The best part of the season

This is truly my favorite time of the CSA season. It’s not because we only have a few weeks left or that things are starting to slow down a little. It is because I love the produce we get to harvest, I love the cooler weather, I love making warm food with the produce available this time of year, and I love planning for the winter months.

The produce this time of year is great. We get to harvest the leeks, brussels spround, winter squash, potatoes, celeriac, and all the root vegetables. I don’t know why I like harvesting them more than other crops. Maybe because I’ve been waiting so long to harvest them or maybe because I love to eat them all, either way I love it.

The best part of the produce though is all the great food to make with it. It is finally getting cooler so things like soup and using the oven seem appealing again. I love making soups. Squash soup, roasted carrot soup, vegetable soup, cauliflower soup, or my favorite potato leek soup. My wife usually gets tired of eating all the soup long before I do, but I could eat it all winter if I could. However, I could see how there are only so many times you could eat potato leek soup in one week.

It is also great to be cold again. It feels great to come in early on a harvest day bundled up with several layers with a coat and rain pants then by noon it has warmed up enough to get down to a t-shirt and pants. When I worked at Trillium and we had a crew of 10 or so the pile of clothes that would accumulate in the harvest vehicle would be enough to start a thrift shop (most items of clothing were not worth much more than thrift shop quality anyway). I will say that sometimes it does get a little too cold, but I would take it over the heat. Generally you can prepare with the proper gear for the cold, but you cannot do anything about humidity and 90 degrees.

I also enjoy going through all the storage crops we’ve brought in and rationing them out for the end of the season and into the winter. I will set aside everything we need for the end of the summer CSA then the winter CSA then what is left gets to go to the market. So with our onions and garlic, I knew that I wanted everyone to get a certain amount for the summer and winter CSAs and now what we have left we can bring to market until they run out. Unfortunately, the onions didn’t do quite as good and we are almost out of red onions already, but we do have some nice garlic to last for a while. I think I like this process because it is fun to see just how good these crops did and to be able to store them for when I need them.

I hope that you enjoy this time of the year as much as I do. Fall is a pretty season and if you don’t work with vegetables every day I’m sure there are a lot of other reasons to enjoy the season.

Thinking about 2017

It is 2017 budget planning time for the farm and Blandford. This means I get to think about what we want to do next year in terms of projects on the farm and how we want to grow. It is always a little tricky making the numbers work. Most of our expenses go toward paying for labor then we have all the costs needed to make the farm work like potting soil, seeds, repairs, and everything else, however, there is sometimes money we can put toward new capital investments. I don’t always get all that I request in my budget, but I do enjoy dreaming about some cool things for the farm.

As I mentioned, labor is the most expensive part of the farm budget. It is generally around 75% of our expenses, which means every time we want to be able to add people to the farm we need to be able to generate a lot of extra income for the farm. We are also trying to get over the hurdle of being able to have another farm person be around all year. This would help me with admin and communication that often get pushed aside when farming happens. We also have discussed doing more ed programs on the farm, which could be stimulated by having a year round farm staff. So we’ve had a few ideas, but getting over the hurdle of affording that person is a challenge.

One thing that is in my dream list in the budget is more winter growing capacity. So putting up for high tunnels to grow crops year round. We’d be able to expand our winter CSA and go to the market longer. This would help generate more revenue for additional people and help us increase our presence at the farmer’s market.

I’ve also been looking into upgrading and expanding our wash station. It can be a little cramped and we often end up having a big mud pit when we are washing our produce. I am hoping to expand our cement pad, put up some more permanent roofing, and organize it to be a little more efficient.

Building a portable chicken coop is another item I’ve wanted for a while. It would be great to let chickens run through the pasture or the crop field. This way they can eat bugs and weeds. They would also fertilize the ground right where we need it rather than hauling their manure there from their coop. I also am hoping to get some more fencing and try to run the goats in the crop field as well. This does make me a little nervous with the risk of them getting out and eating vegetable, but they didn’t ever get out of their fencing this past year.

Other projects are more functional like redoing the loft in the CSA barn. While we are working on that I’ve wanted to make that space more focused on being a CSA produce pick up area rather than a storage area for all our farm needs.

As you can see we have lots of ideas. I didn’t even go into other ideas like more fruit plants like raspberries or a bigger playscape and children’s garden. We most likely won’t be able to afford or tackle all these projects, but prioritizing is what we do on the farm all the time. Everyday I have to prioritize what needs to be done with our time and resources. Plus if we cannot get it done, then there is always next year.

