August 2019 Newsletter

Melon season has arrived! 

 

               Summer days are hazy but not lazy at Hutchins, full of frantic activity as we scramble to stay on top of harvesting an expanding list of ripening crops, all the while trying to keep up with a demanding seeding and planting schedule, and at the same time attending to all the other things that pop up (many of which are weeds). Days are long, the heat is punishing, and as the shadows lengthen and the light drains from the evening sky, we are relieved at our daily reprieve, but frustratingly aware of all that didn’t get done-all the quick jobs that we should have but didn’t get to that, with the passage of a few days, become time-consuming jobs, and if further postponed, may become impossible. Each evening requires performing triage on unwieldy lists of pressing projects, ruthlessly dropping those whose long neglect has rendered impractical or pointless.
                But wistful summer evenings pass into fantastical summer nights, as the darkness thickens like a velvety sauce, the bright yellow thumbnail moon illuminating fishbone clouds and a world turned grayscale. Down the staid slopes of Punkatasset Hill where the sprinklers rhythmically hydrate manicured lawns under the winking stars, across Monument St. to the weedy wilds of Hutchins Farm, among swamp and floodplain, the plowed and the fallow, amidst the riotous bacchanal of unruly insects and amphibians, the rowdy, hysterical gangs of coyotes loudly planning their cornfield raids, and the fast-moving constellations of blinking fireflies. The belligerent deerflies of the day have given way to clouds of languid mosquitoes, whining softly in the dark like lost souls; bats flutter and tumble overhead with no appreciable effect on the mass of bloodsuckers; skunks bumble along where they will, their secret weapon having obviated the usual survival requirements of stealth, cunning and avoidance. Finally we come to the end, the border, the unctuous river, awash in the shimmering reflection of moon, stars, and the planes that crisscross the sky with their curious wing lights-green on the right, red on the left (unless they’re flying upside down). The throaty belch of a bullfrog startles a deer and his rippling, antlered reflection; distant lightning flashing to the north sends the perpetually anxious creature off at a run, tail up and flashing white, beckoning his colleagues to follow.
               To walk about the farm on a warm summer night, humming and thrumming, brimming and redolent with such a profusion and multifarity (not a word apparently, but who cares) of life, full of danger, drama, sex, death, decay, birth, pain, joy and on and on-is a thrilling experience, all the more so when one compares the scene with the same walk on a silent winter’s night, crunching through crusted snow, same sky, in winter full of malice or at least indifference, all life hunkered down, asleep, on the run, hungry, waiting for the return of light and warmth.
                Let’s celebrate the summer by partaking in all the gifts of this fruitful season, affirming our membership in the confraternity of all that is alive. At our house, where we’re practicing (but not strict) Delishatarians, we celebrate a string of holidays during the growing season that don’t fall on specific dates on the calendar, but happen spontaneously when the object of the celebration is ready to be eaten. To name a few of the holiest days: the anticipatory Asparagus Day, a forward looking observance that also involves an interesting olfactory component; Pesto Day, mostly about basil, but which usually falls when the first peas arrive, and so involves a big pot of pasta (homemade if you’re orthodox) tossed with blanched pea pods and freshly made pesto; and Eggplant Parmesan Day, which, despite its name, is really about when the first ripe field tomatoes are ready to slice and layer with thin breaded and fried slices of eggplant and basil leaves, topped with fresh mozzarella and broiled until brown and bubbly.
                There is still plenty of time to gather sacraments for your own homemade holiday-summer vegetables are going strong, with sweet corn, melons and watermelons currently abundant with plenty more to come, tomatoes beginning to ripen in earnest, and squash and cucumbers still very much in evidence. Stalwarts like lettuce, chard and parsley can almost always be found, green beans are a bit more sporadic, but upcoming plantings look like they will be quite productive. After a spotty carrot year last year, we have (predictably) overcompensated and should be blessed with countless carrots through and beyond the end of the season. Some of our annual herbs like dill and cilantro have been a bit sparse of late, but we continue seeding these for harvest through the fall and should have ample supplies soon. Late summer favorites like celery and potatoes are on the verge of being ready, and fall favorites like winter squash and parsnips are still lustily putting on growth.
                  August is also the change of season for our staff. With August comes the harsh reality that our wonderful college and high school students, after diligently learning the ropes all summer, will leave us shortly to continue their education, and leave us in a mad panic to find suitable replacements (they are never replaceable in our hearts!)
                 We hope you are able to make the trip this month and enjoy the summer bounty. For all too soon fall will be here (and with it, its own bounty) and its reminder that winter isn’t too far behind.
-Brian Cramer and the Hutchins Farm crew
 

From left to right: The melon whisperer, Corn getting taller, Hot days on the farm

Opening Day 2019 - Saturday June 1st!

