May 2020 Newsletter – Opening the Farmstand

           ‘Farm Life’ is a phrase evocative of a simple existence, uncomplicated by modern considerations and fashions, a timeless, idyllic lifestyle that is concerned with fundamental processes and systems, unmediated by and independent of social or cultural conventions. This is largely nonsense of course. Farms and their farmers exist within communities, social contexts and markets. They participate in and depend on the same social systems and networks as their non-agricultural neighbors, depending on supply chains, markets, and local infrastructure as much as any other business.

       But I do think there is something special about farms and farming-though agricultural pursuits are nowhere near as ancient as hunting, gathering and scavenging, they somehow seem to have become an inextricable part of our makeup in their relatively short history. Something about watching seeds germinate in neat rows, seeing a field of grain nodding in a gentle summer breeze, even watching the plow turning over the soil in neat furrows, or an irrigation gun describing its rotating arc of water, creating a rainstorm in the sunshine (complete with rainbow), is deeply, fundamentally appealing and satisfying to the senses.

       We are grateful to be involved in the agricultural enterprise we call Hutchins Farm, and are daily reminded of our good fortune to have found ourselves here, in the orchards and the fields, hawks screeching overhead, measuring the progress of the season in the changing quality of the light and the green of the landscape. We watch amazed as food springs from the earth-understanding all the work and planning that precedes that moment, we are still struck by the magic and beauty of it. Despite the fact that we are firmly ensconced in our local community, our families, our networks, our herd, we are daily able to step out of those roles and into the roles of steward, cultivator, producer, working in a space that, almost incidentally and only partly, is made beautiful through our efforts. Hutchins exists in its local context, but is also apart from it, a haven from the storms that swirl through our towns, states, and nations. We hope that you are able to find some relief or escape from the current insanity, and that maybe Hutchins provides some of that refuge for you as it does for us.

       May has been flying by for us as we learn how to navigate our new realities. The Union Square and Central Square farmers markets opened last week giving us a chance to test run many of our new sanitation and safety procedures, as well as our new online store (more on that in a bit), and in short – we’ve already learned a lot! A great many thanks to our market customers who came out and were our “guinea pigs” – your support and patience means so much to all the farmers at the markets.

       And as we have gotten a few markets under our belts, we’re gearing up to open the farmstand for the season on Tuesday June 2nd, and we will be back to our usual hours of 11am-6pm Tuesday – Sunday. We have what we think are good plans, but as we have found with the markets, sometimes it takes seeing a plan in action to realize what you need to modify. So, with that in mind, here are some new procedures you will find when you get here (subject to change as we figure out what works best!)  

  1. If you are feeling under the weather please stay home – we are asking all our staff to do the same thing – we want to see you, but only if you are feeling good!
  2. Please practice social distancing in the parking lot and in the stand! We will have markers to help when waiting in line to get into the farmstand.
  3. In the beginning of the season, only two to three customers will be allowed in the stand at one time – this will increase as we have more product and social distancing in the building becomes more doable. A crew member will be monitoring how many people are inside and let you know when it is safe to enter.
  4. There will be one entrance and a separate exit in and out of the stand – please pay attention to signage
  5. All customers need to use the provided hand sanitizer before entering the stand
  6. All staff will be wearing masks in the stand and in the parking lot – and all customers should wear masks too. Per the Governor’s order, we won’t be able to let you into the stand without one. Please help us keep our staff and other customers safe!
  7. Per a temporary state regulation, we are not allowed to touch your reusable bags, so kindly leave those in the car. For those of you that want to use them, you can take your shopping basket out to your car and bag there and then return your shopping basket to the crew member out front – we will be disinfecting shopping baskets between uses.
  8. Thank you so much for your cooperation, your patience, and your smiles behind those masks!

For those of you that don’t want to come inside the stand during these wild times, we understand, and some products will be available for pre-order on our website with contactless curbside pickup on Wednesdays and Saturdays – those pickups will start on June 6th. Unfortunately, given our harvest schedules, not everything we have at the stand will be available online, but we will try to get a good mix up there. Please see our website going forward for directions.

       For those of you interested in our “farmers choice bag of veggies” we expect those to start up end of June or early July when we have enough variety to feel like we can offer more than just salad. There will be more information about them on our website and social media when those are ready to be ordered. While they are similar to a traditional CSA in that they are a mix of what the crew harvested that morning, they are unlike a CSA in that you do not sign up for a full season ahead of time – they will be available to order weekly through our online store. As you feel you need another infusion of veggies place an order! They will be available for pickup at the stand (contactless curbside) or at the farmers markets. We expect that as the season progresses, we will have them in multiple sizes (small and large) so you can pick the size that best works for you, or adjust weekly as needed.

