Summer CSA – Week 1

Heat wave. What a heat wave. We are starting at 5am this week to get produce in to beat the heat. I wish I could write you a more eloquent blog for your first share, but I’m running on fumes, and my normal 5am-7am office hours are now harvest hours so I can’t squeeze this in tomorrow morning.

We’ve got a great first share this week. Beets are in and looking great, cilantro, scallions, lettuce . . .it’s a great start to summer. Broccoli, peas and zucchini are just around the corner, and guess who else we will have extra early this year?

Yep, tomatoes! Our high tunnel tomatoes are doing really well, and I’d guess we are just 4 weeks away from our first tomatoes of the season, with many more to follow.

It’s starting to look more and more like a vegetable farm around here. Our crew has been working hard trellising peas and tomatoes, last week we cultivated almost everything we have planted. Our sweet potato slips are on their way here from an organic farm in Georgia and we prepared the beds for planting last Thursday, so we can put them in the ground as soon as they arrive.

And we got a new tool. The best tool ever, maybe . . .

We got a water reel. It’s basically a big spool that you park at the end of the bed and pull out a long hose which has a sprinkler attached. The reel then pulls in the sprinkler slowly, watering up to 60 feet to either side of the sprinkler on its way back. Output is up to 40 gallons/minute. We’re using it right now. It’s really awesome. Can you spot Kevin running away from it in this picture?

Our cover crop of rye and vetch turned our really well. We will be mowing and turning this in this week to prepare for our fall plantings!

Ok, that’s it for my brief update. If you signed up for a summer share but didn’t receive an email, please email brittany@upswingfarm.com to confirm your share. First check your spam folder!

For those of you who don’t get a summer share, we will be open for farm stand sales Thursday 4pm-7pm and at the Ashland Farmer’s market, Saturday 9am -1pm. We hope to see you there!

Farm Update, June 1st

Can you believe it? This week is the end of the Spring Share. We’ve somehow already got five weeks of veggie distribution under our belts at our new farm this year, and it feels great. We love operating as a primarily CSA farm. We are grateful for the commitment of our members, who pay upfront, or commit to regular payment plans and are willing to enjoy the seasonal abundance of the farm. It differs from an operating loan from the bank in so many ways, but one of the best reasons it is different, is that we care about you and you care about us. Yes I need money and yes you need high quality produce in sufficient volume to make the relationship work – but it allows for a level of community and relationship building that goes so far beyond what a bank loan can do. Thank you for being a part of our community.

You know what the end of Spring Share means? The start of the summer share! If you signed up for the summer share you will be receiving an email sometime in the next few days reminding you that you signed up, confirming your payment status and with information on where, when and how to pick up your produce!

We are really happy with how our crops are doing right now. Our spring brassica block looks amazing.

And that picture is before this weekend of rain! We would have loved the temps to be a little higher for this gray, wet memorial day weekend, but we needed that moisture and we were ready for it! I’m not there now, but I bet those plants have almost doubled in size already with all this moisture. Off to the right in the picture you can see our new potatoes coming in strong as well.

We had a feeling it would be cool until June up here (ha! remember all those 80+ degree days in May?) so we planted our first two successions of tomatoes in greenhouses. These high tunnel tomatoes went in at the beginning of May and we have fruit set already! The lettuces at the base of the tomato plants will be in the first and second summer shares. By planting lettuce at the base of tomato plants, we can take advantage of the growing space while the tomatoes are smaller, providing a higher overall yield without creating competition between the crops. This is something you can do in the home garden as well. Once we have harvested the lettuce, we will cover the soil with weed mat (see the dark black ground covering to the right) which will smother weeds and also allow the roots of the lettuce plants to break down, feeding the soil ecosystem, which will then help to feed our very hungry tomato plants! The plants are growing fast! Jess is pruning the tomatoes (taking out the “suckers” which are essentially baby tomato plants that grow in the leaf nodes) and trellising (attaching the tomato plants to a string so they stay tall). We’ll be doing this every week for a few months.

We did our fair share of hand weeding last week. Thanks to Denise, Sherry, Joella, Mary, Haley, Avery and Jess for crouching over 300 bed feet of cilantro, 400 bed feet of parsnips and 400 bed feet of carrots to make sure we were in good share for this rain. It was really, really dry. We are so grateful for the rain.

I took Saturday and Sunday off this weekend. It’s easier to stop working when it’s raining, one, because there is less to do, and two, because rain (unless it’s too much) is basically the most profitable thing that can happen on a farm. And I don’t have to water the greenhouses because the plants aren’t using water as readily/it’s not being evaporated by the sun.

When it rains one inch on our ten acre vegetable fields, 270,000 gallons of water falls in that area. Let’s say we wanted to apply the same amount of water ourselves. Right now, the highest rate of water application we can achieve is roughly 50 gallons/minute when our 5 hp pump and filter are working optimally (this is really great, and we are so grateful to have multiple water sources on our farm). 270,000gallons/50gallons per minute/60 minutes per hour = 90 hours of irrigation, or 3.75 days of irrigation (which includes the use of fossil fuel to run the pump, the labor of moving irrigation around and all the trouble shooting that goes with it).

