Tag Archives: sustainable

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 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

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

Drumlin Farm Crops Update Vol. 7

By Drumlin Farm Crops Manager Matt Celona

Strawberries Continue to Thrive
The team is picking strawberries right now for restaurant orders and for the farm stand. Some people came out during Saturday’s rain and humidity to take advantage of Strawberry Day and were rewarded with what one chef has told us are “best tasting strawberries around this season.” Last week, we had lots of strawberries ripening in the patch, and volunteers from Net App  helped us pick pints for the CSA. This is something we would not have had the people power to do on our own, so CSA members can thank Net App for the treat!

Volunteers Continue to Be Great
We are now scheduling a weeding job for each volunteer group because the weeds are really taking off with the rain and long days. Civil engineers from Green International Affiliates (one of our new Community Partners) weeded carrots, planted basil and picked sugar snap peas for Saturday’s market. Thanks for your focused work, Green International.

On Saturday, parents and children from Marathi Mandal of Boston volunteered in the field. We enjoyed weeding carrots, planting sunflowers, and harvesting peas with these volunteers.

And finally, we’re approaching the last big planting project of the year: One half-acre of pumpkins with the help of volunteers from Phillips Medisize.

Crops Team Continues to Plant and Harvest
Last week, Andrew, Josh, and Avril worked late to put the first line of twine on all the early tomatoes and planted the second succession of tomatoes. Thanks all for the extra time and effort.

We also have storage crops on our mind. We will soon transplant storage cabbage to the field and seeding carrots intended for the root cellar. Purple spring onions are just now reaching bunching size, and we will soon be harvesting the first summer squash and cucumbers of the year. Garlic scape season has ended, and the bulbs have a few more weeks to grow before we bring them into the barn.

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Drumlin Farm Crops Update Vol. 6

Heatwave #1

Looks like the first heat wave of the year has arrived. It’s 95 in the field where volunteers Anne and Shelia are crawling along over the hot soil thinning beets—amazing! The heat will push the strawberries and peas along, and we’ve moved Strawberry Day to June 24 because not enough of the berries will be ready by this weekend. We do plan to pick strawberries for the first time tomorrow morning and bring them up to the stand.

Google Volunteers Planting Dahlias

This past week we got lots of great help from three large groups. On Thursday, volunteers from Google planted dahlias. Their company made a donation to help us purchase the plants from a nursery. After planting the dahlias, the volunteers thoroughly weeded four beds of celery and celeriac. Thanks for the help!

Thanks, Camp Counselors!

On Friday morning, Zach and Emma brought the camp counselors to the field to learn about our crops program and to get trained for the upcoming “Weedouts”—the mornings when campers get dirty and pull weeds. Thanks counselors for making camp a rewarding first connection to Drumlin for so many kids and families, and thanks for pulling those weeds in the radicchio and peas!

Storm Volunteers

On Friday afternoon, Care.com brought volunteers to the field just in time to plant the sweet potato slips. A thunderstorm passed through, but the gang brushed it off and happily set 2,500 plants in about an hour. Thanks for all your great work and for the donation!

Summer CSA Countdown

The summer CSA opens this week just as many new crops are about to come in. We are close to our first harvest of chard, beets, carrots and garlic scapes. We’re excited to see what’s ready come Wednesday morning. If you’re interested in grabbing a last-minute share, visit massaudubon.org/drumlincsa.

Your Farmers

Summer Crops Update: August 16

Crops Updates are provided by Drumlin Farm Crops Manager Matt Celona.

MorningHarvest2

We Got Rain. We Need More.
We did get about one inch of rain on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Many crops look revived and happy. However, it’s a good bet that the warm weather will last, since the outlook is for 90s continuing into next week and beyond. That’s not good news for the farmers or the crops. According to Weather Underground, Lincoln received 16 inches below the precipitation average in 2015. To date in 2016, we are 19 inches below average! This drought is at least two years in the making.

How Are the Crops Doing?
The young bean plants that we watered through the driest stretch are now mature and looking good. The second round of eggplant is fairing much better than the first. These are perfect for grilling whole or sautéing. Our last round of sweet corn is beginning to mature, while storage beets, rutabaga, turnips, and radish have finally germinated. Unfortunately, it looks like the seedings of storage carrots are not going to come up. We’re in uncharted territory with the emergency carrot seedings that we tried over the following weeks —we hope that we can still get a good harvest out of these, but it’ll depend on how mild the fall is.