May 2019 Newsletter

The farmer plies his trade under changeable skies in the spring, noting with approval the phenomena that run smoothly in the furrows plowed by previous cycles, and with alarm any phenomena that seem to confound the assumptions and expectations that experience has provided. With age and experience, the unvarying annual patterns incorporate themselves in a very literal and visceral way, so that the unfolding leaves, the heady aroma of pollen, the spreading, deepening green, and the riot of frogs on a spring evening become almost internal experiences, in conversation and communion with all the previous iterations of the same phenomena experienced in previous springs.

 

But there are also hidden cycles, cycles within cycles, countercurrents and eddies, erratic cycles, eccentric cycles, even singular events disguising themselves as cycles. These cycles are harder to discern and make sense of, and only when we finally notice them and their connections with more familiar patterns do they begin to inform our experience. When faced with variations in the more obvious patterns, we are content with blithe alibis and simplistic causality. But anomalies and variations in the more subtle and complicated patterns baffle our ill-informed attempts to synthesize them into our model of the world and how it works. A shrug of the shoulders is often the unsatisfactory but only possible response to events that challenge our sense of cosmic propriety-to name a few of very local significance: in 2009, an unusual early outbreak of late blight in July, causing a region-wide extinction of unprotected tomato crops; in 2016, an unprecedented (and thankfully as yet unrepeated) outbreak of aphids in all of our cucurbit crops, a very localized occurrence apparently limited to Hutchins Farm; in 2018 and 2019, record breaking rainfall in the fall followed by an unheard of number of rainy days in the spring. We grasp at explanations, and accept even the dubious and specious among them gratefully.

 

Spring, however wet and gray, is spring nonetheless, and the natural world is irrepressible in its celebration of the sun’s renewed warmth and the long hours of light. Impertinent asparagus is poking out of the ground, spinach is luxuriating in the cool weather it favors, fat seeds are imbibing water and sending out their first tentative roots and shoots into the world, trusting they have found themselves in a friendly world of sun and water, humus and soils teeming with life. Another season begins, patiently trying to teach its lessons to the thick-headed farmer who, having lost count of how many times he has repeated this class, hopes this time to manage a passing grade.

 

As always, we have begun our season with self-service on the front porch: we like to share our enthusiasm for cultivation by offering a variety of plants, the siblings of those that we plant in our own fields, for those fortunate enough to have access to a garden plot, or even just a porch or a balcony. We have been harvesting the aforementioned asparagus for several weeks now, and it is at the peak of its season, but the cool weather has definitely slowed production-look for it for several more weeks. Crops sown in the safety and comfort of the greenhouse, and those sown between rain squalls during the bleak days of early April have begun to mature, with rhubarb, spinach, cilantro, dill, arugula, radishes, and lettuce the earliest to arrive, and kale, collards, chard, parsley, endive and escarole soon to make an appearance.

 

And so we will open the farmstand for the season on Saturday June 1st – our regular hours going forward will be Tuesday – Sunday 11am-6pm. Most eagerly awaited, strawberries will likely not yet be in evidence when we finally open for the season on Saturday, but it won’t be long before they blush and sweeten under the sun’s warm gaze-expect them to appear sometime during the following week.
Our Cambridge Central Square and Somerville Union Square Farmers Markets have already started up for the season, and next week on June 6th the Belmont Center Farmers Market opens for the season as well. Please check our website for our current offerings of both produce and seedlings – as always, we try and keep it as accurate as possible, but please call if you are making a special trip over – while we can’t set aside anything, we can tell you if we picked it and how much there is.

 

Among the consolations of living in a place like New England with four distinct seasons is a heightened appreciation for the miraculous cycle of stirring, birth, growth, procreation, decline, death, decay and rebirth. We hope you come celebrate the seasons with us, partaking of the seasonal sacraments the soil provides.

