May 2016 Newsletter - Opening for the season!

The long, slow warm up continues—I usually conceive of spring and fall as transitional periods, but the year seems to have stalled and settled into endless spring:  Cold mornings, winds with an edge of winter, slowly unfolding buds and leaves, the sun, already high overhead, yet stingy with its warmth. And, as was the case last year, very little rain—the long, drizzly period in April gave the illusion of precipitation, but looking at rivers, ponds and wetlands, it’s apparent how little rain actually fell. Cold weather and frosty forecasts have kept our greenhouses full of plants that, in other years, would be outside hardening off or planted already. We’re also a bit behind on our plant offerings for gardeners, but that’s probably a good thing, given the persistence of cold mornings and the wild, bitter winds.

That said, we’ve begun putting in our summer crops. Our first tomatoes and corn have been in for over a week, purple and fairly shivering with cold. Our earliest peppers and eggplants were planted this week, and those tender babies, the cucumbers and squash, unhappy in the extreme, have spent their first night in the cold soil. The hardier crops (when a farmers use the words ‘hardy’ and ‘tender’, they are almost always referring to plants’ tolerance to cold and frost) like lettuce, arugula, radishes, etc. have been in the ground for a good month now, with little growth to show—only the spinach has really seemed to enjoy the protracted spring, and the peas seem quite happy as well.

Beginning last weekend, we attended our first farmer’s markets of the year: Union Square on Saturday morning and Central Square on Monday. Our porch has been stocked with self-serve offerings for a while already, including (usually) abundant asparagus, occasional sorrel, nettles and rhubarb, to be joined by spinach this weekend. In addition, we have a selection of garden plants (mostly vegetables and herbs) and lots of bagged compost and potting soil.

Before it became apparent that spring’s transition to summer was going to be slow by recent standards, we had decided to open up the farmstand for limited hours for a couple weekends before we ‘officially’ open. Although our product selection is more modest than we had hoped, we do plan on opening up from 11-4 on the weekends of May 21 and 22, and May 28 and 29.  We will open for the season with regular hours on May 31st (Tuesday through Sunday 11am -6pm.) Our earliest tomato plants have sold out, but we should have a limited selection of tomatoes from our larger second planting available this weekend, along with peppers, eggplants, herbs and other plants. By the following weekend, we should have our full array of tomato varieties available, and an expanded selection of produce from our fields. For the most up-to-date information about what is available, check our website.

We enter a new season with all the trepidation and humility appropriate to practitioners of a livelihood that is completely dependent on the weather—but farming isn’t really that much different in that regard to any other business: most peoples’ livelihoods depend on equally unpredictable economic or political ‘weather’. We (Gordon, Dan, Liza, and Brian) are joined this season by Adam Hommeyer, our new Perennial Fruit Manager, who will be continuing the tradition begun by John Bemis, tending our orchards and blueberry plantings. We’re also joined by two highly motivated apprentices—Samantha Brown, who worked with us last summer, and Benjamin Clark, who joins us after a season at Freedom Food Farm in Raynham.

We hope to see all of you in the near future, when you can (hopefully) commiserate with us about the terrible heat, the regular early morning rains followed by clear, sunny days, and how heavy all those harvest crates full of beautiful, delicious produce are.

March Newsletter 2016

With the weather wildly careening from warm to wintery, the calendar tells us it’s time to think about the growing season. Already, we’ve taken advantage of the dry, temperate weather to get some fields worked up, and our greenhouses are starting to fill with eager little plants. Last year’s persistent lack of precipitation means that our parsnip crop will a bit meager compared to the last several springs, but they will be nonetheless delicious for their scarcity—look for them to appear on late this week on the porch (probably Friday, weather permitting—they’re still in the ground).

Although nature seems to have put the gardening season on hold temporarily, we also have McEnroe bagged potting soil and compost available on the porch for the hopeful and impatient. Vegetable and herb plants will slowly begin to appear on the porch as well, and before you know it, the dramatic reappearance of asparagus, lettuce, strawberries, the harbingers of a new season. Gardeners can expect to see an updated issue of our plant listing on our website starting today.