We’re going to have to take very good care of all fall crops in order to maximize yields from plants that are already stressed by the heat and lack of water. We’re hoeing and fertilizing storage crops, stringing the second succession of tomatoes, and preparing fields for fall cover-cropping.

Many Thanks to Our Volunteers and Workers
This morning, teacher-naturalist Sally Farrow brought a group of Lowell City Corps youth to help us harvest onions. The kids apply to the city for summer employment in environmental work, and thanks to Sally’s relationship with Lowell schools, they have come here for the past two years. Additionally, volunteers Anne and Sheila removed crab grass from the Brussels sprouts patch—not an easy job even when the weather is nice!

Last Friday, we said goodbye to fieldworker Maggie as she returns to Colby for her senior year. Thanks, Maggie, and all of our volunteers for your good work and positive energy!

See you in the field,
Your Farmers

Summer Crops Update: Special Water Zombies Edition

Crops Updates are written by Drumlin Farm Crops Manager Matt Celona.

Photo by Pei Ren

Photo by Pei Ren

Call Us Water Zombies
All day long and into the night we haul barrel after barrel of the precious ichor to our plant overlords, and yet they are forever thirsty. We became Water Zombies on Saturday, when yet another round of thunderstorms decided we could do without it: “They have so much organic matter at Drumlin Farm, they can get by on humidity! Let’s go rain on a place that really needs it.” (While it’s true that our soil is very rich, we still need at least some rain to keep our crops healthy!)

We’ve started watering the tomato patch to keep this important crop from flagging. In these relentlessly sunny and hot conditions, the precipitation we had last Tuesday didn’t go far. We’re encouraged by the forecast for thunderstorms over the next several days, but we will continue to water and seed until we get a real rain.

First Watermelons in Two Years
We will begin harvesting storage onions and watermelon this week. We never watered these crops, but they still look good! The electric fence has so far kept the coyotes out of the melons. We are excited by the prospect of our first watermelon harvest in two years. We are now harvesting larger quantities of husk cherries, cherry tomatoes, and heirloom slicing tomatoes. Tomato flavors are intense this year as a result of the weather, so, if you’re a tomato lover, come to the stand today to sample one positive side of the drought.

See you in the field,
Your Water Zombies

Our Farm Fields are Living Classrooms

Post by Drumlin Farm Food and Farm Educator Emma Scudder

If you’ve ever ventured down to Boyce Field, home of Drumlin’s crops operation, then you know the beauty of the place. As far as the eye can see are rows and rows of vegetable plants. (Maybe I’m biased as a farm educator, but to me there is no better sight!) However, beyond affording a beautiful view, Boyce Field serves the equally important but lesser known role of classroom for our many visitors, students, and campers.

As an outdoor learning space, Boyce Field is a dynamic place where our school programplanting participants experience hands-on learning that’s connected to classroom curriculum and science standards. When schools sign up for field trips, teachers often give us information about the concepts they are studying, where they are in their unit, and the main curriculum connections they hope to make. With this information, we’re able to assign students a chore that’s not only tied to classroom learning but is also meaningful work.

weedoutThis past May, students learned about plant lifecycles while helping to de-bud first-year strawberry plants. (In order to encourage healthy growth in newly panted strawberries, we don’t harvest fruit; instead we remove their blossoms so they will not produce fruit.) Before we began, we reviewed the phases of the plant life cycle and how pulling flowers off of the young plants allows them invest their energy into growing strong roots and leaves, so that next year we can harvest delicious fruit from healthy, hearty crops. Students were able to observe strawberry plants that were in their second season, which were noticeably fuller and heavy with strawberries, and make the connection that the work they did will have a long-term positive impact on the plants and our farm.

Of course the learning doesn’t stop at the end of the school year: In the summer, campers have potatobeetlethe opportunity to delve into the crops operation at the busiest and most exciting time of the season. Recently, one group of campers, whose session focused on sustainable farming, spent an afternoon learning about and practicing sustainable pest control, picking Colorado potato beetles off of potato plants. As we went, campers were asked to think about how the practices we use at Drumlin are different from some other farms, where chemical pesticides are sprayed, and the environmental impacts of both methods. The afternoon flew by as campers explored issues related to our food system.

An added bonus: All this learning happens to be a big help to our crops operation! So far this season, program participants have contributed 65 hours of meaningful work, all while engaging in scientific learning in ways they never could have in an indoor classroom.