Thank you Hartney Greymont!

For those of you driving out to the farm today – you might notice the Hartney Greymont arborists pruning our beautiful iconic oak down in the field- thanks guys!

November Newsletter

Autumn’s pageant has already passed, leaving drifts of red, yellow and orange confetti as evidence of that somber parade, only to disappear promptly into the bellies of makeshift plywood box trucks.  Fall in New England, once signaled by the tang of smoke from burning piles of leaves, the gentle sound of raking, morning frost and early evenings, is now heralded by the endless drone of leaf blowers and leaf vacuums.  More traditional signs of the waning year can still be found on our front porch—winter squash of various sizes and varieties, crisp-sweet carrots, homely potatoes and rutabagas, and a selection of the hardier greens like spinach, lettuce and kale. All make for welcome, warming fare on cold evenings, but they won’t last long—as temperatures begin to plunge, our offerings will dwindle until, when temperatures barely rise above freezing, we call it a season.

We began the 2014 season with a very slow warm up, at least compared to recent history.  Although we didn’t have any late frost, the lingering cool temperatures may have affected our blueberry and apple crops by discouraging bee activity during bloom time, and by slowing the development of key pests that, during a more ‘normal’ spring, could be controlled by one or two carefully timed sprays. We suspect that, because the materials we are allowed to use under the organic regimen have virtually no residual activity, a longer period of egg hatch in response to cool weather may have meant that a significant number of winter moth were continuing to emerge after we thought we had dealt with them.

After that unusual spring, which followed a very cold winter, the season began to shape up nicely.  We continued to experiment with transplanting greenhouse seeded starts of plants we usually seed directly—spinach, beets, cilantro, dill—with the result that we began harvest of those crops up to three weeks earlier than we otherwise might have.  Asparagus harvest from the old McGrath field was robust, almost double what it had been the previous year. We moved our early kale, arugula and radishes to fields that hadn’t grown crops in that family for many years, and so escaped the usual onslaught of flea beetles.  We did the same for our potatoes, and they likewise (mostly) escaped the usual onslaught of Colorado potato beetles. The cold winter, or some other less apparent factor, seemed to suppress and delay the annual invasion of striped cucumber beetles, with the result that all our crops in the ‘cucurbit’ (squash, cukes, melons) family produced well and over longer periods than we have come to expect (except our watermelons, and that’s because the crows have developed a taste for them).  On the other hand, the usual smattering of leafminers that afflict our chard, spinach and beets increased to a bona fide infestation, which repeated itself several times over the course of the season even affecting crops well into October—an unprecedented and worrisome development.  For the most part, however, our crops prospered under the enthusiastic and expert care of our staff—and the farm prospers with the continued support and enthusiasm of our customers.

If you visit the farm over the next week or two, you can expect to find some self-serve offerings during times when the temperatures are above freezing, and we will continue to attend Union Square Somerville market on Saturdays 9-1, and Central Square Cambridge market on Mondays 12-5 until Thanksgiving.  We still have plenty of delicious carrots and can easily accommodate additional orders for 25 lb bags ($25 each)—just contact us at hutchfarm@earthlink.net and we can set up a pickup time.  For a more or less up to date list of everything we have available, check our website.

Thanks again for your continued support. We hope all of you enjoy the winter ahead—or if that’s not possible, at least tolerate it. Before we know it, winter will seem like a vaguely unpleasant dream as we wake to a bright July morning with the prospect of sunny weather, adventure, and fresh picked tomatoes, blueberries and sweet corn.

 

Thank you for a great season!
-Brian, John, Gordon, and the Hutchins Farm crew

Around the farm, October 2014

October 1st, Chili peppers for a chilly day

October 4th, Popcorn picking time!

October 8th, It might be October, but shockingly we’re still picking cherry tomatoes!

October 14th, Feels like spring today! The spinach agrees…

October 18th, Bliss and Sunday Sweet Squashes

October 21st, Closing date it near (and farming puns are still with us…)

October 23rd, rain and wind

October 28th, Halloween is approaching and we’ve got jack-o-lanterns!

October 28th, Frank the over-sized rutabaga.

October 30th – it’s the last Belmont Farmers Market of the season!

