Around the farm 6/27/13

Summer Squash is coming in!

Beets too!

Around the Farm 6/25/13

Awesome picture from Andy’s phone -taken two weeks ago after a rain storm


Opening Day!

Opening Weekend!

We’re open today and Sunday 11am-4pm, but closed on Monday. Then we are back to our regular schedule of  Tuesday-Sunday (11am-6pm). Come on over and say hello!

Hutchins Farm is opening on Saturday May 25th

We usually use the first ripening strawberries as our cue to open the farmstand, but the relatively cool spring weather has delayed them this year. We’re ready to open, strawberries or no, so if you visit us this weekend, you’ll find our doors open with limited hours (11-4), with an admittedly slim selection of produce, including spinach, lettuce, arugula, radishes, asparagus, and possibly some rhubarb and Swiss chard. Much more diverse will be our offering of garden plants-primarily herbs and vegetables, but also a few flowering plants. Our vegetable varieties are tried and true for our climate, and unlike garden centers who are in the business of selling plants, and therefore prioritize growing varieties with low cost seed, we’re in the business of selling produce, so we spend more for the best, most productive, most flavorful, most reliable varieties, and we grow some extra plants for our customers who garden. The eagerly anticipated strawberries haven’t yet begun to blush, but may make an appearance by the beginning of June-check our website or Facebook page for the most up to date information.

       For this first weekend-both Saturday and Sunday-our hours will be 11 to 4. We’ll be closed the following Monday-although we will be attending the Central Square Farmer’s Market from 12-6 on that day-but on Tuesday will revert to our usual farmstand hours: 11-6 each day except Mondays, when we’re closed. We’ve been laying the groundwork for this season since February, with five plantings of lettuce already in the ground, along with two seedings of carrots and beets, three of spinach, our first tomatoes (with the second, larger planting ready to go in at any moment), and lots of other crops in a loosely choreographed and largely improvised ballet of field preparation, greenhouse work and planting that won’t let up for a couple months yet. A scruffier ballet troupe you’re unlikely to find, but we hope you find the time to come by frequently enough to sample our ever-changing repertoire-attendance is free, but you’ve got to pay if you want to take home some vegetables.

We hope to see you soon!

Brian Cramer
Farm Manager

Around the farm 5/16/13

One of our cover crops of crimson clover is blooming. The bees will be happy! The white apple orchard in the background is covered in kaolin clay that John puts on early in the season to discourage insects.

Lots could happen, but so far we are optimistic!

Hutchins Farm April 2013 Newsletter

From last spring to this, two more different seasons you could hardly find (unless they were summer and winter).  Of the two, we decidedly prefer the measured pace of this year’s warm up over last year’s headlong rush into summer.  We are pleased to report that over the last several weeks we entered into a ‘licensing agreement’ (basically a lease) with the Town of Concord to rent 12 acres at the McGrath Farm on Barrett’s Hill Rd.  We don’t plan to dramatically increase our cultivated acreage, but are very pleased to be able to execute longer and more meaningful rotations for our crops—having three large centers of cultivation far enough from one another to preclude the exchange of many pests could have a very positive effect on our success with certain crops, most notably winter squash and potatoes.  Similar to our approach at the field we currently rent from the town off Bedford St., we will likely use about a third of the acreage for cash crops each year, growing soil improving cover crops and ‘green manures’ on the remaining two thirds to keep the soil productive and healthy.

One item of note regarding the new field is that there is currently a planting of asparagus located on some of the acreage.  Although the asparagus can’t be considered ‘certified organic’ until we have managed it accordingly for three years, we’re still thrilled to have asparagus to offer again after many years without.  Our first crop this year is parsnips, which were left in the field over the winter to develop their characteristic sweetness, and dug this past weekend.  They are available on the porch, self-serve, along with the usual bagged compost and potting soil.

Plants of the hardier sort (6-packs of lettuce, spinach, kale, broccoli, cabbage and chard; peat pots of chervil, cilantro, arugula, dill and claytonia) will begin to appear around mid-month, presumably accompanied by the aforementioned asparagus.  Plant offerings will expand through April and May (though a few types might drop out) and will continue almost through July, by which time we will be thoroughly tired of watering and otherwise caring for them.  Lettuce and other greens will begin to appear on the porch sometime during May, and by the time June comes, the first berries should have arrived and our doors will open.

Last fall, our stalwart managers Taylor and Andrea Bemis decided to strike out on their own, and are currently farming in Oregon.  They and their considerable contributions will be missed, but we have brought on board two new management trainees—Andy Friedberg and Rachel Kaplan—whose experience, enthusiasm, intelligence and work ethic will be an example to the crew.  Ward Cheney remains a key player on our team, keeping our field operations on schedule and our machinery in good shape.  Liza Bemis is with us again, magically making order from the daily chaos of a diversified vegetable farm, and making sure that the essence of our mission—providing our customers with the finest, freshest produce possible—is always foremost in our minds.  And John and Gordon continue to play important roles in the orchard, the farm infrastructure, and charting a secure and sustainable future for the farm

Another growing season begins, very much the same as the others, yet very different.  With eyes and mind open, each go round provides some lesson, some insight and, yes, a fair amount of puzzlement. With an open heart, each season provides some elation, some sadness, some frustration, some satisfaction.  Looking back, they begin to blend together, the details of each season combining with the others like looking at a map with a series of overlays superimposed.  Although I begin to have difficulty combing out the details of one year from another, I hope that the loss of specificity will be accompanied by a gain, perhaps the blending images will weave themselves into some fabric, a pattern with implications greater that those to be gotten from the distinct strands of successive seasons.  In any case, here we go again—now that spring is here, we hope your footsteps lead you back to join us in our fruitful endeavor.