Plants are geniuses at using smaller amount of water to get by, and we’ve made due during very dry growing seasons, but rain is so easy and free . . . I’m so grateful for a rainy day(s).

We also got all the peas trellised before the rain, and before they grow so tall they wouldn’t be able to grab on to their trellising. I planted a lot of peas – hopefully we have time to pick them all!!

The rain has us feeling great, we feel like our fertility plan is working and crops are doing well. We are exhausted to the bone from our infrastructure projects and a month of seedling sale prep and distribution – but, as Jess would say, “We’re doing it!”

Pre-storm and a post-storm sky photos for your enjoyment.

Certified Organic

Yes, we are officially certified organic. It wasn’t as hard as I thought – maybe 40 hours of work on my part for the whole process, plus slight adjustments to our record keeping systems, but otherwise, we were already following the standards. Everyone at Bay State Organic Certifiers was easy to work with.

So, now that we’re certified I can tell you my real feelings about organic certification . . . they are mixed. It’s hard to think of where to start. I will say, that when I’m shopping at a grocery store I try to buy organic. Especially grains/flours/products made with grains because I’m wary of herbicide residues from desiccation practices. I like having the label – it makes me feel a little more confident that there really are no herbicide/pesticide residues on the product I’m purchasing and that those inputs didn’t affect the farm workers or the environment where that food was produced.

But that’s where it ends. I don’t feel confident any product that I buy certified organic in the store was produced in a way that builds soil, truly respects animal welfare and didn’t degrade the ecosystem where it was produced (heck, we are now certified organic and I’m not convinced that we aren’t somewhat degrading our ecosystem). And the organic label doesn’t even touch on human rights/labor justice. It’s a marketing tool. Most of the “organic” farms selling to grocery stores are still basically mono-cropping agribusinesses.

Kevin thinks we can just sell our food for the prices we need to sell it for without being certified, so why bother?

I worry about the elitism that surrounds the organic label. I believe with my whole being that every person regardless of socio-economic status deserves access to food free of chemical inputs that meets their nutritional and cultural needs, within reason. I’m not saying people should get whatever they want, whenever they want it – I’m actually strongly opposed to that, but I don’t think price should be a barrier if someone wants to purchase food without wondering if they are slowly contaminating themselves, or their environment.

Everyone says that I’ll get so many more customers with certification. But I worry about the customers who won’t shop with me because they have a bad attitude about organic, or who will just assume our produce is too expensive. Sure, I can’t match Market Basket prices – but I definitely come close to/match most of the other grocery stores and definitely at least match other local farms, regardless of their certification status. When deciding what to charge, of course I pay attention to what others are charging, but I also try to actually track expenses, to make sure I’m charging reasonable prices to cover costs, still pay employees fairly, make sure that when we’ve run a truck into the ground we’re able to put up a down payment for another, but I really want to charge the least amount of money possible – especially for our CSA members. (PS: I love Market Basket and I love that there is fresh produce available at affordable prices there.)

Also, in terms of getting customers – that’s never been our problem. Land access used to be our biggest problem, now we’re working on building systems for ease of production. Maybe we’ll get so great at growing food we’ll be desperate for customers in a few years, but it’s my hope that we will grow our customer base as we grow. We have GREAT, dedicated customers who I adore and appreciate, especially since they trusted me even before I got the certification. I don’t want to charge them any more than what is reasonable.

The cost of certification isn’t that bad. I’m much more cranky about credit card processing fees than my certification costs. To offset the cost of certification I’d need to charge an additional .0055 cents for every dollar I charge. So a $3 bunch of carrots would actually cost $3.0165. I’m pretty sure if I can eat a 2.9% + 30cent/transaction credit card fee I can eat a .55% organic fee. And, there is a cost-share grant program to offset the certification fee, so it’s really just .36%.

I don’t like to encourage blindly believing that a regulatory authority is worth trusting. The National Organic Program is a part of the USDA, they write the rules and accredit the certifiers. What do you really know about the program? Have you read the standards? Do you know who is on the NOP Board? I’m not advocating that you spend time researching this, I’m just want you to think about who you are trusting to make you feel confident that I’m producing food in a way you approve of.

Also, I know a lot of growers who don’t fully embrace the organic standards who grow excellent food. I don’t think I’m better than they are, or that our produce is better.

It’s a marketing tool. I’m probably drastically reducing it’s impact by trying to be honest about my mixed feelings, but that’s ok, I think my dedicated customers know me well enough now to roll their eyes and keep munching on their bok choy, and those of you who wanted me to prove my methods of production though third party certification – well, here you go! I hope you’ll like us for more than our label.

Yes, our address is incorrect – it’s being adjusted now and I will update the form when I have it.

Oh, and the type-A, needs to make everyone happy and wants approval form authority part of me definitely got a little rush when I received my certification confirmation email. I try to pretend I’m not that girl anymore, but, I’d be remise if I didn’t include that honest truth.

