Category Archives: farming

Kickin’ Off the 2015 Season with our First Blog from Alex

It is hard to imagine that spring is almost here having received one of our biggest snowfalls of the year no less than a week ago.  But with the sun shining, the snow melting, and an extra hour of daylight…here we go! 

The seeding of onions marks the start of a new growing season every February.  The seeds go in flats in the greenhouse; our winter oasis in an otherwise inhospitable growing environment.  When temperatures fall to single digits at night and there’s a foot of snow on the ground, it’s odd to see tiny seedlings poke their heads out of the potting soil, searching for warmth and sunshine.  It is also invigorating seeing green, seeing life, seeing growth once again.  They won’t be lonely for long.  This week we’ll seed leeks, cabbage, kale, and some herbs.  Onions though, have the longest road ahead of them.  We will give them haircuts once they reach six to eight inches tall; plant them in late April; weed them three or so times; harvest in late July; and cure and store them before sharing the bounty.  I just ate one of our last onions from the 2014 season the same week we seeded this year’s crop.  It is one of the only annual crops that keeps us company year round, for better or for worse. 

Winter is also the perfect time to reflect on the previous year, and assess what went well and where we need to improve.  We had a great growing season last year, albeit dry.  Dry is much better than wet as long as we can keep everything watered.  When there’s too much moisture, it’s difficult to accomplish anything in the fields.  Disease spreads and plant roots struggle to “breathe” as water fills the gaps in the soil once occupied by air.  Just like us, plants respire! Even though we were happy with our 2014 harvest, we are motivated to continue to learn from our mistakes and our observations.  Some elements of farming, such as weather, pest infestations, and disease outbreaks are out of our hands.  We can do our part to mitigate those effects and take preventative action by creating an environment that sets our crops up for success.  First and foremost this comes in the form of soil management.  The dirt is the immune system of the plants.  Provide appropriate soil texture, microbial activity, nutrients and minerals, and plants can aspire to do great things. 

That is just the beginning of their journey though.  We’ll do our best to take them the rest of the way, making sure they’re fed, watered, and protected until we pass them off to you.  So thank you for being a part of our community…our family, because come June, our babies will need a loving home.  We are very excited to have the 2015 growing season underway, and can’t wait to see you this spring! 

image1SMF 2015 Onion Seedlings

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Harvest Potluck

Thank you to all of you who made it out to the farm for our end of the year bash!  We enjoyed great food, music and community.  Here are a few pictures from the festivities.  Looking forward to next year already!

Members enjoying the festivities.

The delicious spread.

Food food food!

Carolyn face painting the kids.

Face painting beauty.

Thanks to all who entered the contest!  The results were delicious.

Potluck laughter.

Serious pie contest judges at hard at work.

 

End of the evening hayride.

Thanks again for coming!  See you there next year!

 

Farm update

Below are a few pictures and a farm update from the past couple of months.

It’s impossible to ignore the changing seasons as we are a few days from fall.  The Sandbrook Meadow crew is welcoming the cooler temperatures with open arms for more reasons than just a respite from the summer’s heat.   The new cool weather crops are a nice change in pace for us from what we’ve been giving out since July.  Just because we have chosen to be farmers does not mean we are impervious to becoming weary of seeing the same vegetables day after day and week after week.  But the beauty of a growing year is that when you have had just about as much as you can handle of one crop, the seasons dictate that it’s time to move on to another.

We are looking forward to some of the same vegetables we had in the spring but also some new ones that thrive in the fall (sweet potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, broccoli, brussel sprouts, etc).  Sadly some of our fall lettuce has bolted already.  It’s more difficult this time of year to grow as it is planted in August and can suffer in the heat before the temperatures drop consistently.  We have a couple more beds of lettuce planted that still look good and hopefully the scorchers are behind us.  Also, unfortunately our winter squash/ pumpkin patch failed due to duress from disease.  This is very disappointing as we were eagerly awaiting the butternuts, pie pumpkins, and other squashes.  However it is the reality of the risks and rewards of farming.  This is one of the many reasons we grow more than one crop unlike so many other farms these days.  If one crop does not deliver for us, we can still sustain ourselves on what our fields provide.  It is not the first crop that has left us empty handed and will not be the last.  We’ll have to wait until next year for another try, and will do so with eager anticipation once again.