Brian Cramer
Farm Manager

Around the farm 4/1/13

prop house is filling up – look at those babies grow!

Around the farm 3/6/13

And it begins again…

Around the farm 1/22/13

View January 2013

Just a light dusting of snow from last night. Stay warm everyone!

End of Season 2012 Newsletter

Although mild weather allowed us to offer a larger than usual variety of vegetables self-serve on the porch this fall, temperatures are staying lower and veggies are getting scarcer–most likely, if you stop by you’ll only see carrots, but more on that later. You, our customers, are ultimately the judges of how successful a season we had, but from our perspective 2012 was an exceptionally productive year despite certain setbacks.

We started off our season with a very poor batch of greenhouse soil which ended up affecting the quality and quantity of our own plants as well as some of those we sold this past spring. Luckily, the problem was caught quickly enough to prevent any really long term issues–we stopped using the substandard soil as soon as we realized the problem, and only our earliest plantings (onions, early broccoli, cabbage and kale, early lettuce, and perennial herbs like thyme and oregano) suffered. Our experienced crew and our managers ensured that subsequent plantings went in like clockwork, and the care they require was given in a timely and efficient fashion–the result being consistent, abundant supplies of most everything we can offer. Routines and systems developed over a number of years were executed with a precision and efficiency unknown before (thanks largely to Taylor Bemis, Ward Cheney and key returning members of the field crew). The downside to these highly developed routines and systems is that crops whose requirements don’t fit within one of our current ‘templates’ tend to fall between the cracks or, more aptly, get lost in the weeds. Witness our first, much heralded crop of ginger, which you may have heard about in a previous e-mail sent out last winter, but which you didn’t hear much about thereafter–because it failed, strangled by weeds and neglect as our weekly lettuce plantings and seedings of herbs and greens ticked along like well-oiled (well, functional anyway) machinery. Whoops.

The dreaded SWD fruitfly (Spotted Wing Drosophila) with its jagged ovipositor and penchant for laying eggs (which hatch into rather unappetizing maggots) into just ripening fruit, did appear–but not early enough to affect our strawberries, and late enough as well that we only needed to spray our blueberries a couple of times. I’d be interested to hear experiences from customers who grow fall-bearing raspberries–did you spray? What? And did it work? If not, were your berries ruined?

Other problems seem less tractable. Despite going to extraordinary lengths to protect our squash crops–growing resistant varieties, covering with row cover, spraying with the rather ineffective materials we’re allowed to use–zucchini plantings were dying in record time, some before they even began to produce fruit. Our winter squash and pumpkin crops (all three acres of which we covered until they were in bloom) did better than last year, but not well enough to justify all the extra labor that went into them. And our basil, though it lasted several weeks longer than last year, still succumbed to disease around mid-August, over a month short of the frosts that used to lay it low.

On a more positive note, the new bird netting system installed by John and Taylor Bemis to protect the blueberries is not only infinitely easier to install and remove, but far more effective than previous methods. In addition, our ‘new’ blueberry planting (now in its third year?) looks to be prospering and may begin to produce fruit in the next year or two. Despite the specter of late blight throughout much of the summer and fall, our (sprayed) tomatoes remained productive through September and beyond with overall yield and quality that was outstanding. And our new tactic of releasing parasitic wasps to control European Corn Borer caterpillars resulted in largely worm-free corn (at least until the arrival of the Corn Earworm, a different species not targeted by the wasps) and larger yields of ripe (red, yellow and orange) peppers, which also often fall prey to European Corn Borer. This year also marked the first time we used a subsoiler (more aggressive than the chisel plow that we have traditionally used to break up compacted soils)–it’s tempting to credit this new practice with the huge yields of huge carrots we enjoyed this year, but, like most things, there’s almost certainly more to the story.

And speaking of high carrot yields, we are still sitting on a large quantity of carrots, so if any of you missed out on ordering a 25 lb bag this fall, or have already gone through them, we still have plenty available at $27.50 per bag–just e-mail if you’re interested and we’ll make arrangements for a pick up.

In addition, I would like to recognize all those individuals involved in our sales efforts–farmstand and farmer’s market crews both, in particular Liza Bemis who ties production and sales together and makes it work. More than successful crops and other triumphs in the field, more than the celebrated farm vista, more than the farm tradition, what makes Hutchins special are the customers and the farm stand crew, interacting, sharing enthusiasm for the produce and the ensuing kitchen alchemy that transforms lovingly raised ingredients into the only form of art that we (literally) consume every day and that (literally) sustains us–food. A heartfelt thank you 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 good winter, and we’ll see you in the spring.

Brian Cramer
Hutchins Farm