Tag Archives: farming

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 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 13

Ever seen a professionally groomed poodle metamorphose into a Neanderthal with a pronounced under bite? How about a presidential toupee served on a bed of angry marbles at sunset? No? Then I’m guessing you haven’t been out watching the shape-shifting clouds recently! Some years we remember as the year of the healthy tree, or the abundant rabbit, 100,000 fireflies, or the waterfall of eggplant, but with all these magnificent thunderstorms passing through, it’s definitely the year of the storm cloud, with theatres of transformation occurring at the cauliflowered edges.

Of course, with all this heat and water, this is also the year of the weeds—in particular amaranth and purslane. Last Tuesday morning, the Drumlin Farm campers and counselors did great work during the final Weed Out of the season. Check out these weedy scenes from before and after the campers arrive and thanks all for rescuing that round of brassicas.

Before weed out, note the greenery growing in between the rows.

Campers receiving instruction and learning about weeds and crops.

Post camper-weed out. Looks amazing!

That same afternoon, 30 internet security coders from IBM helped us finish 2018’s onion harvest. They also planted kale and broccoli, and weeded a quarter acre of strawberries. Thanks, IBM volunteers, for your outstanding work! On Thursday of last week, 5 volunteers from the 1369 Coffeehouse returned for the fourth year to harvest the shallot crop, weed beets and melons, and harvest string beans for Saturday’s market. Thank you!

IBM helping with the final onion harvest.

With all the onions and garlic harvested and curing in the barn and the greenhouse, we can focus our attention on the tomato and melon harvest. Pink Berkeley Tie Dye, Indigo Cherry Drop and Sunrise Bumblebee are some of the new tomato varieties we’re trialing this year. Cantaloupe will be available all week, with Sun Jewel and Snow Leopard honeydews appearing as they ripen. Although fall is most definitely not in the air, we will begin harvesting spaghetti squash and orange kabocha winter squash later this week, hopefully before the deer decide to start taking bites out of them. Adirondack Red is the potato variety available at the stand and in the CSA share this week. It has red skin and pink flesh and is the perfect oblong shape for cutting into spears and roasting, enjoy!

If you, your group or club, or you place of work would like to come and help in the fields with us, please email Pam Sowizral; if you’d like to learn more about our CSA and the upcoming opportunities to incorporate our produce into your meals, visit our web page.

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Week 12

Feeling like the movie Goodfellas this week, we’re frazzled, minding our own business, watching the sauce on the stove top, picking up nephews from the airport, ect. when you glance up and notice a helicopter hovering overhead…look closer and you’ll see there are hundreds of them silhouetted against the evening sky above the fields. Up close, they are turquoise and red, small but enormous relatively, nearly stationary and cruising along above the tractors, others are low to the ground and darting sideways from plant to plant. Yes, it’s dragonfly season, and they are everywhere in the crop fields right now! Take a walk through our trails and fields, and you might be treated to an experience similar to snorkeling through a school of fish, the dragonflies zigging past all around you at impossible angles—right at your face, then straight up and away…

Dragonfly. Photo Credit: Pamela Kelly

If you could hover above the fields like an insectoid helicopter right now, you’d see all our campers spread out over the field for Weed Out #3. You’d see volunteers from IBM planting broccoli and bringing in the last of the storage onions and us hauling basket after basket of corn, tomatoes and watermelons up to the farm stand. Today at the stand, you’ll find more   awesome Awesome-variety sweet corn and outstanding Little Baby Flower watermelons. They are the size of a candle pin bowling ball with pinkish red flesh that is both tangy and sweet and most delicious near the shell-thin rind–and is my favorite watermelon variety of the season. Tomatoes will be occasionally available this week until we expect to be inundated by the weekend. It is that sacred time of year when you can have a basil, corn, cucumber, tomato salad every night! Drizzle it with olive oil, rice vinegar, and salt. To experience the fullness of the flavor, do not cook the corn, eat it raw right off the cob, or cut it off the cob and into your salad. If you’re interested in joining the end of the Summer CSA at a prorated fee, email our CSA coordinator Veronica Gassert at vgassert@massaudubon.org. See our CSA page for more information on our Fall CSA coming up in September.

This past week, with the help of some new and returning faces, it finally felt like we had enough hands to get the job done and more! Thanks everyone for bearing down, harvesting quickly, weeding the perennial garden in the downpour, and placing the shade cloth on the greenhouse during that same storm. The placement of the shade cloth to keep direct sun off the curing onions means that we are very near the end of greenhouse seedling production for the season—only a few rounds of lettuce left to go! Harvests are in full swing, with campers once again picking beans for market and about a dozen community volunteers cutting flower stems for market bouquets. We’ve never had so many people involved with the flower harvest, and it really helped the team have a great day at market. If you or your business are interesting in volunteering and helping us in the field, please email our Volunteer Coordinator Pam Sowizral at psowizral@massaudubon.org.

Thanks to all who worked on the harvest, and thanks to Sarah, Veronica, Susie, Bodhi, and the market volunteers for doing such a great job in Somerville bringing corn, watermelons, beans and flowers to our fans.

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Week 11

How about a chilled corn, fennel, cucumber and basil salad for dinner tonight? Or how about some spring onions and summer squash on the grill? All these goodies plus string beans and even the first few half-pints of husk cherries are available at the farm stand right now. The corn variety we are harvesting this week is a bi-color called Providence. It’s longer and narrower than Awesome, last week’s variety, and the taste is just as good.