Hutchins Farm will be participating in a public forum sponsored by the Concord Ag Committee at the Harvey Wheeler Center in West Concord on Tuesday, March 29th entitled ‘Meet Your Farmers’. Farmers from a number of Concord farms will give presentations about the perennial challenges they face growing and marketing food in Concord: irrigation, pest and disease control, soil and fertility building, weed management, and the challenges of extending the growing season on a farm scale. Also included will be information on two Town Warrant articles (no. 40 and 48) that have implications for farms and farmers (and others).

Despite the unusual weather, we’re betting on another productive season. We’re still in the process of putting together a crew, but are grateful to have a fair number of folks returning who have worked at Hutchins before. We’re also pleased to welcome a new member of our management team, our perennial fruit manager-in-training, Adam Hommeyer, who has begun his initiation into the mysteries of pomology.

Although the ‘season’ is still months away, spring’s stirrings have begun, and we hope all our customers, long-time and brand new, find their way back to Hutchins as the weather warms, the leaves unfurl, and the soil begins its annual alchemy. Looking forward to seeing you all this season,

-Brian Cramer and the Hutchins Farm Crew

marchnewletterphoto2016From left to right: Onions germinating, Snow on March 21st, Turning up some earth.

November 2015 Newsletter

I’m writing on a gray November day, with the 2015 season mostly behind us-just a few loose ends left to tie, a few projects left to complete, a few markets left to attend, a few veggies left to sell. And, of course, this newsletter left to write, a summing up and synopsis of the growing season of 2015.

It began with the reappearance of the soil from under an unusually thick and tenacious covering of snow-an event (or process really) that we all awaited impatiently, but with some trepidation at the thought of the epic mud season that would surely ensue. And yet the mud was mercifully brief and nowhere near as dramatic as we had imagined. As soon as it disappeared, the season began in earnest, with parsnips to dig, fat garlic shoots breaking the surface of the soil, and the sculptural skeletons of apple trees bursting into bloom. The prodigious amount of snow-melt watered our newly sprouted hopes and plans, while an endless succession of sunny, blue sky days set the template for a beautiful summer, full of warmth, color, and the constant roar of irrigation pumps filling the rainless days that stretched well into the fall.

I have often said, have probably even written in some previous newsletter that I’m about to plagiarize, that, given the capacity to provide all of one’s crops’ water requirements through irrigation, a farmer is better off without any rain-and the past couple years (along with the Arizona and California produce industry) have borne out this premise. Some of the most devastating crop diseases are fungal or bacterial in nature, and require extended periods of wet foliage to cause an infection. Running sprinklers on a hot sunny day means that foliage dries quickly (or even better, running drip irrigation where foliage doesn’t get wet at all) and creates an inhospitable environment for plant pathogens. Cloudy, rainy days and nights, on the other hand, provide the ideal conditions for infection and spread of a wide variety of plant diseases. Of course it has to rain sometime to recharge the surface and subsurface water sources, or all bets are off.

None of which helped us avoid Basil Downy Mildew again this season, an unwelcome newcomer, but apparently here to stay. The happy marriage of tomato and basil seems to be falling apart because they now occupy different seasons, only meeting briefly each year sometime in July, when the very first tomatoes pair briefly with the last of the basil before it succumbs…Tragic. And dry weather doesn’t prevent infection from some diseases, notably Powdery Mildew of cucurbits, which, along with other pests and insect-borne pathogens, can cut short our cucumber and summer squash season even in a dry year.

But most crops grew and flourished amid our frenzied attempts to keep them hydrated. It is unusual for us to see crops get to the point of wilting, but this year, at various points, we were alarmed to see potatoes drooping, sweet potatoes at the point of collapse, peppers sad and ready to give up-how surprising and gratifying that, despite their privations, they produced nonetheless, providing in each case I mentioned a bumper crop well beyond our expectations.