       The self-serve porch is open through the weekend with some produce and seedlings, and after June 2nd only seedling sales will continue to be self-serve when the stand is closed – so for those of you plant shopping at 9pm (and we know there are a few of you!) you can keep on doing that. Self-serve produce however, will be discontinued.

         We’re looking forward to seeing you all – adjusting is hard, but we’re muddling through – and we’re excited for another season! Mother nature is sometimes cruel, but she is forever moving forward and evolving – and so we move forward too, adapting to our new circumstance.

We hope to see you (from a six-foot distance) very soon,  
-Brian Cramer and the Hutchins Farm team  

Top row left to right: crew picking arugula, strawberries blooming, Central Square Farmers Market set up.
Bottom row left to right: Maeve and Huey at the Union Square Market, tomato seedlings for sale, peas growing taller.    

April 2020 Newsletter - Self-Serve Seedlings & Covid-19 Update

Spring arrived in March and with it some wild warmth – we got the peas planted and they started to emerge a full two weeks ahead of their usually scheduled planting date! But then cooler weather prevailed in the beginning of April, and in true New England fashion, we’re alternating between winter coats and t-shirts.

What, of course, has been even more wild, is our collective new reality. Or reality at least for now? We’re getting use to standing 6 feet away from each other in meetings, wearing masks, and learning to wildly gesture now that no one can see our facial expressions. While Covid-19 has upended many of our usual protocols and social norms here on the farm, it hasn’t slowed down Mother Nature – spring is persisting along, and we must follow. We hope this newsletter finds you well, and we’re looking forward to the day when we can hug you all instead of wave across the parking lot.

The honor system self-serve front porch at the stand is up and running for early spring seedlings –please check the website daily as we try to keep the list of what’s out for sale as accurate as possible (you can even see what time the list was last updated). We still have some bagged McEnroe compost and potting soil also available. It shouldn’t be too much longer before the variety of seedlings grows, and maybe we even get some edible early greens and rhubarb up there (if the weather cooperates that is). Please remember that this is done on the honor systems, so exact change or check only. And it’s open as long as the weather is above freezing – so feel free to come by anytime – social distancing is easier at 9pm? Although it’s a little dark to see the plant tags then…

While spring planting is in full swing, we’re starting to think about how we are going to tackle this season from a retail perspective. Let’s start with the good news – we will be opening the farmstand in late May/early June as usual! Farms are classified as “essential businesses” and certainly getting food is an essential part of life.  While we will be adding additional protocols in the stand to help with physical distancing and potential cross-contamination points, we will be opening and you will be able to still get the somewhat usual Hutchins experience you are used to.  The Farmers’ markets also will be opening on schedule, but with different protocols and some physical changes to reduce hand to hand interactions.

Hutchins is known for a few things, but perhaps chief among them is our daily harvest – attempting to provide our customers with the freshest produce we can, we run through this crazy dance of harvesting all our greens first thing before the stand opens. This perhaps obsessive devotion to this goal means we plant many plantings of a single product to attempt to get a consistent stream of produce to the farmstand each day. This does not lend itself easily to a sudden pivot to a weekly CSA model or pre-orders, and the wheels were already set in motion back with our seed orders in December. So, while we won’t be offering a traditional CSA, we will be offering weekly a “Farmers’ Choice Box” on a pre-ordered online platform. These will contain a variety of what we are growing at the time, and as the name implies, the farmers picking that day will be deciding what goes into them. While the boxes won’t be all the same, but they will all contain the same dollar amount of produce. We expect to offer them in different sizes, and you can change your size every week depending on your needs. Likely these will start up in late June or early July when we actually have enough produce variety to do them without drowning you all in salad. We will also be offering some pre-ordered “a la carte” (if you will) items as well, for example lettuce by the head. All of these pre-paid orders will be available for curbside pickup so you don’t even need to come into the stand. They will also be available for pick up at our three farmers markets. Liza is working hard to set this up and figure out all the logistics, so many more details on how this will work to come!

Also, for those of you looking for a weekly pick-me-up, Mel’s Field Edge Flowers CSF share still has spots open – please see her website here for more details. We will also be offering Field Edge Flower’s bunches on our online platform for pre-order as well.