While we are saying goodbye to some team members and hiring others, several farmers have been working extra hours to fill in staffing gaps. Thanks all for the additional harvest hours this past Thursday and Friday evening, especially those that started at 5 am, making the last two restaurant harvests much more manageable. Campers and their camp counselors ran Weed Out #2 this past Tuesday, doing excellent work clearing weeds in the rhubarb and celeriac patches and in a bed of string beans and dahlias. This past Saturday, ten volunteers with the Appalachian Mountain Club helped us plant over 3,000 broccoli and kale seedlings. They also brought in the last 15 crates of Bridger onions and even helped us lug them up the stairs and into the barn loft for drying. Thanks for your help, AMC!

We finished the garlic harvest last week thanks in part to help from new team members Natan Charytan and John Mark. Natan will be a junior at NYU in the fall, and John has recently moved to the area after working on food policy in NYC for the past several years. Thanks all for improvising with us as we figured out our new system for washing and clipping the garlic heads before spreading them on screens to dry. In a few weeks, we’ll taste the garlic to find out if this is a system worth replicating. This week we’ll be rescue-weeding the storage carrots and beets, transplanting storage cabbage, turnips and kohlrabi, and harvesting the first slicing tomatoes of the season. Watermelon and cantaloupe will be ready for picking any day now. With the harvests increasing in volume and duration, we are grateful to all those who are contributing now.

If you’d like to taste the local difference and get weekly orders of our sustainable produce, our CSA is perfect for you! Those interested in joining the remainder of the summer CSA for a prorated rate can email our CSA Coordinator at vgassert@massaudubon.org. Those thinking ahead and eager for root crops and our Fall CSA can register today online or at Drumlin Farm.

 

See you in the field.

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Week 10

Vampires beware! Our focus this week will be bringing in the garlic crop. We plan to use a power washer to remove dirt from the bulbs to save time on cleaning after the garlic has dried. Add our fresh garlic to your next homemade pizza night for a burst of fresh flavor!

It’s also the start of our sweet corn season with the variety “Awesome” arriving at the stand and in the CSA share this week. Evidently, the taste lives up to the name! The storage onion harvest has also begun with 90% of the early variety “Bridger” already curing in the barn. Cherry tomatoes are beginning to color on the vines, and eggplant and pepper quantities are increasing to the point where we’ll soon have them available for you. Security is in need of beefing up around the watermelon patch as the coyotes are already scratching away at the fruits to see if they’re ripe!

Campers learning about farming through hand-on projects, while helping to harvest!

Last Friday, a group of campers harvested most of the green beans we sold at Saturday’s market. Thanks Emma for leading the campers! That same day, volunteers from the community harvested more beans, some peppers, the last of the fava beans and the cut flowers for our market display. We were short-handed that day, but the unexpected help made for a successful market. Last Tuesday, the second volunteer group of the season from Athena Capital helped us plant 2,600 broccoli plants and harvest potatoes. And on Thursday, volunteers from Needham software company PTC weeded strawberries, planted lettuce and sunflowers, and harvested potatoes and green garlic. What a pleasure it was to work with all these volunteers. Thank you!

Hope to see you at our farmstand, market, picking up your CSA, or in the fields soon,

Your Farmers

 

Crops Update: Week 9

This Is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
and which
you were
probably
saving
for breakfast
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

-William Carlos Williams, 1883-1963

 

And while it would be very annoying to find Williams’ apology in word magnets on your fridge on the morning you were anticipating plums, working in the glaring sun today made me appreciate his words in a new way—cold relief during a heatwave! While I haven’t had any cold plums lately, last Tuesday we received the equivalent in the form of help from all the campers during Weed Out #1. The heat index on that day was 108, but the counselors kept sprinkling the kids with water, and everyone did a great job clearing weeds from the leeks (pictured below). We got a boost from hearing the kids chattering and their music playing.

On Thursday, again in the high heat, eight community volunteers helped us weed, plant cabbage and Brussels sprouts, and harvest potatoes for the first time this season. Look for Red Gold new potatoes at the farm stand and in your share. New potatoes are harvested when the plants are still alive and growing, unlike fall potatoes which are harvested after the top growth has died back and the potatoes have reached full size. New potatoes have very delicate skins that might flake off in the washing process. There’s no need to peel these tender spuds, and they are perfect in potato salad.

On Thursday evening, we seeded half our crop of fall storage carrots in anticipation of Friday’s thunderstorm. Thankfully, it rained on the seeds and the temperature came down for a few days. On Saturday, we planted the second round of watermelons with four volunteers from the community. So, we keep pushing on with help from all sides: volunteers Anne, Sheila and Francesca have been coming in early to avoid the heat and keep us on schedule with greenhouse seeding; Fred has been helping us take down pea trellises and move electric fencing to protect our first round of sweet corn. This week we’ll be harvesting string beans, cucumbers, summer squash and spring onions. Peppers and eggplant are starting to bear fruit, which means tomatoes are not far off!

If you’d like to join our Summer CSA mid-season please email CSA Coordinator Veronica Gassert at vgassert@massaudubon.org.

 

See you in the field,

Your Farmers