Around the farm 7/10/12

Guess what got pulled up today? That’s right- GARLIC!

Around the farm 7/6/12

Holy Cucumbers! We are inundated! NOW is the time to make pickles- don’t wait till the fall (when production is limited.) Take advantage of our pickling cukes special at the farm stand or farmers’ markets!

Around the farm 6/29/12

Around the farm 6/23/12

view from one of the orchards

Brian's Garlic Top (Scape) Pesto

GARLIC TOP PESTO

1 Bunch Garlic Tops (about 1/3#)

¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

¼ cup Finely Grated Parmesan Cheese

¼ cup Shelled Peanuts (or other oily nuts/seeds)

Combine oil and peanuts in food processor bowl—pulse until smooth.
Coarsely chop garlic tops and add to oil/peanut mixture.
Add cheese and process to desired consistency, adding extra oil if needed.
Use pesto on its own as a dip, or add to salad dressings and marinades.

Around the farm 5/31/12

Hutchins Farm May Newsletter

Warm weather and timely rains have collaborated to rush our season, and as our strawberries have therefore begun to ripen at an unprecedentedly early date, we must comply by opening our doors beginning tomorrow, Friday, May 25th. Unfortunately, certain other factors, most notably a bad batch of soil mix, have conspired to delay certain crops, so our usual (slender) early selection of products will be missing a few key components, like lettuce. We will, however, have—in addition to strawberries—beautiful spinach, radishes, cilantro, chervil and dill, and the lettuce should be ready by next week. Vegetable and herb plants are still abundant, with new varieties appearing all the time. We also have plenty of bagged compost and potting soil.

In my last message, I referred to a new fearsome beast of the farm and garden known as the Spotted Wing Drosophila (or SWD, which makes it sound like a WMD). This unwelcome new neighbor has the potential to wreak havoc with berry crops nationwide unless controlled. We have set out traps in the strawberries but have not yet caught any trespassing in our fields.

The clement, if unnerving weather this spring has allowed us to keep abreast of all our scheduled field preparations and plantings, without having to contend with unplanned events like floods, tornados etc. The warm weather has also, we suspect, been easy on certain pests—so we have seen unusually intense flea beetle pressure on our brassica (cabbage, broccoli, kale, etc.) crops, (arugula in particular) which may be delayed. The weather has pushed some of our crops ahead by as much as two weeks, which left certain ones vulnerable to the last frost we experienced—we lost some of our strawberry blooms, and certain varieties of apples were damaged as well.

In any case, the Farm Stand will be open beginning May 25th and 26th, but will be closed Sunday and Monday for the Memorial Day holiday. From then on, our hours will revert to the usual: Tuesday through Sunday, 11 to 6. You can also find us at Central Square in Cambridge this (and every) Monday from 12-6, Belmont Center on Thursdays starting June 14th, from 2-6:30, and Union Square in Somerville Saturdays starting June 2nd, 9-1. Product availability will grow rapidly—look for lettuce, garlic tops, squash, basil, kale and more in the next week or two. Liza Bemis will be regularly updating our webpage and facebook page, so check there or call for more a more precise idea of what we have. Hope to see you all soon,

Brian Cramer
Farm Manager
Hutchins Farm

Around the farm 5/17/12

Around the farm 4/30/12

Plant sales are starting on the front porch!  More varieties to come over the next few weeks. Bagged compost and potting soil are also available.

Hutchins Farm March Newsletter

Since the calendar says March, spring must be here, but I feel as though I’m still waiting for winter.  Nevertheless, my first greenhouse seedings (onion, leek, artichoke, lettuce, broccoli, herbs) have germinated handsomely and I feel the rhythms of the season begin to accelerate—the lento of winter brightening to the andante of spring, ultimately reaching the allegro agitato of summer and fall.  It’s thrilling and daunting at the same time, but you can’t sit out this dance even if you want to—the music of the season is irresistible. 