We’ve gotten a lot of phone calls and emails from you all over the past several weeks, and we cannot thank you enough for your support as we take on these new challenges. We are happy to still be farming and will be happy to see you all again, even under these strange circumstances. We hope you continue to shop with us, whatever that looks like as we go forward!

Wishing you health and peace,

-The Hutchins Farm Team

  From left to right: Baby pepper plants, Huey transplanting in the greenhouse, Peas up in the field      

March 2020 Newsletter - Parsnips are ready!

Happy Spring? We guess? What happened to winter this year?

         The warm weather woke up our parsnips early, which in turn piqued the interest of our resident deer, so we thought it prudent to dig them right away – they will be available self-serve on the porch beginning Saturday, March 7th – remember it’s an honor system and exact change or check is required. As farmers and gardeners who grow them know, producing parsnips is fraught with difficulties: they germinate very slowly, and can easily dry out and fail to get established during this protracted phase; and should you be lucky enough to get a strong stand, they are extremely slow to grow and not competitive with weeds, so they require constant attention to keep them from getting overwhelmed by aggressive garden bullies. They take a long time (well over 3 months) to mature, so problems with germination or early growth often means that a second try is wasted effort. Should the stars align and the gods smile and you achieve a creditable stand of parsnips, further difficulties arise during the marketing phase: otherwise tolerant and open-minded people are inexplicably prone to statements like “I’m pretty sure I don’t like parsnips” despite never having tried them. Perhaps something about the “-ip” ending, in common with turnips and the bunyip, is off-putting. We’re confident that those who are able to rise above irrational prejudice and rank slander will find our freshly dug parsnips, sweetened by the winter, are a delicious and satisfying way to welcome the new season. They are exceptionally versatile and make a wonderful soup, desirable addition to stocks, purees and roasts, and a sweet treat shredded and fried.
        Our annual shipment of McEnroe compost and potting soil has arrived. Stop by at your convenience to get what you need for the upcoming growing season-payment is honor system: leave cash or check in the slot next to the door. Potting soil is $12 per 22 quart bag, or 3 for $33 (price includes tax). Compost is $9 per 40 pound bag, or 5 for $40. Potting soil is best used for growing in containers or for starting your own seedlings, compost is best for mixing into beds and gardens prior to planting, or topdressing existing plantings.
        Other developments include the return of several members of our team, including such luminaries as assistant farm manager Brian Daubenspeck (recently returned from an agriculturally oriented vacation in Colombia), Huey-harn Chen (our farmer’s market manager, among her many other roles), and Melanie Hardy (once again managing our greenhouse while operating her own, on-site cut-flower operation: Field Edge Flowers– which still has CSA shares available). In addition to these familiar faces, we welcome Dave and Kathy Rice, most recently of Sweetcore Farm, in way upstate New York – Dave will be managing our neglected apple orchards, and seeking ways to boost yield and consistency in that organically challenging crop, while Kathy will be working in the farm stand. We are excited to have them join us in our efforts to maintain Hutchins as a vibrant and productive part of Concord’s agricultural landscape.
       The Hutchins Farm 2020 plant catalog is up on our website for all you gardeners planning already – just check the tab under “produce information” for the downloadable PDF. We hope you can join us as well, as the winter recedes (did it ever show up?) and the world awakens under the benign regard of the sun and the gentle encouragement of the rain, light breezes cajoling drowsy trees to swell their buds and unfurl their leaves, warm evenings inviting peepers to awake and fill the night with their song.
Best,
-Brian Cramer and the Hutchins Farm Team
    
  From left to right: Mel harvesting parsnips, parsnips after they have been washed, Dave harvesting parsnips.

November 2019 Newsletter - Season Wrap Up

     A long, pleasant stretch of moderate fall weather has abruptly given way to a grim foretaste of January, as we scramble around trying to winterize everything we can think of, the ground stiffening like concrete under our feet. Long postponed tasks and projects begin to elbow their way up the priority list, as the recent paramount priority – harvest – cedes its place in sudden irrelevance. Even the hardiest of vegetables, the spinach, the kale, the leeks, the lettuce, can’t tolerate sustained low temperatures without damage. Cell walls burst, tissue yellows and desiccates. The plants survive, generally, but, unless protected, will not be marketable until and unless they survive until spring and grow again under the warming and lengthening days of that welcome season.

