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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 mmastrogiovanni@ttor.org 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 lholdorf@ttor.org.

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 (lholdorf@ttor.org) or Ryan (rwood@ttor.org). We love hearing from you!


Monday, December 9, 2013

Seasons Meetings! Appleton Farms Shareholder Meeting that is...

This coming Wednesday the 11th of December we will be having our first annual shareholders meeting from 5:30-6:30 at the Appleton Farms Visitor Center.  All of our shareholders from this past season are invited to attend.  This is your chance to meet and mingle with the glamorous (albeit often mud stained) farmers who run the CSA and give them your feed back about the season.  Come and tell us what you liked and give us input on what you'd like us to improve.  This gives us a chance to respond directly and personally to any questions you might have about why we do the enigmatic things we do.  Come share our arcane knowledge!  Light refreshments and a slideshow will be provided and we will talk a little bit about our preliminary plans for next season.  E-mail lholdorf@ttor.org if you are interested in attending.  We look forward to seeing you there.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Reminder: Thanksgiving share pick-up this Monday

If you ordered a Thanksgiving vegetable share, cranberries or pies, don't forget to come pick them up this Monday, November 25th from 2 - 6pm in the CSA barn. Looking forward to seeing many of you again before we finally put the fields to bed for the winter!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

November Update: Veggies in the Diary Store, Thanksgiving Shares, and Dairy Shares

Starting this week, we have made garlic, shallots, red onions, butternut squash, buttercup squash, lettuce and spinach available in the Dairy Store for purchase. We plan to have some leeks and celeriac available this week as well. We will try to make lettuce and spinach available up until Thanksgiving, or whenever the cold finally kills them off. The other storage crops I mentioned will be available until they run out.

If you had been thinking about purchasing a Thanksgiving share, but weren't sure if it was too late, then you are in luck! We have 3 more vegetable shares available (pre-ordering for cranberries and pies has ended). If you would like to purchase a share, contact Assistant Manager Ryan Wood as soon as possible, either by calling 978-356-1655 x 24, or by sending him an email to rwood@ttor.org. Shares are $80 and are 40 lbs of vegetables. This year's share will include: butternut squash, buttercup squash, sweet potatoes, white storage potatoes, yellow and red onions, garlic, shallots, leeks, carrots, beets, parsnips, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, celeriac, rutabagas, turnips, and mixed radishes. Also, unless we have some truly dramatic weather circumstances before Monday the 25th, it looks like we'll be able to offer lettuce and spinach as part of the share this year as well!

For those of you interested in expanding your CSA participation into the realm of dairy, the Dairy Store is now offering shares:

The Dairy Share program starts the week of December 16 and lasts for 13 weeks (through March 16, 2014). Shares are available for purchase and pickup at the farm Monday – Friday, 11am – 6pm and Saturday and Sunday, 10am – 4pm.

Full Dairy Share includes two ½ gallons of milk (choice of skim, 1%, and whole), one ¼ lb. wedge of artisan cheese (your choice from seasonal selections) and one quart whole milk yogurt. The cost for 13 weeks is $210.00 for Trustees of Reservations members, $230.00 for nonmembers.


Half Dairy Share includes one ½ gallon of milk (choice of skim, 1%, and whole), one ¼ lb. wedge of artisan cheese (choice from seasonal selections) and one pint whole milk yogurt. The cost for 13 weeks is $135.00 for Trustees of Reservations members, $150.00 for nonmembers.

To learn more about the Appleton Farms’ dairy and to purchase a share, visit online www.thetrustees.org/dairyshare, call the farm at 978.356.5728, or stop by the dairy store Monday – Friday, 11am – 6pm and Saturday & Sunday, 10am – 4pm.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Week 22: Last distribution and renewals for next season!

It's hard to believe that this is the last week of the main season CSA distribution! It's been a great year, but now it's almost time to put the fields to rest for the winter and start planning for next season. If you're having a hard time letting go of Appleton veggies for the year, there is still one more chance to stock up, as there are a few vegetable shares available for our Thanksgiving Share distribution on November 25th. Be sure to drop off your order form this week to ensure you get one.

Renewal forms for the 2014 season will be handed out this week during CSA distribution. Any forms that are not picked up this week will be mailed out the following week, so if your mailing address has changed, please be sure to update us. Please note that we have increased the price for the 2014 season by $10 to $650 for TTOR members and $705 for non-members. In working on the CSA's budget for the 2014 season with Trustees management, it quickly became apparent that a slight price increase was necessary to keep up with rising materials and labor costs. I think this small price increase still represents an excellent value to our shareholders and is very competitive with other CSAs in the area.

In order to secure a share for next season, a deposit of $325 is due by January 3rd, 2014. The final bills will go out in late April/early May of 2014. Please note, in order to receive the TTOR member discount, your membership must be valid through June 1st, 2014. If you need to make alternative payment arrangements, please contact our Office Manager Maura Mastrogiovanni at mmastrogiovanni@ttor.org.