Spring CSA: Week 2, Farm Update

I just wrote a long blog about our organic certification, and now I’m going to rely on pictures again to give a farm update.

I’m about to send an email to everyone who pre-ordered seedlings to remind them that pick up is this weekend, and which day/location they picked, so if you are wondering, you won’t have to wonder for long!

Speaking of seedlings – Kevin, Joella and Terry finished the Hardening off tunnel last Wednesday and then we filled it with seedlings. We really are like those cartoons running out over open air, building the bridge in front of themselves this year. Mostly our seedlings are doing really well, we’ve had a few losses, more about that in your order updates, but our inventory looks really good.

Here is the schedule for our retail sales for seedlings:

On-site in Pepperell
May 16th, 22nd and 23rd, 9am-3pm

Holliston Community Farm
May 16th 9am-3pm
May 18th (Tuesday) 1pm-6pm

We had our first CSA last week and our new-to-us box truck got to put in a little work besides moving farm equipment and supplies from Bellingham/Franklin to Pepperell. It was great to see everyone at distribution, and I don’t know about you but I have been scarfing fresh greens all week! More to come this week!

Dave, the farmer who has farmed this land in Pepperell, and still lives here in a cottage on the property, let us clean up and use his boom sprayer that he made himself. We used it to apply predatory nematodes to our onions and brassicas (broccoli/cabbage). They will grow and hopefully eat onion maggots and cabbage root maggots which can cause stunting and major losses in new transplants. I found onion maggot while scouting this evening (not surprised, we are planting after hay which usually means higher rates of onion maggot). I’m hoping our application was well timed and these pests won’t cause too much damage.

We got some of our first flowers in the ground on Saturday and then planted more today. We planted: ammi, snap dragons, dianthus, cosmos, rudbeckia, atriplex, bachelors buttons, calendula, stock, gaillardia, coreopsis and more. If you haven’t signed up for your flower share, we still have a few left!

Does anyone know anything about maples? Are they setting record numbers of seeds this year? Have I just missed this in the past? I feel like I pay attention, and maybe it’s just that I’m a little further north but the colors of the seed pods as they develop are so striking. It’s been like fall foliage for a while.

And, a picture of my plate on Saturday evening. We’ve been doing a lot of pizza and hot dogs lately . . . it’s just that kind of year. But on Saturday I made a quiche with our eggs, asparagus from our neighbor, mushrooms from our neighbor and greens and carrots from the farm (yes, we have overwintered carrots!). It was pretty special. I planted flowers all day with a friend (and by all day I mean we planted flowers from 3:30-5:00 after spending the rest of the day gathering supplies and preparing beds for planting. I like to say that we have to do a lot of work in order to be able to do our work . . . but it was very relaxing.

We are resting up to the best of our ability (said the farmer who was still blogging at 10:00pm) to get ready for the big seedling sale this weekend. We can’t wait to see everyone!

May Update, Spring Share 1

We are really getting it done this spring. I’m exhausted, which is a scary place to be when harvest is just beginning this week, but I know this is only temporary. Somehow the crops are growing!! Believe it or not, every year I still wonder if crops will grow. Maybe it’s because we’ve been on new ground every year for a while and I’m just unsure of the soil, maybe it’s all still a little bit like magic for me.

We are harvesting tomorrow for our first Spring Share distribution at the Holliston Community Farm, 1pm-5pm, Tuesday, May 4th. Spinach, lettuce, cilantro, arugula and bok choy are slated to be in the first share. Weston Nursery pick up us Thursday, 12:00pm-5:00pm, Thursday, May 6th.

We have been crushing our to-do lists, even with Harvey out of school for ten days sick, and crazy winds and rain storms, we are getting it done in a big way. Our crew is amazing – enthusiastic, talented and ready to make it work.

This team planted a half acre of potatoes in about 2 hours the other day . . . it was the best potato planting we’ve ever done. We don’t have special equipment for planting potatoes and have typically carried heavy buckets around while we drop seed. This year, I rode in the bucket of the tractor (super slow, and Kevin is a wicked safe driver) and Avery and Jess rode on the transplanter. We each planted our own bed. I almost always underestimate how long a task will take, and this was one excellent, surprising moment when it was faster – and really fun.
On the left are the potatoes, and on the right are the onions (can you see the faint green?) That’s 40,000+ onions!!

We’ve been planting like maniacs – and have a made a few major pushes to get plantings in before the rain. (Sometime, like in the picture above and to the right, we get caught in the rain before we are completely done – that was a really wet moment). Last week Joella, a new, part-time employee responded to my call for help at 3:00pm and we had six, 400 foot beds of cabbage planted by 6:00pm. And I managed to get the carrots and parsnips seeded before 9:00. It was hard to do by tractor headlight, but I think I nailed it.

The sky has been incredible lately – and I’ve been making myself take time to stop and appreciate it.

