May 2017 Newsletter – Opening Announcement

Near weekly nor’easters and cold cloudy weather have characterized this spring, with one brief heatwave to keep us guessing. After two dry springs, our comfortable assumptions of where we might be able to plant our early crops have been punctured, to the detriment of our beautiful, orderly planting plan, now shredded and mingled with other obsolete and irrelevant documents. Despite the cold and dark, crops are surviving and even thriving-a few of our earliest tomatoes, planted in late April with prayers and row cover to protect them, were touched with frost, but have since shaken it off and, though they look a bit anemic, have started to put on stature, and send out flowers to lure the sun back. The black hand of the frost mysteriously spared our earliest corn, planted just a few days after the tomatoes, without row cover and only the scant protection afforded by our hopes and desires-also anemic, definitely alive, getting discernibly larger. The basil sulks under the inadequate protection of its row cover-I imagine I hear it grumbling as I go by.

                While their heat-loving, semi-tropical field mates suffer or simply endure the (to them and to us) inclement weather, the peas positively enjoy it, and seem to grow appreciably day to day, along with their cool weather compatriots: the spinach, the lettuce, the beets, the onions. Potato sprouts are popping out of their ridges sporadically, announcing their imminent emergence with subtle fractures in the soil. Potato beetles, recently emerged themselves, take note. Garlic, already having braved the New England winter in their Spartan straw beds, shrugs off the vagaries of spring, with only the yellowing tips of their broad, dark green, strap-like leaves hinting at some resentment, some regret, some unmet desire.

                And the apples-what a show! In April the orchards stirred to life, each tree with its unique constellation of slowly swelling buds, exploding into exuberant, ebullient, magnificent bloom that covered the orchard like a fragrant blanket. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the trees so covered with flowers, and they doggedly kept at it as the weather refused to cooperate. For a long time, the apple’s show went unappreciated by its primary audience, the fair-weather bees who stayed napping cozily in their holes and hives, the trees blooming in vain, glowing bright under the dark, cold, dripping skies.

                But some sun did shine, some days grew warm in the afternoon-first the bold bumblers (warm in their puffy coats) visited the waiting flowers, then the small, multifarious, anonymous wild bees, and finally the honeybees in their vast sonorous numbers, still dwarfed by the astounding number of blooms. Beneath the saturating hum of the buzzing bees, one could fairly hear the trees exhale with relief on those rare sunny afternoons–or maybe it was me. Of course pollination is only the first step on the long, uncertain road to an apple, but it is an absolute prerequisite.

                We’ve entered a new season and we’re on the verge of opening our doors at the farm. Both the Cambridge Central Square market and the Somerville Union Square market have opened, and Belmont Center will follow their lead later in mid-June.  Garden plants are still abundant for those risk-averse (wise?) gardeners who like to wait until Memorial Day to put in the tender tomatoes, eggplant and peppers that will reward them in August and September. Produce has begun to come in as well, with asparagus, lettuce, spinach, arugula, bok choy, radishes, cilantro, dill and greens all making appearances, to be joined relatively soon by endive, escarole, chard, kale, parsley-and, of course, strawberries. We will open for the season on Tuesday May 30th, with our regular hours of TuesdaySunday 11am-6pm. As always, please check our website ( for updates.

                 We hope you can find time to stop by and visit as the days grow longer and warmer, and the seeds sprout, the fruits swell and ripen, the full variety of vegetables perform their alchemy and transform soil, sun, and water into the flavors and textures that enrich and enliven our meals and our days.
Hope to see you all soon,
-Brian Cramer, and the rest of the Hutchins Farm team