From Dirt to Plate- A kid’s pizza party!

We had a wonderful turnout for our cooking class this past Saturday!  Intern Laura started off with a quick lesson on connecting pizza to farming, then we were off to the field to harvest our toppings!  After a little bit of sweat and hard work, it was time for some serious pizza making.  They were all masterpieces… absolutely delectable!  Thanks to all of you who came out and shared your Saturday with us!

What tasty creations we had!

Crop update: Soil, heat and pollination issues

From Rutgers’ Plant and Pest Advisory publication regarding cucurbit (cucumber,squash, etc.) pollination problems.  This blurb speaks to some of our funny looking cucumbers and watermelon as well as some unmarketable produce thanks to a hot dry month.

Signs of incomplete pollination in cucurbits included bottlenecked fruit or fruit with a pinched end, crooked or lopsided fruit, fruit small in size or nub-like; and fruits with prominent lobes or that are triangular in shape.  Causes of incomplete pollination may be inadequate pollen transfer by pollinating insects; inadequate pollen sources (pollenizers); or hot, dry weather that reduces pollen viability or that desiccates flower parts druing pollination.  Research has shown that a minimum of 1,000 grains of pollen are required to be distributed over the three lobes of the stigma of the female flower distributed over the three lobes of the stigma of the female flower of the watermelon to produce a uniformly shaped fruit.

 Heat stress in combination with a potassium deficiency can cause tomatoes to ripen irregularly.  “Yellow shoulders” may result in fruit that only ever partially ripen while the tops of the tomatoes remain hard.  Some heirloom varieties maintain green shoulders even when ready for harvest when cultural factors are not and issue as well.  Remove the unripened part of the tomato and enjoy the rest!
 

We’ve noticed some of our yukon gold potatoes have “hollow heart”.  Basically this is an air pocket in the cavity of the tuber.  Most of the time it is nothing more than that and you can use the potato per usual.  This occurs during rapid growth after a chilling period.  We had a late freeze this year followed by an unseasonably warm spring.

CSA Share- Week 9

We are in the thick of summer and the summer crops.  The next several weeks will look very similar to each.  With all this heat comes the crops that do well under these conditions.

This upcoming week will likely include:

Potatoes, cucumbers or summer squash, onions, tomatoes, peppers, and tomatillos or eggplant.

U-pick-

Cherry tomatoes, green beans, herbs, and flowers.

*TAKE NOTE-

PURELY FARM will be at the farm this upcoming Friday the 27th, from 2PM til 7PM.  They will have FRESH CHICKEN available, so take advantage of this opportunity!

Featured Vegetable: The potato

Last year we had a less than desirable potato harvest.  One of our goals this year was to get better at staples such as potatoes.  Well…we have succeeded so far!  We are harvesting twice the poundage from each bed.  This is great news!  This also means you will be receiving a consistent amount of potatoes over next few weeks.  For some of you this might be a little piece of heaven, while others of you might find yourselves overwhelmed.  The wonderful news is that you do not have to eat them all now.  If you have a cool, dark basement you can store some of them until later in the year.

Quick facts:

*China is world’s largest producer of potatoes.

* The potato was introduced to Europe 1536, and subsequently by European mariners to territories and ports throughout the world.

*The potato is an excellent source of complex carbohydrates and minerals, particularly potassium-providing the skin is consumed- and fairly good source of vegetable protein.  They form a complete protein when eaten with meat, dairy, or grains.

* There are about 5,000 potato varieties worldwide.  Three thousand of them are found in the Andes.

* Positive affects on the human health: they are good against colon cancer, improve glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, lower plasma cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations, increase satiety. Potato is also rich with vitamin C.