What's in the share: Lettuce, Greens, Kale, Collards, Cabbage, Radishes (Daikon, Watermelon and Nero Tondo), Carrots, Parsnips, Celeriac, Turnips, Leeks, Red Onions, Garlic, Kennebec Potatoes (white storage), Sweet Potatoes, Butternut Squash.
New this week: Buttercup Squash, Shallots, Brussels Sprouts, Rutabagas.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Week 21: Slowly winding down for the season

We finally finished the last of the eggplant and peppers that we stocked up in the cooler right after our first frost on October 14th. Those who missed out on eggplant and peppers this week got an early taste of celeriac and watermelon radishes. The watermelon radishes are a new crop for us this year and so far they seem to be a hit. These radishes have a greenish tinged exterior and a beautiful bright pink interior. They are milder and a little sweeter than other radishes we grow. You can roast them or boil and mash them, but they are also great raw in salads or pickled.

As we push on later into the season, the crew's schedule has gradually become a little more laid-back. Starting Wednesday last week we moved our start time up to 8am. Not only is it still a little dark at 7am, but with the colder weather, early morning harvests are a bit of a challenge. Harvesting with knives requires nimble fingers both for efficiency and for safety (and while gloves keep your hands a little warmer, they do make your hands less dexterous!). Plus, sometimes crops are still frozen in the morning and need to thaw out before we can begin harvesting. Our open-air wash station can also be an uncomfortable place to work in the colder temps, so overall it made sense to push our harvest back to a warmer part of the day. We usually start our days splitting seed garlic cloves or cleaning up shallots while we wait for the sun to fully hit our fields around 9am. Once it warms up we start harvesting lettuce, greens, cabbage, leeks, beets, carrots, turnips and radishes. This time of year is nice, because many of the crops we are giving out in the share now were harvested early this fall or over the summer, like winter squash, onions and garlic.

Many of our non-harvest projects this past week were related to next season: planting and mulching next year's garlic, putting row cover over our first ever crop of over-wintered onions and scallions, mulching next year's strawberries, trying out seeding an experimental crop of winter greens in our unheated hoophouse, seeding the last of our fall cover crops, and finalizing next year's budget. We're also researching some small equipment and infrastructure upgrades that could help us out for next season. It's a nice feeling winding down a successful season, but also really exciting to think about what we can do next season to further improve the CSA.

*Important note on renewals: Normally we hand out renewal forms for next season beginning in Week 21 of the share, but we are still working with upper management in the Trustees to figure out an appropriate price. Hopefully we will have those forms ready to hand out during our last week of distribution (which is next week!). Any forms that are not picked up in the shareroom by the end of the last week will be mailed out.

What's in the share: Lettuce, Greens, Collards, Cabbage, Bok Choi, Napa Cabbage, Daikon Radish, Celery, Carrots, Beets, Turnips, Leeks, Red Onions, Garlic, Potatoes, Winter squash (Sugar Dumpling, Red Kuri, Delicata or Pie Pumpkins), PYO Herbs and PYO Corn Stalks.
New this week: Butternut squash, Sweet Potatoes, Celeriac, Watermelon Radish, Nero Tondo Radishes, Parsnips.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Week 20: Thanksgiving share reminder and fall sale in the Dairy Store

Thanks to everyone who came out for the Harvest Dinner on Saturday night! We had a great time pressing cider, listening to Old Cold Tater, decorating pumpkins and running the hay bale obstacle course. Though the Harvest Dinner is behind us now, there are still 3 weeks left for the CSA. While the summer crops were finally finished off by the frost, there are plenty of exciting fall storage crops coming up, so don't miss out! The last regular season share pick-up will be Friday November 8th.

If the thought of the season ending in three short weeks has got you worried about veggie withdrawal, then sign up for our Thanksgiving Share, which is distributed Monday November 25th, 2 - 6pm. Vegetable shares include 40 pounds of storage crops, like butternut squash, potatoes, onions, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, cabbage, celeriac and parsnips. We'll include recipes and tips on extending the shelf life of your vegetables so you can enjoy them well into the winter months. Get your order form in as soon as possible to ensure you get a share. If you are planning to order pies or cranberries, the deadline is November 1st. In addition to the Thanksgiving Share, take advantage of the fall sale going on in the Dairy Store. See below for details:

FALL SALE: SAVE UP TO 20% ON OUR HAND-CRAFTED FARMSTEAD CHEESES IN THE DAIRY STORE!
We're celebrating fall by serving up some of your favorite farm cheeses at can't-miss prices. This week, pick up our aged cheeses for 20% off (a savings of $4 per pound) and save 15% on our Great Pasture spreadable cheeses. You can also get these special fall savings on our new blue cheese — Blazing Blue – and our traditional English-style cheddar – Carriage Barn Cheddar. As an added bonus, next time you pick up your CSA share ask for your dairy store coupon good for $5 off $20 or more in the dairy store (milk excluded).