     But we admit to a measure of relief at this (expected) turn of events – harvest has filled our days for much of the last six months, beginning with the earliest asparagus, greens and rhubarb, through the brief moment of the peas and the strawberries, the welcome return of those keenly anticipated blueberries, corn and tomatoes, and their eventual disappearance, and coming to an end with the unearthing of months old roots, grown sweet with the cool autumn air. After doing the harvest dance at an increasingly frantic pace as the season matures, suddenly the music stops, silenced by the arrival of the deathly cold.
     This particular season was an especially fruitful one, with abundance and variety throughout, punctuated by a number of notable failures. As has been the case for the last few years, the spring of 2019 was a cool one-no unseasonably frosty mornings, but consistently cool weather, accompanied by a lot of rain. Our low-lying fields lay wet for much of the spring, and were periodically deluged thereafter, limiting our options and disrupting our planting plans. Our inability to plant in a timely fashion led to one of our more notable disappointments of 2019: a lack of sweet corn. The lack was not for lack of trying, but rather because of delayed planting. Our method of transplanting sweet corn doesn’t allow for a lot of latitude in planting dates-a week of waiting for the water to go down can ultimately mean a low-yielding, stunted planting. And one delayed planting can lead to the next being late to go in as well, with the result this year: low yields and an early end to corn season.
     On the other hand, some of the successes outweighed even such a disastrous stumble. The long-awaited arrival of truly disease resistant basil varieties meant that we were able to continue harvesting well into September, just as in the days before the arrival of the disease. Experienced greenhouse and field managers ensured we were on schedule with sequential plantings of everything from arugula to zucchini, and the flow of lettuce was uninterrupted from May through November (although it has recently frozen). Our first time growing early broccoli in many years met with success, though much of our late plantings were ruined by disease. We also resumed growing Brussels sprouts after a long hiatus, and had reasonably good results until the aphids overcame the plants late in the season. Onions and garlic both provided bumper crops of high-quality bulbs, though, as always, they were sold out well before the farm stand closed.
     Other crops were neither outright failures nor unmitigated triumphs. Apples made an appearance (unlike their conspicuous absence last year), but were challenged by the conditions of early spring and perhaps by our inability to provide adequate attention to this unpredictable crop. We have hired a new member of the management team for next season who has extensive experience with organic apples in the Northeast and who will be able to prioritize them over the next several years, hopefully leading to more consistent, high-quality crops. Potatoes were also a disappointment, another victim of the wet spring-we were unable to plant them where we had intended to, and ended up getting them in late into an inadequately prepared area, with predictably unsatisfactory results. And I should mention the sudden disappearance of about an eighth of an acre (maybe 1000 lbs or so) of carrots, destroyed during the course of a single day in late October, just as we were set to harvest. The perpetrators of this crime left many calling cards, and had returned to the scene when I discovered it-honking softly and eyeing the nearby beets.
     This weekend we said goodbye to the final group of our seasonal crew – the long-serving ones who weathered (and I mean really weathered) the whole season. From the earliest spring days in the greenhouse when it was a thrill to be wearing T-shirts, to the endless heat of this years’ July, to the frigid temperatures they battled this week, this group unfailingly smiled, worked, and worked some more. Our endless thanks to them for making this season happen.
     On balance, the season was a rewarding one, with many more high points than low, and unlike last season, when poor germination led to a notable absence of overwintered parsnips this spring, we should have a fine crop of super-sweet, tender parsnips to dig in April, 2020 the first real sign that the winter yet to come is in retreat.
     We hope you were able to share and enjoy the fruits of our labor this season, and hope you continue to do so for many years to come. Thanks for your continued patronage, and we hope you enjoy some winter rest!
Best,
-Brian Cramer and the Hutchins Farm Team
    
  From left to right: Maria and Ted taking down the blueberry net, Zach winding up row cover, Louisa and Huey heading off to cover next year’s strawberry plants with hay.

Thank you for a great season!

Closing day at the farmstand is upon us – the stand will close for the season today at 4:30pm, just in time for the early sunset. Just a quick note to say thank you! We, as always, would not be here without our faithful customers who return day after day, week after week, and season after season.