*The first potatoes arrived in North America in 1621, and the first permanent patch was established around 1719 in New England.

* The world’s largest potato weighed in at 18 pounds, 4 ounces, found in England in 1795.

* Potatoes are also used to brew alcoholic beverages such as vodka, potcheen, or akvavit.

* A potato is a living organism.  If held at 40 degrees in a humid environment, the potato can store in a dormant state for up to 12 months.

*The Irish referred to potatoes as “spuds”, the name that came from a type of spade called a “spudder” used for digging potatoes.

* Potatoes were considered an aphrodisiac during Shakespeare’s time.

Storage tips:

*Most potatoes will keep at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.  Store away from light.

* For  longer storage, potatoes will keep best at 45-50 degrees, high humidity, and in the darkness.  If their environment is too warm they will sprout and shrivel; if too cold, the starch will turn to sugar

What’s happening on the farm?

June has turned into July, and we are still trying let our minds and bodies catch up to the change in seasons.  We are sure the hustle and bustle of summertime has set in for you as well!  We hope you are taking time to enjoy (wink, wink) this nice little heat wave we have been experiencing.  Well what should we expect?  It is summer after all.

We are getting into our weekly routine of harvest days, market days and catch-up days.  “Catch-up” days include everything from weeding, trellising plants, making compost tea, mowing, moving chickens, harvesting cucumbers and summer squash (this has to be done every other day) and Fall planting. Yes, that is happening already! We have winter squash, sweet potatoes, peas, kale and Brussels sprouts started for your Fall enjoyment.

CROP update or what happened to your broccoli?

Strawberries are long gone.  They were an experimental crop for us this year, and we have taken away some valuable lessons for next year’s harvest.

Broccoli.  Oh broccoli…  We have yet to have a successful spring crop of broccoli, but we just keep trying.  Many farmers, don’t even try to attempt broccoli until Fall.  Most Spring crops are not suited for the often sudden shift to warmer temperatures.  About three weeks ago, it was looking promising.  I think I even included broccoli in one of the “upcoming share pictures”.  Within a matter of days, however, we discovered that our hopes and dreams for broccoli were dashed.  Broccoli was definitely NOT going to be a success this year.  Maybe this a good reminder in this year of plenty, that one is never too far from the powers of Mother Nature, the effects of global warming or a heavy dose of the cabbage worm.  We should have better luck in the Fall. And then next Spring our optimistic naivete will lead us to plant those little broccoli seeds again, hoping that, ” THIS WILL BE THE YEAR, that we will not be bested by that broccoli!”

Our Spring peas are done.  They will be back in the fall.

You may have noticed that when a crop, such as kale, spinach, or turnips, is on its way out,  we open them up for you to pick.  Please remember that this is one of the many benefits of being a part of a CSA.  Pick in bulk and put it away for the winter.  Now is the time to put in the extra work to reap the benefits on that cold December day.

On a positive note.  WE HAVE CUCUMBERS.  You may have noticed, and we hope you  have taken bags full of them home to pickle or to mysteriously drop off on your neighbors front porch steps while they are away. We certainly have been attempting the latter!  We have also dropped off several hundred pounds at the local Flemington food pantry to share our bounty.

Green Beans are also plentiful.  As long as you have the time to commit, there are plenty for you out there.  We have no limit on the quantity of this crop right now, so pick away!

On an even more exciting note.  The cherry tomatoes are starting to ripen, and our first tomato of the season was eaten yesterday!

We know that it has been pretty warm the last few pick-up days, but we have been very excited by how many of you are braving the weather and taking advantage of fields.  We love to see that!

Final Notes:

*Please remember to BRING YOUR OWN BAGS.  We know this takes some planning, and it is inevitable that you will sometimes forget.  But we are flying through our supplies at a rate that we would prefer to reduce.  If this continues to be a problem, we will start charging a fee for bags–something we would like to avoid.  We also would prefer to keep the farm’s carbon footprint as low as possible.  Thank you for your thoughtfulness.