Spring is Coming - April 2017 Newsletter

                  Spring is an uncertain season, full of promise and betrayal in equal measure. Never more uncertain, it seems, than this season, with expectations confounded, concerns about whether the world actually works the way we thought it did, suspicions that something fundamental has shifted-a tipping point has been passed, the rules that used to prevail have been repealed with no clear replacement. The lively converse of birds, and the few, plaintive peepers I have heard on a rare warm evening reassure me; the swelling buds that gradually, over the course of days and weeks, tint and thicken the smoke colored branches likewise provide familiar footing as I slide and stumble through the slurry beneath.
                  Upon reflection, I find it more than likely that the world never worked the way I thought it did, and it will continue to confound my expectations. Trash heaps, compost piles and dumps everywhere are full of discarded narratives these days. Some may be retooled, repurposed or recycled, others left to rot and return to their constituents, that can then be reconstructed into another, hopefully serviceable story. Some of the more durable tales we tell ourselves involve the ever-increasing pace of change, and accelerating ferment that leaves us all breathless, clinging to familiar, nearby objects and ideas as we try to deal with the vertigo. Though this narrative may contain more than a bit of truth, I suspect that some of its power comes from the way it reflects our individual, linear lives, and the way which our bafflement, paradoxically, seems to increase with our experience.
                  I hope that the less erratic cycles-the days, the seasons, the years-continue to roll, wobbly though they may be. I find the structure provided by these implacable orbits a welcome remedy to anxiety about doom and disaster. It may be that, at some point, the wheels will come off completely and the whole enterprise grind to a halt, but until then I look to the seedlings breaking through the soil, the raucous geese, the up-reaching trees, the writhing worms, and the canny coyotes howling in the evening, for my newscast. They are all agreed that spring, once again has come.
                  Our first harvest each spring involves the digging of parsnips that we seeded the previous May or June, allowed to mature all season, then left in the ground over winter (unprotected, but in well drained ground that never floods) to develop a degree of sweetness that they never develop without that long cold treatment. We took the opportunity of a brief spell of good weather between storms to quickly get these “overwintered” parsnips out of the ground and will have them available for sale on the porch (self-serve) beginning today, Sunday, April 2nd. We put them in bags that weigh between 2 ½ and 3 lbs for $5 each. They’ll be out everyday as long as the temperature stays above freezing.
                  Although the weather hasn’t been conducive to gardening, we also have bagged potting soil and compost available, and will have seedling lettuce and other early vegetable seedlings available by around mid-April – check our website for the most up-to-date information. Please remember this is an honor system – exact change or check only. Come by and see the farm slowly shake off its seasonal slumber, waken and dress itself in green (with the help of its faithful servants), and begin to participate in the annual dance that reminds us of our real nature, our connection with the place we live, and provides us with the primal, perennial pleasure of good food, lovingly grown and prepared.
Hope to see you all soon,
-Brian Cramer, and the rest of the Hutchins Farm team
april_newsletterFrom left to right: parsnips in the root washer, tractor in the snow, artichoke seedlings

End of Season Newsletter – November 2016

The drought didn’t end with the summer, but gloomy, chilly weather and periodic rains have brightened our outlook considerably. Our steps are a bit lighter as we can discern the outlines of the end of the season coming closer, mercifully closer each day. Signs and portents are everywhere: frost on the shadowy grass before the sun finally clears the tree line on the eastern horizon; leaves slowly assuming their autumn complexion, like a slow, silent blaze through the woods’ canopy; long shadows in the slanting light of an autumn afternoon; unimpressed owls calling out ‘whoopdedoo’ against the faint hum of surrounding human activity that never falters, even in the still darkness of a November evening.

The season started dry: a winter with little snow was followed by a spring with stingy skies and some breathtaking swings in the temperature. One particularly alarming April morning dawned at 14 degrees Fahrenheit, with dire results for our apple crop. Continued cold weather in April and May also led to a chronically overcrowded greenhouse with lots of panicked plant schlepping and costly delays in transplanting seedlings into larger containers. The strawberry crop largely shook off the effects of the cold snap, and although a real warmup was long in arriving, temperatures stayed mercifully above freezing, so our early warm season crops, though not very happy, survived until the warm weather set in.

Of course, when the weather warmed, the lack of rain really started to be a problem. And it stubbornly refused to rain (we farmers scoff at the notion that anything less than a quarter inch merits the name rain) for most of the rest of the spring and summer. Which made for an interesting and exhausting several months, but thanks to those fine waterways, the Concord and Assabet, and an array of irrigation technologies old and new, we were able—for the most part—to shrug off the worst effects of the drought. Some notable exceptions were our late summer broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, which suffered significant attrition when we failed to irrigate immediately after planting—as soon as a day after planting, large numbers of seedlings had already perished. Our fall carrot crop likewise suffered from the hot, dry weather of early and mid-July, with dramatically reduced germination and resulting diminished yield. The other significant victim of the ferocious summer was our spinach, which was seeded as usual in mid- and late August, with an almost complete failure to germinate in the unrelenting heat that reigned during that period.

The one crop whose absence was most keenly felt (especially after last year’s bumper crop) was apples. This year’s lack of apples is actually related to last year’s huge crop: most apple varieties have a natural tendency to bear biennially, with boom years followed by bust years. Commercial orchards have chemical tools that thin fruit set in the boom years, resulting in an evening out of crops from year to year. Organic orchards have mostly relied on extremely expensive hand thinning to achieve the same end, or they simply roll with the cycle (which is what we’ve been doing). This tendency, combined with the late freeze this spring resulted in the most miserable crop of apples ever. Lack of rain didn’t help, but wasn’t really a factor in the apple disaster.

