: 5 Signs of Spring on the Farm

Daylight Savings Time arrived on the second morning of our annual Sap-to-Syrup Farmer’s Breakfast. Hearty pancakes topped with real maple syrup alongside Drumlin Farm’s roasted potatoes and sausage were enjoyed in sunny, snowy, and muddy weather throughout the weekend. Thanks to our volunteers, staff, and sponsors that helped make this event possible, including our premiere event sponsor Whole Foods (Sudbury), as well as PEAK Event Services, Karma Coffee (Sudbury), Market Basket (Waltham), Roche Brothers (Sudbury), Donelan’s Supermarket (Lincoln), Stop & Shop (Wayland). Now that we’ve explored and shared the joys of maple sugaring, a traditional end of winter crop, we’re looking forward to the rest of what New England Spring has in store…

1. Spring Lambs & Kids

One of the many special things that makes Drumlin Farm a unique experience is our resident livestock. If you’ve visited recently, you were probably met by the very pregnant sheep and goats still in their thick winter coats. With spring comes the arrival of the newborn lambs and kids, and watching them walk, hop, and play is one of our favorite cornerstone spring activities. Such a favorite that we’ll be celebrating all things fiber and sheep related at Woolapalooza, our annual farm, food, and fiber festival. Visit on March 30th for sheep shearing, sheep dog herding demonstrations, local wool vendors, and a chance to visit the new spring babies!

2. April Vacation Week

February Vacation Week had us looking into the science of snow and winter, but it’s warming up in April! During one day or full week sessions the week of April 15-19, children will explore the thawing ponds for amphibians, take care of the wildlife, prepare and plant the garden, and meet in the kitchen to whip up some tasty treats. April Vacation on Drumlin Farm is always alive with the sounds of laughter and amazement at the new lessons we find.

3. Leafy Spring Vegetables

The spring growing season begins with crispy leafy greens. Bursting with an array of tender head lettuces, herbs, scallions, and salad radishes, we’re excited to start making fresh salad every week. Our spring CSA program allows you to share in the bounty of harvest, and you can pick up Drumlin Farm grown vegetables every week for your own kitchen. As the fields warm, shares will fill out with the first of the season’s carrots, sweet salad turnips, and (weather permitting) sugar snap peas, strawberries, and beets. Taste the difference between store-bought and farm-grown for yourself!

4. The Start of Spring Series Programs

Pencil in Drumlin Farm to your weekly schedule with the arrival of spring Child, Adult/Child Pair, and Family Series programs so you can visit the farm every week! You can spend time with your children in a social, educational environment and explore our habitats and wildlife together with programs like Farm Family, Family Explorations, and Old MacDrumlin’s Farm (families with children ages 2-6). Learn first-hand about “where does my food come from” and experience the farm-to-table process in Drumlin Cooks (ages 9-12), Kids in the Kitchen (ages 6-9), and Cooking Together (families with children ages 3-5).

5. The Return of Vernal Pools & Amphibians

Vernal pools are temporary bodies of water in our forests filled by melting snow and spring rain. Within these muddy, murky waters live a world of life including tadpoles, fairy shrimp, and dragonfly larva that will metamorphose into adults before the pools dry up. Come see for yourself in Polliwogs & Frogs (families with children age 2), Tadpoles & Toads (families with children ages 3-5), and Afternoon Kids Club (ages 4-6).

A Note from Renata Pomponi, Sanctuary Director

The daily news doesn’t often focus on science, but for a day or two last November, scientific exploration took over the headlines as the InSight Lander arrived on Mars. The first mission designed to probe the interior of another planet, InSight traveled more than 300 million miles over seven months. Watching the livestream of those final moments, my family and I found ourselves cheering along with the engineers in the control room as they celebrated their success.

This type of “Big Science” victory is one that my kids and I will remember for a lifetime. But just as important are the “small science” moments that happen every day: a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis or a snowflake crystalizing on a mitten. When we stop to look, we start to wonder. That wonder can begin as a sense of amazement at the “magic” of nature, especially in our youngest visitors, but it can lead to more when presented as a question: I wonder how that caterpillar transformed into an entirely different creature? I wonder why that snowflake formed so differently from the one next to it?

Major scientific breakthroughs may occur only a few times in our lives, but the natural world offers up daily opportunities for us to question, to think, and to learn. What’s more, having a formal scientific degree or engineering background isn’t a prerequisite, only your own curiosity. You don’t even have to know the “right” answer to your or your child’s question; their asking is the most important part. We hope that the inquiries that start here at Drumlin Farm, whether you experience them on your own or alongside our educators, will bring discovery and delight, along with inspiration for all of us to become strong environmental stewards.