*On a similar note- our pint and quart containers are to be used for a unit of measurement, please return them to the pick-up center when you are done picking, and transfer the contents to your own bags.  Thanks.

*Volunteering-  We have weeding!  Come anytime Tuesday thru Saturday from 9AM to 5PM.  We will be harvesting potatoes soon, and will let you know when that will be open for anyone to help.  Finally,  we would love for more people to sign up for volunteering to watch the pick-up center during pick-up times.  We have a sign-up calendar right next to the sign-in sheet.  Please give of your time in this way as it allows us to continue to work in the fields and is very helpful.

Sincerely,

Your Sandbrook Meadow Crew

Rows and rows of bounty.

Sprucing up the herb area.

When Broccoli goes south fast…

At the Dvoor Farmer’s Market on Sundays from 9AM to 1PM and the Sergeantsville market on most of Saturdays from 8:30AM to 12:00PM.

Potato Harvest.

Sometimes we lose Carolyn in the cucumber field.

The bounty!

Did you transform your high tunnel into a winter wonderland themed party or what’s that white stuff on your indoor tomatoes?  No, I wish I would have thought of that, because that sounds like a fun party to go to.   That is clay that we spray on the plants to keep them cool during the heat of the summer.  It can lower the temperature by up to 9 degrees on a hot day!

Stay cool and have a happy 4th of July!

CSA Share-Week 4

* Just a reminder that this “upcoming share posting” is a new feature this year.  We want to remind you that it is difficult to look ahead to what we will have for the 165 families apart of our CSA each week.  We may have one item for one day of the week and not for the other.  Also please remember that Friday pick-ups are one week ahead of Tuesday pick-ups.  So our share projection might reflect an item that Friday’s pick-up might receive that Tuesday’s don’t.  We appreciate your understanding and lenience with our projections.

Please contact us with any questions you may have.

On another note we are transitioning some of our Spring crops, to some new crops…we are excited to be changing it up a little.  We have summer squash and beets to look forward to, in the upcoming weeks!

This weeks share includes:

Swiss chard, Carrots, Scallions, Kale or Lettuce, Spinach, Turnips, Cabbage, and Broccoli.

U-pick:

Sugar snap peas, Herbs.

2nds U-pick-

Radishes and Kohlrabi.

*Strawberries-  They were a new crop for us.  We are learning as we go.  We had a good two week run, but they are done.  You may see a few berries still producing as you walk buy, but they are no longer producing blossoms so we have closed them down for u-pick.  We will learn from what has happened this year and  we hope to increase the amount you can pick next year!

See you soon!

The Sandbrook Meadow Crew

Grass-fed beef, organically grown pork, local wine and eggs for sale!

We wanted to remind you of the additional offerings that we have available for sale at the farm.  Though we are aware that some of you may be vegan or vegetarian, we still want to offer sustainably produced animal products.  There are many amazing local farmers “walking the walk” when it comes to responsibly raised animals.  We will be offering their products for sale each week.  Please remember to bring additional cash or checks to purchase these items.

We are also excited to add a locally produced wine to our products for sale this year!

Some of these farmers will be around during your pick-up hours the first few weeks, so that you can ask them questions and perhaps sample their products.  Take advantage!  We support the movement to “know your farmer”.

PURELY FARM

We would like for you to get to know them a little better, so please read up below…

In 2004 we decided to pursue our calling and began farming in Bucks County, PA.  Purely Farm evolved out of a reluctant vegetarian’s search for an alternative to factory farmed meats and a hunter/gardener’s quest for a self sustaining lifestyle.  Over the years this journey has granted us the opportunity to offer families quality and wholesome pasture-raised meats.

We are proud to be a farrow to finish pork operation.  All of our pigs are born on the farm, remain together in individual litters, and are permitted to grow as tight family units.  Our pasture-raised pork is hormone and antibiotic free.  In addition to the grass and locally grown grain ration, we supplement their diet with surplus organic produce.