Our plans this year include several new crops and directions:  we will attempt to raise a successful trial crop of fresh ginger in the hopes of adding a new vegetable to our roster; we’re doubling the size of our sweet potato planting after last year’s successful crop; we’re planning to introduce several species of beneficial insects to our fields to help us manage pests in corn, peppers and beans.  We’re partnering with local flower grower Michelle Wiggins—she’ll be using some ground at Hutchins as well as her own garden to produce gorgeous bouquets available on weekends at the farm stand.  We’re also anticipating the arrival of an unwelcome newcomer, the dreaded Spotted Wing Drosophila, a fruit fly with two terrifying attributes: the unique (for a fruit fly) ability to lay its eggs in sound, even slightly unripe fruit through the agency of the female’s serrated ovipositor, and the ability to reproduce quickly and prolifically—laying up to 100 eggs in a day, and producing 10 or more generations in a season.  Those of you interested in this pest, its control, and some info on organic growing in general should read the following informative (dry) paragraphs—the rest could skip to the last paragraph, with its juicy reference to strawberries and other goodies.

This pest was first detected in the Northeast last year, when raspberry growers started seeing maggots in their fall crops.  By all accounts, this could be a devastating pest, affecting most soft fruit, including strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and even some tree fruit.  The problem will likely be mild early and grow worse as the season progresses and the fruit fly populations explode.  According to University Extension programs, anyone hoping to produce berries, particularly late maturing types, should be prepared to control the pest or expect nearly 100% losses.  The key to successful control is monitoring through trapping to know when the pest arrives (trap designs, monitoring instructions and identification photos can be found online), and immediately beginning a spray program upon detection of the pest.  Organic growers in parts of the country where the pest arrived in 2009 and 2010 have used two organically acceptable sprays (in rotation, to slow development of resistance) effectively:  Spinosad, which has bacteria-like microbes as its active ingredient and is available to home gardeners as Monterey Garden Insect Spray, and pyrethrum sprays, derived from an African daisy relative (we use Pyganic brand).  There is likely a long list of conventional chemical products available to effectively control the pest, but since sprays will be applied to ripe and nearly ripe fruit, toxicity is a particular concern.  Spray products that are acceptable for organic production generally have minimal mammalian toxicity to begin with and lose any toxicity they do have rapidly in the presence of sunlight—most products that have been approved for organic certification carry the ‘OMRI’ seal prominently on their label.

The previous discussion, frightening as it is, leads us, perforce, to a discussion of sprays in organic agriculture and what ‘organic’ actually means.  As I’ve gone on quite a bit already, I think I’ll save a full treatment of that fraught topic for a future missive—suffice it to say that organic does not mean ‘no-spray’ or ‘low-spray’.  Farmers who use those terms are often trying to mislead consumers into conflating their products with certified organic products, but they very likely fertilized their soil with chemical fertilizers, sprayed or broadcast herbicides on the soil before the crop was planted, and used pesticides or fungicides on nearby crops and/or crops which preceded the ‘no-spray’ crop in question.  At the very least, unless they are certified organic, they didn’t submit an annual farm plan to a certifying agency outlining their crop production practices and products used, pay a fee based on their gross income, and submit to an annual inspection to ensure that the implementation of the farm plan is in conformity with the Organic Rule.  We do those things and, yes, we do spray a small number of crops regularly, and a larger number occasionally.  The materials we use all conform to the Organic Rule and are registered with the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI).  These materials pass organic muster because they are:  naturally derived—no synthetics, no genetically-modified organisms; quick to degrade into inactive components; low in toxicity to non-target creatures; only used in accordance with the Rule, which requires demonstration of need and documentation.  The Organic Rule also stipulates that we only use these acceptable materials when other options have failed.  Here endeth the rant, for now. 

We will once again make available a list of garden plants—mostly vegetables and herbs—that we will offer for sale this spring.  An updated version should be available at our website by late March.  Once again, we won’t be accepting orders but we hope to have ample quantities and an interesting selection.  Those of you looking for compost and potting soil should see it by the end of this week, along with delicious cold-sweetened, freshly dug parsnips—the first fruits (so to speak) of spring. Be aware that our parking lot is currently being used as an entry by road crews shoring up a section of Monument St. that winds by the farm and had begun to show signs of collapse—customers can still use the parking lot, but be on the lookout for trucks and machinery.  We’re still a long way from opening our doors, but we should have some plants available on the porch as early as mid-April.  Then, assuming spring and summer haven’t been cancelled like winter was, we should start to see lettuce, arugula, radishes in May until finally, the doors open to reveal strawberries in June and the promise of more to come…

Brian Cramer
Farm Manager
Hutchins Farm