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

 

Around the farm 3/20/12

Looking green out here!

Some of you driving by may have noticed a little bit of construction going on – the Town of Concord is fixing the  stone wall that holds up Monument St – it had become unstable and nobody wanted the road to fall into the apple trees!

Around the Farm 2/9/12

Welcome the newest member of the Hutchins Farm team- the 1953 Farmall Super H!

The “old” H, a 1951, lost 4th gear last season.  It was our primary tool for cultivating, corn, beans, onions, and lots more!  We purchased it in 1974, and it has run continuously since then with no major repairs. We are going to rebuild it, but it will take time. This guy needs a bit of work, but will be up and running soon!

Around the Farm 1/13/12

Snow fell overnight, but it was greeted by temperatures in the 50’s the next morning! Made for a gloriously foggy scene!

 

Around the Farm 12/8/11 – Pruning Apple Trees

Hutchins Farm November Newsletter

We have finally crossed that invisible, magical line from the ‘season’ to the ‘off-season’.  Each year, we step over with a confusing combination of reluctance, regret, and relief.  Although we are blessed with productive land, reasonably moderate weather, an energetic and enthusiastic crew, and useful and appropriate equipment, the stress of keeping up season-long production of our extensive roster of crops begins to fray the nerves after awhile—particularly in a year like this, when certain difficulties occur, and promptly compound themselves.

All in all, a good season, a successful season.  Corn was early, plentiful, tasty, consistent, and largely worm-free until September.  Berries, which we seem never to be able to produce in quantities large enough to meet demand, were nonetheless abundant and delicious.  Tomatoes were full of flavor—they appeared early, lasted late, and gave generous yields in between.  Onion quality and yield surpassed anything we have seen for the last few years, and I can’t remember a year when we dug so many (and such beautiful) potatoes.  Peppers did their thing admirably; eggplant, shy during the heat of summer, became the life of the party as temperatures cooled down.  All in all, a good season—but what happened to the winter squash and pumpkins?  Why so little broccoli and Brussels sprouts in October, when they should be at their best?  What was with the sporadic lettuce shortage in September and October?  And a shortage of kale?  Preposterous!

Each season is superficially predictable—spring is cool and wet, summer hot and dry, frost comes in October—but a nearly infinite number of variables with an effect on our crops, many of them unguessed at by us, are busy unpredictably affecting our crops, often in ways that leave no evidence of the cause.   We’re always trying to make our production more consistent both in abundance and quality, but even when we do everything right (which actually doesn’t really happen), some unforeseen circumstance can bring everything to naught—conversely, many of our most stunning successes are, to some degree, luck.  It’s a humbling feeling (and one not confined to agriculture) to realize that so much of what we seek to manipulate is beyond our control, beyond our understanding even.  We are confounded by our successes and by our failures, though we far prefer the former and cling to the (mistaken?) belief that we really do understand enough to provide a positive outcome at least much of the time.  With enough successes, we can live with the mystery.

So next year we’ll use what we think we learned this year to avoid this year’s problems repeating themselves—and it might even work, but possibly for reasons unsuspected by us.  But we’ll have a lovely crop of red herrings to offer our faithful customers.

Currently, we’re offering a selection of produce on our porch, including the abovementioned potatoes, lettuce, collards, kale, leeks, beets and cabbage, among other things.  We’ll continue to harvest and set things out as long as the weather and supplies hold out—at least through the end of this weekend.  I would like to express my thanks to all our wonderful customers who continue to seek us out and are so generous in their appreciation of our efforts.  Here’s to a short winter, warm days in April, and the first strawberries of 2012.

Brian Cramer
Hutchins Farm

last day of the 2011 season!

and it snowed about 4 inches!

Carrot Ginger Soup

This recipe is a favorite of ours when the weather gets cold (or cold-ish as the case may be lately…) It’s super easy too!

Carrot Ginger Soup
by Myra Goodman in her cookbook Food to Live By

2 tbs canola oil (or olive oil)
1 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 piece (3 inches long) fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 1/4 pounds carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick (about 4 cups)
5 cups vegetable (or chicken) broth
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
pinch of ground nutmeg
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the carrots, stock, and orange juice.  Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and let simmer until the carrots are very tender.  About 45 minutes

3. Using an immersion blender or food processor,  puree the soup

4. Add the nutmeg to the soup and season it with salt and pepper to taste

5. Serve the soup hot and garnish with sour cream.  Yum!

Photo by Andrea Bemis

Andrea’s Fusion Coleslaw

We’ve gotten a few requests to throw this recipe online- so here you go!

Andrea’s Fusion Coleslaw
(adapted from Food to Live By by Myra Goodman)

Ingredients:
2 cups shredded red cabbage
1 cup shredded green cabbage
2 large carrots coarsely grated
1/3 cup thin strips of scallion greens
1 jalapeno pepper, cut into slivers
3 tbs unseasoned rice vinegar
3 tablespoons  sesame oil
1 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp Asian Chile garlic sauce
1 tbs finely grated peeled fresh ginger
1/2 cup honey-roasted peanuts
1/2 cup raisins
2 tbs sesame seeds, toasted

Directions:
1. Place the red cabbage, green cabbage, carrots, scallion greens, and jalapeno in a large bowl.  Stir to combine

2. Place the sesame oil, vinegar, sugar, chile sauce, and ginger in a glass jar and seal the lid tightly.  Shake the jar vigorously to combine.

3. Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss to combine.  Add the peanuts and raisins and toss again.  Refrigerate the coleslaw, covered, to allow the flavors to develop, 2-4 hours. Serve chilled, garnished with sesame seeds