Thank you for being a loyal farm customer – and for eating & shopping local!


What's in the share: Lettuce, Greens, Kale, Collards, Celery, Savoy Cabbage, Bok Choi, Carrots, Beets, Yellow Onions, Garlic, Eggplant, Peppers, Delicata Squash, Sugar Dumpling Squash, Pie Pumpkins, PYO Corn Stalks, PYO Herbs.
New this week: Kennebec Potatoes (white storage variety), Red Kuri squash, Red Onions, Leeks, Napa Cabbage, Daikon Radish, Storage Turnips.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Meet the Cows time change for this Saturday

This Saturday's Meet the Cows will begin at 2:30pm at the CSA barn. This weekend only this program is free for CSA members. Come on a tour of Appleton's dairy operation before joining us for the Harvest Dinner at 4pm!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Week 19 update: Frost last night

I spoke too soon in my previous post about the being able to harvest eggplant, tomatoes and peppers for the rest of this week! We had an unexpected light frost overnight (a low of 39 was predicted, but it was 31 on the farm this morning at 7am), which has damaged our PYO tomatoes, green beans and hot peppers. We'll still keep those crops open Monday and Tuesday, but please note that anything you pick should probably be consumed sooner rather than later. If you are a Thursday/Friday person and have not yet used all 3 of your passes to switch pick-up days, you may use one of them this Monday or Tuesday to pick up your share instead of Thursday/Friday. Please note that the only difference between the share this Monday/Tuesday and on Thursday/Friday is that the PYO options will be reduced later in the week (the share in the barn should be the same).

The field tomatoes and sweet peppers may have escaped most of the damage (they are in a spot that gets sun earlier in the day than the PYO tomatoes, and thus thawed out much earlier). Hopefully we'll be able to at least pick one more harvest out of them this week before tilling them in.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Week 19: Harvest Dinner this Saturday!

Before I get into Harvest Dinner details, there are a couple of important items to note. First of all, we will be open for regular hours (2 - 7pm) on the Columbus Day holiday this Monday, October 14th. Secondly, this Saturday October 19th will be the last Saturday that we are open for Pick-your-own. The PYO fields will still be open during regular weekday shareroom hours as long as there are crops to pick (basically until the first frost).

Now, onto more exciting stuff: the Harvest Dinner! We hope that many of you will join us this Saturday, October 19th from 4pm until 7pm to celebrate the bounty of the season so far (remember - we still have 3 more weeks of distributions to go after the Harvest Dinner!). There will also be a Meet the Cows tour meeting at the CSA barn at 3pm. For this Saturday only, this tour will be free for CSA members. Live music from Old Cold Tater and activities will begin at the CSA barn at 4pm. We'll have tractors, a hay bale obstacle course, bean bag toss, cider press (we'll have some apples for pressing, but you are encouraged to also bring your own), popcorn de-kerneler, and pumpkin and round bale decorating. When you arrive, you can also enter your name to win a special door prize from Le Creuset. Dinner will start at 5pm. This is a potluck event, so please being a dish to share that could feed 8-10 people. Please also help us to reduce waste by bringing your own plates and utensils from home. Around 6pm, we'll draw our door prize winner, and I'll say a few words about the season and thank our volunteers and crew members. We can use help with set-up on Saturday morning, 10am-noon. If you would like to help out, please email me at lholdorf@ttor.org or sign up in the shareroom.

We've been really fortunate this year to have such a long tomato season. We should still have tomatoes this week, but probably not enough for bulk sales anymore. This past week we ripped out our hoophouse tomatoes, as well as took down trellising and tilled in most of our heirloom and Pink Beauty tomatoes. There's still quite a bit of fruit on the plum tomatoes and the last slicing tomato planting. We'll try to keep harvesting those until we get a frost, but they may succumb to disease first, as powdery mildew and early blight have taken a toll over the past several weeks.

We got some great feedback last week on the Romanesco cauliflower. There's still a little left out in the field, so we'll try to stretch out one more week of harvest, though we might not have enough for every distribution day. I guess we'll have to grow more next year!

What's in the share: Lettuce, Greens, Chard, Bok Choi, Celery, Carrots, Beets, Broccoli or Romanesco Cauliflower, Cabbage, Hakurei Turnips, Easter Egg Radishes, Eggplant, Peppers, Tomatoes, Garlic, Yellow Onions, Potatoes, Acorn Squash, Delicata Squash, Pie Pumpkins, PYO Cherry Tomatoes, PYO Husk Cherries, PYO Hot Peppers, PYO Green Beans, PYO Corn Stalks, PYO Herbs.
New this week: Sugar Dumpling Squash, Collards, Popcorn.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Week 18: October Happenings at the Farm

October is here, and that means that the annual Harvest Dinner is coming up! Mark your calendars for Saturday, October 19th from 4 to 7pm. Bluegrass music, games and activities start at 4 and dinner starts at 5. This is a potluck dinner, so please bring a dish to share and help us reduce waste by bringing plates and utensils from home. We'll also be offering a door prize this year to one lucky attendee - a 5 1/2 quart French Oven pot from our friends at Le Creuset! Look for more details on the blog next week about this fun family event. If you would like to volunteer to help with set-up or with running a children's craft activity, please email Lise at lholdorf@ttor.org.