Apart from the dry weather, and the incongruous yields that we managed to coax from crops that were clearly not always ‘thrifty’ (a farmer’s word that is a form of the word ‘thrive’), the year was notable for a major transition: After tending the orchards and farm for many decades, John Bemis retired-leaving us with quite a crop of apples as a parting gift, and the legacy of a well-tended orchard that, if we can figure out how to manage it as successfully as he did, will provide delicious crops for years to come. His brother Gordon remains at Hutchins, helping chart the course of this long-lived and well-loved venture into the future.

Which brings us to the present: cold, worn out and shell-shocked as we are even (or maybe especially) after the most successful season. But it’s not quite at an end, with our usual markets on Saturday at Union Square, Somerville and Monday at Central Square, Cambridge, along with a new market (for us) on Sunday at The Arcade Building at Coolidge Corner in Brookline, all continuing for two more weeks until Thanksgiving, at which point, in keeping with the spirit of that holiday, we will breathe a sigh of relief. And as long as the weather and the crops hold out, we will continue to stock our porch with self-serve veggies – check our website for the most up to date list of what you’ll find if you stop by.

We are all grateful to be able to pursue this interesting, strenuous and gratifying livelihood, humbled by our debt to those who have farmed before us, those who had the foresight to keep the farm fields open, intact and undeveloped, the continuing pageant of workers who provide the labor and enthusiasm that’s necessary to our enterprise, and especially to those folks who continue to patronize our stand, enjoy the fruits of our labor, and appreciate our efforts to provide the most nutritious and delicious food possible. We wish you all a safe, healthy, and happy winter season!

Brian Cramer
Farm Manager
Hutchins Farm

Bulk Signups and Last Day 2015

Just a short note to let you all know that our annual bulk carrot and potato sign-ups will officially begin today, Saturday the 3rd of October. As usual, we’re taking names from folks who are interested in picking up one (or more) 25lb bags of carrots ($28 per bag) and/or one (or more) 50lb bags of potatoes ($40 per bag). Carrots are all ‘Bolero’ variety, a large, bright-orange Nantes-type carrot that is delicious and well suited to long storage—it’s the same one we’ve grown for the bulk bags for many years. Those interested in potato bags can select from three varieties: ‘Kennebec’, our old standby, a great all-purpose, white flesh potato with good flavor and excellent storage; ‘Keuka Gold’, a new Cornell introduction with large size, good storage potential, and similar flavor and texture to ‘Yukon Gold’; and ‘Carola’, our favorite yellow-flesh variety, smaller on average than the others, with good flavor and firm texture.

As always, we have finite quantities of all these things, so signing up for a bag does not guarantee you will receive one – those who sign up earliest will be more assured of getting their veggies than those who sign up later —that being said, although all the potatoes and carrots are still in the ground as I write, it would appear that we will have ample supplies. Sign-ups can happen in one of three ways:

• e-mail—send your order to info@hutchinsfarm.com. If you are ordering carrots, let us know how many 25 lb bags you would like to receive. If you are ordering potatoes, please let us know how many 50 lb bags and of which variety (from those listed above).
• in person at the farmstand on our ‘official’ sign up sheets;
• or (our least preferred method) by phone at 978-369-5041, between 11 and 6, Tuesday through Sunday. We will attempt to log orders left on our message machine as well, but please leave clear contact information in case there are any questions and so we can let you know when the orders are ready to be picked up.
As we log orders received, we will confirm via e-mail (preferred) or phone, and when the bags are ready to be picked up (most likely the last week of October) we will contact people again. Those who wish to get bulk potatoes and/or carrots but are unable to pick up during the last week of October can make arrangements for pick up at a later date.

Our season is growing short—traditionally, we close on the end of October. This year we’re planning for Sunday, November 1st to be our last day, and we’re going to close one hour earlier than usual at 5 PM on that day. It’s a bittersweet time of year, with the leaves erupting against colorless skies and heavy dews threatening to crystallize into frost in the cold morning gloom. The sweet, ephemeral fruits of summer—corn, tomatoes—disappear, while the more substantial fall produce—apples, potatoes, winter squash—reassuringly durable, promise sustenance into the cold months to come. We hope you all have a chance to visit between now and our closing day, and are, as always, grateful for your continued patronage.