 

Welcome to another season!
-Brian Cramer and the Hutchins Farm crew

Central Square Farmers Market, Apple Blossoms, Tomato Seedlings

March 2019 Newsletter

Early March and we’re still in the grips of deep winter, with bitter winds scouring the snow covered landscape, and stars glinting like ice in a frozen night sky. Sure of nothing, I’m fairly certain that’s all about to change-hopefully, the change comes in a gradual, measured fashion, but I wouldn’t put money on it.

In any case, one of the most comforting things to do in discouraging weather is to peruse the pages of seed catalogs, with their glossy photos of impossibly beautiful vegetables and flowers, their promise of interesting novelty in the context of the timeless turning of the seasons. Full of hyperbole and equivocation, long experience teaches that, in the context of a seed catalog, ‘mild’ usually means ‘tasteless’, ‘medium-sized’ often stands in for ‘puny’, and so forth. That said, the prose found in seed catalogs is an interesting (occasionally brilliant, in the case of the Fedco catalog, until recently penned by the very funny, very lefty CR Lawn) subset of the larger, largely vapid realm of advertising copy. Having tried my hand at writing variety descriptions in our own (colorless, digital) catalog of the plants we offer for sale every spring, I’m always fascinated at how various, usually anonymous, writers of catalog copy deal with the inevitability of repetition, the difficulty in differentiating two varieties that, apart from the name (and the price?) may be essentially identical. A good thesaurus, and careful rereading to minimize avoidable repetition, are essential. Caveat Emptor.


Our humble plant catalog, largely a rehash of older versions, is updated and available on our website under the tab “Produce Information.” We’re committed to focusing more attention this season on consistently producing a wide variety of garden plants for our gardening customers, so come mid-April, keep a look out for the first arrivals. And be assured that all of our offerings (unless otherwise noted) are varieties grown on the farm because of their outstanding qualities, and the descriptions aren’t simply lifted from seed catalogs, but reflect our actual experience with these crops and varieties. Once mid-April rolls around, we will as always attempt to keep an update of what is available for sale on the front page of our website.


Also coming soon to lift the March malaise, the Concord Ag Committee is presenting its annual Spring Forum-this year’s program features local food establishments that are committed to using seasonal, locally sourced ingredients, explaining their philosophies and practices. Participating establishments include Saltbox Kitchen, Papa Razzi Trattoria, The Concord Cheese Shop, and Newbury Court kitchen. The forum begins at 7 PM on March 21st at the Harvey Wheeler Center in West Concord-come be inspired by how professionals incorporate a seasonal, locavore ethos in their offerings.


We have a number of returning faces this year at Hutchins on our crew and with that also comes an exciting announcement: we are thrilled that Mel from Field Edge Flowers is returning to grow certified organic blooms at Hutchins Farm once again this season! Field Edge Flowers will be selling lots of simple bunches at the Hutchins farm stand just as they did back in 2016, but this season they also have expanded to offer a weekly CSA flower share:


From Mel: “A generous bundle of 25-30 stems of fresh, organic blooms and greenery carefully arranged and wrapped in paper….and handed to you by the farmer herself, every week for eight weeks! Over the course of the season, everything Field Edge Flowers grows will appear in your bouquets–we are planning on lisianthus, sunflowers, dahlias, and zinnias, and all of the many little bits and bobs that we grow and that you can’t find at your local flower shop. Once the CSA season starts (we let you know-weather dependent-usually in late June or so), pick ups will be at the Hutchins farm stand on Tuesdays from 2-6 pm….so you can grab your veggies for the week while you are there!”


For those of you interested in purchasing a flower share, more information can be found on Field Edge Flowers website: https://www.fieldedgeflowers.com/csf-shares and for any questions about Field Edge Flowers or anything else flower related Mel can be reached by email at fieldedgeflowers@gmail.com


While we have been spending this winter dreaming and planning, we also have been hard at work. The apple orchard pruning has just finished for the winter, and the blueberry bushes are the next project to tackle. Planting schedules are written (and will probably be rewritten ten times over as mother nature changes her mind over and over this spring), and we have begun seeding in the greenhouse – and already spent a few nights fretting about the temperatures. The joys of March!


