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Monday, July 30, 2012

Our First Tomatoes!

Photo: They're coming . . .
Powisset farm cherry tomatoes!

Today we crawled along the six rows of early tomatoes filling them with our first big harvest from our early tomato crop.  Mountain magic, Juliet, Orange Blossom, Polbig and New Girl—the varieties we chose to begin our tomato season.

Even though we treat tomatoes with a reverence reserved for no other crop, I instructed our Monday crew to try not to look at each fruit as if it was precious.  Less precious! Less precious! I gently shouted down the rows as people harvested.  On a day when we only pick a few hundred pounds, it may seem funny to my crew that I am rushing them along through the harvest.  But, what they don’t know about are the days of 1000 pound harvests—the days when our knees are stained with rotten tomatoes, our hands black from where the plants left their mark on our skin, and our dreams infested with over-ripe, ripe and not so ripe tomatoes taking the place of sheep as we slumber. Those days are coming!

Our Early Tomatoes, as described by the Johnny’s Selected Seeds Catalog (and some added thoughts by me):

Mountain Magic
 Mountain Magic (F1)
Mountain Magic produces high yields of 2 oz., bright red, round salad tomatoes with very sweet flavor. The uniform, crack-resistant fruits may be truss harvested. Great in salads or right off the vine.  These tomatoes produce well into the season, after we have stopped harvesting all the other early rows,

New Girl

New Girl (F1)
 Our earliest tomato--the plants are usually the first to get diseased--but we usually get a few good harvests before that happens.  I think these have a sweet, rich flavor--and there's nothing like the taste of that first tomato of the season.

 Juliet (F1)
Juliet is one of the most disease resistant plant that we grow! Deep red, shiny fruits avg. 2-2 1/4" L x 1 3/8-1 1/2" W, weighing 1 1/2-2 oz. Typically 12-18 fruits per cluster. Delicious, rich tomato taste for salads, great salsa, and fresh pasta sauce. Good crack resistance, vine storage, and shelf life.

Orange Blossom
 Orange Blossom (F1)
The medium-firm, globe-shaped fruits average 6-7 oz., have a nice texture, and are mildly flavored, balanced with a little acidity. Developed by Dr. Brent Loy, Univ. of New Hampshire.  I love orange tomatoes and this one usually does not disappoint me. yum.

 Polbig (F1)
High yields of very good tasting, meaty, 6-8 oz globe shaped fruit. Uniform ripening time. Excellent deep red internal and external color.  
These are just starting to ripen out there--i am excited to try them! 

See you in the tomato fields,

Meryl (on behalf of the Powisset Farm Crew)

What's in the share this week:

Up at the barn: tomatoes, carrots, leeks, potatoes, cukes or squash, mustard greens or kale, lettuce (smallish heads), basil, sweet corn (from Sunshine Farm, Sherborn, MA)

In the pick-your-own:  chard, beans, and maybe the first few cherry tomatoes


Monday, July 23, 2012

Walking the Fields

a cabbage grows at powisset!

Walking the Fields  

The other day one of our Powisset Farm apprentices asked me if I ever get tired of looking at the vegetable fields.  I replied an easy, no.  Farming is so much about observing.  Walking the rows, many times a day, watching the flea beetles eat the leaves of the eggplants, watching the carrots exponentially grow in size after we thin them, seeing the vetch sprout under the giant winter squash plants—that is my job.  The crops, the insects, the growth, the loss is all a part of what I see when I look out over our eleven acres.

My mother and I were walking the fields last week and she was describing a disease in the beets in her garden.  She pointed to a beet in a row filled with 1200 beets in it (one of 8 out in the fields right now) and asked me if I paid attention to each individual beet, like she did for the ones in her garden. I looked at the single beet and back to my mom and laughed a little at the way we both fret over our crops.  Still laughing, I answered, ‘no,’ I suppose I don’t watch that beet in the same way that gardeners can watch over their 12 beets, as opposed to 1200.  But, later, as I walked the fields for the third time that day—and noticed the changes in the onions from the previous day—It registered how much I do see each beet, leaf, spot, wonderment.  Multiply that by the four other crew members at Powisset who care as much as I do about these fields, and there is little that we miss.
walkin the fileds!

