August Farm News

On Thursday, Rob, Matt and Steve were all in the field mowing, disking, cultivating. Each one on a tractor doing the work it would take 3 or 4 people to do by hand. By the end of the day, most of the fields looked tidy. We could see the tire tracks between each bed of vegetables and in most cases, individual rows of veggies within each bed are now visible. Most of the pigweed that was towering above the potatoes and leeks is gone. Our last planting of basil got a hair cut in an attempt to force a second flush of healthy growth. Large blocks of land that, until recently, held crops are now bare, revealing the amazing soil that feeds our crops.

We will sow oats and field peas on much of this land this coming Friday. These cover crops will grow until frost kills them. Their remains will provide a protective cover for the soil until spring when we incorporate them into the soil. Frost killed oats and peas are easy to turn into the soil next March when we will want to prepare land for next season’s crops. We sow a cover crop of winter rye on the rest of our fields in late October. Our goal is to have all of our farmland covered, protected throughout the winter. If you’re interested in knowing more about cover crops, here’s a link to Managing Cover Crops Profitably, one of the primary resources I use for planning.

Crops We are at that point in the season where 95% of our crops have been planted. All of our storage onions and shallots have been harvested and are curing in the greenhouse or red barn. Tons (literally) of potatoes are being harvested and delivered to other, smaller community farms, as well as to our CSA. Soon, our winter squash will be ready for harvest and curing, then sweet potatoes. There is a lot of lovely produce in our future: Heirloom and paste tomatoes, green beans, sweet red peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and spinach sweetened by cold weather, leeks, and the return of a variety of leafy greens (bok choy, arugula, escarole, kale, collard greens, cabbage, and yes, lettuce!).

Lettuce – have you been missing it in the share as much as I have? It’s normal for there to be a “lettuce gap” for a few weeks every summer. Lettuce seeds will simply not germinate when temps are high. We try to keep newly seeded trays cool by placing them in the shade and watering them with cold water during the day, but sometimes we just can’t out maneuver nature. I thought we’d been successful this year in avoiding the “lettuce gap” – looked like just enough lettuce seed had germinated to keep it in the share every week. Then our flock of wild turkeys ate the lovely green summer crisp variety ready for harvest. As if that wasn’t enough, the high humidity and heavy rains caused bottom rot (such an unfortunate, but accurate, name) to turn much of our lettuce to mush. So, we are without lettuce for another week despite our best efforts.

Strawberries are done (thank you so much for your patience as I learn to grow these lovely berries! Next year’s crop will benefit greatly from this year’s learning). Canteloupe and watermelon didn’t live more than two days after they’d been planted in June – Mom Nature’s heavy rain and strong winds did them in. Green beans have proved challenging. Thanks to a visit and some coaching by former Moraine Farm farmer, Charley Baer, I think we will see (and eat!) green beans soon. In fact, there should be enough pole beans ready for a bit of pick-your-own next week. Sweet corn is done; grudgingly shared with deer. Next year, with our new fence working its magic, we’ll see more sweet corn!

Weather I can always complain about the weather. It’s too hot for lettuce to grow, then it’s too cold for the peppers and eggplant to set fruit; So dry that crop leaves are curling, then so wet and humid (humid, humid, humid!), that fungal disease in tomatoes and lettuce developed overnight. I’d like to cultivate my mentor’s attitude about weather: “it’s all good” he’s fond of saying.

What’s New? That’s a homemade walk-in cooler that Assistant Farm Manager Rob Eckman and staff volunteer Dave Dragan are building in the Ag Barn.

Our deer fence is up and working! Yay! Yay! Yay! No more sharing our veggies with deer! Now we can turn our attention to those pesky wild turkeys. Anyone interested in taking home a few pet turkeys?

Our irrigation system is 98% complete. We’ve got a state of the art pump and driver (pump controller) and underground pipe that takes water from the well (or the pond if the well runs dry) to every field on the farm. Yippee!!!

We’ve received a grant for a high tunnel – a greenhouse for growing crops in during the winter. It should arrive by October 1. It’s fairly simple to put together. I’m looking for a couple of volunteers to help us build end walls for it, probably in November. Let me know if you’re interested.

Feeding Our Community – Food Access Program This is the second year we’ve supplied Beverly Bootstraps and Cape Ann Food Pantry with freshly harvested, organically grown produce for their food pantries and low-income markets. We have been donating about 300 pounds of produce each week (about $600 of food). We’ve been limited in the types of produce we can divert to these organizations because of economic constraints on the farm. Next month, I hope to raise funds that will help cover the cost of this season’s produce donations; watch for a letter at the CSA distribution. I’m already working on strategies to raise funds for targeted produce donations next season. By targeted produce donations I mean growing specific crops specifically for our hunger relief partners: crops we’ve been told that food recipients prefer, are familiar with, and know how to use, like lettuce, carrots, tomatoes.

This month we began selling produce to the Beverly and Salem Public Schools. We are extremely excited about this development! If you are interested in helping to transport veggies to either school, please be in touch with me. Stay tuned for updates on these partnerships!

Extended-Season Shares (November and December CSA) If you are interested in receiving a CSA share through December, please sign up for the extended-season CSA soon. If you are a current Moraine Farm CSA shareholder, you can postpone paying for your extended-season share until October 1. Please don’t forget to sign up for an extended-season share if you want one!

Monthly Volunteer Morning Saturday, September 1, join your farmers from 9:00 to 11:30 AM for a bit of farming. Likely we’ll dig potatoes, clean onions, maybe harvest some winter squash. Work and fun for all ages! We meet in front of the Ag Barn (where you get your CSA share) at 9:00 sharp. Let us know if your plan to attend by signing up here.

Moraine Farm Open House – Mark Your Calendars for September 29! A property-wide Open House will be held at Moraine Farm on Saturday, September 29, 10 AM – 3 PM. Project Adventure, the Cape Ann Waldorf School and the Trustees of Reservations and Moraine Farm CSA will offer tours and activities. If you are interested in leading a walking tour of the farm, staffing a TTOR and CSA information table or helping with the farmstand we’re planning, let me know. I’d love for shareholders to be involved in welcoming the public to Moraine Farm.

What do you think? Mid-Season Survey We just finished week 12 of our summer CSA. The last week of the summer CSA is the week of October 22. I would love to hear from you about your CSA experience so far. Watch your e-mail for a link to our on-line Mid-Season CSA Survey.

Hope to see you at the farm soon. Enjoy the harvest!

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4 Responses to August Farm News

  1. says:

    what a wonderful, news-filled post!  thank you Farmer Gretta!

    Paula Vassallo

  2. Paula Vassallo says:

    Thanx for this newsy post, Farmer Gretta. Love Moraine Farm! The property always looks good, but it was especially beautiful, neat and tidy on Friday. Love to see those beautiful rows of veggies!

  3. tang163 says:

    I am interested in helping with the high tunnel construction.

    Bob Tanguay

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