Appleton Cooks will be offering a Fresh Fall Cooking Class this Wednesday, October 9th from 5:15 to 7pm. These workshops focus specifically on what's growing at the farm. Participants take a walk through the fields, harvest some veggies and prepare a dish featuring farm ingredients. The cost is $35 for TTOR members and $45 for non-members. To sign up, please visit the Appleton Cooks website. Questions? Call the farm office at 978-356-5728.

Also, be sure to get in your Thanksgiving share order forms by the end of October. We have to place cranberry and pie orders by the first week of November, so we will not be accepting those orders after November 1st. We will have a total of 100 vegetable shares available, and these are first-come first-served, so get your form in early in order to guarantee you get a share!

The weather has been beautiful the past two weeks, but it was really nice to get a little rain on Friday! Not only does it help keep down all the dust in our roads, but it makes our newly seeded cover crops very happy. The crew hit a couple of milestones this past week as we finished harvesting both our sweet potatoes and shallots. These were the last of the fall storage crops left to harvest for curing in the greenhouse, so we're pretty pleased! On the agenda for the coming week (aside from harvesting for the CSA share) is cleaning off the rest of our onions, pulling out the rest of the landscape fabric, separating out garlic cloves for seed, and transplanting an experimental crop of over-wintered onions.

What's in the share: Lettuce, Greens, Spinach, Celery, Carrots, Beets, Broccoli, Savoy Cabbage, Hakurei Turnips, Eggplant, Peppers, Tomatoes, Garlic, Yellow Onions, Purple Potatoes, Acorn Squash, PYO Cherry Tomatoes, PYO Husk Cherries, PYO Hot Peppers, PYO Green Beans, PYO Corn Stalks, PYO Herbs.
New this week: Romanesco Cauliflower, Delicata Squash, Pie Pumpkins, Bok Choi, Easter Egg Radishes.
Romanesco cauliflower is a new variety of cauliflower for us this season!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Week 17: Sowing the seeds for a bountiful 2014 harvest

View of oats and peas in Field 1
We're finally officially well into fall, and it's starting to actually feel like that in our daily harvest. Tomato, pepper and eggplant production continue to slow down with the shorter days, though for now it still seems to be plenty to fill the CSA share needs. Root crops like potatoes, sweet potatoes (which will go into the greenhouse to cure), carrots and beets now dominate our daily harvest routine. Many of the crops we'll be seeing in the shareroom now and in the coming weeks were harvested in late August and September and have spent some time curing in our barn or greenhouse. This helps to cut back a little on the amount of time the harvest takes up in our days, freeing up the crew to work on projects that will help us out for next season, in particular working towards seeding cover crops in as many fields as possible.

Cover crops are an important way for us to maintain soil fertility and organic matter, but it can take several weeks to get ready to seed them. First, you need to mow in the crop that has finished producing. The next step is to go over the area with our disk harrow to break up debris. It usually takes several tractor passes over the course of 2 or 3 weeks to break most crop debris down enough, but some crops that are in the ground for shorter periods of time, like greens, go a little quicker. It gets more complicated, though, when the crop in question has been grown under black plastic mulch using drip tape irrigation. We have to pull the drip tape out of the ground by hand before we can seed a cover crop. Fortunately, we now use a corn-based black "plastic" mulch, so we don't have to pull that out of the ground as well, as it biodegrades over time just like our crop residue does.

In addition, in our watermelon, sweet potatoes and first cucumbers and summer squash we lay down black landscape fabric in the pathways to keep down weeds. The landscape fabric is not biodegradable, and it must get pulled out of the ground to be reused the next season. Pulling up landscape fabric is one of the crew's least favorite tasks! The fabric is held into the ground by metal staples, and the clever weeds manage to pop up through the tiny holes created by those staples. By the fall, these weeds are quite vigorous and do an even better job than the staples of holding down the landscape fabric, making the act of pulling up fabric extra challenging. After the landscape fabric and drip tape are pulled out of the field, we can begin working in the remaining plant residue and biodegradable "plastic" mulch.