From day old chicks to oven roasters, our poultry is raised, grazed and processed on our farm in small batches.  After leaving their brooder, our birds forage in portable shelters which are moved two times a day.  This method ensures clean pasture, exercise and fresh air, while reducing stress on both the chickens and the land.  Purely Chicken will likely be the cleanest, freshest bird you may ever experience.

We believe our meats’ distinct and exceptional flavor comes from the combination of life out on pasture and a diet supplemented by mineral rich, natural non-GMO grain rations that are locally grown.

We are excited to have been invited to offer our pasture-raised meats through Sandbrook Meadow CSA.  We will be at the farm during CSA pick-ups on June 1st, 5th, 15th and 19th so that we can personally answer any questions regarding our farm and farming practices as well as offer cooking suggestions for our products.  Various retail cuts of pork will be available for purchase at this time (see attached price list).  There will be an inventory of pork products at the farm that may be purchased as desired during your weekly vegetable pick-ups.  Special orders are always encouraged, especially if looking for something that is not routinely in stock.

Purely Chicken will be available fresh on the following Fridays:  June 1st and 15th, July 13th and 27th, and August 10th and 24th.  On all other days frozen Purely Chicken will be on hand.  Our birds are sold whole for $4.25/lb and will weigh approximately 5-6+ lbs. Each bird is vacuum sealed in special cryovac freezer bags.  Necks, livers, hearts and/or feet are also available for purchase at $4.25/lb; it is best to pre-order these items.

Feel free to contact us with any questions via phone; we tend to be a bit tardy with our email responses during the busy season.  We thank you for supporting small, sustainable farming and look forward to cultivating a relationship with you and your family through Purely Farm’s Naturally Pasture-Raised Meats.

Contact info:

Joanna, Marc & Clover Mae Michini

Purely Farm’s Naturally Pasture-Raised Meats

215-317-0889

purelyfarm@verizon.net

TULLAMORE FARM-

Tullamore Farms is a small, family-run enterprise dedicated to providing the Delaware Valley with the finest ethically and sustainably raised food products while focusing on responsible, progressive stewardship of land and livestock. We strive to rekindle the harmonious connection between farmer, animal, and customer.

Owner-operator Jeanmarie commit to produce healthy, high quality foods by incorporating modern science with traditional farming methods.

VILLA MILAGRO VINEYARDS-

This year when you pick up your orders, you can also pick up your wine for dinner!  Villa Milagro Vineyards, located north of us in Finesville, NJ, will deliver wine that you order to the farm for you to pick up when you come for your shares.  One stop shopping!

Villa Milagro uses organic and sustainable practices in its vineyard to grow ten varieties of grapes.   They are hand harvested, fermented in French sur lie method, then blended to make traditional European style wines.

Come taste the wines starting Friday, June 8 then sign up to have wines delivered via our CSA.  Learn more about the vineyard at: www.VillaMilagroVineyards.com/CSA-wine.hmtl_

BLUE JINGLER FARM-

Until our ladies start producing in August.  Blue Jingler will be providing their eggs for sale!

Our hens enjoy our pastures of mixed grasses and legumes, in addition to a well balance layer ration. Often, the hens are rotated through the pasture after the steers have moved through. This allows the birds to scratch through the cow patties in search of bugs and undigested seeds that pass through the steers. It also helps spread the patties around, minimizing thistle growth and providing a more balanced application of the manure and helps minimize parasites that may linger on the ground until the next rotation of the steers through the pasture.

Being a Rhode Island Red cross, these birds are very prolific and consistently supply us with large, extra large, and jumbo sized, beautiful brown eggs, with rich, yellow-orange yolks. A double-yolker is fairly common as well. We sell our eggs by the dozen and mix the sizes in each container. We re-use egg cartons, regardless of the brand, so feel free to drop them off at the farm when you’re through with them.

A BIG THANK YOU TO ALL OF OUR FELLOW FARMERS PROVIDING FANTASTIC PRODUCT FOR YOU!

The Sandbrook Meadow Crew.