October 31st – Happy Halloween! Don’t be afraid driving down monument street tonight- the crew was just having a bit of holiday fun :)

Joe Palumbo – 95 years of wisdom, humor, and generosity

Last week Hutchins Farm lost a great friend, and Concord lost a great farmer. Joe Palumbo and his 95 years of wisdom, humor, and generosity will be missed. Joe and his brother Frank ran Palumbo Farms on Lexington Road for decades; well know wholesale growers of so many different crops including celery, carrots, and in their final years the finest sweet corn. The Palumbo brothers were our mentors as we started farming in the early 70’s. When Hutchins Farm was just taking root, Joe and Frank were our farm neighbors; they rented the 35 acres next door. At first skeptical of what these two boys on the other side of the fence were up to with their organic methods, the Palumbos became our friends and helped us in so many ways to become better farmers. Their good and kind advice was always welcome. When the Palumbos retired, Hutchins Farm was fortunate to be chosen by the town to assume Frank and Joe’s lease of the Peter Spring field off Bedford road, and we have benefited so much from their fine stewardship of those acres. We also bought their vintage carrot washing equipment; every time we wash a carrot batch (and boy do we do that a lot!) we think of Joe and Frank. In his later years Joe stopped in often to check on the latest crop, marvel at the newest machine, and generally make everyone laugh heartily. A kind, gentle and generous man, a great friend, a great farmer – we’ll miss you Joe, you gave us so much, thank you.

Hutchins Farm Closing Date and Bulk Orders 2014

This brief e-mail is the official announcement that our annual signup for bulk carrot and potato bags begins today, Sunday the 5th. As usual, carrots will be available in 25 lb bags, and we have such an abundant and beautiful crop this fall that we’ve decided to drop our price back down to $25.  Potatoes will be available in 50 lb bags for $40. You can either sign up in person at the farmstand, or you can e-mail us.  For carrots, simply let us know how many bags you would like to reserve.  For potatoes, please let us know if you prefer white potatoes (Kennebec) or yellow potatoes (we will supply either Carola or Keuka Gold based on supplies), and let us know if we can substitute if we’re out of your first choice. Please remember that preferences are not guaranteed!  Supplies of all products are limited, and orders will be filled in the same sequence they were received. If we reach your name on the list and have run out of your first choice potato, but you have not indicated that substitutions are ok, you will not receive any potatoes. We will contact you in late October to let you know when and if your order has been filled. Bags can be picked up during the last week of October or by special arrangement.

We also have bumper crops of other items suitable for storage including beets, cabbage, and winter squash for which we may be offering volume discounts while they are plentiful during October—call or stop in for details.

We will be closing for the season on Sunday, November 2nd at 5PM, but will likely be able to maintain a small self-serve produce display through Thanksgiving. Please check our website for updates. Thank you all for shopping with us this season – we hope to see you this month as we say goodbye to the growing season, and hello to winter’s rest!

Around the farm September 2014

September 3rd, lots of tomatoes

September 16th, Winter Squash time!

September 19th, Sweet Potato Harvest

September 25th, oh the pumpkins

September 27th, Morning harvest

Concord “Ag” Day and Apple Update

August was feeling like September, but September has rocked us back to July. Just a reminder that summer crops are still abundant! We’ve got tomatoes pouring in from the fields, and winter squash is starting to make its voice heard in the farmstand. We also want to remind everyone about Concord Ag Day on Saturday, September 13th when Main St. is closed and downtown Concord is transformed into a one-day farmer’s market. Most of the numerous farms located in town will have stands set up at the market which will run from 10AM until 2PM. As a result, we will not be attending the Somerville Union Square Farmers’ Market- our apologies to our Somerville customers! We’ll be back the following week. Ag Day also kicks of Concord’s second annual Farm and Garden Fair, highlighting events like the Ag Day farmer’s market, the Stone Soup dinner at Verrill Farm, and a wide variety of farm and garden tours, restaurant specials, and other events. Hutchins will be hosting two tours in the afternoon on Sunday the 14th-one at 1:30 PM, and another at 3:30. (no need to sign up in advance this year) For further details on the Farm and Garden Fair, check out www.concordfood.ning.com.

            For those who have been contacting us about bulk purchases of storage crops, keep an eye out for another e-mail in early October. Supplies of carrots and potatoes look good. Winter squash also looks abundant for a change, but about the apples – well, that’s a different story. Here is a note from John about apples:

Scarce and perplexing sums up our 2014 apple crop prospects. With the limits of organic practices we had expected a lighter crop this year after a bountiful crop like that of 2013. An inability to thin significantly in the short time period after early June fruit set in one year reduces the prospects of a strong return bloom the following Spring. The chemical thinning materials that would make that possible are not permitted in organic orchards. Still we can usually expect and indeed had at least a light bloom this May. The set however was terrible almost throughout our different orchard blocks.

     We do have a crop of Macoun, Gala and Senshu in the orchard just below the farm stand. Though a little spotty we will harvest a near normal crop in that area. These trees represent about 10 percent of the farm’s potential crop.Our organic disease and insect controls proved their usual effectiveness.

