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Monday, April 7, 2014

New Beginnings

Ginger! A new experiment we are trying in the greenhouse this year.

Greetings CSA members and blogging enthusiast, It is beginning to feel the tiniest bit like spring this week and speaking of unassuming beginnings I have now officially started as the new CSA manager.  Lise Holdorf left some big and extraordinarily muddy boots to fill but, with the help of our fantastic crew and the support of our invaluable membership (you), we are hoping to make this season just as fruitful as the last.

With our fields muddied by the thaw and spring rains, we haven’t yet been able to do any plowing this season.  This is a little discouraging because, according to both our records and our planting calendar, this puts us a little behind schedule.  Fortunately, all it takes to lift our spirits is a trip to the greenhouse where spring has come early.  We have now run out of table space and have been putting seed trays on makeshift benches in order to stay on schedule in the greenhouse.  Thanks to our wonderful greenhouse volunteers who helped us seed 48 trays of cabbage, 36 trays of kohlrabi, 40 trays of lettuce and 18 trays of snap dragons this past Monday for a grand total of 142 trays seeded.  Fantastic work everyone! 

In other CSA news our new apprentices will be starting this Monday.  They are excited, energetic and very eager to learn.   I am very pleased to welcome Rachel Kessler, Sean Cubbins, and Rachel Dennison and welcome back Ryan Donnelly to the Appleton Farms community.  Jon Berube and I can’t wait to begin working with these exceptional individuals.  Look for updates to our staff bios page in the next few weeks. 

Stay tuned for more exciting updates from the field!

-Ryan Wood

Friday, March 21, 2014

New and familiar faces at the farm

I wanted to share the news with all of you that I will be stepping down as Manager of the Appleton Farms CSA to start my own farm in Concord, MA this spring. I'll be leasing land from the Town of Concord with Melissa Maxwell (who many of you remember from her years working at Appleton), and we'll be opening a CSA and farm stand there in June. I've really enjoyed working at Appleton over the course of the past 8 years starting as an apprentice in 2006. It's a little bittersweet for me to be leaving, as I've met so many wonderful shareholders, volunteers and co-workers during my time here. However, this was an opportunity that I couldn't pass up (especially because Concord is my hometown and I'm excited for my new daughter to grow up down the road from her grandparents!). I hope that if any of you find yourself in the Concord area this year, you will come visit us at Barrett's Mill Farm. If you'd like to stay in touch, my new email address is

I'm confident that the CSA is being left in good hands and that this year's crew will work hard to make this season a great one. Ryan Wood, who brought energy and experience to the Assistant Manager position last season will continue to be a part of the management team on the farm. He will receive excellent support from property Superintendent Mark Bailey and his experienced staff. You will also continue to see our wonderful shopkeepers Jo-Ann, Kathy, Michelle, Sandy, Marya and Nancy every week in the shareroom. Superstar apprentices Jon Berube and Ryan Donnelly will be returning for their third season on staff as well. In addition to these familiar faces, over the winter, we hired some new crew members. Our three new apprentices Rachel, Rachel and Sean promise to bring a lot of enthusiasm and hard work to the job. I know you all will enjoy getting to know these new crew members, as well as chatting and catching up with those you already know.

I hope you all had a wonderful winter, and let's keep our fingers crossed for some warmer spring weather so that your farmers can get out in the fields and start planting!

Take care,

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Greenery sprouting in the greenhouse!

Leeks and onions are already popping up in the greenhouse. It's refreshing to see some signs of spring at our snow-covered farm. This past Monday we had an excellent turnout for our Monday morning greenhouse volunteers. Together we seeded a total of 164 seedling trays! Not only did we finish seeding our Ailsa Craig and Pontiac (yellow storage) onions, but we also managed to seed our first fennel.

In addition to our regular March seeding projects, we seeded a small early lettuce planting that will hopefully be available in the Dairy Store before the CSA season begins. We're also planning some small earlier spring plantings of greens and pea tendrils as we explore extending our growing season a little longer. As part of that experimentation, last fall we put in a planting of Bridger onions and some scallions to overwinter. Hopefully those will be available before the CSA opens as well. Stay tuned this spring to find out when early veggies will be available in the Store!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

First day seeding in the greenhouse!

We had a great group of volunteers in the greenhouse Monday helping us to seed our first leeks and onions of the year. With their help, we seeded our entire leek planting as well as a significant chunk of our Ailsa Craig onions for a total of 115 trays of seedlings! By next Monday we should see some green shoots poking out of those trays. Even if the ground is still covered in snow, it will begin to feel like spring in the greenhouse very soon. Next week we will continue seeding onions and perhaps our first fennel and lettuce plantings as well. If you're curious about what goes on at the farm in the spring (or want to escape the chill winter air), stop by and seed a few trays with us. We meet in the greenhouse every Monday 9am - noon. Questions? Email Ryan at

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Greenhouse Volunteers starting on Monday!

With snow still on the ground and temperatures consistently below freezing, it's hard to believe that the start of the 2014 is just around the corner! We mark the start of every season with the opening of our greenhouse. This Monday, March 3rd from 9am-noon we will be firing up the propane heaters and begin seeding our leeks and onions. Join us for just an hour or for the entire morning as we aim to plant over 100 trays of seedlings. We will continue planting in the greenhouse every Monday morning until June, seeding all of the CSA’s transplants such as lettuce, flowers, tomatoes, eggplant and more. No commitment necessary, simply stop by and jump in!