No season is without its challenges, but overall was a good growing year. While the variety of products is dwindling, we still have lots of good stuff to offer today at the stand, and in the weeks to come at the farmers market and on the self-serve honor system front porch. We’ll be at the Saturday Somerville Union Square Market and the Monday Cambridge Central Square Market until Thanksgiving, and there will be a limited selection of items on our honor system self-serve front porch at the stand starting later this week. Please check our website to see what might be available before making the trip over.
Again, thank you all for this season, full season wrap up newsletter to come, but we didn’t want this day to pass without an acknowledgement of what all your patronage means to us. Thank you.
Best,
-Brian Cramer and the Hutchins Farm Team
   
  A small portion of the crew that makes Hutchins Farm run!
www.hutchinsfarm.com

Bulk order sign ups & closing day information

Although we have had a few frosty mornings and we have pronounced the tomatoes, summer squash and cucumbers dead, we still seem to have one foot in the summer. Below blackened, twisted, frost-kissed foliage, the fruits of summer still hang, undamaged: eggplant, peppers, and green beans, all still available and abundant. Our other foot is firmly in the fall, as we harvest a growing roster of storage roots, and the hardy greens begin to sweeten as they only do when the temperatures drop.

And so commences our thoughts of winter and the end of the season: Bulk Order sign-ups. In contrast to last year, when we had plenty of potatoes but few carrots, we have ample carrots this season, but our potato yield was meager. We have therefore decided that we will have a sign-up sheet for 25 lb bags of carrots, but will not be offering our usual sign-up for 50 lb potato bags.  Instead, we are hoping to have a good number of 20 lb bags of potatoes available off-the-shelf during our last week.

Carrot bag sign-ups can happen in one of two ways:

  • e-mail—send your order to info@hutchinsfarm.com. Please let us know how many 25 lb bags you would like
  • In person at the farmstand on our ‘official’ sign-up sheets

 

Orders will be honored in the order they are received, and we will begin accepting them as soon as this e-mail is sent. Bags are $30 each.

 

     Closing day this year will be Sunday, November 3rd, when we will close at 4:30 PM due to lack of daylight after the time change. Carrot bags will be available for pick-up beginning Tuesday the 29th. Weather and supplies permitting, we will likely have produce available self-serve on the porch after we close—check our website after we close for up-to-date information and availability.

 

The waning of the 2019 season finds us flush with the bounty of the season, without the many shortfalls we experienced in 2018. Broccoli and cauliflower, scarce to nonexistent in 2018, are regulars on our display shelves; Brussels sprouts, absent from our fields for a number of years, have made a triumphant return; parsnips, so conspicuously absent in the fall of 2018 and spring of 2019, are very much present this fall, and presumably will be among the first fresh produce we harvest on that far-off spring day in 2020.  Apples, arugula, bok choy, cabbage, carrots and cilantro, to proceed no further than the third letter of the alphabet, all still going strong along with a lengthy list of others.

We hope you will make the time to come in and experience New England’s fall bounty this month, and join us for one (or more) final stock up before the season comes to a close.

Best,
-Brian Cramer and the rest of the Hutchins Farm crew
  
  From left to right: bok choy looking good, the Hutchins sign with pumpkins, leeks touched by frost
www.hutchinsfarm.com

Concord Ag Day 2019

This weekend: Concord Ag Day!
       While the calendar says September, the weatherman still keeps sending us an occasional summer day. This time of year reflects the best that New England has to offer: our crop variety and abundance are on the increase and the gamut of summer and fall produce is on display in all its glory. Summer crops like tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers are still coming on strong, with the late summer/early fall veggies like winter squash, potatoes, turnips, and winter radishes beginning to make appearances. We will have some apples this year – while they may be “aesthetically challenged,” compared to last year we are just grateful they have shown us some fruit this year.
       In celebration of the New England bounty, this Saturday we are attending the 14th annual Ag Day farmers’ market on Main Street in Concord center. This unique market showcases the bounty of Concord’s many farm businesses at the height of the growing season. There will be live music, a few activities for the kids, lots of information about great local organizations that support agriculture, and of course, your Concord Farmers! Ag Day will run Saturday September 14th from 10 AM to 2 PM on Main St., which will be closed from the roundabout to Walden Street. 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! Ag Day then continues with garden tours on Saturday afternoon-get information online (www.concordagday.com) or at the Garden Club table at the Ag Day market.
       Then on Sunday September 15th, a number of Concord farms will be hosting farm tours – Hutchins will be hosting one tour at 1pm. 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.
       Another local event of note: on Sunday, September 22nd, Verrill Farm will be hosting the annual Stone Soup Dinner. Cocktail hour begins at 4pm with local restaurant tastings beginning at 5pm. Hutchins Farm again will be participating providing some of the produce, and we’ll be there to hang out and chat. Tickets are available for $40 at Verrill Farm and the Concord Cheese Shop- Cash or check only. www.stonesoupconcord.com for more information.
We hope to see you soon either at Ag Day, at Stone Soup, or at the farmstand!
-Brian Cramer and the Hutchins Farm crew
 
  From left to right: heart-shaped radish, Ag Day Market 2018, apple guardian

August 2019 Newsletter

Melon season has arrived! 

