garlic harvest and news of blight

July 26, 2009


vina and the harvest

vina and the harvest

The garlic harvest is in! 

Four different varieties:  

Town Farm’s own, 

A red variety from our farmer friend Nancy at Hampshire College,

An Extra Hardy German, 

and a Red Russian from Johnny’s seed catalog.  

Garlic is a really fun crop to grow because it’s one of the few crops from which most farmers save their own seeds. 

Garlic seed (yes, the seed is the actual clove!) is planted in the fall so that it can over-winter.  The side-buds of the garlic clove begin to develop in the winter and the warmer spring days encourage the buds to become cloves. 

The garlic plant sends up a shoot in the early summer, and eventually a flower bud that we harvest as scapes (they’re delicious) to send the plants energy back down into the development of the bulb. 

Come late July up here in Western Mass, the tips of the garlic greens begin to brown which means it’s time to pull up the plants.  

load it up

load it up

Fork around the bulbs, pull them out, bunch them and hang them in a dry, well-circulated space so that they can cure for a few months to be able to store better.  You can eat the garlic fresh, but it won’t keep as long as when it’s cured.

Once the garlic is cured, we cut the bulbs off of the dried stems.  Some of the heads are for distribution, some for our own storage, and some are for seed for next season. 

Ideally, you save the biggest cloves for seed to play our role in continuing the evolution of the crop to produce large heads. 

Then, once again, come late fall, we’ll stick the cloves in the ground for next years crop. 


hanging in the barn

hanging in the barn

Happy garlic-ing. 

On a sadder note, there’s lots of talk about tomato blight in these parts. 

As the rain continuous so seriously this season, the potential for disease and fungus increases, and Northeast farmers are beginning to experience the results. 


save us from the blight

save us from the blight

Late tomato blight is a fungus whose spores live in the soil and develop in overly wet conditions.  Once a crop is infected with the blight, it can spread rapidly by air or by human/animal contact from one crop or field to another. 

For organic farmers, there’s not a whole lot that can be done about the blight, especially once it is detected.  Unfortunately, many farmers are finding the blight on their tomatoes and are having to plow in their entire tomato crops in hopes of keeping the disease as isolated as possible. 

I just heard yesterday that the farm I worked at last season, Food Bank/Mountainview Farm had to plow in four acres of tomatoes. 

Pretty devastating.  So much work and no fruits of labor. 

It’s particularly devastating for farmer’s market farmers because tomatoes can be one of the most highly profitable crops. 

We have detected some signs of blight in one of our fields, but as of yet, it is not spreading rampantly. 

We’ll see. 

There was an interesting article in the NY times about the blight:

garden magic

garden magic

To continue on a more positive note it is always super fun to share in on my friends’ excitement about processing some of the abundance of food we’re currently in the midst of.

One of my friends converted his front yard into a garden and is growing vegetables for the first time in his life. 

I went over to his house last night and watched him discover all sorts of magical unfoldings in his garden. 

He had a couple of friends over to make sauerkraut and pickles from his garden’s vegetables and vegetables from Town Farm.  We also made a couple of delicious fresh salads. 

Summer fun vegetable processing party Northampton style.  


makes cuts kraut

makes cuts kraut



July 12, 2009


first canning of the season!  yum

first canning of the season! yum

tour des fields

July 11, 2009


lorraine's field (the field that we've mostly been harvesting from so far)

lorraine's field (the field that we've mostly been harvesting from so far)


home garden (pick your own and perennials)

home garden (pick your own and perennials)


maria's field (most of our late summer and early fall crops)

maria's field (most of our late summer and early fall crops)

small town

July 8, 2009


yes, folks, that's more rain

yes, folks, that's more rain

Just had a very wet bicycle trailer-hauling ride home from the market. 

There was a huge down pour.  Ben and I got soaked. 

It’s incredible that it’s raining so much.  It seems like there shouldn’t be any rain left up there in that sky. 

Anyhow, amazingly, all of our vegetables are still growing beautifully.

Lots of vibrant, happy greens and herbs.  Cucumbers coming in, summer squash and zuchinni, cabbages, carrots and beets… 

There are even green tomatoes on our tomato plants. 