Sorry I have not posted on the blog any farm updates in a while. Unfortunately, when things on the farm get busy the things that get dropped tend to be office/computer work. I’m hopeful this can be different in the future as the farm continues to grow and we can add more staff. It would be great to have someone dedicated on the farm to marketing and communications. In the mean time, I will have to do my best.

I thought I could give a farm update since I haven’t posted for the past month. It feels like things are getting closer to fall as the temperature is starting to get a little cooler each week. I don’t see any lows in the 40s coming up in the next 10 days. This is still a little warm, we’ve had light frosts by now other years. Along with the shift in weather temperature, some of the summer crops are starting to be done as well. The summer squash patch looks to be completely done along with the cucumbers in the field. The tomatoes have gotten a disease and are starting to die off as well so the numbers are much lower. Once we get a frost the tomatoes will be completely done even though that might not be for a few weeks yet.

The warmer weather definitely helped the tomatoes this year. I’ve never had so many tomatoes in a single week. The weeks we were getting so those massive quantities we were spending so much time harvesting and sorting all the tomatoes. It was great though to see all the tomatoes, there was one day we harvested over 1000 tomatoes from the field. Other crops that have done well over the summer have been the melons. I’ve never had such a good melon year either. We also had a bumper crop of field cucumbers.

All these fruiting crops have really enjoyed the weather and have done much better than other years. This makes up for some of the problems with crops earlier in the season. We did finally get an arugula patch and the salad turnips are finally good. I’ve planted 3 patches of salad turnips before this one and they all died off from the flea beetles. I’ve also been a little frustrated with the carrots, beets, and mini cabbage. I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to seed them and water them in. I think way may be best is a new seeder and some over head water, but that is a topic for another day.

We have 6 more weeks of the CSA after this week. Things are starting to come to an end. We do have a good amount of produce to get out to the CSA yet so don’t worry things aren’t slowing down too much yet.

Liz’s Farm Memories… So Far

This week’s blog post is brought to you by: Liz!


To those of you who haven’t met me, I am a current employee of the Blandford Farm: signed on through October! *Applause*

I am still learning a lot about the plants I help to grow, and how to maintain a farm. I want to have my own farm one day, but I still have a lot to learn. So instead of sharing a specific piece of knowledge, I am going to share a few snapshots of what it’s been like for me to work here this season.

* * * * *

The sweet acidic taste of a cherry tomato still warm from the sun explodes in my mouth as a line of sweat drips down my back.  It’s been collecting in little droplets between my shoulder blades for the last half hour.  A slight breeze feels delicious, if only for a few seconds. Somewhere ahead of me in the tomato jungle, a work-share is harvesting, too.  I wonder if we’ll be able to sell all these tomatoes at the market tomorrow?

* * * * *

When Aaron told me that I’d be taking the newly fashioned, air-conditioned-cooler-trailer to market for the first time, I was a little worried. Because that meant backing up the newly fashioned, air-conditioned-cooler-trailer. But I figured I’d just tie on my Rosie-the Riveter bandanna, roll up my sleeves and get to it. I had practiced a bit at the farm (backing up near the barn), and when I got to the market, everything went smoothly and without a hitch. (See what I did there? Hitch! …hitch, trailer…yeah…never mind.)

At any rate I’m only kidding.  I made a complete mess of it. A neighboring vendor or two kindly came running over to offer assistance, while the others quietly took bets on how long I’d take to get it right. I can’t prove that last statement. But if I were them, that’s what I’d be doing.  It took me what felt like an eternity, amidst shouts of friendly and conflicting advice, but I finally, FINALLY got it.

Now, a few months later, I’m happy to report that I’ve been told “Wow, you’ve really gotten better with that thing, we hardly notice when you get here anymore!” I think she was the one taking bets. J

* * * * *

Walking into the greenhouse at the beginning of the season is magical. It’s warm, and smells earthy and rich in a way that the frigid outdoors doesn’t.  I soon shed my outer layers as we begin to seed. We end the day with scallions.  Which, for those of you who have never seeded scallions, means counting to 14. A lot. It’s meditative, quiet, work. Quiet, because counting to 14 again and again is hard to do while carrying on a conversation. It takes a long time, but I don’t mind.  There are worse ways to spend a Monday.

* * * * *

There are so many more memories that I could share, but I’m afraid I’ve made this too long already.  Thanks for reading!


What are all these tomatoes?