The sky while I was seeding carrots and parsnips before last week’s rain.
The Pink Super Moon was rising while I was kind of stressed out closing the caterpillar tunnels on the 26th – it stopped me in my tracks and put things in perspective.
The super moon as I was finishing up my greenhouse closing loop.
Stormy clouds before a rainstorm.

It is sunny here too! This pic is a little older – I think the rye is about 4 times as tall now. We have planted roughly 3.5 acres, we plowed another 3.5 acres of cover crop last week and then we’ve got about 3.5 more acres in rye and vetch that we are going to let grow for another few weeks before we turn it in.

And we planted the high tunnel tomatoes!!

I apologize that is is a rambling update – I got my second vaccine yesterday (Moderna) and I feel like I have the flu. It’s all good, but I need to rest up so I can harvest tomorrow! More updates to come soon!

April Update

How is April almost half over? I’ve been trying to write this update for three weeks now – I had this crazy notion that I was going to send it by the first – ha! We knew this year would be busy, but we didn’t quite remember what full-on start-up feels like, perhaps because we’ve never done anything this extensive before. The good news is, we’ve got a lot of new team members on board.

Important reminders before I dive in: Spring Share starts May 4th (Holliston) and May 6th (Weston Nurseries/Pepperell) and Seedling Sale Pre-ordering is live until May 9th. We finally put up the photos of the zucchini and summer squash, and have been updating inventory as we pot up plants into their final pots and packs. We will continue to update for the next week, and after that – it’s just grow time!

Where do I start? Our to-do list every week is a two page word document that gets translated onto a white board during our Monday Morning Meeting where we check in with one another and the weather forecast. It’s sometime hard to sit down and talk about what needs to be done when there are so many pressing tasks, but it really helps us “game the week”, as our new manager Jess Clancy says.

We met Jess in 2013 when she worked at Powisett Farm in Dover. Since then she managed Fishkill Farm’s vegetable operation for three years, and for the last five years worked at the Hudson Valley Food Hub. She has a wealth of experience and skills ranging from tractor operation to medicinal herb propagation. And she’s a pleasure to work with.

She has also introduced me to an affliction that I have that I didn’t know what to call until now: Farmer-Time Brain. It’s when you wildly underestimate the amount of time a task will take. I have a serious problem with thinking things will take less time than they do – when we schedule the week I almost always schedule 3 days worth of work for Monday. At least I’ve learned to leave Friday’s fairly unscheduled so there is time to complete all the work I underestimated (and all the work that comes up during the week).

We also hired two assistant growers who will be working with us full time this year: Haley Goulet and Avery Westa come to us with experience working on other farms in Massachusetts. Lucky for us, Haley is interested bringing our social media accounts back to life (for those of you who follow you may have noticed a 4 month lag since our last post – we needed a mental break). Over the next few weeks Haley plans to introduce our crew and update everyone on the goings-on at the farm.

We got our first crops in the field on Friday and Saturday last week! Nearly 3/4 of an acre planted with kale, chard, beets, spinach, scallions, collards, dandelion, radishes, sweet turnip, cilantro, dill, arugula, mustard greens, carrots, peas and lettuce!! Phew! Avery got to learn to drive the transplanting tractor because it’s really nice to take turns – I somehow wasn’t paying attention and planted 1400′ left handed (my weak side).

There were some challenges getting to the point of planting (like a tractor not starting while hooked up to an implement we were about to use) but we got it done. And covered most of it with the biggest piece of row cover I have ever used . . . (which blew off in the wind and we had to re-cover last night – luckily Jess moved in with us and went for the greenhouse closing loop with Harvey and me so we had some help putting it back on).

(Side note on row cover: it’s made of plastic. I’m really questioning the value of growing crops early if it requires plastic – I know we all need to eat, but maybe we should figure out how to invest communally in glass and metal frame greenhouses? Basically, plastic is cheaper (both initially and to maintain) and if short term profits/breaking even are everyone’s priority, investing in more logical and lasting structures isn’t possible. The plastic used in row cover and to cover greenhouses is not really recyclable and re-usable only to a point. As we move forward I’m determined to think critically about some of our material uses and look for alternatives.)

Speaking of greenhouse plastic, in the last month we have skinned 3 high tunnels (two of them are ours, one is rented) and 4 caterpillar tunnels:

Our friend Bob Durling came up to take some pics of the skinning process (and he stopped taking photos when our overzealous attempt to skin a second tunnel in one day resulted in a near blow away). We had a lot of help, both from friends, family, employees and new neighbors.

Greenhouse skinning is stressful – but we got it done, and we are putting them to good use!

A long-term endeavor on the farm is building soil fertility. Since we are applying for organic certification, we can only use certified organic compost if we are spreading it within 120 days of harvest – so we bought in certified compost from Brick Ends Farm for our spring crops which Haley learned to scoop and spread with the tractor and manure spreader before planting last week (and helped me spread with a shovel, rake, and wheelbarrow in the high tunnel we are renting to grow the first spring share).

