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

Around the farm, June 2014

Lettuce is ready to go for opening day!

Farmstand opening Sat, June 7th for the season!

Our official farmstand opening will be this Saturday the 7th of June, at which point self-serve sales of produce will be discontinued.  We’ll open (as usual) each day at 11AM, close at 6PM, and the stand will be closed all day on Mondays. Although the weather has warmed somewhat, many crops are lagging behind where they ‘should’ be.  Lettuce will be abundant for the foreseeable future, with spinach, arugula, radishes and cilantro somewhat less so.  We will continue to pick asparagus and green garlic for about another week after we open, and chard, parsley, kale, escarole, endive, and basil should be in evidence our opening weekend or shortly thereafter.  Alas we won’t see the earliest strawberries (usually our signal to open for the season) until a good week after we open.  Other arrivals to expect by mid-month include summer squash, cucumbers, purslane, and perhaps some peas and beets.  Plant sales have been strong, and our selection has been picked over, but we still have some tomatoes (with a few more to come this weekend), eggplant, peppers, hot peppers, and a miscellaneous smattering of other plants.  New herb plants will continue to appear this month, as will another round of broccoli and cabbage, and some cauliflower for the ambitious gardener. Please check our website for more (but not perfectly) up-to-date information about our selection.

As we embark on another season-long adventure in agriculture, intrepidly pursuing our elusive quarry: an uninterrupted, plentiful supply of beautiful, delicious, fresh fruits and vegetables grown without chemicals or compromise, we hope you will find time to stop by to share in the fruits (and vegetables) of our efforts.

Brian Cramer
Farm Manager
Hutchins Farm

Around the farm, May 2014

Seedling selection is growing slowly on the porch

The Central Square Farmers Market starts Monday, May 19th in Cambridge- we’ll be here 12pm-6pm all season!

May 22, The tomato wagon is out front at the farmstand – heirloom, hybrid, plum, and cherry varieties are all waiting to go into your garden.

May 24th, the Union Square Farmers Market starts for the season – 9am-1pm every Saturday until November!

Around the Farm 4/17/14

It happened! Wow!

Hutchins Farm April 2014 Newsletter

Although the weather makes it seem like the growing season is a long way off, signs of spring are slowly appearing, and the untidy remnants of winter are receding into the shadows where we still stumble on them unsuspecting, grateful for the warmth, light and life that are surely coming. 

            Among the first stirrings of spring is the sprouting of parsnips. Nourished by sugars stored last summer in their now-prodigious roots, they begin to send up a few leaves in preparation for their second, final, reproductive season (they are biennials—growing vegetatively for a first season, then flowering the second).  Dug at this stage, before they convert their stored sweetness to sexual expression, they are incomparably tender and sweet.  Left in the ground a few more weeks, they would turn tough and woody, but now they are at the peak of perfection—and we have just dug and washed the two beds we left to overwinter.  As long as we avoid anthropomorphizing their sexual frustration (and their horror at being eaten) we are left to guiltlessly enjoy this brief, seasonal treat—delicious roasted, incomparable fried (try them shredded like latkes), sublime pureed or steeped in soup, a true delight in long simmered stews.  And, if I do say so myself, this is the nicest crop of parsnips I’ve yet seen. We’ll have them available self-serve on the porch for the next week or two in bags of between two and a half and three pounds for $5.  If you plan to store them for any length of time, make sure to cut out the growing point (where the leaves emerge a the top).

            Other self-serve items currently available include bagged compost and bagged potting soil from McEnroe Organic Farm in upstate NY, which has also been the source of the potting soil we use for our own plants for many years. Potting soil is available in 22 qt. bags for $10 each, or 5 bags for $45.  Compost is available in 40 lb. bags for $9 each, 5 for $40.

            Likely to appear during the course of the next week or so are the first, hardiest garden plants.  We’ll begin with lettuce, kale, cabbage, and onions, with a growing roster of plants as the weeks go by.  A more or less complete list of variety descriptions, and predicted availability dates, should be available on our website in the next day or two.

            Also among the long-awaited signs of spring is the emergence of the first spears of asparagus. As cold as it has been, we’re likely a little ways off from this momentous event, but a few warm days will go a long way toward goosing the asparagus out of its slumber. I’ll send out another (shorter) message when the asparagus arrives.

            We are planning on (finally) paving our parking lot sometime in the near future, which will entail closing access to our self-serve items for about 2-3 days.  As soon as we know them, we’ll include the dates in our phone message and post them online so customers can check and make sure they don’t make a wasted trip.

            We hope all of our faithful (and unfaithful) customers had the best winter they could, considering the circumstances.  Some unlooked for benefits of our long, cold travail include the forementioned parsnips, but may also include a robust crop of (cold-loving) garlic, and a reduction in the populations of some pests.  Doesn’t seem like adequate payment for the ordeal we’ve been through, but by the time we’re enjoying fresh garlic, the winter will be a mercifully distant memory.

Brian Cramer
Farm Manager

baby kale in the greenhouse

Around the farm 4/3/14

While it’s still pretty brown around here, the first signs of spring are starting to appear! Brian caught this one today – garlic popping its head up!