I’m sure there is endless poetry about walking rows of crops, and seeing beauty in the details of this farming life.  I love all of those details.  But as I walk, the poetry that comes to me is the endless list of tasks, and the dance of how to get it all done.  As we harvest, weed, plant and continue to observe—this is the poetry for me—a freshly weeded field, a thriving row of carrots, a fully checked-off to do list.

Today I walked the fields to make the list of crops for our harvest this week. Jess was leading the summer crew, weeding in our winter squash, making it possible for our fall crops to thrive.  The vines were creeping into each other, the soil was moist from an early morning rain, the black seeds of vetch looked like mustard seeds dotting the field.  Tasks were moving around in my head like a puzzle—finding the best fit for the week.  This job is fascinating, all the things to see and do.  Come join me for a field walk sometime.

See you in the fields,

Meryl (on behalf of the Powisset Crew)

red mustard--almost ready!

What’s in the share this week:

In the barn: bunching onions, carrots, beets, cukes, squash, basil, choice of greens: (tatsoi, bulls blood, cabbage), maybe eggplant/tomato combo—get ready!!

In the field: beans, chard

Monday, July 16, 2012

2012 peas at powisset!

Taking Down the Peas

Today on the farm our Monday team, led by Jen, took down the pea trellis in our pick-your-own field.  To me, this act signifies the real start of summer!  Ok, that action, paired with the fact that it’s been in the 90s for so many days!  Peas are the first crop that we sow into the ground in March, when the fields are empty of crops and weeds and people!  It’s always a hopeful act—a way of saying, we are doing this again!  As those first peas flow out of the push seeder and are tucked into cool spring soil, I am in still warming up to the idea of taking on another growing season.  By the time we are taking the pea trellis down, we are at the beginning of our seventh week of our CSA distribution, picking the first few ripe tomatoes of the season, irrigating melons, and already planting crops for our winter CSA. 

A farm season moves quickly.  One moment there are blank fields and visions of a simple farm plan.  The next moment there are heads of broccoli to be harvested, weeds to pull, and every inch of the farm is filled with rows of crops, often no where near where we wanted to plant them.

Taking down the pea trellis brings with it one additional treat!  We now get to mow down the weeds that were clinging and climbing on those peas!  Just like plowing in the spring, mowing in the summer is one of the greatest gifts to a farmer.  To get to clean a patch of weeds by mowing instead of pulling—that is a true delight!

It’s on to picking beans and cherry tomatoes—adios peas! Until next year, when we do it again!

See you out in the fields,

Meryl (on behalf of the Powisset Farm Crew)

What's in the share this week:

Up in the barn: lettuce, cukes, squash/zucchini, carrots, beets, leeks or onions, potatoes, basil, 
tatsoi or mizuna,

Pick-yer-own: green and yello beans, chard


 Late Blight at Powisset

A few years ago at Powisset Farm, we had a season without tomatoes.  That was 2009, when our farm and most around us were hit with “Late Blight,” a disease that causes problems for potatoes and tomatoes.  Under wet conditions, this disease can swiftly take down entire crops of tomatoes, and render potatoes un-fit for long-term storage.  We have seen some indications of late blight in our tomato fields this season and have begun to spray a copper fungicide on our tomatoes, as a way to suppress the late blight spore from rapidly taking over our entire field of night shades.  You may be able to see the blue hue on our tomatoes; that is the copper residue you are seeing. 

We will continue to spray once per week until the picking begins, in order to avoid loosing our entire tomato crop, as we did in 2009.  We are fortunate that we have the tools, and know a bit more about this disease than we did in the past.  Spraying copper fungicide, currently an organically approved fungicide, is the only tool that we have to help prevent the spread of late blight---so we will continue to do so.

We will post a sign at the greenhouse, letting you know when we sprayed—so that you are aware of what is going on in the fields.  Please feel free to talk to any of us about late blight or the copper applications.  If you have late blight in your garden, please take precautions and throw away those plants and change your shoes before visiting the farm.