Once the crop debris have been worked into the soil, we can seed our cover crop of choice. Whenever possible, we try to include a legume in our cover crop seeding (examples of legumes include peas, hairy vetch and clover). Legumes are important because they help fix nitrogen in the soil, providing an important nutrient for next year's crops. Up until about mid-September, we mix oats and field peas together. We really like this combination because these crops can't survive the winter in our climate. They die off once it gets cold, leaving enough debris in the field to protect our soil from erosion. Because they have been slowly decomposing all winter, they are really easy to work into the soil the next spring when we begin plowing. After mid-September, though, it's too cold for oats and peas, so we shift to hardier cover crops. Traditionally, we've just seeded winter rye after September 15th. While this is not a legume and therefore does not fix nitrogen in the soil, it does help prevent erosion over the winter, and if it's tilled in at the right moment in the spring it can provide organic matter to the soil. This year we've added Austrian Winter Peas to the cover crop mix. These are a slightly hardier legume, and like the rye, they should pop back up in the warmer spring weather. Hopefully they'll help improve our soil quality by fixing nitrogen as well.

This week in the share we're introducing a new potato variety to the CSA: Peter Wilcox. It's got a purple skin and white flesh, so it will add some unique coloring to your meals. We only planted a few beds of these this year to try it out, so let us know what you think of the variety and if we should plant more next year!

What's in the share: Lettuce, Greens, Kale, Escarole, Celery, Carrots, Beets, Eggplant, Peppers, Tomatoes (slicing, heirloom and plum), Spaghetti Squash, Acorn Squash, Garlic, PYO Cherry Tomatoes, PYO Husk Cherries, PYO Hot Peppers, PYO Green Beans, PYO Herbs.
New this week: Yellow Storage Onions, Purple Potatoes, Green Cabbage, Hakurei Turnips, PYO Corn Stalks.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Week 16

Red and yellow onions curing
in the greenhouse
Last week was a very productive week for the crew, as we not only finally finished hauling in our yellow storage onions, but we also harvested all our red onions and began the shallot harvest as well. The red onions will need to sit in the greenhouse to finish curing for another week or two before they are fully dried out and cured, but most of our yellow onions are fully cured and ready to be cleaned off this week to prepare for distribution the following week. With the cooler mornings we've been experiencing lately, onion cleaning will be a good project to start the day off. Even with a later 7am start time these days, the morning temperatures in the past week have usually been in the upper 40s, which in combination with the morning dew leads to some numb fingers for our farmers during lettuce and greens harvest! By about 8am, most of the fields are in full sun and it has warmed up enough to make the harvest more pleasant, so whenever possible we'll spend the first hour of the morning working on onions in the warmer greenhouse.

We also made a significant dent in our winter squash harvest last week, with only the Red Kuri and Buttercup squash now remaining in the field. This week we'll begin distributing Spaghetti squash and Acorn in the share. These two types of squash have the shortest shelf life of all our winter squash, so they should be used sooner rather than later (though they can still keep for up to a month or two under ideal storage conditions). If you do want to save them for later use, keep them in a dry, dark  and cool (between 50 and 55 degrees) place.

This week we'll take a break from the potatoes and leeks in the share while we attempt to finish off the harvest of our winter squash and shallots, as well as begin harvesting popcorn and sweet potatoes for curing in the greenhouse. Potatoes will be back in the share the following week, but we'll probably hold off on leeks until a little later in the season when we will harvest the storage varieties.

Thanksgiving share forms are available again this week in the shareroom. Be sure to pick one up!

What's in the share: Lettuce, Greens, Escarole, Carrots, Cauliflower, Broccoli (maybe), Fennel, Eggplant, Peppers, Slicing Tomatoes, Heirloom Tomatoes, Plum Tomatoes, Garlic, PYO Cherry Tomatoes, PYO Husk Cherries, PYO Hot Peppers, PYO Green Beans, PYO Flowers, PYO Herbs.
New this week: Spaghetti Squash, Acorn Squash, Kale, Spinach, Scallions, Celery.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Week 15: Time to start thinking about Thanksgiving Shares

This week we'll be enjoying more fall crops, but we should also still have some of our summer favorites, like tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. This will be the last week for early leeks, but the storage leeks will be available in the share later this fall. After a week off between the summer and fall plantings, carrots are also making a return to the share this week. For the rest of the season, we'll be enjoying Bolero carrots, which are a sweet storage variety. Fennel will also be back in the share after a summer hiatus (the heat makes the fennel flower before producing sizable bulbs, so it is better suited to cooler spring and fall weather). Last Wednesday, we also had a pleasant surprise when we peeked into the fall brassica field: giant cauliflower and beautiful fall broccoli heads beginning to form. Friday afternoon, we harvested about 500 pounds of cauliflower for distribution this week. Since we'll have such a nice variety of veggies this week (and the fall brassicas came on earlier than usual for us), we'll postpone beginning winter squash and onion distribution for one more week. This is because the squash and onions will keep well in storage, but the broccoli and cauliflower won't hold as well out in the field. Also, we want to make sure to spread the veggie wealth evenly between the remaining weeks! Don't worry, though - by the end of September you can expect to see kale, cabbage, onions, delicata, sugar dumpling and spaghetti squash in your shares.