But composting isn’t everything. A soil test taken last June revealed that the soils on this farm are very deficient in potassium and magnesium. Without a proper balance between calcium, potassium and magnesium many other minerals in the soil are made unavailable both to our crops and to the microbes that live there. So we are adding a lot of those nutrients, as well as micronutrients and nitrogen to make sure this year’s crop will be healthy, and to improve the soil for the future.

We hope to use cover cropping and long fallow periods (2-4 years in cash crops, 2-4 years fallow or in pasture) to build our soil health. And we will continue to use minimal tillage to prepare beds for planting.

Oh, and the wash station. We’ve made some major progress! We got the concrete poured to bring up the floor level in the station barn (after scraping/brushing away the decades of caked-on manure). My mom and dad came out to help and power washed the whole thing for us while the team worked over-time on Saturday to finish planting. We are very lucky to have such supportive parents! Now to put up the washable wall and ceiling surfaces. . . oh and install the coolers, and lights, and plumbing . . .

I hope you feel a little more connected to what we are doing. If I am slow to respond to your emails, please know that I’m working harder than I have in a long time and communications is falling down on the priority list. I promise to get back to you in a few days. I can’t wait to see everyone soon!

Oh, and a special thanks to Jim Tiralli – I have no idea where we would be without him and his signature phrase “I’ve got the tool for that”. We know we are deeply fortunate to have him in our corner – more on this in another email.

March Update

We are cruising on our 2021 farm plan. Thank goodness we’ve started farms before. We know that this year (and next year, and a little bit the year after) will be a big push. The to do list will always feel immense, the urgency of important infrastructure projects will dominate the priority list, and there is a lot of learning and system building every day. You can expertly plan a farm (our friend calls it “farming of the mind”) but then you have to contend with reality: delayed contractors, challenging weather, a broken water heater, new opportunities . . .

We are doing GREAT. (Except we are delayed on listing our seedling sales to our online store. Our goal was March 1st but there has been a massive disruption in seed supply this year due to wildfires, drought and COVID-19 related disruptions – we didn’t want to list things for sale without having viable seed on hand. We are very close now and will send an email as soon as they are uploaded. No later than March 15th!)

We finally listed the FLOWER CSA SHARE on the online store! Our beloved Erin got a job working for Gaining Ground in Grafton. Gaining Ground is a non-profit farm that donates everything they grow to hunger relief organizations in greater Boston. Usually they take lots of volunteers (I highly recommend it, especially for groups) and hopefully will be able to take volunteers this year. Erin is their Farm Education Manager, which, if any of you have ever been on one of Erin’s tours or taken one of her classes you know it is a job she is well suited for and we are very happy for her.

I will be managing the flower share at the new farm this year with an old friend. It was a lot of fun putting the crop plan together and thinking about flowers again after a year off. I can’t wait to actually pick a few buckets of flowers this year! In 2019 I picked 30-50 buckets every week, last year I picked 0!

One of the 2019 bouquets that Bob Durling captured for us.

Our days are not this bright or beautiful right now – it’s mostly brown potting soil, black and beige seeds, silver greenhouse metal and gray concrete in the wash station. I’m so ready for some green!

We got the stanchion barn cleaned up in time for the concrete cutter to start removing the curbs (left photo). Our goal is to have a smooth, level floor with drains so we can ROLL vegetables around. Last year we picked up the produce so many times. One goal in designing new spaces on this farm is to preserve our backs and take advantage of wheels as much as possible.

We also removed 6 horse stalls which makes room for storage and work space (second photo). We saved all the wood for future use.

And we have made major progress on our greenhouses (last photo, which is not actually up to date, but it’s dark now and I can’t take one!). We hope to skin the first two next week . . . but in the mean time . . .

We planted the first seeds! Ali, Karen and Melissa (our Ashland/Franklin/Bellingham Team) came up for the day on Sunday to help us get off to a good start and see the new farm! It was so nice to see everyone and get work done! We seeded 170 trays, and we’ll do another 100 more tomorrow . . .

We are renting this greenhouse from a farm across the street. We are super lucky to have a fully functional propagation house available to rent. Thanks Phil and Lynn (and Frank for building such a great greenhouse – we are definitely stealing some design ideas for ours)!!!!

We hope you are all staying warm, and thank you, again for your continued support! We can’t wait to show up with veggies and see you all again soon!

In case you hadn’t heard . . .

We bought a farm. It took 26 months and one failed attempt, but we are now farming permanently at 65 Brookline St, Pepperell, MA. Read more about our farm acquisition here.

It’s kind of hard to see, but the bright green in the background is 6.5 acres of rye and vetch cover crop we planted in September, and the mid-ground dull green is 3.5 acres of oats planted at the same time. Yes, we gambled and prepared land we didn’t own – it was the only way we would be ready to start paying our mortgage in 2021.

So, now the work begins.

