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...

Saturday, September 3, 2011

We Weathered The Storm!

Harvesting potatoes.
We are happy to say that Mighty Food Farm weathered Hurricane Irene! We had between 5 and 7 inches of rain on Sunday. That is a LOT OF RAIN!!! Thus, our fields are quite wet but our greenhouses, chickens, and crops were safe. We are so grateful! We are very saddened to hear that many of our neighboring farmers in the state of Vermont were not so lucky. Many farmers watched as their fields were flooded and crops ruined. Our hearts go out to these friends.

This is a newly built tunnel for winter crops.
Thankfully, the work continues on here... This week we built a new tunnel for planting kale for the winter. This kale will taste wonderful when there are few green options in the cold season. We have been doing some field clean-up as well, including pulling the plastic from old melon beds and pulling out tomato stakes, definitely jobs which signal the change of seasons. We also have been harvesting a lot of potatoes and will soon dig the entire field to put all of the potatoes in storage. We just recently cleaned out our root celler to make room for all of the storage crops that we will need to store for our Winter CSA.

And we are still planting.... salad mix, bok choi, lettuce and spinach went into the ground this week. We sure are thinking about the fall time...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Preparing for Hurricane Irene

Our barnyard is all cleaned up.
We are prepared for the storm!!

In the last couple of days we have been buttoning down the hatches at the farm, preparing for high winds and a lot of rain. We have stabilized the end-walls of our high tunnel and tightly closed our greenhouses. High winds can be quite a threat for even the strongest of greenhouse plastics. We have also been cleaning up around the greenhouses and barnyard so there is nothing that can blow into buildings and cause damage. We moved our chickens to higher ground so there will be no risk of them getting flooded out. Our tractors will also be moved into the barns.

Our greenhouses are all closed up.

Structurally, we are prepared as we can be! However, unpredictable weather is a threat for all vegetable farmers and there is no way to know how it will impact our crops and their yields. We are keeping our fingers crossed that things go smoothly for us and all other farmers up and down the East Coast!

Stay safe!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fantastic-Looking Fall Crops

Beautiful butternut squash!
This is the time of year when we begin thinking about the fall and the harvest it brings. We have a lot of warm weather and daylight left to enjoy but we want to all of our cool weather crops to be really healthy and growing and maturing vigorously so we can have an abundant fall. We focus on our storage crops this time of year so that we can give them the attention they need before the cold weather sets in.

We planted one of our unheated tunnels with chard on Tuesday. Our chard always gets so big and beautiful growing in our tunnels. Look forward to some amazing greens this fall!

Good News: Our fall and storage crops look fantastic!! Our winter squash looks beautiful and is maturing well, our fall brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, etc.) are healthy and weed-free, we have tons of beets and carrots sizing up, the celeriac just got lots of weeding attention and our brussel sprouts are looking huge! Makes my mouth water just thinking about all of the delicious fall food.

Chard after planting in the tunnel.
This also makes me think: YOU GOTTA SIGN UP FOR OUR WINTER CSA! With all of these wonderful storage crops, how can you not? Really! Check our our website for more details about the awesome Winter CSA!

Oh...but we still do want this summer weather. No cold nights yet!
Look at our brassicas!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Onion Harvest

Ariel clipping greens off onions in the field.
We harvested the majority of our onions this week. The beautiful weather was ideal because it is important to harvest onions when it is warm and dry to promote the best curing conditions. Onions need to be cured in a warm, dry and well ventilated environment in order for them to last throughout the winter. Now we have them stored in large wooden drying racks in the loft of our barn with a big fan blowing air on them.

We grow many different varieties of yellow, white and red onions as well as two different varieties of shallots. We love to have many different kinds of onions to add flavor to fall and winter meals. Our onions look beautiful this year. We worked really hard to keep the onion field weed-free and, by the size of the onions that we harvested, it looks like that work is paying off.

Enjoy our onions!

Loading onion racks in the field with the tractor.

Our onions drying in the loft of the barn.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Tomatoes, tomatoes...

We harvested so many beautiful tomatoes yesterday from our high tunnel! The plants are producing really well and the tomatoes look wonderful and taste even better. In addition, we have a large field of tomatoes from which we harvested the day before. And, in case these weren't enough, we have a newer succession of heirloom tomatoes coming in at our Augenstein field. These plants look particularly verdant and happy. We are also still harvesting perfect red tomatoes from our greenhouse, though these plants are beginning to slow down. They have been so productive! So, this is the time of year when all we talk about is... tomatoes!

We grow many different varieties of this tasty fruit: red, gold, yellow, and purple cherries, romas, traditional reds, and many different kinds of heirlooms including Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Striped German, and Green Zebra. It is a wonderful time of year to buy a variety of different types of tomatoes for a multi-colored tomato salad!

If any of you have ever picked large quantities of tomatoes, you will understand the tomato resin that accumulates on your hand. After picking tomatoes, your hand turns almost black. When you go to wash up, that resin turns a bright neon yellow/green as it mixes with water and goes down the drain. It is a little freaky!

We hope we can tempt you to indulge in our tomatoes!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Watermelon Madness!