To read more about late blight, please visit:

go tomatoes!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Hand weeding is awesome!

"superstar" onions! in the share this week!

Hand weeding is awesome!

July is one of the busiest months of our season at Powisset Farm!  Our harvests are starting to become larger, filling our cooler with the heavier fruits of cucumbers, squash and potatoes!  Just as the harvests get larger, we are working hard to get the food out of the fields as quickly as possible, before the day heats up too much, making for a fast-paced, intense harvest morning.

In addition to all the harvesting I mentioned; we are also staking and twining tomatoes, setting up, running and moving irrigation equipment, mowing and discing old crops back into the soil, planting fall crops, cultivating on tractors and hoeing as fast as we can, and hand weeding more than we can even comprehend! We are also seeding our last few plantings of lettuce and brassicas in the greenhouse, harvesting our entire garlic crop and soon harvesting our near-acre of onions.

After harvesting and all those tasks that I listed above, among others, the rest of our time is spend hand weeding!  This season has been a challenging weed season due to all the rain alternating with those super hot days.  Thankfully, we have a wonderful summer crew, part time crew and regular volunteers who help us attack our hand weeding tasks like a swarm of bees—buzzing over the rows, pulling and thinning and changing the landscape of our farm from wicked weedy to sparkling clean.  On our busiest days there are 13 people working out in those fields—saving carrot plantings and freeing next years strawberries from suffocating in amaranth and purslane.  Thank you summer crew!!

Today 600 bales of straw arrived at Powisset farm, unloaded by Tessa and the summer crew for about an hour and a half!  One of our tasks this week will be to hand weed those strawberries planted for next season and mulch them with the straw that just arrived.  Once the straw is down, we’ll have a little brake from hand weeding that crop.  The mulch will keep the weeds down and keep the moisture in the soil.  If we had the time or money, I think that we would try to mulch our entire farm!

My hope for July is that it gets really hot and dry!  I want our tomatoes and melons to take off and stay disease free. I want to feel like all I can do at the end of the day is ride down to hale and fall into the lake.  I want to be forced to pull my cowboy hat out from behind the seat of the farm truck and use it, because a regular brimmed hat won’t cut it!  And I want to hand weed with the summer crew until every weed on the farm is gone.  Those feel like pretty fun goals for July!  Wish me luck!

See you in the fields,

meryl (on behalf of the Powisset farm crew)

What's in the share this week:

in the barn: lettuce, beets, carrots, fancy herb choice, basil, red gold potatoes, white bunching onions, choice of green: kale, chard, mizuna, squash, cucumbers

in the field: fava beans, yellow and green string beans, chard

Flower Garden Open for picking!

Hooray! It is time to pick and enjoy beautiful flowers from Powisset Farm!  As part of your CSA share you are encouraged to take home a small bouquet of pick-yer-own flowers each week from now until the flower garden succumbs to cold, fall weather.  Our farm apprentice, Jen, has selected an interesting and wonderful variety of flowers that are great for cutting.  We will be labelling the varieties so if there is something you want to plant in your own garden, you'll know what it is!  

In addition to pick-your-own flowers, we will be selling bouquets in the farm stand, so when you come for your share, check the egg fridge to see if there are any special bouquets that you would like to take home to enjoy.  We will also be selling sunflowers at the farm stand as well!  Yay flowers!


Here is a kale salad recipe passed to me by a long-time CSA member! (see below)

 If you are stuck and can't figure out what to do with your veggies, remember to check out the Powisset Farm recipe blog!  It's filled with so many delicious ideas for what to do with all this produce!  check it out at:
Kale Salad

1/3 cup Bragg Liquid Aminos or  tamari or I use light soy
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup flax seed oil or extra virgin olive oil 
1/2 any kind of onion you like. I use red onion and slice half moons
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 pound fresh Kale ( usually one bunch) or a little more
alfalfa (or whatever kind of sprouts you like)

Combine Bragg or tamari, lemon juice and oil, 
slice onions and let marinate in dressing
toast seeds until brown unless you have already toasted seeds
De-Stem Kale and slice into 1/4 in strips
Dress and enjoy.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Harvest.

harvesting spinach, june 2012
The Harvest.