Our plan this year is to:

  • construct 5 high tunnels and 4 caterpillar tunnels, totaling nearly 18,000 square feet of protected growing space
  • retrofit the old stanchion barn to create a FSMA compliant, comfortable and efficient wash and pack facility
  • make all necessary structural, electrical and plumbing repairs to ensure the safety of the existing infrastructure
  • modify the main house to create separate living space for 3 farm employees
  • complete our organic certification application and receive organic certification
  • add compost/manure/organic matter to 10 acres of land prepared last season for vegetable production
  • grow and sell produce for a 4 season CSA (SIGN UP NOW sliding scale pricing, payment plans and SNAP/HIP payment options available), beginning distribution in May for 3 CSA pick up locations, AND attend the Ashland Farmer’s Market and offer online produce ordering for our CSA pick up sites
  • partner with regional producers of other agricultural products to sell through our online store.

Our future goals we hope to begin working on this year:

  • provide access to farmland for other new/beginning farmers who face land access barriers through secure, low-cost leases and equity sharing collaborations and to diversify the farm by inviting in growers with diverse enterprises like: egg and meat production, beekeepers, orchardists, mushroom growers . . .
  • work with area conservation groups to increase access to public lands that abut the farm by creating an on-farm trail that connects these spaces, and adding parking to increase access
  • collaborate with individuals and groups interested in creating community programming and products relating to food, farming and land-based education

We’ve been doing lots of the regular early season work: hiring, crop planning, greenhouse planning, managing CSA sales, and ordering supplies. And we’ve made some major progress on some of our early projects.

We’ve had lots of help from the Jim’s in our life (my dad and our friends). We’ve leveled an existing cement pad and drilled holes in it for the ground posts for our propagation house. That sentence summed up many days of work and problem solving very succinctly!! Kevin is actually out there right now, with Jim T. moving snow out of the way and preparing put up the first ribs!

We’ve also set the ground posts for the first of two high tunnels we hope to complete before May, the second two will be completed in the late summer.

And we’ve made some progress in the demolition needed to prepare for the cement work in the stanchion barn. We can’t wait to be able to push produce on wheels instead of carry it around.

My arms are very sore from knocking out half of that concrete curb yesterday.

We’re moving along in the hiring process – it’s amazing how many talented and passionate people are interested in working with us – we are very excited to be putting together an all-star team.

And we are overwhelmed by the support of our CSA customers who have signed up in droves for our CSA shares this year. Your up front support makes this all possible – and we can’t wait to get started growing food for you. I mean, the work we do now is a part of growing the food, not a very romantic part, but we’re getting all mushy thinking about starting our first seeds on March 1st.

“March 1st?!” you ask? Yes – we are renting a propagation greenhouse from a neighbor to get us started this year, just in case ours isn’t finished on time. We just had the heater serviced on Tuesday and everything seems to be in working order. I should probably get around to unpacking and organizing the first seed order . . .

We’re working on plans to effectively heat this old farm house, but for now, I don’t mind dressing for the weather!

Thanks for reading and thanks for your support! Stay warm.

Fall CSA: 4th Distribution

Our greens (and many of our field crops) are safe. Some growing in greenhouses, some harvested and stored in the cooler. I wasn’t sure it would happen this year, but our cooler is stuffed to the gills.

I love greenhouse growing (in fall, winter and spring). I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m a control freak and I am allowed a little more control than in the field. We have a really nice crop of spinach, lettuce and frisee/escarole we are “banking” for the last distribution (next week). Believe it or not, all your greens this week will come from the field. We did rush to harvest some before the snow, and some we kept under row cover, and then under piles of heavy snow, but they will come out ok.

When temps get below 28, like they did Saturday morning, that’s when we start to lose crops that are otherwise somewhat cold hardy. But a nice insulating layer of snow can go a really, really long way in protecting those crops from the cold. It hadn’t all melted yesterday when I was at the farm, but I feel pretty confident that everything we left in the field will be ok.

And sweeter! The colder it gets the sweeter our fall veggies get. Plants that can “overwinter” begin creating and storing more sugars when the days get shorter and the weather gets colder. These sugars, which plants as energy when things warm up and the plants convert to seed creating growth in spring. We, however, intercept these plants while still full of sugar (and vitamins and minerals and fiber).

You know what else is sweet? A functioning democracy. Don’t forget to vote on Tuesday. If you can’t make it to pick up because you are voting or volunteering, please just send kevin@upswingfarm.com an email and we can arrange an alternative pick up. The easiest option for us is for you to come to Weston Nurseries on Thursday, 12pm-5pm, but we also have offers from members to deliver shares, or you might be able to pick up at a few other locations.

Tuesday temps are going to drop down to 26 at night from a high of 40. I’m not sure when we will hit “freezing” but as most of you know, our produce doesn’t like to be at less than 32 degrees after harvested. We encourage Tuesday members to come before 5pm this week, but we will be there until 6, as usual.

It’s another great few weeks to be eating local produce. We’ve got great variety in the share and we hope you enjoy it. Our potatoes, coming form Sparrow Arc Farm are here abundantly. Harvest was slowed for them, the rain that didn’t rain all summer to help the crops grow came in a deluge during harvest, slowing down the process and delaying delivery. We were fine to wait.