 

               Summer days are hazy but not lazy at Hutchins, full of frantic activity as we scramble to stay on top of harvesting an expanding list of ripening crops, all the while trying to keep up with a demanding seeding and planting schedule, and at the same time attending to all the other things that pop up (many of which are weeds). Days are long, the heat is punishing, and as the shadows lengthen and the light drains from the evening sky, we are relieved at our daily reprieve, but frustratingly aware of all that didn’t get done-all the quick jobs that we should have but didn’t get to that, with the passage of a few days, become time-consuming jobs, and if further postponed, may become impossible. Each evening requires performing triage on unwieldy lists of pressing projects, ruthlessly dropping those whose long neglect has rendered impractical or pointless.
                But wistful summer evenings pass into fantastical summer nights, as the darkness thickens like a velvety sauce, the bright yellow thumbnail moon illuminating fishbone clouds and a world turned grayscale. Down the staid slopes of Punkatasset Hill where the sprinklers rhythmically hydrate manicured lawns under the winking stars, across Monument St. to the weedy wilds of Hutchins Farm, among swamp and floodplain, the plowed and the fallow, amidst the riotous bacchanal of unruly insects and amphibians, the rowdy, hysterical gangs of coyotes loudly planning their cornfield raids, and the fast-moving constellations of blinking fireflies. The belligerent deerflies of the day have given way to clouds of languid mosquitoes, whining softly in the dark like lost souls; bats flutter and tumble overhead with no appreciable effect on the mass of bloodsuckers; skunks bumble along where they will, their secret weapon having obviated the usual survival requirements of stealth, cunning and avoidance. Finally we come to the end, the border, the unctuous river, awash in the shimmering reflection of moon, stars, and the planes that crisscross the sky with their curious wing lights-green on the right, red on the left (unless they’re flying upside down). The throaty belch of a bullfrog startles a deer and his rippling, antlered reflection; distant lightning flashing to the north sends the perpetually anxious creature off at a run, tail up and flashing white, beckoning his colleagues to follow.
               To walk about the farm on a warm summer night, humming and thrumming, brimming and redolent with such a profusion and multifarity (not a word apparently, but who cares) of life, full of danger, drama, sex, death, decay, birth, pain, joy and on and on-is a thrilling experience, all the more so when one compares the scene with the same walk on a silent winter’s night, crunching through crusted snow, same sky, in winter full of malice or at least indifference, all life hunkered down, asleep, on the run, hungry, waiting for the return of light and warmth.
                Let’s celebrate the summer by partaking in all the gifts of this fruitful season, affirming our membership in the confraternity of all that is alive. At our house, where we’re practicing (but not strict) Delishatarians, we celebrate a string of holidays during the growing season that don’t fall on specific dates on the calendar, but happen spontaneously when the object of the celebration is ready to be eaten. To name a few of the holiest days: the anticipatory Asparagus Day, a forward looking observance that also involves an interesting olfactory component; Pesto Day, mostly about basil, but which usually falls when the first peas arrive, and so involves a big pot of pasta (homemade if you’re orthodox) tossed with blanched pea pods and freshly made pesto; and Eggplant Parmesan Day, which, despite its name, is really about when the first ripe field tomatoes are ready to slice and layer with thin breaded and fried slices of eggplant and basil leaves, topped with fresh mozzarella and broiled until brown and bubbly.
                There is still plenty of time to gather sacraments for your own homemade holiday-summer vegetables are going strong, with sweet corn, melons and watermelons currently abundant with plenty more to come, tomatoes beginning to ripen in earnest, and squash and cucumbers still very much in evidence. Stalwarts like lettuce, chard and parsley can almost always be found, green beans are a bit more sporadic, but upcoming plantings look like they will be quite productive. After a spotty carrot year last year, we have (predictably) overcompensated and should be blessed with countless carrots through and beyond the end of the season. Some of our annual herbs like dill and cilantro have been a bit sparse of late, but we continue seeding these for harvest through the fall and should have ample supplies soon. Late summer favorites like celery and potatoes are on the verge of being ready, and fall favorites like winter squash and parsnips are still lustily putting on growth.
                  August is also the change of season for our staff. With August comes the harsh reality that our wonderful college and high school students, after diligently learning the ropes all summer, will leave us shortly to continue their education, and leave us in a mad panic to find suitable replacements (they are never replaceable in our hearts!)
                 We hope you are able to make the trip this month and enjoy the summer bounty. For all too soon fall will be here (and with it, its own bounty) and its reminder that winter isn’t too far behind.
-Brian Cramer and the Hutchins Farm crew
 

