Saturday, October 29, 2011

The First Snow!

We had a layer of snow on the ground when we woke up on Friday morning!

We had a busy Thursday afternoon preparing for a very heavy frost and the threat of snow. We harvested lots of beets, kohlrabi and celeriac to protect them from the cold snap. These vegetables are moderately tolerant of the cold weather but we were really happy to get them out of the fields. No vegetables really like to be snowed upon! It was a tough afternoon because we were working in the cold, sleeting rain... farmers really have to be able to work in all conditions.

Our Friday morning harvest was also affected by the snow. You can't harvest vegetables when they are covered in snow so we had to wait until the layer melted in the bright sunlight. So, as the cooler weather creeps in our work schedule changes to adapt. And, it looks like we have more snow coming this weekend! We will see what it brings.

We are not ready for winter to settle in quite yet... we still have the rest of the garlic to plant, and carrots, parsnips and beets to harvest. So let's hope we don't get too much snow!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Abundant October

Our CSA Room is so abundant this week! Next week is the last week in our main season CSA and you can barely tell because... we have so much amazing food right now! Can you believe that even at the very end of October we have such excellent variety?

We feel really great about going into the winter because we have so much food in the coolers, prepared for winter storage. We kept telling Lisa to stop seeding carrots in June because we thought we had enough, but now we are so happy she did plant so many! We will have carrots into the spring! With all of the rain in the past months, we did have a lot of rot affecting our carrots so it was good we had an abundance of them. Cabbage, winter squash, beets, carrots, parsnips, onions, garlic, and potatoes already in storage and still more in the fields!

Even though we are very sad to be at the end of our main season CSA, we feel solid and prepared for the winter! Hope everyone enjoys the last week of the CSA!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bulk Harvest!

We love the potato digger!

October is the time at Mighty Food Farm when we race the weather to get the crops out of the ground. With frost a reality and the freezing of the ground impending, our days are spent harvesting vegetables for winter storage and filling our coolers and root cellar with the year's abundance.

Potatoes in the truck!
We are happy to announce that we finished our potato harvest on Monday! After a challenging harvest, we were happy to complete that job and to have all of the potatoes in the root cellar and ready for winter storage. We harvest potatoes into black crates which allow them to breathe, providing them with proper ventilation during storage. Our potatoes store well in our dark and humid root cellar well into the spring of next year.

Douglas harvesting carrots!

We have also begun our bulk carrot harvest. We like to grow a lot of carrots here at Mighty Food Farm!! We know that our CSA members and our customers crave these tasty orange treats well into the spring and we like to be the last ones at the market to offer them... even as the snow is melting in April (or even into May)! We harvest our carrots into recycled grain bags, which also allow the vegetables to breathe, and keep most of them in the cooler. We store our root vegetables dirty because this keeps them the freshest!

Our next big bulk harvest will be beets and then parsnips.... Even though the winter in Vermont is long and cold, our CSA members enjoy fresh and delicious organic and locally grown vegetables all year around!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Potato Harvest

We sure harvested a lot of potatoes this week! We had some dry weather at the beginning of the week so we were able to use our potato digger, an implement for our tractor. The potato digger is awesome because it goes down the bed and lifts the soil, dislodging the potatoes from the ground. Then we follow behind and pick up the potatoes that have been exposed and do a little bit of digging to uncover the ones that were covered with soil. A lot of farmers dig potatoes by hand with a digging fork. Our backs are very grateful this is not the process we use! But even though we have a potato digger, the potato harvest is not a quick process. We grow a large field of many different varieties and it takes time to get them out of the ground. We grow the traditional red and gold varieties, Russets, a blue potato, a potato that is red both inside and out, and gold and red fingerlings.

We also grow sweet potatoes! We are one of just a few farmers in the state that grow them because they are a challenging crop. Not only do they prefer warmer climates, but the deer love to eat the foliage and rodents love to eat the potatoes in the ground. To promote their growth and survival, we plant sweet potato slips (which are basically sweet potato seedlings) in black plastic and then immediately cover them with a fabric row cover. This provides two layers of warmth. This year we did not have a lot of pest pressure and the potatoes look huge and beautiful! Right now they are being stored in our warm basement so they cure. Curing helps develop their sweetness.