We love being patient and understanding. It feels WAY better than being demanding and disappointed. Kindness and understanding provide generosity and flexibility but requires little more than grace and patience. We are so grateful to all our customers and community members who are patient and understanding with us.

Jess has some great recipes this week, but I just wanted to add one that I’m really into right now:

Fennel, watermelon radish and shallot salad
One bulb fennel
One watermelon radish (peeled)
One small shallot, or half a shallot
1 tsp balsamic
1TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP orange juice or 1 tsp lemon on lime juice
1 tsp honey
Lettuce, pea tendrils or other salad greens
Instructions: Chop fennel, radish and shallot very finely, but allow for “longer” pieces, no need to dice. Toss with dressing ingredients and serve on top of salad greens, or mix with salad greens.

We hope you enjoy your veggies!!!!

What’s in the share:
brussels sprouts: (roughly 1 quart)
potatoes: 3-4 pounds
mix and match 3-4 pounds: small cabbage, beets, rutabaga, sweet turnips, fennel, green peppers, watermelon radish
carrots: 1 bunch
lettuce heads/mix: (depends on yield)
pea tendrils: 1 bag
herb choices 2: cilantro, parsley, baby celery, thyme, sage, oregano
leeks: 1 pound
shallots/garlic pint
greens choice, choose 1: escarole, frisee, tatsoi (like a combo between spinach and bok choy), sugar loaf chicory
sweet potatoes, squash or pumpkins mix and match

Recipes

SIMPLE LEEK FRITTATAhttps://www.cookinglight.com/recipes/simple-leek-frittataPerfect for breakfast or a quick weeknight meal.
CHICKEN WITH CREAMY DILL AND LEEK SAUCEhttp://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/252715/chicken-with-creamy-dill-leek-sauce/Whenever I see leeks, I think of this recipe. This is my favorite way to roast chicken. Not only is it super easy but it makes a whole meal in one roasting pan (although I usually add a salad as well). As an added bonus, cooking the chicken on a base of veggies keeps it from splattering grease all over the oven, causing massive quantities of smoke to pour out of the oven and setting off your fire alarms. While this is a great way to ensure that your family knows it’s time for dinner, I prefer the quieter method used in this recipe.
20 LEEK RECIPES THAT ARE LIKE “ONIONS WHO?”https://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/slideshow/23-favorite-leek-recipes-like-onionsLeeks have a more delicate and slightly sweeter flavor than onions – these recipes really highlight their amazing flavors.
CREAMY MASHED POTATOEShttps://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/our-favorite-creamy-mashed-potatoesLooking for the perfect mashed potato recipe? Look no further. They recommend using a ricer but they’re still delicous if you mash them by hand.
SWEET POTATO VEGGIE BURGERShttps://www.ambitiouskitchen.com/vegan-sweet-potato-burgers/These veggie burgers happen to be vegan as well (but I don’t like to put that in the name because it scares people away). They’re DELICIOUS.
ESCAROLE SALAD WITH RED QUINOA AND HAZELNUTShttps://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/escarole-salad-red-quinoa-and-hazelnutsThe honey vinaigrette and apple contrast beautifully with the slightly bitter escarole and the quinoa adds some protein making this perfect for a light lunch or dinner side.
APPLE, CARROT & CABBAGE CHOPPED SALADhttp://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/252998/apple-carrot-cabbage-chopped-salad/This colorful autumn slaw has a hint of cinnamon and orange.
SAUSAGE MEATBALL SANDWICHES WITH FENNELhttps://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/sausage-meatball-sandwichesThese meatball subs are a step above any meatball sub you’ve ever had before. The sauteed fennel in the sauce and the simple basil sauce really take it to the next level.
CREAMY ROOT VEGETABLE STEW WITH GRUYERE CROSTINIhttps://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/creamy-root-vegetable-stew-with-gruyre-crostiniWhenever I see rutabaga, I think of this recipe. Surprisingly hearty for a vegetable stew and the gruyere crostini with fresh rosemary are scrumptious!
WATERMELON RADISH 411https://www.peelwithzeal.com/watermelon-radish-recipes/Everything you ever need to know about watermelon radishes! How to store them, how to cook them, and even how to make a cocktail with them!



Fall CSA: 3rd Distribution

I hiked up Mt Wachusett by myself last week. Kevin took Harvey to help him repair a piece of equipment. It was really nice to be away from everything for a half a day. I highly recommend it. I parked at the Audubon Sanctuary and hiked the mid-state trail, but there are lots of other trails and roads. I was impressed with how accessible it was. The photo is of Echo lake, close to the top of the mountain. It was a perfect day.

We took it easy last week. The pictures below might look like I’m a great mom and Harvey is a perfect kid, but honestly, snagging a smiling picture is an accomplishment. It was important to take a little time to be one on one with Harvey without trying to also get things done on the farm, or around the house and to take a little time away from Harvey, because parenting takes a lot of effort. If you feel like a terrible parent right now, don’t worry, you aren’t. That’s what Kevin tells me anyway.