When I describe farming, or what I do in the course of the day or week, I often describe the planting, the weeding, or the tractor work.  Maybe I will describe setting up the cultivating tractor, or pounding stakes with volunteers on a sticky summer day.  There is a finely woven fabric of a multitude of tasks that make up a day, week or season on the farm.  But, in truth, what I do, most of the time, is harvest.  We do so much harvesting here that it almost becomes invisible, like breathing, or just a part of my daily routine, like waking up and making coffee. 

Here at Powisset we harvest four or five or sometimes six days each week.  Our harvest mornings look something like this:  we meet at 7am to discuss what we will pick for the day.  We decide how many items to harvest, and how much of each we will be picking.  We may be picking for our CSA, or for the farm stand, or for our wholesales, or for our ReVision Urban Farm CSA partnership, or for donations.  We decide how we will pick each crop—by weight, or bin, or in bunches.  By 7:15am, we are loading the farm truck with bins of all sizes, pulling on rain gear to avoid dewy pants and are heading to the fields to begin the harvesting. 

The greens have to come out first, to avoid wilting.  We like to start with lettuce—we usually pick about 300 heads of lettuce every other day.  Then we race from crop to crop, trying to organize our picking efficiently, keeping tender crops in the sun for as short a time as possible.  Seeing the crew in action is like watching a finely choreographed dance—people moving in similar ways, pulling and bunching and lifting and moving on to the next dance.  One of our crew members acts as the conductor to these movements, keeping everything flowing and moving in one direction: out of the field.

As the picking continues, some of the team begins the washing and packing.  Everything is sprayed or dunked or put through the root washer and then re-packed into clean bins, and brought into the distribution barn, or into the cooler.  The truck is making dozens of trips to and from the fields, loading it up, emptying into the wash area and again and again.  Each harvest day, we conservatively pick and process about 2000 pounds of produce; more as the heavier items and fruits begin to be harvested.  We do this four days each week.  Our goal each harvest day is to be finished by 12:30pm, simply so we can do something other than harvest in the afternoon—like all the other field work that has to get done.

The harvest.  We grow food to pick food, to eat food.  It is all about the harvest.  We could have the most amazing, weed free beds of carrots out in those fields that are a beauty to behold by this farmer.  But, really, we are growing those carrots to one day bunch and distribute the shining roots.  Last week, it was 8am, I was in my yellow rain pants, kneeling in the soft cool mud of our first carrot planting.  Rubber bands were stretched up my arm and I was picking my first bunch of carrots for our 2012 season. 

See you in the fields, (you can find me harvesting)

Meryl (on behalf of the Powisset farm crew)

What's in the share:

Up at the barn:  lettuce, summer squash/zucchini, beets, carrots, new potatoes!, choice of cooking green: (kale, collards, tatsoi), choice of herb bunch

in the fields: peas and fava beans!

Know your farmers!

Who is growing all this delicious food for you? Who are the people lovingly tending to this crops both in and out of the fields? See our bios below to meet your full-time farm crew:

jess clancy
 Jess fell in love with farming on a small blueberry farm in Oregon.  It was a bit of a surprise. Growing up outside Chicago to non-gardening parents, she can still remember feeling suspicious of the neighbor's backyard tomatoes.   Convinced she was a city girl, she went to school in New York City to study environmental chemistry but decided working in labs was not for her.  She likes that working on farms lets her think about the connections between farming, social justice, and the environment, all while getting her hands dirty.  After seasons in  Oregon, Wisconsin, and western Mass, Jess is excited to be a part of the super fun Powisset crew.  When not farming she enjoys playing volleyball, learning about medicinal plants, and finding new and interesting ways to cook her favorite vegetable—kale!

