A Farmer's Year, Part 1

A Farmer's Year, Part 1

Hello, FamDinFam! And goodbye, 2020! We have a few housekeeping things to cover before heading into our chat about Farmers. :)

  • New Year, New Add-ons! Have you seen the website lately? We have a lot of exciting add-ons to complement your weekly share. Staples like Pasta from Seven Hills, Flour and Oats from Maine Grains, and Greek Yogurt from Sophia’s.
  • There are also a few fun surprises like Bread of the Week, Sausage of the Week, and Pastry of the Week. (Fresh croissants from A&J King delivered right to your door? Yes, please!) We’re actively adding new items, so keep an eye out!
  • If you need to skip shares, doing so in advance is a great help to us!

Well, hello again! This is Shannon here on the keys. This may be a new year, but I’m still going to be talking about the way food is grown, because that’s all I ever want to talk about! This is part one of a two-part series about what a year looks like for farmers around here in New England. I spoke with our friends over at Kimball Fruit Farm and Iron Ox Farm about what a year on their farms look like. 

A Year on a New England Farm

As many of you may know, Farmer Dave and his team at Kimball Fruit Farm (Pepperell, MA) brought us a lot of the delicious apples, peaches, and berries in your shares. Between orchards and veggies, they operate on about 200 acres. Alex and Stacey run Iron Ox Farm, a 2-acre market garden farm in Topsfield, MA, which brought us glorious tomatoes, fennel, carrots, turnips, and many other wonderful vegetables. Though they are very different in size and scale, both are still considered "small farms" in the grand scheme of things. During the growing season, which lasts from the last frost in April/May until the first frost in September/October, they both grow incredibly delicious foods we get to enjoy. Below is a little table that summarizes our conversation about their year.

Planning

Although it doesn't seem like a busy time of year, it is the diligent planning during this season that makes it all possible. Farmers are keeping an eye on crop rotation to prevent diseases from taking over fields, access to irrigation, and pests that may be lurking around (e.g., will the deer trample all the tomatoes?). In this lull time, they are also cleaning up the farms and doing maintenance on the things that broke in the main season, but weren't able to be fixed because things were so busy. Dave at Kimball Farm--who took my call while on a hydraulic lift--will be pruning hundreds of trees for the next few months, in preparation for the growing season.

Month Kimball Activity Iron Ox Activity
December Pruning
Crop Planning/Seed Orders
Reorganizing Farm/Clean Up
-Crop Planning/Seed Orders
-Tractor and Truck Maintenence
January Pruning
Crop Planning/Seed Orders
Start Hyrdoponic Tomatoes
-Crop Planning/Seed Orders
-First Winter Carrots Sown on New Year's Day
February Pruning
Cleaning Hydroponic House
-Clean Up Farm
-Prep Greenhouse to be the Propagation House
March Transplanting Hydroponic
Prune Blueberries
Planting Greens (lettuce/kales)
-Turn on Heat in Greenhouse
-Start planting
April Prune: Peaches, Raspberries, Blackberries
Get land ready and Equipment out of barns
-Get into fields prepping beds
-Planting early spring things (greens, brassica, peas, radishes)
-Row Covers
May Getting plants in the ground
Tomatoes/Peppers in around Memorial Day
Have some greens ready for harvest
-Tractor time!
-Summer Veg planting: (Night Shades, Head Lettuce)
-Winter Squash Planting
-Row Covers

 

Growing

Once March and April hit, farmers are planting seeds and making beds in their fields. Some plants will go out in the fields under row covers--the fields may look like they are covered in a white sheet of snow, but this is actually a fabric row covering that keeps the ground warm while also letting sun, air, and moisture into the fields. June, July, August, and September are the pinnacle of what most people probably think of as farming. Lots of planting, harvesting, weeding, watering, markets, and very, very tired farmers. 

Harvesting

As the season starts to wind down in the fall, farmers are asking when that first heavy frost will come, which will decide when the outdoor growing season is officially over. Before this frost, farmers will cover the soil for winter to prevent erosion and to build up soil health. Garlic (Vitamin G as my friend likes to call it), and other fall bulbs get into the ground around this time as well. Then we hit November, and it’s time to finish up, clean, sort, pack, organize, and begin planning for next year. 

Month Kimball Activity Iron Ox Activity
June First veg really coming out - zucchini, etc. -Fake Lull - waiting for things to grow and weeds to be picked
July -July 15th - Peaches Ready
-Harvest
-Fall Crop Planting
-All major crops in the ground
-Water, Weeding, Harvesting
August -End of month apples start
-Harvest
-Water, Weeding, Harvesting
*Major month with issues if we have a drought
September -Macs and Cortlands Start
-Harvest

-Harvesting last of the veg
-Starting winter soil prep - cover crops

October -Getting the last of crops before killing frost hits
-Cleaning up fields after killing frost
-Harvest
-Frost
-Winter Squash Harvesting
-Planting Garlic
November -Crop Planning/Seed Orders -Harvesting from Greenhouses
-Cleaning/Organizing Storage Crops

 

And that brings us right back to the beginning. Thanks for reading along and journeying with us through a year in the life of a New England farm! Getting to eat seasonally is exciting, and I definitely appreciate it so much more as I develop a greater understanding of what it takes to make everything we enjoy!