Thank you!
Brian and the rest of the Hutchins Farm crew

10th Annual Concord

Just a reminder that this weekend is the Concord Farm and Garden Fair, which begins with the 10th annual “Ag” Day farmers’ 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 on Main St., which will be closed from the roundabout to Walden St. Because of the Ag Day market we will not be attending our usual Saturday market at Union Square, Somerville. Our apologies to our Somerville customers! The Farm and Garden Fair continues with garden tours on Saturday afternoon-get information online (http://concordfood.ning.com/) or at the Garden Club table at Ag Day.


Then on Sunday, a number of Concord farms will be hosting farm tours – Hutchins will be hosting two tours, one beginning at 1:30pm, and one at 3:30pm. No signups are necessary, just show up before the tour begins. Tours require walking on rough (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. We hope to see you soon!

John Bemis Retirement Announcement

August 24, 2015

After 40 plus years as co-manager of Hutchins Farm with his brother Gordon, John Bemis retired at the end of May this year. Gordon is now the sole manager of Hutchins Farm LLC.

John thanks the Town of Concord and the generations of Hutchins customers for their years of support. He is especially grateful for the legions of young workers who have brought their enthusiasm, energies and friendship to the farm.

EPSON MFP imageJohn and Gordon Bemis in the Boston Globe: August 15th, 2001.

August 2015 Newsletter

The dry fever of July has broken to cool, damp August mornings that seem already to whisper of autumn—but tomatoes, which to some (me) are the very emblem and embodiment of summer, are just now beginning to be abundant. In fact, apart from peas, basil, strawberries and blueberries, all now lamentably done for the year, our extensive list of crops should continue to flourish and increase over the next several months. Each season contains within it the seeds of the next—that’s what makes winter tolerable, and what gives the bright days of summer just a hint of melancholy—but this season is still young.

This growing season has been, all in all, a favorable one to us. Although it has been much drier than usual, with deficits in rainfall beginning as early as May, the lack of precipitation has really only caused relatively minor problems—poor or delayed germination in some crops, more time spent on irrigation, some stunting in crops we couldn’t seem to water enough or on time—but the lack of disease pressure that comes with dry conditions compensates for these inconveniences. In fact, though we sigh with relief when the rain does come, relieving us of our irrigation chores, we would be happy with a nice dry, warm August and September and long-lived, disease-free tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, and everything else.

Both of our berry crops were quite good this year, with quality at least as good as usual, and quantity much better. We had a surprise bumper crop of artichokes, which may be at an end, but could conceivably pick up again with cool temperatures and moisture. Our garlic crop is the best in years—this year we moved it back to the Monument St. farm from the lean, sandy soils of the Peter Spring fields, and were rewarded with bigger bulbs and better winter survival. Our potato crop, likewise, looks to be the best in years even considering last years big yield. And the apples, as those of you who have visited the stand lately and looked out over the adjacent orchard block can attest, look to be both exceptionally abundant and unusually clean.

On the other side of the ledger, our basil came down with a fatal case of downy mildew earlier than that of most other area farms. Our onion crop is very uneven, with rows of large, well-developed bulbs right next to rows of puny, stunted onions of the exact same variety, planted with the same equipment, on the same day. Some of our June-planted carrots and beets didn’t germinate well as we struggled to keep them irrigated, though our later plantings (which will mature in September and October) look very promising. Parsnips, a notoriously finicky germinator, will likely be in short supply this fall and possibly next spring as well.

So, as usual, success walks with failure, and prudent cultivators remain humble, open-minded, and grateful for the opportunity to practice their craft with the help of willing workers and a receptive clientele. We thank you for your patronage of our early season, and hope to reward you with a bountiful August and fall!