'The Chard Whisperer'

'The Chard Whisperer'

We’ve really gotten into the flow of harvest now.  Three days a week we harvest for a good four hours in the morning.  Out in the field, picking greens, digging carrots, bunch beets.  We have each organically taken on particular harvesting tasks which has allowed us to move more efficiently.

For example, Danya harvests chard almost every harvest.  This way, she is able to manage the chard patch; taking care of the plants along the way, picking up where she left off after the last harvest so as not to over and under-pick certain areas.  She know the patch so well, that I don’t even pretend like I know anything about chard at this point.  I rarely even step into the patch.  In fact, we have come to call Danya, ‘The Chard Whisperer.’  Feel free to thank her for her love of the chard patch if you happen to run into her at the farm.   

Our CSA is going well.  We have about eighty shareholders who come on one of two days a week.  They pre-paid for their weekly share of vegetables at the beginning of the season and come fill up a bagful of fresh produce every week. 

So far, we have been able to offer a new vegetable every week.  This last week was carrots. 

It’s nice to see how much people love coming to the farm to get their veggies, hang out with the goats, chickens and ducks, and talk with whoever is working in the share room about farm and life.

CSA barn

CSA barn

I appreciate all of the connections that are formed through the CSA model:  eater to farmer, farmer to eater, eater to farm, community members interacting through their shared commitment to support local agriculture, etc. 

Another market that we are working with at Town Farm is a wholesale account with a local breakfast/lunch joint called ‘The Green Bean.’ 

We provide them with lettuce and kale twice or three times a week. 

This is also a fun relationship of many connections.  Danya and I make fun of each other about how there’s a slight bit of competition around who gets to drop off the produce to the restaurant.  There’s something deeply satisfying about harvesting a bunch of greens, boxing them up, loading them up on a bike trailer, riding through town, bringing them in to a crowded kitchen bustling kitchen, and handing them off to new friends to prepare them for our community. 

Sometimes, we don’t even have to drop them off because one of the main cooks at the café lives in our neighborhood and he’ll just stop by before work to pick up the lettuce. 

Yes, Northampton has a lot of small town-ness to it.  

ducks on parade

ducks on parade

some rain

June 21, 2009

Lots of goings ons here at the farm.

even the goats don't want to leave the barn

even the goats don't want to leave the barn

Mostly, the goings ons these days include rain. 

Lots of it. 

Really though.  So much. 

Somewhat reminiscent of last growing season here in New England, except a bit earlier in the game this year. 

Last year, the rain had a huge impact on our crops at the farm (the Food Bank Farm).  Mostly because of a disease called phytoptera that lives in the soil and is activated by rain.  We lost acres of cucurbits (squash, cucumbers, and pumpkins).  And peppers.  And our tomato season was really short.  Anyhow, at the time,I just assumed that it was an “off” season, but now I’m really beginning to wonder if our weather patterns in this area are changing so that our summers now are going to consistently be rainy.  Weird. 

Always new challenges to learn from with when working so intimately with the unpredictability of nature. 

We don’t have to worry too much about irrigation systems, which is nice.  And I definitely am not sunburned. 

So far, the most obvious effects of the rain at the farm this season are that we can’t keep up with the weeds as well because the best weed killing weather is hot and dry, and also, our warmer season crops (summer squash, eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers) are all moving a bit slower than usual. 


bicycle brigading

Speaking of keeping up with the weeds, we had such an awesome workday with the folks who are working at Hampshire College farm for the season. 

Usually it’s just two and sometimes three of us working out in the field together.  But the day the Hampshire folks came, we had about ten of us in the field and we managed to save our leeks and potatoes from being overtaken by weeds.  


Thank you Hampshire College folks. 

Not to mention, we got to ride around between our fields as a bicycle brigade.  One of  my favorite things to do in life is partake in bicycle brigades. 

I’ve been loving eating our delicious farm food. 

Mostly, I keep it simple.  Lots of salads, rice and veggie dishes, spring rolls…

I did have a blast last weekend making fresh pasta from our chickens’ eggs and learned the ropes of Ben and Oona’s homemade goat cheese. 


goat cheese

I love that my fridge is slowly being taken over by mostly farm foods: 

vegetables, goat milk, goat cheese, and eggs.  What more do you really need?

I also wanted to mention this week that I really appreciate the bicycle-dominated CSA pick-up scene at the farm.  Families, couples, housemates, friends… coming to pick up their veggies from their local farm on bicycles. 