Wishing you a year of small-science wonders,

Renata Pomponi
Drumlin Farm Sanctuary Director

April-September 2019 Program & Events

Our new programs and events catalog for April-September 2019 has arrived, filled with new programs to get you and your family and friends outside exploring. Highlights include:

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

Crops Update: Week 22

Still no frost, not even a night in the high thirties. This is unusual, as our low lying fields usually get zapped in the last week of September or first week of October. We expected a frost last Friday night, and so worked that afternoon with 20 volunteers from Shire biotech to scour the eggplant and tomato patches in a last call harvest. Shire volunteers then helped us bring in the last of the popcorn crop, and they even had time to dip their toes into the quicksand of the sweet potato harvest—don’t worry; they made it out alive!

Shire Volunteers

We continued mucking around in the sweet potatoes the following afternoon with 22 students from Brandeis. While it may look like we’re having a fist fight with the soil, we mean it no harm; though I can’t say the same for it, we end each session dazed and badly in need of a nap! And even with all that good help, we’re still only a third of the way through the patch, having brought in over half a ton of sweet potatoes.

Volunteers harvesting sweet potatoes

By way of comparison, 12 volunteers from Global Atlantic helped us harvest 1,100 pounds of potatoes in only an hour this past Thursday. The soil in the potato patch is lighter, and the plants have the good sense to develop their roots in a neat bundle in the space directly below them. Thank you, kind potato plants, and thanks to the volunteers from Global Atlantic, who also helped us harvest peppers in anticipation of that frost that never came.

But looking ahead, a frost seems likely for our fields this coming Saturday night. We’ll continue harvesting as if that were the case, and you may see row covers going up to protect late season greens. In the meantime, we’re taking advantage of the warm weather and so will have a mix of summer and fall crops available at the stand, in the CSA shares and at market this week.

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

 

Crops Update: Week 21

We’re doing our best in the mud and the rain, lethargically slithering through the rot and the veggie guts like chilled garter snakes. Our coolest morning so far this fall was a relatively mild 43 degrees, and so we continue to pick tomatoes, peppers and even the occasional summer squash—although these frost-sensitive crops have greatly slowed in their production. Three cheers for the farmers this morning who made beautiful veggie bunches for chefs despite having cold hands and feet!

Last Tuesday’s soaking rain meant that we couldn’t dig sweet potatoes on Thursday when volunteer groups visited the fields. Instead, morning volunteers from Wellpet’s corporate office pulled weeds from the perennial garden (pictured below; that’s a mountain of weeds in the bed of the truck behind them), before harvesting tomatoes and peppers.

Wellpet Volunteers

In the afternoon, volunteers from National Grid’s legal team harvested eggplant and potatoes (from a field with lighter soil), before clipping and shucking popcorn for drying. All that wonderful help made for a more relaxed Friday market harvest, and we even had time to wash lots of pumpkins and ornamental gourds in anticipation of a busy weekend. Many thanks to the admissions staff and the stand volunteers who did a fantastic job selling so much produce on Saturday and Sunday to an incredible number of visitors—over 1,000 on Saturday alone!

Harvesting difficult sweet potatoes

On that busy Saturday, we finally began the penultimate harvesting odyssey of the season—14 beds of sweet potatoes. The last will be potatoes, and compared to spuds, sweet potatoes are much more difficult to extract from the soil because several vines emanate in all directions from each initial transplant, and as these vines creep along the ground, they root in multiple spots like strawberry runners on steroids. Underneath the leaf canopy, the entire field becomes a fibrous woven mat. In mowing down the leaves to clear the way for harvesting, we try to grind down some of the vines as well, but there is the danger of hitting the potatoes, which are often just below, or even protruding above the soil surface. The remnant vines often get tangled in the harvest bar as we try to undercut the roots. Even after we’ve loosened the bed, we still have to wrestle with the vines and saturated soil as we search for sweet potatoes across the entire five-foot width of the bed. The digging is hard on the hands and forearms, and so we were grateful when volunteers from the Cambridge School of Weston and Boston Trinity Academy teamed-up to help us harvest 500 pounds of sweet potatoes on Saturday (pictured above). Two beds down, twelve to go. Many thanks to all who helped that day!

See you in the field.

Your Farmers