We hope you are having a warm and cozy winter,
-Brian Cramer and the Hutchins Farm Crew

Apple trees at dawn, March snow, Leeks emerging

www.hutchinsfarm.com

End of Season Newsletter 2018

Short, windswept days, frosty mornings and the beginning of the endless drone of leafblowers are the sure harbingers of fall in historic Concord, and the end of our growing season. 2018 was a challenging one for us at Hutchins, with a variety of circumstances seeming to conspire against our success. The spring started out well enough—though it was cool and rainy, our earliest tomatoes, corn, melons and squash all shrugged off the cold, and were ready to take off when the heat finally arrived. The cool weather in June lasted long enough for us to have exceptional crops of asparagus and strawberries before the sudden arrival of July and the tropical heat, which settled in for a good long stay, well into September.

Like rain, heat can be a blessing, but in excess, a curse. Apart from the discomfort to those who work outside, high temperatures can have surprising and disastrous effects on plants, even those which are typically thought to love the heat. For example, beans, eggplants and peppers readily drop blossoms when temperatures are outside their preferred range—a phenomenon which we were able to witness firsthand and over an extended period this summer. The eggplant and pepper plants were large and robust, but the fruits were few and far between, at least until things cooled down a bit in September. Luckily, tomatoes are more tolerant of extremes than their more finicky cousins, so we were not faced with a disastrous tomato shortage in addition to our merely unfortunate dearth of peppers and eggplants.

Another confounding aspect of extended heat is its effect on seed germination. Most seeds germinate readily around 70 degrees, with some variation. Some, like turnips and other mustard family members, can tolerate a wide range of temperatures and still emerge, while others are extremely fussy. Lettuce and spinach are notorious for their reluctance to emerge at temperatures above about 80. Other vegetables are slow germinators under the best of conditions: carrots and parsnips can take weeks to fully emerge, and any period of adverse conditions during this time can have detrimental effects.

So our concern began to grow as multiple seedings of lettuce struggled to germinate in July and on into August, as our carefully cultivated beds seeded to parsnips and carrots failed to sprout the usual unbroken lines of green, but rather sent up sparse and scattered clumps of seedlings, with lots of empty space between, soon occupied by opportunistic weeds. The timing of these seedings is critical—you can’t just wait until conditions improve, or your crops may not have time to develop. To harvest parsnips in October, you need to seed them by the end of June; to harvest carrots in October, they have to be seeded and up by early August. Lettuce seeded after the middle of August is not likely to mature. By early August, the heat had affected enough crops (and it continued to wreak havoc on spinach germination through the end of the month) that we knew it was going to be a lean fall, and so it has been—and I haven’t even gotten to the apple situation.

The missing apples are another story altogether. I’m not exactly sure how things went before I began to pay serious attention about five years ago, but at least since that time, the apples have almost completely reverted to their (natural) tendency to bear biennially—that is to give a large crop every other year, with a much smaller crop on the alternate year. They nonetheless require annual pruning, mowing, and, ideally, spraying for disease and insects, but without the prospect of a crop, it becomes very difficult to allocate labor and machinery resources to them. Conventional orchards are able to overcome the tendency to alternate bearing by spraying chemical thinning agents during the month following petal fall. As an organic orchard, this crop load management strategy isn’t available to us—our only option would be to hand thin the newly pollinated blooms and developing fruit during this same period, which really isn’t an option at all because it is not economically feasible even if we were able to find enough employees to attempt it. Which leaves us with an apple crop every other year until we can figure out a way to get out of this vicious cycle.

So we bid farewell to a difficult season, humbly trying our best to learn the right lessons from our experiences. There is something very appropriate about how the word ‘humility’ derives ultimately from the Latin word for soil, that irreducibly complex matrix with which we attempt to perform our simple, sustaining magic, never completely understanding the processes we initiate and try to manipulate. And it is with humility and gratitude that we thank all of you for your continued patronage in fat times and lean, and all of our steadfast workers for their tireless efforts to bring you the best that we can produce.

We’ll be at the Somerville Union Square Market and the Cambridge Central Square Market until Thanksgiving, and there will be a limited selection of items on our honor system self-serve front porch at the stand starting later this week. Please check our website to see what might be available before making the trip over.