-Brian Cramer
Hutchins Farm

augustnewsletterphot.jpg

Around the farm, June 2015

June 1st: Rain! Oh boy did we need this…

vetchjuneJune 4th: The hairy vetch cover crop is blooming!

turtlejuneJune 9th: Well look who’s guarding the onions at the Peter Spring fields…

garlicscapesjuneJune 16th: Garlic scape season is here! Pesto time!

strawberriesjuneJune 17th: All of a sudden the strawberries went nuts!

chinesekalejuneJune 22nd: We’re back at the Central Square Farmers Market this week! Van is *knock on wood* fixed.

potatoeshilledjuneJune 25th: Freshly hilled potatoes. Plants are looking good out there!

 sugarsnappeasjune
June 27th:
Peas, peas, peas, and more peas! Guess what the crew spent all morning picking? Sugar snap, snow, and shelling!

fallonionsJune 30th: Our experiment in fall planted onions was a mild success! Yields maybe aren’t as large as we hoped, but it’s sure nice to have onions so early – fresh ones are up at the farmstand.

Around the farm, May 2015

asparagusMay 4th – Getting closer!

strawberriesMay 8th – Strawberries are blooming!

kalemayMay 11th – Overwintered kale today on the porch!

apple blossomsMay 14th – Apple trees blooming.

cukesmayMay 15th – Cukes in the ground!

greenhousemayMay 17th – greenhouse full of seedlings

central2015May 18th – It’s the first Central Square Farmers’ Market of the season!

asparagusbucketMay 21st – Another day, another bucket…

gordsudangrassMay 24th – Gordon seeding sorghum sudangrass – a covercrop to increase the organic matter in our soil.

irrigationMay 28th – A beautiful rainbow while irrigating the carrots and beets!

lettucemayMay 30th – Lettuce planting while dreaming about rain.

Farmstand opening for the 2015 Season on May 30th

We’re nearing the end of what is shaping up to be an uncommonly dry spring, to say the least-we rarely have had our pumps up and running quite so early, and we’ve seen more attrition of recently planted crops than is usual. Nonetheless we persevere, with a fine coating of dust deepening our fashionable farmer’s tans, and an added crunch to our meals. In the past, I have glibly spoken of the many benefits of dry weather to the farmer, with the dramatic reduction in disease pressure being foremost-but of course desiccated, dead plants aren’t particularly disease prone. When I made those now seemingly ill-considered and hasty statements, I was foresighted enough to reserve the right to complain during dry periods when it seems like all we can do to keep our crops alive-so consider this my complaint.

On a more positive note, the dry weather has allowed us to enter fields weeks and months ahead of usual. Areas that have been underutilized because they lay wet for much of the growing season are now open to us-new and exciting rotational possibilities beckon; fields of grass underlay with rich, black earth feel the unaccustomed bite of the plow and are planted to crops that are generally relegated to our more tired, overtaxed upland fields which we can now allow to rest and rejuvenate under a cover crop until we need them again.

The real reason for this note, however is to announce our opening for the 2015 season: We will open with limited hours on Saturday and Sunday (the 30th and 31st) 11 AM – 4 PM. We’ll be closed on Monday June 1st (and all subsequent Mondays), but on Tuesday our regular schedule will resume: Open Tuesdays – Sundays 11am – 6pm. Self-serve sales of produce will discontinue this weekend, but self-serve seedling sales will continue.

Often our opening coincides with the first strawberries of the season, but I don’t expect to have any until perhaps the first weekend in June. We will continue to harvest asparagus at least through the first week of June (possibly longer) and our growing roster of other vegetable crops include: lettuce, spinach, arugula, radishes, cilantro, dill, Japanese turnips and endive. We’re also experimenting with some new crops this season, some of which are available now, including: sorrel, Italian dandelion (aka Catalogna), and ‘Braising Mix’ (composed of a variety of mustards, Asian greens and kale). We should also begin harvesting kale and possibly chard by our opening weekend, and we’re well supplied with Pete and Jen’s pastured eggs.

We hope to see you this weekend or shortly thereafter, and if you think of it, please bring some rain with you.

Brian Cramer
Farm Manager
Hutchins Farm