All this talk of fall veggies reminds me that Thanksgiving Share forms will be available in the shareroom starting this week. If you just can't get enough of fall crops, you have the option of purchasing an additional Thanksgiving vegetable share (as well as pre-ordering organic cranberries, Appleton Farms cheeses, and pies). The Thanksgiving Share is a one-time distribution on the Monday before Thanksgiving. We will likely have about 100 vegetable shares available this year, and shares are first-come first-served. There is no limit on the amount of cranberries or pies we can sell, but we do need to place those orders by the end of October, so get your order form and check in as soon as possible to ensure that you don't miss out!

Vegetable shares cost $80, weigh about 40 lbs and will likely include many of the following: carrots, beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, onions, garlic, rutabagas, turnips, parsnips, celeriac, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, and possibly lettuce. Our harvest varies every year, so we can't guarantee that all of these crops will be in the share. However, if we happen to be short on some of the more popular vegetables, we try to supplement with some vegetables from other local farms. When we include vegetables from other farms, we will aim to source from farms that also follow organic practices.

What's in the share: Lettuce, Greens, Chard, Escarole, Leeks, Eggplant, Peppers, Slicing Tomatoes, Plum Tomatoes, Heirloom Tomatoes, Keuka Gold Potatoes, Garlic, PYO Cherry Tomatoes, PYO Husk Cherries, PYO Green Beans, PYO Edamame, PYO Flowers, PYO Herbs.
New this week: Cauliflower, Broccoli, Fennel, Bolero Carrots.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Week 14: Slipping from summer into fall

A portion of last Friday's heirloom
tomato harvest.
As the days get shorter, the summer crops are finally starting to slow down a little. Our cucumbers and watermelon are done for the season, and summer squash and zucchini are on their way out very soon. We still have an abundance of tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, but they are beginning to ripen at a slightly slower pace. Though it's sad to see summer crops slow down, it couldn't come at a better time. Our field crew has dwindled from 12 people to 7 as many of our summer helpers went back to school for the fall. Also, with the shorter days, we are now starting the harvest at 7am (if we kept going at 6am, we'd have to be harvesting with headlamps!). In spite of the season change, it still feels like we could use all those extra hands and that extra hour in the morning. This is because although there are fewer summer crops to harvest, we now need to focus part of our day on harvesting some of our fall storage crops and cleaning up field debris, mulch and drip tape so that we can put down cover crop seed.

Last week we harvested our spaghetti, delicata and sugar dumpling squash. They are stored in the barn in squash bins and will be distributed in the share in the coming weeks. This week we plan to continue harvesting winter squash like butternut, acorn and pumpkins so that they can cure in the barn before distribution. The curing process not only sweetens up butternut and pumpkins, but it also improves the long-term storability. In addition to squash, we also continue to make inroads in harvesting our yellow storage onions. We started harvesting 3 weeks ago and are still going! With tomato, eggplant, pepper and watermelon harvest consuming most of our days over the past 2 weeks, we've only occasionally been able to carve out a half hour at the end of the day to work on onion harvest. I'm hoping to be able to finish the yellow onion harvest early this week so that we can till in that area and seed some peas and oats as cover crop. After the yellow onion harvest is done, we move on to red onions and shallots. These onions will all dry out in the greenhouse for a few weeks before we clean them off and start distributing them in the share.

In addition to bringing in our onion and winter squash this week, my other major goal (aside from keeping up with the regular harvest!) is to seed as much cover crop as possible. Cover crops are an important tool for organic farmers, as they prevent erosion of topsoil and help maintain soil fertility. Ideally, we would like to seed a legume cover crop like field peas or hairy vetch, as these fix nitrogen in the soil, which is an essential plant nutrient. However, most legumes can't be seeded after mid-September because the days get too short and too cold for the crop to germinate and establish itself properly before the winter. After mid-September, we mainly seed winter rye, which is a hardier cover crop and is more beneficial than no cover crop at all (as long as you till it under at the right time next spring). Also important to accomplish this week are transplanting strawberries, weeding spinach and lettuce, and thinning turnips, rutabagas and napa cabbage.

Many of you will be excited this week to see garlic in the share. As always, we will limit the garlic to 2 heads per share every week until we run out. We save the biggest garlic heads (about 25% of the total harvest) to use as seed for next year's garlic.

What's in the share: Lettuce, Greens, Escarole, Chard, Beets, Summer Squash/Zucchini, Eggplant, Peppers, Slicing Tomatoes, Heirloom Tomatoes, Plum Tomatoes, PYO Cherry Tomatoes, PYO Husk Cherries, PYO Green Beans, PYO Flowers, PYO Hot Peppers, PYO Herbs.
New this week: Keuka Gold Potatoes, Garlic, PYO Edamame

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Week 13: Rain relief

The past two weeks it has felt a little like we were farming in the Dust Bowl, so while this weekend's rain might have put a damper on some of your Labor day weekend plans, to us farmers it's a bit of a relief. We've been rotating our irrigation set-up around our fall crops, like brassicas, spinach, carrots and beets, as well as running drip lines on our tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and sweet potatoes. I had been waiting to seed cover crop on some of our fields until there was rain in the forecast, but by the beginning of last week, we finally just seeded peas and oats on our spring brassica field and irrigated afterwards in order to ensure good germination. Peas and oats are our preferred cover crops before mid September. In addition to helping prevent soil erosion, peas help fix nitrogen in the soil for next season, and both peas and oats are killed by the cold winter temperatures, meaning less debris to work into the soil when we plow next spring.