I did get to see a pick up situation that I’ve never seen before last week, which was my friend Ben loading up his CSA vegetables on the back of his motorcycle.  Awesome.


motorcycle + vegetables = awesome

motorcycle + vegetables = awesome

must be summer

June 10, 2009

Ripe strawberries.IMG_4341

Harvesting radishes in my sleep. 

The bigggest decision of my day being which green I’m going to eat in my salad for lunch. 

The momentum of the abundance begins. 

Must be summertime here at the farm. 

Sooooo many plants in the ground. 

Last week, I think all I did for fifty-five hours was transplant vegetables from the greenhouse into the ground. 

Plus some harvesting and weeding here and there. 

Wow.  Tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, lettuces, and basil.  In the ground. 

Harvesting spinach, head lettuce, lettuce mix, stir fry mix, turnips, radishes, scallions, herbs, chard, broccoli raab, beets, strawberries, kale, oh man. 

marketOur display at the farmer’s market is colorful and abundant.  

Our CSA share is hearty and lovely. 

Not to brag.  I’m not trying to take the credit.  It’s the nature of the work.  The magic of the season that puts forth so much overflowing taste, texture, and beauty.  It’s this time in the season that I begin to feel like my hands are just one small part of this larger movement of nature to bringing forth life to sustain me and my community of people.  It’s both so powerful and humbling at the same time. 

The Tuesday market is picking up every week for us, and our CSA pick-ups, which started a week and a half ago, are running smoothly.  Whereas I feel somewhat already in the flow of the abundance of food in the season, it’s so wonderful to experience market customers’ and shareholders’ awe at the bounty our local land is able to supply this time of year. 


The good kind of exhaustion that leads to long deep sleep.

market time

May 23, 2009


full field

full field

I know I know. 

Two weeks gone by, not one. 

This is because it’s the end of May and I’m a farmer. 

So much is happening.  !

Cucumbers, summer squash, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, leeks… in the ground.

Weeding, feeding, thinning, watering, harvesting…

Yes, harvesting!

We had our first Tuesday farmer’s market. 

Last summer, when Ben and Oona were in their first full farming season, attempting to figure out what exactly was their most appropriate and profitable market as in-town vegetable growers, they came to the realization that this town (Northampton) had a demand for a second farmer’s market. 

The Saturday market is very established, which is wonderful, but it also means that there is not a whole lot of opportunity for newer farmers to participate. 

So Ben and Oona decided to create a new market, on Tuesday afternoons from 2-7 PM, that would create opportunities for newer diverse farmers to sell their wares, as well as create a celebratory open-air market in a central location downtown. 

Not only does the market include vegetable growers, maple syrup producers, goat cheese artisans, herbalists, and bread bakers, but there is also a different local musician every week, as well as a booth for a local artist/crafter to share/sell their work every week. 

the marvel

the marvel

And Tuesday was the first market of the season!

We spent the morning out in the field harvesting our hard earned vegetable products- arugula, baby bok choy, radishes, head lettuce, loose leaf lettuce, spinach, and scallions.

Then we washed all the vegetables in our marvelous new wash station, proudly designed by Ben.  (I call it, ‘the marvel). 

Once all the vegetables are washed, we packed them all up in crates and loaded them onto bike trailers, along with our canopies, tables, scale, signs, and all the other bits and pieces that make up our market both. 

It took three bike trailers to carry everything we needed at the market, and it was only the first week. 

Oh, what it will look like once we have tomatoes and squash.




Anyhow, we had an awesome four-person bike brigade from the farm to the market. 

This was one of my favorite parts.  This and the banjo fiddle duo, the freshly baked bread and goat cheese combo, people’s ecstatic reactions to fresh arugula, spinach and radishes, charlotte’s yellow balloon and silver bracelets at the artist booth, and getting to see lots of people I love that I never get to see because I mostly hang out with vegetables. 

Farmers market.  Good for the world.  Good for me. 

I just have to say, this is such an important time of season for farmers, because after spending two months planting, watering, thinning, and weeding, I almost begin to forget that I’m actually doing this work to feed lots of people.  Which is so good.  So now begins the part of feeding lots of people. 