We began harvesting melons for the first time this week: a sign that August is right around the corner. So far, we have been picking the traditional red/pink flesh watermelons and the yellow flesh watermelons. For some reason, I love those yellow watermelons the best. The taste is different but only subtly so. Their delicate yellow flesh is unique.

Little Baby Flower is a new red watermelon for us. We are growing this variety because, as the name suggests, it produces really nice personal-sized melons.We know that not everyone can handle a huge watermelon!

Harvesting melons is a science. We only harvest ripe melons so it is very important that we are able to identify signs of ripeness. For watermelons (cantelopes are different), we knock the fruit with our knuckles and listen. If the melon is ripe, we hear a hollow and tight sound whereas an unripe melon sounds dull and dense. It is also important that, every once in a while, we crack one open... just to make sure it tastes good. We love melon breaks!

Enjoy the melons coming out of our fields! They are a true taste of summer!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Do a Rain Dance!

Kelly harvesting lacinato kale.
It was a hot and dry week here on the farm. Our crops are still doing well but we need some rain. I am sure the quick rain storm we had last night will evaporate quickly in the heat today. Perform your best rain dance for us!

Yet, the heat doesn't slow us down too much! On our harvest days, we start as early as possible (7 AM) to get the crops out of the ground and into the cooler before they get struck by the hot air. The quicker we do this, the fresher they remain for our customers. So, harvesting has been a bit of a race against the weather this week. 
First harvest of cherry tomatoes and eggplant.
We were also fortunate to get a lot of time in our carrot field this week. Hand-weeding and thinning the carrots is a very important job so that we can have big and beautiful carrots all winter. We are now almost through the entire field!

Stay cool!

The crew after a hot day of carrot weeding (still looking optimistic).

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Garlic Harvest

The truck full of garlic!!
We harvested all of our garlic for the year this week! Actually, we got it in in just two days, which is quite an accomplishment. We pulled 7,542 bulbs of beautiful garlic out of the ground! The varieties we grow are Music, German White and German Extra Hardy. We planted this crop last fall, just before the ground froze. During the winter it stays dormant in the soil until the ground thaws. So this garlic has been growing since the wee hours of spring. 

The garlic is now laying to dry in two of our greenhouses and in the loft of one of our barns with a big fan to promote proper air circulation. It looks beautiful! The heads are beautifully formed and huge!

Garlic hanging in the loft.
Garlic is a very important crop for us. We sell and distribute garlic to CSA members all winter. We like to think that is keeps our customers healthy in the colder months.

Our garlic is truly the most flavorful garlic you will ever taste!

Friday, July 8, 2011

It's Cucumber Season!

It is July and we are in the midst of cucumber season! We harvest cucumbers, summer squash, and zucchini three times per week and the plants are really starting to produce! Our coolers are full of these crops. Yet, our customers at market and our CSA members are loving the cool cucumbers and the succulent squash... they are the real taste of summer! Now that we have had some warm weather, our bodies are really craving these wonderful summer foods.

We love eating cucumbers while harvesting them. On a hot summer day, they quench our thirst and keep us hydrated. 

We also like hunting for the biggest squash, cucumber or zucchini we can find. We try to pick them before they get too big, but sometimes we just can't keep up with their growth. When they're too big we take them home and make yummy things (like zucchini bread!).

Enjoy the beginning of cucumber season and get hungry! Pickles anyone?

This summer squash was too big. Now it's going to be Ariel's dinner.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Cultivating in the Augenstein Field

Our sweet potatoes being cultivated.
Yesterday we spent the afternoon weeding in the Augenstein fields that we lease on North Pownal Road. It is quite a trek to pack everyone in the truck along with hoes and drive several miles down the road, so we only go over when we have lots of people. Because of the distance, we plant many of our fall storage crops in these fields. We have our winter squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and brussels sprouts over there as well as our later successions of beets, chard, and tomatoes.

A field of our winter squash.
We cultivated the sweet potatoes which are looking healthy! They are under a row cover so it is a bit of a task to uncover, cultivate and then recover... again it helps to have many hands! We also have been making an important pass with hoes through the winter squash. It is so nice to have a relatively weed-free field in which to harvest come fall, so we hope we can keep on top of the weeds (a challenge with a field so far away!).

Though it is a drive to get over to Augenstein's, we love the fields! The soil is beautiful and the atmosphere of the fields is very peaceful. We just thought we would share them with you...

Also, we weeded our onion and leek field (this is on the home farm) and it is looking gorgeous! That will make for a wonderful harvest and beautiful onions for all!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Pick Your Own Field

We plant a Pick Your Own Field for our wonderful CSA members. We have many different types of herbs, including parsley, dill and basil, peas, cherry tomatoes, flowers, and green beans all available for members to harvest themselves. Throughout the summer we allow our members to go to the field to pick their own vegetables as a part of their share.

We love planting the Pick Your Own field because it allows our members to get into the field and see what crops look like growing in the ground. They get to see the farm from the perspective of a beautiful field, feel the soil under their feet and listen to the birds that frequent that part of the farm. I have noticed that kids always get excited about harvesting vegetables and we love to get young people interested in growing food at a young age.

We like to think of the farm as a community space in many ways and the Pick Your Own field allows people to spend more time here.