From left to right: The melon whisperer, Corn getting taller, Hot days on the farm

Opening Day 2019 - Saturday June 1st!

May 2019 Newsletter

The farmer plies his trade under changeable skies in the spring, noting with approval the phenomena that run smoothly in the furrows plowed by previous cycles, and with alarm any phenomena that seem to confound the assumptions and expectations that experience has provided. With age and experience, the unvarying annual patterns incorporate themselves in a very literal and visceral way, so that the unfolding leaves, the heady aroma of pollen, the spreading, deepening green, and the riot of frogs on a spring evening become almost internal experiences, in conversation and communion with all the previous iterations of the same phenomena experienced in previous springs.

 

But there are also hidden cycles, cycles within cycles, countercurrents and eddies, erratic cycles, eccentric cycles, even singular events disguising themselves as cycles. These cycles are harder to discern and make sense of, and only when we finally notice them and their connections with more familiar patterns do they begin to inform our experience. When faced with variations in the more obvious patterns, we are content with blithe alibis and simplistic causality. But anomalies and variations in the more subtle and complicated patterns baffle our ill-informed attempts to synthesize them into our model of the world and how it works. A shrug of the shoulders is often the unsatisfactory but only possible response to events that challenge our sense of cosmic propriety-to name a few of very local significance: in 2009, an unusual early outbreak of late blight in July, causing a region-wide extinction of unprotected tomato crops; in 2016, an unprecedented (and thankfully as yet unrepeated) outbreak of aphids in all of our cucurbit crops, a very localized occurrence apparently limited to Hutchins Farm; in 2018 and 2019, record breaking rainfall in the fall followed by an unheard of number of rainy days in the spring. We grasp at explanations, and accept even the dubious and specious among them gratefully.

 

Spring, however wet and gray, is spring nonetheless, and the natural world is irrepressible in its celebration of the sun’s renewed warmth and the long hours of light. Impertinent asparagus is poking out of the ground, spinach is luxuriating in the cool weather it favors, fat seeds are imbibing water and sending out their first tentative roots and shoots into the world, trusting they have found themselves in a friendly world of sun and water, humus and soils teeming with life. Another season begins, patiently trying to teach its lessons to the thick-headed farmer who, having lost count of how many times he has repeated this class, hopes this time to manage a passing grade.

 

As always, we have begun our season with self-service on the front porch: we like to share our enthusiasm for cultivation by offering a variety of plants, the siblings of those that we plant in our own fields, for those fortunate enough to have access to a garden plot, or even just a porch or a balcony. We have been harvesting the aforementioned asparagus for several weeks now, and it is at the peak of its season, but the cool weather has definitely slowed production-look for it for several more weeks. Crops sown in the safety and comfort of the greenhouse, and those sown between rain squalls during the bleak days of early April have begun to mature, with rhubarb, spinach, cilantro, dill, arugula, radishes, and lettuce the earliest to arrive, and kale, collards, chard, parsley, endive and escarole soon to make an appearance.

 

And so we will open the farmstand for the season on Saturday June 1st – our regular hours going forward will be Tuesday – Sunday 11am-6pm. Most eagerly awaited, strawberries will likely not yet be in evidence when we finally open for the season on Saturday, but it won’t be long before they blush and sweeten under the sun’s warm gaze-expect them to appear sometime during the following week.
Our Cambridge Central Square and Somerville Union Square Farmers Markets have already started up for the season, and next week on June 6th the Belmont Center Farmers Market opens for the season as well. Please check our website for our current offerings of both produce and seedlings – as always, we try and keep it as accurate as possible, but please call if you are making a special trip over – while we can’t set aside anything, we can tell you if we picked it and how much there is.

 

Among the consolations of living in a place like New England with four distinct seasons is a heightened appreciation for the miraculous cycle of stirring, birth, growth, procreation, decline, death, decay and rebirth. We hope you come celebrate the seasons with us, partaking of the seasonal sacraments the soil provides.