This week I will do my annual explanation of all the tomato varieties we get in the shares each week. Now that the later varieties are starting to produce we are starting to see a lot of different tomatoes. Some you may never have seen before, there are new ones for me as well. This year we have almost 30 different tomato varieties. Some I use just for the greenhouse, some are cherry tomatoes, some are heirlooms, and others are the classic red hybrids. We will take a brief look at each one and see how the seed company describes each. I get almost all my tomatoes from either Fedco or Johnny’s. I’ll attach pictures for some, but some are easy enough to describe.

Heirloom Tomatoes

Brandywine – These have always been a classic heirloom and some say they are what made heirloom tomatoes popular. They are usually one of my top picks each year. They are pink colored and have a  “Meaty with just the perfect hint of tartness” flavor.

greenzebraGreen Zebra – 
I also consider this tomato on of my automatic picks each season. They are smaller tomatoes that are yellowish with green stripes. They are a good reliable tomato with good sweet flavor.


Aunt Ruby’s Green – These are also a green tomato and each year we always pass by them until we realize we are missing this variety. They can be hard to find since they stay green. The key to knowing when they are ripe is when they show a yellowish and pinkish blush on the bottom. It can have some fruit quality problems, but it is the best tasting green tomato I’ve tried so it sticks around,

Purden’s Purple – I tried this for the first time last year and I asked my self then and now why I grow it. Not because it tastes bad or that it does not produce well, but it is one of four pink tomatoes I grow. When I try it I am reminded that I like it because the taste is just as good as brandywine and it ripens a little earlier. The skin in a little darker than the pink brandywines, but they do look similar. The flesh tastes sweet and has a nice silky texture.

blackkrimBlack Krim – This is my replacement for the popular cherokee purple tomato. They are both the dark tomatoes, but I like these a little better. However, both has very little shelf life. Fortunately this year the fruit quality on them are pretty good, but we’ve still have several that ripened a little too much in the field and went bad very quickly. I really like the taste and the seed catalog says they  have a “juicy yet meaty taste and texture, described as having “…a smoky flavor like a good single malt scotch””

Red Zebra – These are new to the farm. I had seen them before, but haven’t grown them here. I mainly like them for their look. The are red with yellow stripes down the sides. They are a little smaller than green zebra, but all you need is one for a sandwich.

0979-hillbilly-potato-leaf-tomato.jpgHillbilly – I am also trying this variety for the first time this year. I had looked up what heirloom varieties were the most popular or most liked and this was one of them. I hadn’t ever grown it so I thought it would be worth a try. They are similar to the striped german that I have grown in the past. They seem a little earlier and to have better fruit production and quality so far. They are yellow with red on the bottom.

Pineapple – Another favorite that I found was this one. It however, looks just like hillbilly and striped german. We’ll have to see what does better then I’ll take that one as a replacement for spriped german.

Jubilee – I have been looking for a nice plain orange tomato for a while. I was growing one called goldie, but it didn’t seem to produce nice fruit consistently. However, I’ve been very pleased with this one. The fruit has looked great and the plants look nice and healthy. However, I have not tasted them yet so they could just taste awful, I doubt it though. The seed company describes it as sprightly.

Great White – greatwhite.jpgThis is so far the best white tomato I’ve been able to find so far. There are things I don’t like about it, but it is pretty as it ripens. It has nice red streaks that come up from the bottom of the fruit. I like to have white tomatoes around because they are typically low acid, which this is a great example of. It has a nice smooth low acid flavor


Hybrids are a specific cross between two different varieties to get a tomato with particular traits that people want. Typically the traits that comercial tomato growers want is productivity, high fruit quality, and long shelf life. Selecting for these traits can often result in the flavor being sacrificed. However, there is a new mevement of breeders trying to have hybrid quality fruit mixed with heirloom flavor. I tried a few this year and they are pretty good, not quite as good as some heirlooms, but still pretty good. I’ll skip some and only mention the name of other because they are boring red hybrids I grow mainly for their reliability.

tiedye.jpg Pink Berkely Tie Dye – These are one of the new hybrids bred for flavor that I have tried this year. They do have nice flavor and are much better than some of my other hybrids. They also look pretty cool. The plants are not as vigorous as others, but the fruit quality is often better than other heirlooms. I’d say this one will be a keeper for next year.


Brandy Boy – Another pink tomato. They are great tasting and being a hybrid they are great producing tomatoes. Even though they look very similar to brandywine I love being able to rely on them to produce a nice crop.

Marbonne – These are a red hybrid, but they have some ridges on the top that look kind of cool. They taste pretty good and I’ve been impressed with how well they are doing in the field now that they are producing. It did take them a little longer than others, but I think we’ll have a decent crop now.