jon belcher
Jonathan Belcher was the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, but I’m not that guy. However, I like to think we probably grew food in similar ways. Of all that I have done, growing food is what I feel the most passionate about. I am a twenty four year old who has tried many things before discovering farming as a trade. From being a collegiate cyclocross champion at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado to competing as a speedskater with the Bay State Speedskating Club, I have seen many parts of the United States. First an automotive technician then an exercise science major and now I am a graduate with a sustainable agricultural degree who feels fortunate to be an actual farmer. My most recent goal is to become a farmer/model.  Not a model farmer, well not yet anyway. I hope to succeed in the fashion industry and also farm as a living. I believe in doing what you want to do when you want to do it. Some of my words include Explore, Meet, Laugh, Love, and Dance!!
Growing up I was planning on being a professional cyclist, traveling around Europe with an international cycling team living off money from sponsors as well as any prize money, but that was not my destiny. Anyway, after getting completely burned out with cycling I started to rethink my motives. I moved home to South Walpole and applied to Sterling College in Craftsbury, VT. It only took a month of living in the North East Kingdom to discover my passion for agriculture. The local farmers as well as my instructors taught me so much about the lifestyle, business, and hard work that comes with being a farmer – what they didn’t have to tell me about was the tremendous sense of accomplishment that I feel at the finish of each day.
At Powisset Farm I am one of the three apprentices and one of the two that live here at the farm. It is so great having the farm in my backyard because it really feels like my own. Also not having a commute gives me time to do other things with the rest of my days. I enjoy playing mandolin, cooking, and going out with friends. I love bringing friends and family to the farm. They are always blown away by everything here and it makes me realize what a special place this is. I feel so lucky to be a part of this farm crew and I am looking forward to a fun and productive rest of the season.  Come over and hang out with us! 

jen kenyan
 Jen Kenyan is happy to be returning for her second season on the Powisset Farm crew! In addition to continuing to learn and gain experience growing veggies for the CSA, Jen is excited to expand her knowledge of growing flowers, from start to finish. Over the winter, Jen worked with the farm managers to plan the CSA flower garden- from researching flowers, attending workshops, ordering seeds, crop planning and planting to harvesting, arrangement and sales, and more! She is also helping with cut flowers grown in the field and bouquets for the farm stand. Jen is grateful for this new opportunity to expand her growing resume and looks forward to seeing the many beautiful flowers (and photos!) that emerge this season.

tessa pechenik
Hello! My name is Tessa and I’m thrilled to be back at Powisset for my
third season.

I first came to the farm as a volunteer in 2009, and those late summer afternoons in the fields quickly became a happy addiction that I couldn’t resist. With the help of the patient farm crew, I learned how to seed in the greenhouse; how to wield a hoe in the war against weeds; how to carry bulging bags of onions out the field when a sudden
downpour interrupts a harvest; and how to really taste and appreciate food when it is grown with such care. A few seasons down the road, and the learning process is still my constant shadow on the farm. Each day I’m grateful for new lessons and mistakes.  It’s no wonder that once I
started to spend time here, I dug in my heels and refused to budge.

My favorite tasks include harvesting kale in the early morning -rapidly snapping off crisp stems and gathering the leaves that still hold dew; anything to do with hot peppers, which I think are beautiful and present exciting culinary possibilities; and processing onions - each allium globe always seems to glow from the inside. And tractor work, of course. Any time I can be driving around the fields on an ancient piece of farming history, I’m thrilled. Everyone looks good on a tractor.

When I’m not at the farm, I’m usually at home in JP, likely walking around with my partner, Reuben. We’ve lived in JP for a few years now. Before that, I worked and lived in Washington, DC, a city I genuinely miss, although not as much as I miss my hometown, Oakland, California. But the seasonal cycles of New England, which play out so beautifully at Powisset, are irresistible, and come summer in the farm fields, I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

meryl latronica
My name is Meryl LaTronica.  I have been farming at Powisset farm for six years now and farming in eastern Massachusetts for ten.  I was raised in Holliston, MA so coming to farm at Powisset felt like returning to my roots!  I attended Simmons College in Boston, and did quite a bit of traveling during and after college, mostly to the west coast, Mexico and New Mexico.  When i'm not farming, or working on tractors, or thinking about vegetables; i am walking in the woods with my dog henry, doing a cooking project, or rocking out on the drums!  I love sharing meals and community with friends and family and can't think of any thing i would rather do, than farm!