Again, thank you all for this season, we hope you have a restful winter, and we’ll see you in the spring!

Best,

-Brian Cramer and the Hutchins Farm Team

 

fall2018crew

Bulk Orders and Closing Day 2018

Happy October from Hutchins Farm!

Two announcements from us today, one: Bulk Order Sign-Ups begin today! And two: Our closing day of the farmstand this season will be Wednesday October 31st.

BULK ORDER SIGN-UPS: In contrast to last season, when we had so many carrots that we didn’t have people sign up for 25lb bags, just had plenty on hand, this year we have so few carrots that we won’t have any 25 lb bags of carrots available. We ARE able to offer our usual 50 lb bags of potatoes, with three varieties available: ‘Kennebec’, with white skin and flesh, versatile in the kitchen, and excellent storage characteristics; ‘Keuka Gold’, a nice newer variety developed by Cornell with good storage potential, light yellow flesh, and excellent culinary characteristics; and ‘Carola’, our old favorite with bright yellow, moist flesh and distinctive flavor.

Sign-ups can happen in one of two ways:

  • e-mail-send your order to info@hutchinsfarm.com. Please let us know how many 50 lb bags and of which variety (from those listed above) and any backup variety choices you would be willing to accept if we are out of your first choice.
  • in person at the farmstand on our ‘official’ sign-up sheets

All varieties are limited in quantity-we will fill orders on a first come/first serve basis. In case of shortages, we HIGHLY encourage you to provide a second choice variety when you sign up or you will risk not getting any at all. Bags will be available to pick up beginning Tuesday, October 23rd, through closing on Wednesday the 31st. If you’re unable to pick up during that period, please contact us to set up a pick up date after we close.

The arrival of late autumn is in many ways a relief after a season more full of challenges, setbacks and failures than most. As an organic farmer with many seasons behind me, I am no stranger to the disappointment of crop failure, the frustration of missed opportunities, the dismay of watching the slow-motion train wreck of a row or a bed or an entire field failing to thrive, overrun by weeds, or insects, or disease. Over the course of the last half a decade or more, we have been fortunate enough to have kept these unwelcome events to a minimum, so that maybe we have a short crop or two (or three) during a season, but the abundance and variety of everything else made up for it.

There have been seasons where spinach was hardly to be found in the fall, seasons where carrot germination was spotty and yields were low, seasons where late summer heat led to a shortage of lettuce in September and October, seasons where the parsnips failed to germinate enough to even have a crop at all, seasons where entire broccoli plantings were overrun by disease, seasons where the apple crop was non-existent. These are generally isolated events, sad outliers in a general trend of success and abundance, but circumstances have conspired this year so that this litany of unwelcome episodes, each heartbreaking on its own account, have occurred all at once.

Which is not to say that we haven’t had our triumphs-our eggs are in way too many baskets for all of them to break. Strawberries were early, delicious and abundant. Lettuce was, for a long while, unfailingly abundant. Summer squash and cucumbers had a long, bounteous run. Cool spring weather didn’t slow down our corn, tomatoes or melons which were all harvested at an earlier date than ever. Tomatoes in particular were early, prolific and delicious-tomato yields for the season are at an all-time high. And some of our fall crops performed very well, including a large and beautiful crop of winter squash, pumpkins, potatoes and sweet potatoes.

Despite our somewhat abridged fall offerings, we still have a creditable spread of fresh, delicious seasonal vegetables filling our farmstand and markets. If you’re able to visit us before we close the farmstand for the season on Wednesday, October 31, you may find kale, collards, arugula, radishes, winter squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, celery, celeriac, carrots, parsley, cilantro, dill, turnips, scallions, popcorn, leeks, lettuce, Chinese cabbage, endive, escarole, hot peppers, eggplant, cauliflower, and many more options. We expect to see more beets, spinach and broccoli by then as well.

The farmstand is full and we hope you will come and stock up on New England’s fall bounty a few more times before we close for the year! (and to wish us better luck and better weather next year!)

-The Hutchins Farm team

Potato Display 2018

www.hutchinsfarm.com

Happy Fall! Some upcoming events:


Happy Fall from Hutchins! Just a brief note to inform you of some upcoming events that may be of interest.