The Crew and their harvest!
Yay for potatoes!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Planting our Winter Greens!

Lettuce in an unheated caterpillar tunnel.
Besides our focus on harvest these past weeks, we have also been preparing for the colder weather by planting greens in our tunnels and greenhouses. Our winter CSA offers greens throughout the winter! It is very important for us to provide our members with fresh green produce during the winter season when they are very difficult to find.

Spinach planted in a greenhouse.
In order to do so, we plant two greenhouses, one high tunnel, and five (maybe six) unheated caterpillar tunnels to winter greens! That's a lot of food. Our two greenhouses are the only structures that consume fuel. The other tunnels are unheated and get warm by the light of the sun. In these unheated structures, we plant the hardier greens, like kale and chard, which are tolerant of the colder temperatures. For our more delicate greens, like bok choi and salad mix, we also cover the crop with a fabric row cover inside of the tunnel. These crops get a double layer of protection and insulation from the cold.
Kale in a caterpillar tunnel.
Though winter production is becoming more popular, we are still among a minority of farms that offer greens throughout the winter. Our winter CSA is the best way to get these yummy greens and to stay healthy all winter. Visit our website for more information and pricing (!

Kale in our greenhouse.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Story of Our Winter Squash

The winter squash looks great!
So, we harvested a lot of winter squash this week: 20,000 pounds to be exact. And there's more out there. But there is waaaayyy more to the story than that. We had quite an adventure harvesting winter squash.

The motivation: warning of frost on Friday night. Winter squash is particularly susceptible to damage if it gets frosted. It will not store at all if it experiences any freezing. Instead, it will simply rot. Not good.
This is the road. So muddy!

The challenge: MUDDY ROAD (see picture at left...). Most of our winter squash is planted in an idyllically beautiful field in the forest down the road from the home farm. It is wonderful to have this land, but... the road has gotten ridiculously muddy over the past two weeks with so much rain. There are ruts on the road that are a foot deep. And this obstacle is on the road to the winter squash field. In order to get to the field, we have to gun it in our trucks through the mud. Driving through mud is kind of fun, but not when you have a truck full of precious squash.

The wrapped stacks of winter squash that we left in the field.
Yesterday the road became impassable. Because we had driven on it so much the previous days, the ruts were just too bad for us to drive on them. However, with the threat of frost, we had to get as much winter squash out of the field as possible. So, we harvested as much squash as we could into crates, wrapped them in row cover to protect them from the frost and left them in the field. So they are still over there... waiting until the road dries out.

Throughout the winter, every time we eat a squash, we will remember the story behind it: the fiasco of the muddy road.

And, we harvested some pumpkins.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Chicken Slaughter 2011

Chickens in the chill tank.
Today we completed our annual chicken slaughter. We killed 80 laying hens and roosters this morning, most of which were about two and a half years old. It was a very quick and efficient process now that we have done it multiple years in a row. Though it is not anyone's favorite job on the farm, it is a very important annual task because we can not keep our flock of laying hens around forever. It is inevitable that laying hens slow down on egg production after a few years and, as a commercial farm, we can not afford to be feeding hens that are not laying enough eggs. We order new laying hens each spring so that we can phase out the older hens in the fall just as these new birds begin to lay. So, because our new batch of chickens is now laying a steady amount of eggs each day, it was safe for us to slaughter the older hens.

The process of defeathering...
A chicken slaughter is a very interesting and detailed process. First, we cut off the heads of the chickens and allow them to bleed out. Then, their bodies go into a pot of near boiling water to loosen the feathers. After, we pluck all of the feathers off of their body as best as we can... this can be a lengthy job. Then the birds go to the evisceration table, where we gut them and clean out their insides. Then they go into the chill tank before they are ready to be bagged and put into the freezer.  

We also like to be able to sell these frozen chickens to our CSA members. We sell them as stew birds because the meat is slightly tougher because they are older laying hens. They are an excellent quality of stew bird, as they have lived on pasture their entire lives. They were wonderfully happy laying hens and roosters and they sure will taste good in your soup!

At the evisceration table...