Farm Blog
04 Nov 2013

The chill is in the air, the first frost has come and gone, and now the maple leaves are strewn all across the yard - these are the traditional signs of the season coming to an end.  It is a time of much sadness for many as the tomato plants have died, as have most of the summer crops which cannot sustain the cold temperatures, but it is met with a sigh of relief by  the growers.  The days have just gotten a little bit easier!  Farms like ours have learned that in order to be competitive with the rest of the veggie world we have to grow all year round - or at least ensure that we grow enough storage crops to sustain us throughout the Winter market season (we do one all year round at New Haven's Wooster Square) - but the labor required from here on out is limited compared to the  epically long days of September.  

It has been a solid three months since our last blog post and we attribute this to the simple fact that from  August through October the farm is slammed.  Our CSA and farmers markets were in the height of their respective season, and we also began our annual runs into NYC to deliver our tomatoes to specialty markets in Brooklyn and Manhattan.  Plus we also had factory runs to New haven to make our pasta sauces and Bloody Mary, and this year our new product, crushed Heirloom tomatoes.  The 2013 vintage is especially good! Even though the season is longer now then ever (we are growing about nine months of the year now) our main revenue stream is in these three months.  Two thirds of all of our crops, including the many tomato plants we grow, are harvested over this three month period.  Obviously, it is extremely exhausting but also tremendously satisfying to bring it all in.  This year the team was up to the task, amazingly so, and we thank all of them for their hard work.  Truly awesome! 

We have many things to celebrate this season, and considering how cool and wet is was in June, the past few months have been really spectacular for growing.  We delivered over sixty different vegetables this season,  and almost all of them were very high standard, though some certainly fared worse then others (peppers, for example, we simply lost because they sat in a section of one of our fields bogged down with water in June and never really recovered).  Our farm's field manager was mostly responsible for this success. Jed Borken took over the field seeding and greenhouse seeding tasks last year and has run with it.  Diligent to all maters large and small, he was planting all the way up until mid October (greenhouse leeks, bok choy and chard!),  Waldingfield has had the best yields in our 24 years as a business.  It speak volumes as to Jed's importance to the farm.  We will not name all of the wonderful crew we had this year but one member who deserves recognition is Dana Jackson.  He started back in April and his tireless energy, politically charged ramblings, and overall enthusiasm for farming was a great help when the chips were down and we had a ton of work to do.  We say cheers to them both.  

So, what remains in the fields, you may ask?  Well for one we have a massive broccoli crop  which we started to harvest two weeks ago.  we also have four types of kale, salad mix, arugula, mustard greens, asian salad greens, baby leeks, apples, fingerling potatoes, swiss chard, bok choy, and winter squash, all of which will head to our markets for the next six to eight week as well as to our CSAs.  All of the delicate greens are secure and snug under row covering (see pic above) and should last a while.  We extended our CSA program for another five weeks and they will enjoy the harvest as long as we do!

As the days get shorter there is still work to be done.  The fields no longer producing have been cover cropped with winter rye and the stand has been closed for regular business. It is a time for reflection and planning for the future.  Hopefully we will be back for another year in 2014.  Who knows.  But for now we're gonna finish the next two months as strong as we can. 

Author Patrick Horan in Farm Blog Read 8260 times Read more...
29 Jul 2013

Ah, July how fast you came and went!  After the most wretched June on record the dog days of summer arrived in full force.   Amazing what a difference the sun makes to the tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and all the other long term fall crops after a solid six weeks sitting in muddy, pool collecting, soil.  As we head into the month of August the crew and fields are primed to make the most of the harvest to come. 

The first third of the CSA season has now past us b y and from the feed back we have been getting, most of our clients are pleased with the output they have been getting.  Most are also aware of the challenges the weather played on all growers in the regions - first the unstoppable rain, and then the record breaking heat of mid July.  We have been able to bring to the tables, and to market, quite a few crops and we still have the majority to come.  So far we have had head lettuces (red, green, and romaine), arugula, asain braising mix, four types of kale, collard greens, swiss chard, mustard greens, sugar snap peas, yellow squash, zucchini, cucumbers, and some I am surely missing.  However, the harvest and yields have been up and down due to said weather but things are certainly stabilizing.  August, September and October will be robust and the fans will be inundated with field red tomatoes,  as well as heirlooms and sun golds, fingerling and blue potatoes, broccoli, leeks, salad greens and cooking greens galore, and so much more.