We have, despite this dispiriting experience, renewed our commitment to keep apples in our crop roster, and redoubled our efforts to figure out how to reliably have a good crop of certified organic apples every year. At the very least, absent another late freeze, a hailstorm, or the Apocalypse, we should have a decent crop next year, we’re due for another ‘boom’ year after all.

As Thanksgiving approaches, our thoughts should turn from complaints about things that didn’t turn out as we desired, to the many more things for which we should be grateful: the workers who graced our fields and farmstand were among the most cohesive and effective groups we’ve ever had. Even as the constitution of the crew underwent change over the season, they were conscientious, agreeable, positive, and serious about doing a good job. Gratitude also, surprisingly, to the record dry weather: drought has many troubling consequences, but it also means that disease pressure on the plants is very low, so for the first time in several years, we didn’t have to spray our tomatoes at all—late blight was kept at bay by the weather.

And especially gratitude for the continued patronage of our customers who, in the face of woeful tales of crop failure and dry devastation throughout the region, continued to visit our little stand and appreciate the bounty that we were able to produce. They discovered that Hutchins Farm is resilient, and hopefully a mysterious combination of luck, loyalty, foresight, hard work, creativity, planning, and resourcefulness will always allow the farm to soldier on, riding the peaks and troughs of an uncertain future.

We’ll be at the Somerville Union Square Market on Saturdays and the Cambridge Central Square Market on Mondays until Thanksgiving, and we’ll keep the honor system self-serve set up on the porch running as long as the weather is good – always check our website ( before heading over. We’ll try to keep that as updated as possible.

Our thanks again for a great season, and we hope you all have a happy holiday season and a peaceful winter.

-Brian and the rest of the Hutchins Farm team


Closing Day Information 2016 and Potato Bulk Order Sign-up

Just a short note to let you all know that our annual bulk potato sign-ups will officially begin today, Sunday the 9th of October.  We usually have a sign-up for carrots as well, but the difficult weather in July when we were seeding our end of season carrots resulted in poor germination and thin stands, and we’re not confident that we have sufficient carrots to do our usual 25 lb bulk bag order. We do have a reasonable carrot crop, however, so we are planning to offer bulk discounts on 10 lb bags of carrots during our last week for those who want to stock up, but there will be no advanced sign up.

So again, we will not be offering carrots in 25 lb bags this year.

Those interested in 50 pound 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 varieties, and those who sign up earliest will be more assured of getting their potatoes. In case of shortages, we encourage you to include a second choice variety (and even a third choice) when you sign up. Sign-ups can happen in one of three ways:

  • e-mail-send your order to 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 not accept orders left on our voicemail, so please make sure and call during our open hours.

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 but are unable to pick up during the last week of October can make arrangements for pick up at a later date. The bags are 50 pounds for $40. Smaller sized bags (10 and 20 pound bags) are likely to be available the final week of the farmstand but are not available for advanced sign up.

Other crops available for bulk discount during the latter part of the month may include beets, parsnips, turnips and rutabagas, sweet potatoes, celeriac, and winter squash. These will be available to all customers who visit the stand, and we won’t be doing a sign up for them. We will announce details on our website when these discounts begin.

The last day our farmstand will be open this year is Sunday, October 30th. The stand is full to the brim right now, and it’s a relief to see our hard work all season pay off with such fall bounty. Although there is always a bit of sadness at the passing of the season, I think we’ll all be justifiably relieved to see the end of this hard one – hope we see all of you before then!

-Brian and the rest of the Hutchins Farm Team   closingdaypic-jpg

Concord Ag Day and another Volunteer Day

Annual Concord Farm & Garden Fair
September 10th and 11th

This weekend is the Concord Farm and Garden Fair! The weekend kicks off Saturday with the 11th 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 ( 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 one tour at 9:30am. No signups are necessary, just show up at the farmstand parking lot 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!

Volunteer Day September 17th

And since our last volunteer day was such a hit, we’re doing it again! Come help us harvest more potatoes Saturday Sept 17th, 9:30am – 1pm! If you would like to volunteer please email – if there is limited interest we may have to cancel the event, so if you’re keen, please make sure to RSVP. If you have to leave early that’s ok, however it is important that you can be there on time for the instructions and explanation of our harvest systems at 9:30am. Digging potatoes may not seem that complicated, but organization is key!