On Sunday, September 23rd, Verrill Farm will be hosting the 11th annual Stone Soup Dinner. Cocktail hour begins at 4pm with local restaurant tastings beginning at 5pm. Hutchins Farm again will be participating providing some of the produce, and we’ll be there to hang out and chat. Tickets are available for $40 at Hutchins Farm, Verrill Farm, Marshall Farm, the Concord Cheese Shop, and Barrett’s Mill Farm. Cash or check only. www.stonesoupconcord.com for more information.


Then on Sunday, September 30th, Bondir Restaurant of Cambridge will be closing out its Summer Series of events with a dinner highlighting Hutchins Farm produce. We’ll be there too, so please come join us for dinner! Reservations are from 5pm-10pm – dinner is prix fixe at $68 per person, with an optional $42 wine pairing. Call 617-661-0009 or make reservations online: www.bondircambridge.com – give them a call for any questions about dietary restrictions/accommodations etc.


Both of these events are celebrations of the local, the specific, the place and the moment that we are in right now, never to be repeated except in memory. Each summer is singular, a unique unfolding pageant of energy, color, music and flavor-like the dishes created by chefs inspired by that pageant, singular creations, unrepeatable. And yet in some sense they are all the same, each summer unfolding to a similar rhythm, a recognizable theme with infinite variation, each dish an elaboration and reconfiguration of the same familiar ingredients. The participants are your friends and neighbors, the people who live where you live, celebrating this confluence of the particular and the universal in the most delicious and enjoyable way possible, by eating good food, produced and prepared locally and lovingly. Hope you can join us!


Hope to see you soon,
-The Hutchins Farm team
  
 Sunrise on August 29th, 2018
www.hutchinsfarm.com

Concord's Food, Farm, and Garden Fair - This Upcoming Weekend!

August has ended, and summer is on the wane, but the weather doesn’t seem to agree. The heat continues this week and so does our challenging summer. The field crew has been putting in an enormous effort this year in this unrelenting humidity, and they continue to work in overdrive – our endless thanks for their continued good attitudes! Our crop variety and abundance are on the increase. Summer crops like tomatoes and peppers are still coming on strong, with the late summer/early fall veggies like winter squash, potatoes, turnips, and winter radishes beginning to make appearances. Sadly, it doesn’t look like much of an apple crop this year – the nature of our every-other-year orchard combined with the humidly has resulted in a rather poor showing. On the plus side – we are potentially looking at a bumper crop of sweet potatoes! Those heat loving southerners have enjoyed this hot summer.

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Just a reminder that this upcoming weekend, September 8th and 9th, is the annual Concord Food, Farm and Garden Fair, which begins on Saturday with the 13th annual ‘Ag’ Day Market in downtown Concord. Hutchins Farm will be represented, along with about ten additional Concord farms and a variety of local organizations that promote agriculture. Ag Day will run from 10 AM to 2 PM right on Main St., which will be closed from the roundabout to Walden St. Come on down and see the bounty Concord has to offer!


Because of the Ag Day Market, this week we will not be attending our usual Saturday market at Union Square, Somerville. Our apologies to our Somerville customers! We will be back next week (September 15th).


The Farm and Garden Fair continues with garden tours on Saturday afternoon – get information online at https://www.ccfoodcollaborative.org/  or at the Garden Club table at Ag Day. Then on Sunday, a number of Concord farms will be hosting farm tours - a tour of Hutchins Farm led by our farm manager Brian Cramer will begin at 1 PM Sunday September 9th. No signups are necessary, just show up at the farm stand before the tour begins. Tours require walking on rough (muddy/dusty) farm roads and may include encounters with unfriendly weeds and stinging insects – good footwear is suggested, and folks with allergies to bees or wasps should take appropriate precautions.


As always please check our website for crop updates, and we hope to see you at the stand or markets this fall!
Hope to see you soon,
-The Hutchins Farm team
 
 Concord Ag Day in 2016
www.hutchinsfarm.com

July 2018 Newsletter – High Summer is here!

                You are receiving this message because Hutchins Farm is very excited to have begun picking tomatoes (along with other faves like corn and blueberries). The current flow of tomatoes has been characterized as a ‘trickle’, which means that we don’t yet have a consistent supply every day, but we should by sometime next week. We’ve clearly entered a new phase, call it ‘High Summer’.