Last Monday was Indigenous People’s Day. As I get older (35) time has gotten a lot smaller. One hundred years doesn’t seem like much. Five hundred is even comprehensible and can be a part of my linear understanding of time as opposed to some abstract, disconnected history. I can imagine New England before colonization and industrialization. I can stand in the forest even with the sounds of airplanes and car traffic humming in the background and imagine no suburban sprawl. No houses that couldn’t easily be re-made with natural materials. No fences.

But there are still people in that imagining. Many Indigenous people who managed a vast ecosystem with the intention of cultivating immense quantities of food to be accessible without excessive work.  The land management practices of Southern New England’s Indigenous peoples were so different from those of the arriving colonizers from Europe, that they couldn’t see what was right in front of their faces. They decided that because the land was not “improved” based on European standards that it must be up for grabs.

Many early contracts between Indigenous populations and settlers in Southern New England are now understood to be a cultural misunderstanding (perhaps deliberate misunderstandings in many cases) with grave consequences. Indigenous people harvested much of their animal proteins through fishing, foraging and hunting. They managed forests with slow-burning fires to create easily navigated hunting grounds. They negotiated land use rights between families and tribes. But there was no concept of land ownership, only land use. Fences would have no use, since there were no domesticated animals to contain (and keep away from the cultivated plots). When they made agreements with colonizers, they most likely understood them as land use, or usufruct rights, not ownership.

What if we had managed to preserve Indigenous sovereignty and adopted their views towards land and ownership? What would the landscape look like today?

Chris Newman, an Indigenous farmer in Virginia, is imagining a regenerative and sustainable food system that goes beyond any fantasies of going back to white settler-owned small farms.  He posted recently on Instagram:

What if agriculture could be completely different?
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What if farmers’ compensation and equity weren’t tied to the value and commodification of owned land, or a pipe dream that people will someday pay the “true value” for food?
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What if, for every 1,000 acres of “farmland,” only 100 were devoted to intensive regenerative agriculture, with the rest devoted to extensive indigenous management?
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What if that 900 acres were managed to produce a diverse, healthy, culturally appropriate diet for free or pay-what-you-can to communities suffering under food apartheid, all in a rich ecosystem expressing its natural character and remaining open to the public?
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What if BIPOC farmers spent 10% of their time doing this extensive management and actually got paid for it?
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What if we reimagined our ideas of what parks and green space – things the public happily pays for anyway – are, and what aims they serve?
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What if tax dollars, institutional endowments, and private fortunes paid for this low-maintenance landscape model?
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What if a farm producing 50K chickens for $1M revenue had an additional $1M revenue from extensive land management?
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What if half that extra $1M went to real living wages for people in the food system?
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What if the other half, free of the need to produce returns for speculative investors, turned that $20 chicken into a $10 chicken?
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What if we turned the power of public and large, private purses and landscapes toward an agriculture and ecology that ACTUALLY worked for everyone? What if we did subsidies in a way that actually works?
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What. If. We. Won?”

We are not going back to anything. We are going forward and one of our many opportunities for success (if the goal is to preserve our planet by protecting and sustaining the life on it) is to center Indigenous communities whose land we stand on right now.

We are very interested in expanding our vision of food production to be more equitable and sustainable.

Additional Resources (and indirect references):
Hunger For Justice Podcast Series
Commons and Enclosure in the of Colonization of North America
Chris Newman’s Blog
“Changes in the Land,” by William Cronon.

….back to the here and now. It finally rained a lot. Maybe better late than never? I don’t know. What a year. I keep catching up with farmer friends on the phone who I would probably have run into already at some point this year at a workshop or gathering of some sort if it weren’t for COVI-19 and it’s the same story for all of us. Somehow there is still food to harvest and distribute, but we can’t figure out how because it’s been such a tough growing season. It’s nice to have peers who understand. I recommend calling someone you love/admire/respect who you haven’t chatted with recently and ask them how they are doing.

What’s in the share:
carrots: one bunch
radish: one bunch
onions: one pound
sweet potatoes: two pounds
head lettuce: two
mild mixed greens: one bag (a little larger than salad leaf, just cut before adding to salad or lightly saute. We just ate some under lentils and rice and they were lovely.)
spinach: one bag
pumpkin/butternut: 4 pounds
napa cabbage: one head
peppers/eggplant/tomatoes: 1-2 pounds
choose 3: beets, sweet turnips, kale, collards, chard, arugula, fennel, frisee, bok choy, herbs
hopefully brussels sprouts*

*we have a bad case of aphids in the Brussels sprouts this year. We did everything we could to have great brussels sprouts (except for spray them with toxic chemicals). It’s rough. But that’s farming in 2020 for you.

Baby ladybug on a brussles sprout plant infested with aphids. Here’s some more info about aphids on the brassica family, in case you are interested. We are picking the best brussels to put in the share this week but unfortunately, we are going to loose a fair amount to aphids. They won’t be perfect, but we just ate a pint and they were delicious.