We will meet at the greenhouse located just behind the CSA barn on the left. Please park in the compost lot located beyond the greenhouse, also on your left. Seeds are small and attention to detail is important, so while we welcome visits from children, the work is generally best suited for adults. If you have any questions please email Ryan at

We hope to see you in the greenhouse this spring!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Reminder: Renewals are due January 3rd

We hope you all are enjoying the winter weather we've been getting lately (or at least enjoying hunkering down at home drinking hot chocolate!). We wanted to remind all shareholders that the $325 deposit to secure your share for next season is due January 3rd. After the third, we will begin offering shares to folks on our wait list. All shareholders should have gotten a renewal form either at your last pick-up, or in the mail the following week.  If you are missing your renewal form, or if you need to make alternative payment arrangements, please contact our office manager Maura Mastrogiovanni at or by calling the farm at 978-356-5728.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Shareholder Meeting Re-Cap

Thank you to everyone who attended our shareholder meeting Wednesday night.  For us, this kind of direct personal feedback is rewarding, energizing and a fantastic way to focus on the issues that our members really care about.  We hope the experience was as positive for all of you as it was for us. CSA is more than just an economic exchange with the standard producer/consumer relationship (although we do very much depend on  the sale of shares to continue funding and improving the farm!) - it is also about building a community around the farming experience.  The farmers rely on their shareholders to "cultivate" and strengthen these community relationships.  Thank you all for the part you contribute!

For those who didn't get a chance to attend the meeting, below is a recap of some of the issues that our members felt were most important. If you would like to view a copy of the slideshow, please email Lise at

Weeds in the PYO fields: Pick-your-own fields have been a challenge to maintain in the past several seasons. With over 4 acres of our fields dedicated to pick-your-own crops, the size of the PYO operation has surpassed the capacity of our staff to properly manage. Some PYO crops are succession plantings intended for a shorter window of harvest (like beans, peas or some annual herbs), while longer season crops like tomatoes tend to burn out much faster due to heavy foot traffic, erratic harvesting and the abundance of vectors of plant disease inherent in PYO. Unfortunately, there are only so many hours in the day and we tend to prioritize weeding crops with greater longevity and with the potential to ensure an abundance of choices in the shareroom over the course of the season.

We feel like we made some inroads this season into getting a better handle on the PYO weeds, but there's definitely still a lot of work to do! Two obvious solutions would be to either dramatically raise the share price to cover the costs of hiring the extra workers needed to maintain the PYO fields, or dramatically cut back what we offer in the PYO fields. We've opted instead to slightly cut back on plantings and focus our efforts on improving the efficiency of our systems. For instance, this past season we tried out a new strawberry growing technique in which we planted some of next season's strawberries in the fall rather than the spring, thus avoiding the height of the weed season for the 6 beds that were planted in September. In our crop planning for next year, we've looked at adjusting the varieties and plant spacing of certain crops to make them more conducive to tractor cultivation (which is far more efficient that hand-weeding).  

One suggestion we have heard from shareholders, both at the meeting and in the past few seasons is to recruit more shareholder volunteers to help weed our PYO fields. This past year, we offered up the option to shareholders to come volunteer in the PYO fields Saturday mornings, as gathering a critical mass of helping hands is really the most efficient way to get hand-weeding projects done. Unfortunately, no one took us up on that this year, but we'll try to do a better job publicizing for next season. We would also love to hear suggestions about how to entice more folks out in the field to help us with weeding!

Heirloom and Paste Tomatoes removed from PYO:  Some members miss having these options in the pick-your-own field. Cutting the heirloom and paste tomatoes out of the PYO fields this year is one of the many adjustments we made to more efficiently allocate the crew's labor. Tomatoes are one of the most labor-intensive crops we grow and one of the most sensitive to diseases and the pressures of heavy foot traffic. We've found that over the years, the PYO heirloom and paste tomatoes were a poor investment of time when you looked at the yields that shareholders were getting out of them. Taking that segment of the PYO crops out allowed us to more efficiently use our time (which is a big deal when you work as many hours as we do!), and probably contributed to improving our tomato harvest and the length of our tomato season, but it also freed up a little more time to help us better care for other crops. Because we know how fond many folks are of sauce tomatoes, we made them available with the regular share, and we gave shareholders the option of purchasing extra tomatoes at a bulk rate for canning. The additional money earned from selling bulk tomatoes helps us to reinvest in the farm and hire more help, which ultimately contributes to the long-term financial (and ecological) sustainability of the farm. Even without the heirloom and paste tomatoes in the PYO fields, we're confident that our PYO offerings are extremely generous and represent an excellent value to our shareholders.

Overstuffed bags in the shareroom and overpicking in the PYO fields: Some folks have expressed concern that not everyone in the CSA is following the designated limits in the shareroom and in the PYO fields. One particular example cited was the use of bags in the shareroom that were larger than the designated share size bag. Our policy is that if you bring a non-standard sized bag to pick up your share, we will ask you to line your bag with one of regular sized bags and just fill that smaller bag in order to ensure that everyone is getting the same share size. There were also concerns raised about folks sometimes picking more than their limits in the PYO fields, particularly on Saturdays when there is a lighter staff presence.

This is a tricky thing for us to manage as farmers. We do not have the resources to monitor every single bag that comes into the shareroom or every person that enters the pick-your-own field, nor do we want to create an unwelcoming feeling at the farm where our shareholders feel like they are constantly being watched. For this reason, we rely heavily on the honor system and a sense of responsibility towards the farm community among our shareholders to ensure an equitable distribution amongst our shareholders. If one of our staff members sees something egregious, we will of course do our best to address the situation, but most of the time we rely on all of you to honor the spirit of community at the CSA. I think that for the most part, this works out very well!

That sums up the main issues we discussed at the meeting. If any of you have additional concerns or suggestions about how we can improve the CSA, please don't hesitate to contact either Lise ( or Ryan ( We love hearing from you!