                 ‘High Summer’, to me a phrase redolent of musky corn pollen, sweat-soaked bodies laboring under a merciless sun, purple-black stacks of clouds enlivening the endless afternoons with gusty torrents, thunder and flashes of electricity. High Summer has arrived in Concord, filling every space with thrumming, throbbing, steaming, swarming life, animating every corner however desolate, covering each freshly turned furrow with a shaggy coat of weeds seemingly instantaneously. One feels that, if we could just slow down a little bit, like a 45 played on the LP setting, we could watch the squash vines running, tendrils gesticulating, clasping each other across the space between rows like long sundered old friends (or maybe wrestlers readying for a contest with an audience of wildly waving trees at field’s edge?)
                High Summer’s riotous celebration thrills the senses, with the sultry, occasionally oppressive heat, the primal terror of the flash and thunderclap, aromas of every description carried on the languid breeze, the ceaseless cacophony of bird squabbles and croons, the afternoon buzzsaw of the cicada, the late night chorus of anonymous frogs and bugs, and, close to our hearts, the flavors both intense and subtle that this brash, overheated season engenders in the fruits and vegetables it permits us to grow.
                The roll call of those fruits and vegetables, despite certain desertions like spinach and peas, seems to grow daily, with some of the most recent (and welcome) recruits including melons, watermelons, tomatoes, sweet corn, garlic, peppers, eggplant and blueberries. The farmstand slowly fills, with the early arrivals (lettuce, kale, arugula, radish) joined by their slower companions (beets, carrots, basil, parsley), the crowd pleasers (blueberries, sweet corn, tomatoes), the overachievers (summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers), the bit players (artichokes, garlic, tomatillo) and the long list of those who have yet to make an appearance.
                Our crew, those who work at the farmstand, the farmer’s markets and in the field, have really pulled together and given their best efforts to understand and execute the complicated choreography of growing produce for our retail operation. As in any season, challenges abound, but challenges make work interesting and satisfying (especially when they are overcome or at least put behind us).
                We are open at the stand the usual Tuesday – Sunday 11AM to 6PM, and the markets are rolling along on their regular schedule: Mondays in Cambridge’s Central Square, Thursdays in Belmont Center, and Saturdays in Somerville’s Union Square. Happily, the construction in Union is over, and we are returning to our normal location in Union Square starting this weekend – so please come look for us in our regular old spot!
                We hope you are all able to visit the farm one of these glorious high summer days and enjoy the incomparable flavor of one very specific summer day in one very special and beautiful place.
Hope to see you soon,
-Brian Cramer and the Hutchins Farm Crew
 July 17th: Apprentices Maria and Ted planting the not-quite-final sweet corn planting of the year.

May 2018 Newsletter - Opening Day is near!

 
Although we’ve been busy in the greenhouse and the fields for months now, and have been attending the Union Square Somerville and Central Square Cambridge markets for a few weeks, and will be attending Central Square tomorrow on Memorial Day (regular hours!), our official ‘Season’ has yet to begin. We have decided that it will begin precisely at 11 AM on the morning of Friday, June 1st, at which point the farmstand doors will open up, revealing the fruits of our early labor. And I use the word ‘fruits’ loosely, because, although we may have a few strawberries by then, most of our offerings will be things like lettuce, arugula, radishes, kale, spinach, asparagus, parsley, cilantro, dill, endive, escarole, and garden plants. I guess some folks think of rhubarb as a fruit, and we’ll have plenty of that.
As we get deeper into June, we expect to see squash, basil, cucumbers, beets, garlic tops and chard, and we hope to see abundant strawberries and peas. For the most accurate and up-to-date list of what should be available each day check our website, but if you’re making a special trip for something specific, call during our open hours to see if it’s available. Be aware that our policy is not to hold items (except rutabagas) for customers, but at least you can find out whether we’re likely to have what you’re looking for.
When we officially open, our self-service offerings will be limited to plants and compost – farmstand hours will be 11-6 daily except Mondays, when we will be closed. In addition, we will be attending our usual three weekly farmer’s markets, two of which have already begun: Mondays from 12-6 at Central Square, Cambridge; and Saturdays 9-1 at Union Square, Somerville. The third market, Thursdays 2-6:30 at Belmont Center, will begin the afternoon of June 7th.