 

Welcome to another season!
-Brian Cramer and the Hutchins Farm crew

Central Square Farmers Market, Apple Blossoms, Tomato Seedlings

March 2019 Newsletter

Early March and we’re still in the grips of deep winter, with bitter winds scouring the snow covered landscape, and stars glinting like ice in a frozen night sky. Sure of nothing, I’m fairly certain that’s all about to change-hopefully, the change comes in a gradual, measured fashion, but I wouldn’t put money on it.

In any case, one of the most comforting things to do in discouraging weather is to peruse the pages of seed catalogs, with their glossy photos of impossibly beautiful vegetables and flowers, their promise of interesting novelty in the context of the timeless turning of the seasons. Full of hyperbole and equivocation, long experience teaches that, in the context of a seed catalog, ‘mild’ usually means ‘tasteless’, ‘medium-sized’ often stands in for ‘puny’, and so forth. That said, the prose found in seed catalogs is an interesting (occasionally brilliant, in the case of the Fedco catalog, until recently penned by the very funny, very lefty CR Lawn) subset of the larger, largely vapid realm of advertising copy. Having tried my hand at writing variety descriptions in our own (colorless, digital) catalog of the plants we offer for sale every spring, I’m always fascinated at how various, usually anonymous, writers of catalog copy deal with the inevitability of repetition, the difficulty in differentiating two varieties that, apart from the name (and the price?) may be essentially identical. A good thesaurus, and careful rereading to minimize avoidable repetition, are essential. Caveat Emptor.


Our humble plant catalog, largely a rehash of older versions, is updated and available on our website under the tab “Produce Information.” We’re committed to focusing more attention this season on consistently producing a wide variety of garden plants for our gardening customers, so come mid-April, keep a look out for the first arrivals. And be assured that all of our offerings (unless otherwise noted) are varieties grown on the farm because of their outstanding qualities, and the descriptions aren’t simply lifted from seed catalogs, but reflect our actual experience with these crops and varieties. Once mid-April rolls around, we will as always attempt to keep an update of what is available for sale on the front page of our website.


Also coming soon to lift the March malaise, the Concord Ag Committee is presenting its annual Spring Forum-this year’s program features local food establishments that are committed to using seasonal, locally sourced ingredients, explaining their philosophies and practices. Participating establishments include Saltbox Kitchen, Papa Razzi Trattoria, The Concord Cheese Shop, and Newbury Court kitchen. The forum begins at 7 PM on March 21st at the Harvey Wheeler Center in West Concord-come be inspired by how professionals incorporate a seasonal, locavore ethos in their offerings.


We have a number of returning faces this year at Hutchins on our crew and with that also comes an exciting announcement: we are thrilled that Mel from Field Edge Flowers is returning to grow certified organic blooms at Hutchins Farm once again this season! Field Edge Flowers will be selling lots of simple bunches at the Hutchins farm stand just as they did back in 2016, but this season they also have expanded to offer a weekly CSA flower share:


From Mel: “A generous bundle of 25-30 stems of fresh, organic blooms and greenery carefully arranged and wrapped in paper….and handed to you by the farmer herself, every week for eight weeks! Over the course of the season, everything Field Edge Flowers grows will appear in your bouquets–we are planning on lisianthus, sunflowers, dahlias, and zinnias, and all of the many little bits and bobs that we grow and that you can’t find at your local flower shop. Once the CSA season starts (we let you know-weather dependent-usually in late June or so), pick ups will be at the Hutchins farm stand on Tuesdays from 2-6 pm….so you can grab your veggies for the week while you are there!”


For those of you interested in purchasing a flower share, more information can be found on Field Edge Flowers website: https://www.fieldedgeflowers.com/csf-shares and for any questions about Field Edge Flowers or anything else flower related Mel can be reached by email at fieldedgeflowers@gmail.com


While we have been spending this winter dreaming and planning, we also have been hard at work. The apple orchard pruning has just finished for the winter, and the blueberry bushes are the next project to tackle. Planting schedules are written (and will probably be rewritten ten times over as mother nature changes her mind over and over this spring), and we have begun seeding in the greenhouse – and already spent a few nights fretting about the temperatures. The joys of March!


We hope you are having a warm and cozy winter,
-Brian Cramer and the Hutchins Farm Crew

Apple trees at dawn, March snow, Leeks emerging

www.hutchinsfarm.com