This week we are hoping to seed more cover crops, seed some of our last greens and radishes in the field, transplant our last lettuce planting, harvest the rest of our yellow storage onions, and begin to harvest our winter squash. Both the onions and squash need to cure before we distribute them in the share, as the curing process helps ensure good flavor and longer storage life.

What's in the share: Lettuce, Greens, Escarole, Chard, Celery, Beets, Danvers Carrots, Summer Squash/Zucchini, Eggplant, Peppers, Slicing Tomatoes (red and pink), Heirloom Tomatoes, Plum Tomatoes, Potatoes, Marini's Sweet Corn, PYO Cherry and Mini Plum Tomatoes, PYO Husk Cherries, PYO Beans, PYO Flowers, PYO Herbs.
New this week: Leeks, Chioggia or Golden Beets.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

CSA distribution will be open for Labor Day

We will be open for regular distribution hours this Monday, September 2nd from 2pm to 7pm. The Dairy Store will also be open for Labor Day, but will close at 6pm.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Week 12: Non-stop harvest

Summer bounty in the share room
Last week was one of the most abundant CSA harvests I can remember, but having such an amazing variety of summer crops right now also has a small downside. This time of year it seems like the only thing we do all day is harvest! Harvest starts at 6 am with the leafy vegetables like lettuce, greens, escarole and celery. We begin so early because it's best to harvest these vegetables before the heat of the later morning, when leafy greens are prone to wilting and are less likely to stay fresh. We usually follow greens harvest with root crops like carrots, beets and potatoes. It's best to wait to harvest crops in the cucurbit (summer squash, zucchini, cucumber, watermelon) and solanaceous (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers) families until later morning when the morning dew has had a chance to burn off (both families of crops are susceptible to diseases that are spread under wet conditions).

With cucurbits and tomatoes, we do several successions of crops over the course of the summer, and we always start with harvesting the newest planting first. The oldest plantings inevitably succumb to disease first, but they are generally still harvestable for a few weeks once diseased, albeit with reduced yields. To avoid (or at least slow) the spreading of powdery mildew to our newest summer squash planting, or of early blight to our newest tomatoes, we try not to enter the youngest plantings after we've been in the oldest ones. This also means that we don't do any trellising or weeding in newer plantings after we've harvested from the older plantings.

If we have any time left at the end of the day (which we sometimes don't, especially on Mondays, which is our biggest harvest day), we try to get to other projects like weeding and irrigating our fall crops. This past week we've been trying to use any time left at the end of the day to harvest storage onions. These onions will go in to the greenhouse to cure for a few weeks before we distribute them in the share. In another week or two, we will also start harvesting winter squash, which will also need to cure a few weeks before distribution.

Each week brings a different crop that seems to consume most of our day. Four weeks ago it was Ailsa Craig onions, which require a lot of time to clean off properly. Three weeks ago it seemed like the summer squash/zucchini harvest would never end, as we picked about 1,000 pounds every other day. The summer squash and zucchini plants have slowed down significantly, but last week watermelons and tomatoes replaced them as the most time-consuming harvests. With both crops we've now run up with some other limitations - there isn't enough space in our cooler for all the watermelon, and we don't have enough trays to hold all the tomatoes we've harvested. I suppose that's a pretty good problem to have, though! This week we should still continue to enjoy an abundance of all these crops, but soon the focus of the harvest will be shifting to more fall crops like leeks, storage potatoes, cabbage and winter squash.

What's in the share: Lettuce, Greens, Escarole, Celery, Beets, Carrots, Summer Squash/Zucchini, Cucumbers, Watermelon, Eggplant, Peppers, Red slicing tomatoes, Heirloom tomatoes, Plum Tomatoes, Potatoes, PYO Cherry tomatoes and mini plums, PYO Beans, PYO Herbs, PYO Flowers.
New this week: Orange and yellow watermelon, Danvers Carrots, PYO Husk Cherries.
Ripe PYO tomatoes

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Bulk tomatoes now available

Starting Thursday, bulk red slicing tomatoes will be available for sale to CSA members during shareroom hours. If you can't fit all the tomatoes you would like in your share bag and would like to purchase large quantities of tomatoes for sauce (or you're making Caprese salad for 50 people!), see one of the CSA shopkeepers during regular pick-up hours. Extra tomatoes are also available to the public in the Dairy store, but discounted bulk prices will only be available in the CSA shareroom.