We will be meeting in the potato field – further directions and parking will be provided to our intrepid volunteers after RSVPing. Once we have assembled, Asst. Farm Manager Dan will tell you a little bit about potatoes, how we grow them, the varieties we grow, and how we’ll be harvesting them, and then we’ll get to it!

Make sure to wear clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty and closed-toe shoes or boots. Gloves are recommended. Water bottles are always a good idea. Because we live in such a litigious society, all volunteers will be required to sign a liability waiver. Children 10 and over are welcome as long as they are accompanied by their parents. So if you would like to spend a little time outside helping us out, please RSVP! We will be very thankful for the hand.

We hope to see you soon, either at Ag Day, at the farmstand, or in the potato field!
-The Hutchins Farm Team

August 2016 Newsletter - Tomatoes are here!

Part of my job description at the farm I worked at before Hutchins involved giving occasional farm tours to various groups of people. These tours were generally off the cuff, unscripted affairs with questions entertained and answers attempted. On one particularly memorable occasion I was asked where I lived, which I answered by pointing to one of several houses located on the farm. The questioner responded: “Wow, you don’t even have to worry about the weather!” In retrospect I suppose she meant that I didn’t have to worry about turning on my windshield wipers during my nonexistent commute, but at the time I was flummoxed: I’m quite sure that I worry about the weather more than any dozen average people on the street, possibly as much as the weatherman, ship’s captains and school superintendents.

All of which is prefatory to the inevitable lament about the weather—or lack thereof. Long time farmers, as a rule, don’t allow themselves to blame the weather for their failures: ‘guess I should have gotten water on that more quickly’ they might say, ruefully kicking at a dead plant. Despite their obsession and strong ambivalence about weather, farmers generally consider it in bad taste to even complain about it. Partly that’s because they’re afraid griping will give customers the idea that crops aren’t doing that well and that they’ll stay away. The primary reason, however, is our complete, frustrating inability to affect, control, even predict the weather with any real precision or consistency. Confronting the complete insignificance of all our plans, hopes and efforts is discomfiting in the extreme and can cause all manner of anxieties and crises. When conditions are dire, we are presented with two equally unappealing alternatives: the complete indifference or the active malevolence of the universe. A rain shower now and again is refreshing in so many ways. Of course a protracted period of unending rain is as disastrous in its way as the unrelenting pleasant weather we’ve been suffering through, prompting one to be careful about what one wishes for. Not, as I have become convinced, that wishing will make anything so.

Irrigation gives the farmer a comforting illusion of control, and most of the time is an effective insurance policy for a stubborn dry spell, but when rainless days stretch into dusty weeks and months the endless rounds of moving sprinkler lines, setting up irrigation filters, fueling the pumps, not to mention running over and ruining aluminum pipe, takes on a Sisyphean flavor—particularly when all our efforts and all our special equipment aren’t enough to get the dang carrots to germinate properly. We also suffer the guilt of the privileged when we think of those farmers without the capacity to irrigate sufficiently or at all, another reason for me to quit whining.

This season has tested our resolve in ways that most seasons have not, but the good news is that, so far at least, our irrigation systems, stretched to the breaking point, have saved our behinds. We haven’t been able to make everything work, and we may have somewhat less broccoli and cabbage this late summer and fall, but for the most part, crops look great. The birds have been a bit harder on the corn than usual, and some of the ears have been smaller on average, but the quality has been great, and looks to continue. Tomatoes really do well under dry conditions (as long as you can get water to the roots)—we appear to be on the verge of another outstanding tomato year, with ample production and fantastic flavor. Our garlic crop is likely the best I’ve seen since moving to Concord, with a high proportion of huge bulbs, and the onion crop is likewise one for the record books, thanks primarily to the tireless efforts and creative innovation of Dan Kamen, and the indomitable field crew in May and June who first planted them for days on end, then weeded them for additional days on end.

Blueberry season is officially over for us. The apples have set a fairly light crop after last year’s bumper and haven’t yet begun to ripen, but August is a great time to visit as our stalwart crops like lettuce, carrots, kale and beets continue to come in, and new crops like ripe peppers, leeks, sweet onions and shelling beans make their debut appearances. For some folks (not everyone, I know) the real reason to stop by is the tomatoes—they’re in their prime now in every way, and it’s only a matter of time before we begin the ‘bounty basket’ volume discount.

Anyway, the drought has been challenging, and although we got some very welcome soaking rain recently, it may persist. We’re encouraged at how well most crops look despite the lack of rain, and we encourage you to stop by and share in our gratitude for our limited ability to ‘make it rain’ and keep even a very dry New England Summer feeling like a bountiful season.

-Brian Cramer, Farm Manager


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 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