The markets have been up and down, some places are doing very well, like Wooster Square in New Haven and Newtown/Sandy Hook, but a couple have been let down by poor attendance (Kent, Weston, and on the Green in New Haven in particular) and by overall poor marketing by their respective organizers.  We are hopeful that the next few months will improve and that the people will return to spending their funds on local food.  

Our farm stand will start its annual sales as soon as our tomatoes arrive and that cannot happen soon enough.  One of the knocks 0 i know, there are many - but the most serious one is that our stand never has anything there when people drive over to shop.  This is partially true.  Usually there is something at the stand but there are also so many days in the summer when we leave stuff there and it withers away.   Its a two way street, and we will look to improve our stands set up and make sure there is stuff there for people to but... besides tomatoes!

Lastly a s quick word about the crew.  This summer may very well be the best group of guys and gals we have ever had work with us at Waldingfield.  From the leadership of Jed right down through to the rookie JC, all of the core have done such impressive work.  Doggedly they work the fields, and in return for a modest stipend, they have never wavered from the goals of the farms 2013 plan.  To them we owe so much to the success of the next five months.  It is only after they all head back to college, or even hogh school, that the great majority of their work will bare fruit.  So when you next enjoy something from the farm, think of the crew. They are farmers through and through.  

 

Author Patrick Horan in Farm Blog Read 6875 times Read more...
27 Jun 2013

With June almost over there is now a certain rhythm which sets pace here at the farm.  It is one where the back beat is always constant, one which may include extended jams like planting tomatoes for 12 straight hours, or picking peas for 10 hours.  But more then the harvesting which is fully underway, more then the CSA program which provides the farm with a solid investment base, the part of the farm experience which really tells you how you are doing is the farmers market.  We participate in five markets - Kent, Weston, Newtown/Sandy Hook, and two in New Haven (Wooster Square and on the historic Green).  During the winter we are involved with two in New Haven , as well. 

Farming for a market is what excites many growers.  It is a chance to get off the farm and see other producers up close.  It offers the chance to see what other crops may be good to grow that you may have over looked, and also catch a trend before everyone else does.  It is a the way we best represent our brand, too. Few things are as satisfying as a packed truck heading off to market.  Thinking about the set up, what the weather will be like, if a crwod will be there, all of these come into play all season long.  Now, certainly it sucks when it rains, especially at the more rural markets like Kent.  But in a city like New Haven there is always a crowd out during even the most inclement weather.  

How does one stand out against the competition?  That can be tricky when we all grow such similar fare.  However, one basic of marketing is those who have the most stuff set up will gather the biggest crowds.  Price points and knowing the true value of  things also works in your favor.  Setting up an inviting tent stall, with clearly labeled products, and employing solid, dependable, workers for the markets all make for a good market experience all around.   

We have been slowly moving our business away from the "tomato farm" we were once known for, and have increased the production of just about everything we grow.  Yes, we still grow a lot of tomatoes but were are also at markets for months before they arrive so we need other product.  After all, farming is an inventory based business and if you do not have supply then you will lose your customer base.  One cannot survive on the risky tomato crop alone, its just too risky.  

So, its late June and we have a lot of great produce heading off to markets three days of the week.  This week we have baby lettuce heads (romaine, red leaf and green leaf), arugula, radishes, collard greens, tuscan kale, winterbore kale, redbore kale, red russian kale - yes, we grow a lot of kale - salad mix, bok choy , and sugar snap peas.  Of course we are asked when the tomatoes will be ready, or when the corn will be available (we do not grow corn, btw), or even if the apples are ready.  We gently remind the customer that it is June in New England and what is available is primarily green, mostly leafy, as well as some early root crops like hoop house grown tomatoes and potatoes, and carrots.  There were even summer squashes out this week and cucumbers, too, though for us they will arrive sometime in early July.    The cold weather set them back a few weeks as well as the dreaded stripped cucumber beetle.

So thats the word from the markets.  As the summer goes along we will add further market reports.  The season is off to a good start despite the awful weather we have had ad the set backs will be felt in the middle of the summer when June's plantings are late to produce.  People want the mid summer produce now and grow impatient. But, the cucumbers, summer squashes, and tomatoes will come, maybe slowly, and the peppers and eggplants, too. They always do.

Author Patrick Horan in Farm Blog Read 6543 times Read more...
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