Happy New Year!

-Shannon

WHAT'S IN THE BAG?

Note: If you order a "Meat and Fish Share" you will just receive the meats listed, not the "dairy" items (eggs, yogurt, etc). If you order a "Fish and Seafood Share" you will receive the fish listed, and not the dairy items.

Add-on Grain of the Week -  Crackers from Brewer's Crackers
Add-on Bread of the Week -  Bread from A&J King
Add-on Pastry of the Week -  Sticky Buns from A&J King

Pro-tip: you can now add extra treats to your share by adding "treat of the week" or "pastry of the week" to your subscription!  Thank you for your feedback and requests for the option to do so!

HALF SHARE

Omnivore Protein - Stew Beef from Feather Brook Farms; Eggs from Feather Brook Farms
Pescatarian Protein - Sea Bass from Red's Best; Eggs from Feather Brook Farms
Vegetarian Proteins - Littleburg; Eggs from Feather Brook Farms
Paleo Proteins - Stew Beef from Feather Brook Farms; Eggs from Feather Brook Farms
Fruits and Veggies - Greens from LEF Farms and Generation Farm; Sweet Potatoes from Laughing Child Farm; Apples from Carlson Orchard
Grain - French Rounds Bread from Iggy's
Special Treat -  Cookies from Topsfield Bake Shop

WHOLE SHARE 

Omnivore Protein - Stew Beef from Feather Brook Farms; Sea Bass from Red's Best; Eggs from Feather Brook Farms; Mezze from Magic Bites
Pescatarian Protein - Sea Bass and Skate from Red's Best; Eggs from Feather Brook Farms; Mezze from Magic Bites
Vegetarian Proteins - Littleburg; Bean Salad from Topsfield Bake Shop; Eggs from Feather Brook Farms; Mezze from Magic Bites
Paleo Proteins - Stew Beef from Feather Brook Farms; Sea Bass from Red's Best; Eggs from Feather Brook Farms
Fruits and Veggies - Greens from LEF Farms and Generation Farm; Sweet Potatoes from Laughing Child Farm; Apples from Carlson Orchard; Watermelon Radish from Heron Pond Farm; Onions from Brookford Farm
Grain - French Rounds Bread from Iggy's
Special Treat - Cookies from Topsfield Bake Shop; Curry Spice from Chef Amelia

DOUBLE SHARE

Omnivore Protein - Stew Beef from Feather Brook Farms; Sea Bass from Red's Best; Pierogi from Jaju; Eggs from Feather Brook Farms; Mezze from Magic Bites; Greek Yogurt from Sophia's
Pescatarian Protein - Sea Bass and Skate from Red's Best; Lobster Ravioli from Deano's; Eggs from Feather Brook Farms; Mezze from Magic Bites; Greek Yogurt from Sophia's
Vegetarian Proteins - Littleburg; Bean Salad from Topsfield Bake Shop; Veggie Burgers from Trina's Starlite Lounge; Eggs from Feather Brook Farms; Mezze from Magic Bites; Greek Yogurt from Sophia's
Paleo Proteins - Stew Beef from Feather Brook Farms; Sea Bass from Red's Best; Eggs from Feather Brook Farms
Fruits and Veggies - Greens from LEF Farms and Generation Farm; Sweet Potatoes from Laughing Child Farm; Apples from Carlson Orchard; Watermelon Radish from Heron Pond Farm; Onions from Brookford Farm; Buttercup Squash from Amish Acres Farm; Beans from Baer's Beans
Grain - French Rounds Bread from Iggy's; Corn Bread from Trina's Starlite Lounge
Special Treat -  Cookies from Topsfield Bake Shop; Curry Spice from Chef Amelia

RECIPES

Beef and Sweet Potato Stew - Pull out any weird or old root veg and throw them in the pot. I could literally eat this every day all winter.

Curries - Time to use up old potatoes, carrots, and any other questionable veggies in a pot add spice and let your whole kitchen be enveloped in flavor!! 

Sea Bass and Capers - Herb and Butter Sauce? Say no more! 

Veggie Burgers - I've made riffs of these in the past and you can substitute roasted buttercup squash for the sweet potatoes (I have some in my freezer at this moment like that). 

How to Cook Dried Beans - You may want to hold onto this one for reference!