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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

Crops Update: Week 20

Congratulations to our crops volunteer Anne Patterson on  her much deserved Johnathan Leavy Volunteer of the Year Award at this past Saturday’s Moon Over Drumlin. In her acceptance speech, she simultaneously pitied and charmed all those marooned in offices, unfortunate to be away from the fields, and yet fortunate to have the opportunity to join us in farm work whenever they choose. Adding they should choose to do so immediately to make the world a better place! The audience quickly warmed to Anne’s unvarnished delivery, laughed a lot at her puckish truths, and leapt to their feet in a loud standing ovation. It was magnificent!

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

Speaking of magnificent, the local chef’s did an outstanding job, serving plates with ingredients from Drumlin Farm. Many could not believe that what chef Carolyn Johnson of 80 Thoreau was serving was, in fact, goat. This underscores her talent as well as Farm Manager Caroline’s good work in raising such healthy animals. At the chef’s reception, Sarah and I got to ask the experts our nerdiest farmer questions like, can you use a closed calendula blossom to garnish a dessert? The Answer: Yes, but it’s a pain to pry out each petal, and you only use the petals. Thanks and congratulations to Heidi Thoren and Polly Reeve for organizing another memorable fundraiser that brought together so many friends of Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm.

Mary Moran and Maggie Sullivan harvesting tatsoi.

This past week, we said goodbye to fieldworker Mary Moran (pictured, on the left, harvesting tatsoi bunches with Maggie Sullivan). Her new job is working with senior citizens to ensure they have services that allow them to remain in their homes. Thanks for your good work and steady presence, Mary. This week, we finished the winter squash harvest thanks to help from marketers at Definitive Healthcare and publicists at Denterlein. This is the second year in a row that Denterlein volunteers have worked with us in the fields. In addition to hauling squash (pictured below), they picked all the string beans, cherry tomatoes and husk cherries for Saturday’s market. Thanks, Denterlein, for your great work!

Denterlein  volunteers moving  squash.

Yesterday morning, twenty students from Middlesex School picked peppers, tomatoes and beans in preparation for today’s restaurant run—a true beast at 18 rainy stops! We especially appreciated the help because we had spent the early morning harvesting for the Somerville and Cambridge schools, and were way behind schedule when the students arrived at 9:30. Thanks to their good work (and Sarah’s very early start this morning), we provided chefs with what they asked for and will even have shishito peppers to distribute in tomorrow’s CSA share. It takes forever to harvest these little peppers, so many thanks to the students for making this treat available to CSA shareholders!

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

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

Crops Update: Week 18

Any chance we can trellis the earth to keep it from leaning further away from the sun? Because we need more daylight hours to bring in the fall crops!

On the positive side, sales are strong, and we are spending the majority of our time harvesting tomatoes, beans and greens. Andrew delivered produce to Somerville Schools for the first time this year on Monday. Everything we send to Somerville goes into the salad bars at ten different schools, and this week students will enjoy Drumlin carrots, cherry tomatoes, radish, arugula, bok choi, and tat soi. Emma and Maggie recently met with the cafeteria team at the Cambridge schools to talk about our growing practices and preview the produce they’ll be receiving from us. The next few Mondays before first frost will be very busy adding these school harvests to our normal restaurant pre-harvests. Yesterday, we got help with this from volunteer Anne Patterson who, on her own, picked lots of purple and yellow beans. Thanks Anne!

Visit our stand at the farmer’s market in Union Square in Somerville.

This past Thursday, energy data analysts from ENGIE Insight helped us pick beans and potatoes for Saturday’s market. Their help gave us a big head start, and we finished Friday’s market harvest with a few minutes of daylight to spare. This was a big achievement because we were without the help of the students who have normally been harvesting with us on Friday afternoons, but who have now returned to school. The Crops Team then did an outstanding job selling the produce to the busy community in Union Square on Saturday, pictured above. Back at the farm, the rest of the team worked with 30 Concord Academy freshmen weeding and harvesting winter squash (pictured below). Thanks to the helpful work from these students, we’ll distribute acorn squash in tomorrow’s first fall CSA share. There are still a few spots open for our Pick-Your-Own, Fruit Share, and full and half shares open in our Fall CSA, so register today if you haven’t already. Those that sign up after the first distribution can also join, receiving a prorated rate for the remainder of the season’s distributions.

Acorn squash available at this week’s CSA share.

While we’re hustling veggies out of the fields, we’re also plowing and seeding cover crops on vacated areas. Last night’s soaking rain means we should soon see oats and rye sprouting in the fields. So while fall colors are coming into the trees, the fields will be greening-up again. If you haven’t been out to the fields all season, this Saturday is a good time to visit as we are opening some beds to the public for picking as part of Drumlin Farm’s Fall Harvest Celebration.

Hope to see you out there!

Your Farmers

 

Crops Update: Week 17

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

Green Sunfill Sunflower

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

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

Volunteers from Brandeis University

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

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Week 16

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

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

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

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

See you in the field.

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Week 15

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

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

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

Weeding Sweet Potatoes.

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

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

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

 

 

Crops Update: Week 14

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

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

Andrew preparing watermelons for market.

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

Cambridge Institute hard at work.

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

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

Your Farmers