Defient – A small red hybrid that is great for a single sandwich or for salads.

Cherry Tomatoes

Sungold – Orange cherry tomatoes that almost every year are my favorite.

Whitecherry – These are nice little white cherries that are low acid. They don’t produce a ton, but they are nice to have around

Black Cherry – These look similar to the black krim. They are a little bigger than some of the other cherries and they have a flavor that is a little deeper than some of the cherries that are just sweet.

Sunrise and Purple Bumble Bee – These are two different cherry tomatoes that are fairly new. They are both striped and slightly oval shaped. They have a pretty good flavor, but I mainly like them for the way they look.

Pink Princess – This might get close to my favorite cherry tomato. It is sweet like the sun gold, but have a little more depth to the flavor. They are nice little pink tomatoes, but they seem to split a little easier.

Jasper – These are a productive and sweet red cherry tomato. They are a little small for my liking, but the plants are super vigorous and productive.

indigo.jpgIndigo Cherry Drops – These are really pretty. They start out purple color, but when they ripen they blush red. Make sure you look for them. They are pretty tasty as well.

Yellow Pear – Yellow oval/pear shaped tomatoes. I like the color and the shape, but sometimes the fruit will split a little along the top. I have not found one better yet so we get to stick with this one.



Nice melons and cucs

Even though we had some of the early summer and early July crops looking as well due to the weather and bugs our mid summer crops are looking great. Mainly the crops that are ripening up right now. I was not expecting our melons to be ready yet, it is 2-3 weeks earlier than other years and the cucumber patch we have in the field is the best cucumber patch I think we’ve had here. This is why is is so nice to grow a diversity of crops.

After a couple years of decent cucumber patches I tried growing some in the greenhouse and thought the productivity and fruit quality was great compared to the field. This year I planned to grow the majority of my cucumbers in the greenhouse, but this year the field cucumbers are doing better than the early greenhouse cucumbers. I can only attribute that to the weather we’ve had. It has been hot, they have been getting plenty of rain lately, and  I am not seeing quite as many cucumber beetles as other years. All great things for the cucumbers.

The melons are another crop that look great. I was really surprised last Friday when we cut one open and it was ripe already. I don’t remember ever having ripe melons in July. The plants also look really healthy yet so this might be just the beginning of a great melon year. They also taste great by the way.

As I said, the best part of growing a large diverse set of vegetables is that every year you’ll have some crops that don’t do well and some that does exceptionally well. It has been a few years that we’ve been this hot so it has been different and at times difficult, but with how nice many of the summer fruit crops are doing it really isn’t a bad season. It’s just different.

The amazing working shares

Last year I wanted to try something that I had seen on other farms, but hadn’t tried for the Blandford CSA. I wasn’t quite sure how it would go, but it has been great. Our working shares have been a great help on the farm and I’ve been very appreciative of their help and company.

For the last two seasons we’ve had between 5 and 10 people sign up to do a working share. I encourage people to work either 2 or 4 hours a week during the CSA season. I haven’t had anyone opt for more, but it is possible if someone wanted to put in longer shifts for a bigger discount. I leave the jobs that people do fairly open due to different interests or capabilities. My hope is that each person can find something that they would enjoy and feel comfortable doing while helping do an important job.

There are people who like to come out and just weed for a couple hours. I’ve offered other jobs to mix it up, but that is all they want to do and I don’t complain. Some people help with harvesting, some help with washing the produce, some help with seeding and potting up in the greenhouse, and some come and we put them to work doing whatever we happen to be doing at the time.

It is great to have consistent volunteers every week. Sometime when we get a random volunteer it takes a while to get them set up and for them to become familiar with what we have going one. When we have people who are able to come out every week and pick up right where they left off it really does make a big difference. It also helps our moral when we were working alone or when we get a new person to talk to after long days on the farm. There are times when it is nice to work alone, but it is generally good to have someone else around to be able to talk to and you feel empowered to keep going to get the jobs done. It makes the job less daunting.

I was thinking the other day about how many people it takes to make the farm work. With the addition of the working shares we are able to cut down the number of people who we need to hire. With just 5 people working around 4 hours a week that equals one part time person on the farm.

I hope that the working shares also help people feel more apart of the farm and the farm community. If you’ve never been to a farm you can learn a lot about how the food is grown here. You can also get to know the people who grow your food and how we do things.

So thank you to all you working shares that have helped out on the farm. Your help really does help out a lot. I know last year and this year the onions would not have been as weeded and big,