     Virtually nothing anywhere else. Why? Alternate ‘off’ year for many varieties after last year’s big crop; we also think three other factors may also be involved:

1) Until this past one recent winters have been mild. Dramatic temperature drops as in the 2013-2014 winter reduce the viability of fruit buds. Trees may appear to bloom, but their reproductive elements – pollen, stamens, pistils – may be damaged. Our orchards are mostly in the valley. The planting below the farm stand is the only one with even a hint of elevation and it has a crop. Most commercial orchards are on hillsides, slopes where there is air movement. Our orchard is at the bottom of a hill where the cold settles.

2) Pollinating insects were late due to the cool spring. The different wild bee/pollinators were almost invisible during bloom. Andy and Nick’s honey bees arrived only just as the apples were blooming.

3) Finally this year’s Spring was cool and slow. Winter moth is a challenging new pest, populations building only in the last three or four years. The organic materials – BT, spinosad, and our light horticultural oil – we can direct at winter moth eggs and larvae have short effective lives, and have no persistence and no effect on any larvae inside buds.   Where the winter moth emergence in a warm Spring was fast and concentrated, our schedule of control was adequately effective in our apples – and blueberries. With emergence drawn out over the slow, cool Spring our organic material defenses are not enough. The orchard block below the farm stand is not as much in the lee of overarching oaks from which winter moth larvae can float as the other orchard blocks with absent fruit set. Once inside the fruit bud the larvae destroy it though from a distance the emerging flower appears to bloom. Conventionally sprayed orchards are not affected by winter moth.

So we will have a few apples. The pressure to produce will probably put more imperfections on the table. More apples would mean more perfect ones. Fortunately the autumn vegetable harvest looks awesome. Please tolerate our meager apple crop this year and hope for another stellar crop in 2015.   Oh, no Honeycrisp at all.

Thank you for your support,

         John, Brian, and all of us at Hutchins

Around the farm August 2014

Melons are trickling in August 5th

Yum! August 12th

Hello gorgeous! August 2oth

Feels like fall down in the fields this evening -August 29th

2014 Mid-Season Newsletter

July has ripened into August and the trinity of soil, sunshine and water is working its yearly alchemy, transforming itself into the variety of leaf, root and fruit that we recognize as food. It is humbling to contemplate the paradoxes that underlie our operation (really our entire enterprise as humans)-that the systems we are part of and depend on are so resilient, yet at the same time are fragile and susceptible to destruction or transformation in so many ways. Sudden disasters in the short term-catastrophic weather events most notably-can wreak havoc on the crops of a given season, can damage or destroy valuable infrastructure and equipment. But quietly underfoot, that underlying fundamental-the soil-remains resilient and ready to resume its annual magic. Events that unfold over longer periods, months or years, decades even, so slow sometimes that you can’t even tell that change is occurring, can expose the fragility of these seemingly robust systems. Witness the acres of prime farmland paved over and built up; witness the globalization of local pests and diseases that can render once important crops impractical or impossible to raise; witness the looming chaos that is climate change and all the cascading, unpredictable changes it will create.

In the meantime, we try to recognize what is good, what is of value in the world in the moment we inhabit (‘mindful’ is the new buzzword)-and in this moment, this high golden summer season of this particular year, unique, never to be repeated, there are many blessings to be counted, among them: glorious, vine-ripe tomatoes; tender, sweet corn; bounteous potatoes tumbling up out of the soil; fat, snappy peppers both sweet and hot; and countless other humble gifts of soil and sweat. Events, conditions, circumstances have conspired with our plans and efforts to create an remarkably productive season, a serene and beautiful moment in the midst of the troubled flow of events that swirl about the wider world.

We’re about halfway through that season now. Like always, there are some shortfalls, outright failures, wasted efforts. The celebrated blueberries were somewhat sparse (and are through); apples likewise look to be a short crop-but the number of beautiful crops this season seems exceptional. I may have just jinxed it with that previous sentence (and the following), but all present appearances seem to indicate a bountiful second half of the season. This is the summer to really make full use of that freezer so that later, shivering in winter’s gloom, you can briefly sneak back to summer’s sweet warmth, or at least its echo in your cozy kitchen in February.

We’ll hopefully see you at the farmstand or farmers’ markets as we head into the final month of summer. Please check our website for more (but not perfectly) up-to-date information about our selection.

Brian Cramer
Farm Manager
Hutchins Farm

 

Around the farm July 2014

Shelling Peas July 1st

Sunflowers July 3rd

Green Beans July 4th

Birds Nest in the Squash, July 12th

Carrot Harvest, July 16th

Sweet Corn, July 19th

Flower Bouquet making, July 26th

Eggplant, July 30th