We are entering the full flow of the farming season.  Every week is seeding in the greenhouse, transplanting, hardening off next week’s plants, direct seeding into the beds, cultivating the plants in the field, harvesting vegetables, distributing vegetables…

Full time.  Go.  




potatoes and onions, done

May 10, 2009

I spent last weekend in New York with my brother and some friends.

union square market

union square market

New York is always full of fabulous food experiences. 

I spent a while wandering around the crowds at the Union Square Farmer’s Market. 

Last time I was there, in April, all of the stands were still in the cleaning out of winter reserves mode.  Apples, mushrooms, sprouts, canned goods, meat, cheese… Not a whole lot of plant freshness. 

This week was drastically different.  The stands were bursting forth with a wide range of cultivated and wild greens, transplants for the urban home gardener, and lots of asparagus.  One of my favorite parts was that the food tasting of the week, which is put on by the Greenmarket (Council on the Environment of NYC), was ramps.  Some folks were handing out free samples of a cous cous and ramp dish.  Ramps are truly spring superstars.  

nyc urban garden

nyc urban garden

I also got to help my brother design some planters for his fire escape.  He doesn’t do much cooking, so it didn’t make sense to incorporate edible plants, so we picked out some pretty leafy greens and flowers.  Next time I go, I’ll bring some herbs for lovely smells.  It felt so nice to be getting my hands dirty and supporting some green life on a fire escape, four floors up in the middle of Manhattan. 

This week was a big planting week up here in Northampton.  We spent a good two days putting all of our onion starts in the ground:  Ailsa Craig, Prince, Copra, Redwing, plus a variety of shallots.  Four inches apart, three rows, three three hundred foot beds, done.  We planted the onions into black plastic, which is a somewhat ironic technique used in organic farming,but it’s incredibly helpful.  The black plastic absorbs more heat, retains moisture, and also suppresses weeds.  Also, the material that we’re using this year is corn-based instead of petroleum-based (I guess then it’s not actually plastic), and therefore, will supposedly biodegrade into the soil at the end of the season.  We’ll see how it all goes down. 

potatoes 1We also had a huge potato planting day.  Ben and Matt configured a fantastic digging and fertilizing system on the Cub (one of our tractors), that consisted of a shallow digging subsoiler that made a trench, and Matt standing on the back of the tractor dropping fertilizer into the trench.  After cutting two oz sized potatoes of red, white, yellow and blue varieties, we dropped them into the trenches at about nine inches apart and covered them up. 

Have you ever wondered how potatoes grow?  You know how they have eyes?  Well, each eye is a sprout, and once in the ground, the sprouts shoot up and produce leaves that send down shoots and grow more potatoes.  To grow potatoes, you plant potatoes.  I love it when life is so simple. 

potatoes 3

potatoes 2There’s more, yes, there’s more.  Our wonderful neighbor friend, Ed, is a fabulous wild asparagus hunter.  He has some land down in the meadows (where we planted our potatoes) and he knows of a few abundant patches.  I’ve been asking him all about it, trying to get him to help out my hunting, but it’s hard to get details.  People can get a little bit territorial when it comes to wild food hunting.  I kind of like it. 

Anyhow, the day we were planting potatoes he showed up with a large handful of asparagus for Danya and I.  At lunch, we sauteed them up with some garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Delicious. 

I can’t stop writing this week without mentioning our abundant greenhouse.  It’s so beautiful.  Full of broccoli, kale, lettuces, cucumbers, melons, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplants, celery and celariac… Everything is just exploding as we’re entering the biggest transplanting time of the season.

greenhouse bounty

greenhouse bounty

late april heat wave

May 5, 2009

very hot sunset

We had a crazy heat wave this week.  Somehow, even though it has been mostly chillier than normal for April, the temp reached up into the 80’s and even low 90’s. 

Kind of crazy.  Kind of fun. 

It inspired a swim trip up to the Mill River- always a good idea.river

A lot of the plants loved it.  All of our tomato starts totally took off in the greenhouse.  So did the cucumbers and melons that we had just seeded the week before. 

Somewhat explosive. 

It was kind of weird, though, to have it be so hot but not even have any leaves on the trees yet.  Oh, climate change. 

New babies continue to arrive. 

mulberryMavis (a goat) had two little cutie pies.  One boy.  One girl. 