We hope you all had a restful winter and are looking forward to another season of fresh fruits and veggies from Hutchins.

Hope to see you soon,
-Brian Cramer and the Hutchins Farm Crew
 Opening Day is Friday, June 1st!

March 2018 Newsletter

With winter parked stubbornly over the region, the arrival of the vernal equinox seems somehow premature. The sun traces a longer, higher arc each day, the angle and quality of the light whispers of warm breezes riffling newly unfolded leaves, but buds remain firmly clenched against the cold, and wind-scoured snowfields persist where we had hoped to see slowly greening fields exhaling into the bright spring morning. Hopeful birds squabble, and speak of spring and summer as they scrape a meager living from last year’s leftovers, impatient like all of us for the world to come to life again.

There was a brief moment about two weeks ago as I contemplated the newly thawed ground, the first garlic leaves poking out from their straw blanket, the doughty parsnips sending up tiny new leaves, with ravenous deer pawing and biting at the knobby white roots, accepting mouthfuls of mud for a taste of the super sweet, newly thawed parsnips, that I thought spring had arrived early. I’m glad that my cautious nature (AKA a tendency to procrastinate) prevailed. With luck and some cooperative weather, our first forays into the fields–to seed the peas and spinach, plow and fertilize the areas that will be planted to other early crops, to dig the patient parsnips—will happen right on schedule, around the middle of April. I’m often asked if climate change has affected when I plant and what I plant, and I suppose to some degree it does, but it seems like the most salient feature of climate change is violent unpredictability rather than some gentle warming and lengthening of the season. So I’ll stick with my planting dates for the moment, and maybe take a few side bets on unusual crops or additional plantings into the fall.

Farm activities this time of year include pruning apples and blueberries, machinery and building repair and maintenance and seeding and transplanting in the greenhouse. The pace is measured and deliberate, though repeat nor’easters cause a few stumbles. Within a few weeks, the tempo of the season’s music will pick up, and we, the dancers, will begin our increasingly furious dance, familiar and brand new at the same time. More stumbles will doubtless ensue, but hopefully we know our steps well enough that the humble magic of seed and soil and water and work will result in another season of plentiful harvests.

For our gardeners, our 2018 plant catalogue will be on the website soon, so keep a lookout on our social media and website for the announcement of its arrival. The first harvest, mentioned above, is really a holdover from last season: parsnips, sweetened by a long winter sleep. Parsnips are a problematic crop, with their strange-shaped, flaky seeds, which require up to three weeks to germinate (emerging like late risers among the newly germinated carpet of weeds that sprout more promptly), the roots requiring another four months after that to grow to maturity. The amount of effort required to raise a crop of parsnips is out of proportion to the economic value of the crop, but the value of the first freshly harvested produce to winter-weary folks can’t be calculated on a balance sheet. We eagerly await the time when we can get in the field and harvest each year, and hope to have parsnips for sale on the porch, self-serve style, beginning in early to mid-April.

Alongside the parsnips, we’ll have the usual bagged compost and potting soil for gardeners, to be followed by the earliest garden plants (spinach, lettuce, onions) in late April or early May. Also arriving in late April, if history is any guide, will be the first asparagus of the season, delicious harbinger of all the fruits and veggies that follow.

As we await these mundane yet extraordinary developments, those who wish to get a more complete understanding of the historical and current role of agriculture in the town and the region may wish to attend the Concord Ag Committee’s Spring Forum, featuring a presentation by Brandeis professor Brian Donahue, entitled ‘Wildlands, Woodlands, Farmland and Community: Farming in Concord and New England’, to be held on Thursday, March 29th at 7PM at the Willard School Auditorium.

                  Check our website for the freshest, most up-to-date information about what we have available and what may be coming soon. We hope you all have an opportunity to come visit this season, whether it be once or many times, to restore and refresh a connection with a place and community through the communion of good, healthy food.

Happy first day of “Spring”!
-Brian and the Hutchins Farm Crew

March2018From left to right: Snowstorm on March 13th, Onions in the prop house