She gave birth super early in the morning.  Around 4:30 or so. 

We hadn’t been checking in on her because, in the past, when Ben and Oona had bred her, she had consistently had her kids during the day. 

Well, this birth broke that pattern. 

Amazingly, she successfully had her kids without our support.  Usually, it’s helpful for people to support the birth; to make sure that the babies are coming out right, to make sure that they’re breathing once they’ve been birthed and are milking on their momma alright…

Ben went into the barn on Sunday morning to do chores and he was checking in on everybody and suddenly realized that there were two new healthy. 

Unfortunately, we think because Mavis (the momma) was a bit stressed out during and after the birth, she initially rejected both kids, then eventually let the little girl milk but still not the little boy. 

Which means that we are bottle feeding him.  Which is amazing.  I recommend it.

silas and max

silas and max

By the way, the kids names are Max and Mulberry.  Silas (Ben and Oona’s three-year-old, named them).  And also, cause I know you’re dying to know, the other three goat kids are named Puck, Fred (Winifred), and Clara (my name choice). 

We hooked up the new Planet Junior seeder this week.  The seeder, which gets attached to the back of one of the tractors, has three containers with different sized plates for different sized seeds that drops the seeds as it’s wheels roll along the bed behind the tractor.  Sounds relatively simple, right?  Of course it took us a while to figure it all out, as most of these machines do, but eventually, we got it rolling and were able to get a bunch of seeds in the ground before a light rain. 

Up until Ben and Oona got this seeder, we were using the Earth Ways seeder, which is a really basic hand-powered push seeder.  I really like it, but it’s harder for a person to make straight rows than it is a tractor, and we need straight rows in order to cultivate (weed) with a tractor, which is pretty necessary at the scale we’re trying to work. 




spring is rain and ramps

April 29, 2009

Nice spring weather this week, helping out the growth of our lovely vegetables. 

greenhouse seeding

greenhouse seeding

Monday was a bright sunny day, and having heard it was going to rain, we put lots of vegetable seeds, vegetable transplants, fruit trees, and cover crop seed into the ground. 

Sure enough, a nice heavy rain came in the evening to settle in all of our plants. 

After a couple of cool days that came along with the rain, the temperature picked up and we had a few really intense days of heat.  That combination of plants and seeds in the ground (and greenhouse), lots of rain, then lots of sun, make it so that the plants take off.  Really though, you could probably sit and literally watch plants grow. 

So good. 

Speaking of being grateful for rain, I’m really excited about the rain water catchment system on the barn house.  Because the house we live in is a big old renovated potato barn, it has a nice long, regular roof, which provides ample surface area for rain to fall on.  Taking note of this early on, Ben designed a rain catchment system where rain runs off of the roof into a gutter and gets directed into a long pipe that runs over into a large water cistern.  From here, with the help of a small pump (which I believe is solar powered), the rain water gets pumped over to another water cistern that is closer to one of our farm fields and sits about fifteen feet high on a platform.  The water then can be set up as a gravity-fed drip irrigation system for that field. 


step one

step one


step two

step two


step three

step three

 Pretty neat, if you ask me.

Taking advantage of available resources.  Just another element of what makes this farm an urban homestead, more than just a farm and home.  

Right on. 

This weekend had some other lovely farm and food adventures.

On Saturday, Danya and I headed up to a farm I used to live at for small gathering.  This farm, called Porcupine Hill Farm, is about two hundred acres of land up in one of the hill towns that surrounds this here valley.  Most of the land is in woods, although a good fifteen to twenty acres are in hay production and horse pasture.  There’s also a huge, raised bed vegetable garden. 

We ate a beautiful meal of fresh garden spinach salad and last years pesto on pasta out in the hay barn. 

We even had some entertainment that included people in costumes emerging from the woods.


hay barn dinner

hay barn dinner











Yes.  It is a magical place.

I also had a great adventure on Sunday harvesting ramps (wild onions), out in the woods.  There were so many of them!  I picked a bunch so that I could share them with friends. 

I looked for fiddle head ferns as well, but having no luck that day, I ended up buying some from one of our local grocery stores. 

These wild foods are integral to springtime in this valley for me. 

As much as I love growing food, I even moreso love collecting food from the forest.  It feels like such a timeless human experience. 

Rain, barn picnics, ramps… must be spring.