In case you were wondering, none of our tomatoes have been sprayed with any fungicides to prevent late blight. There are a number of organically approved fungicides, but we have opted not to spray at all during the past three seasons. This means that we run the risk of losing the entire crop, but we feel that the potential problems associated with spraying fungicides outweigh the potential benefits.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Farm photos

Chronicle photographer Nicole Goodhue Boyd took some really great photos of the CSA crew at work a few weeks ago. You can check out the pictures at: http://www.wickedlocal.com/swampscott/photos/x1676648437/Growing-season-at-Appleton-Farms

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Week 11: Fall crops are just around the corner

The end of this week marks the halfway point in the season and fall is already feeling just around the corner (especially after last week's beautiful September-like weather). After bringing in the harvest each day, we've been concentrating on caring for our fall crops. On Friday we started harvesting yellow storage onions. We pull these out of the ground when the green tops turn mostly brown, and then lay them out in our greenhouse to cure for a few weeks before distributing them as part of the CSA share. I'm really pleased with how the onion crop looks so far. We tried out a new yellow storage onion variety called Pontiac that has produced some of the largest onions I've seen at the farm in years.

We also focused a lot of energy last week weeding and hoeing our fall carrots and brassicas (this includes cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and kale). The brassicas look quite good, aside from a wide semi-circle on the edge of the cauliflower that appears to have been a groundhog's personal food stash.

We've also been eyeing the winter squash, which we'll begin harvesting in a few weeks. Winter squash harvest is one of my favorite projects of every season. After clipping the squash off the vine and piling it into rows in the field, we drive a tractor between the rows with a squash bin on the forks and toss squash into the bin.

While we these fall crops are not too far off on the horizon, we can all enjoy the wide variety of summer crops in season right now:

What's in the share: Lettuce, Greens, Escarole, Celery, Beets, Carrots, Summer Squash/Zucchini, Cucumbers, Peppers, Eggplant, Tomatoes, Watermelon, Potatoes, Marini's Sweet Corn, PYO Beans, PYO Cherry Tomatoes, PYO Flowers, PYO Herbs.
New this week: PYO Hot Peppers, Purple Haze Carrots (maybe).

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Week 10: The challenges of tomato season

Beautiful tomato beds separated by
pepper plant beds to improve
air circulation
Last week brought the welcome surprise of red slicing tomatoes in the CSA share. While we knew there were a few ripe tomatoes out there last week, we were pleased (and relieved!) that our first harvest brought in enough tomatoes to begin offering them to our 550 shareholders. Because it was the first week of harvest, the tomatoes had to be very limited in order to ensure that there were enough available for every share over the course of the week, but we anticipate that as long as plants remain healthy, production will steadily pick up over the coming weeks.

Tomatoes are one of the most exciting and stressful crops for us to grow at Appleton. They're exciting because fresh local tomatoes are delicious and they herald the height of the summer vegetable harvest. They're also stressful because it can seem like the success of the season hinges on the success of our finicky and demanding tomato plants. I say that tomatoes are demanding and finicky because they are labor-intensive and because every year we worry that after all our careful efforts trellising, weeding and irrigating, late blight could swoop in and wipe out the entire crop before we get to enjoy the literal fruits of our labor. That doesn't stop us from making the effort, but I never feel like I can truly breath a sigh of relief until we've made it into September with a few weeks of tomato harvest under our belts.

This year we made a few changes in our tomato crop plan to try to ensure a successful crop. We're growing more late blight-resistant varieties out in the field and a couple of new and exciting cherry tomato varieties in the Pick-your-own. The major change that many veteran shareholders will notice is that we have shifted the bulk of our heirloom and paste tomatoes out of the PYO fields and into the regular fields where the crew harvests for shareroom distribution. After some careful evaluation of our crop plans over the past few years, we came to the conclusion that this plan would lead to a more efficient allocation of the crew's labor and hopefully a more consistent harvest of heirloom and paste tomatoes.

PYO tomatoes
There are a couple of reasons why I believe we'll be able to do a better job of growing tomatoes this way. While PYO tomatoes are a fun and important part of the Appleton CSA experience, it's a simple fact that plants that get picked by hundreds of people 5 days a week don't remain as healthy or last as long as those picked 3 days a week by a crew of 5-7 experienced farmers and apprentices. Pick-your-own tomatoes also don't get picked as systematically and evenly as they do in the regular fields (many of you have probably noticed how the beginning of PYO crop beds often get picked over quickly, while the ends of beds often have an abundance of ripe or over-ripe crops that sometimes go to waste). As a result of moving heirloom and paste tomatoes out of the PYO fields, I'm hopeful that we'll be able to increase the yields and the picking life of those particular plants, and therefore we'll need to grow fewer tomato plants overall on the farm. By decreasing the amount of tomato plants we grow, we're able to better care for the ones we have (both in the field and in the PYO garden), hopefully leading to happy plants and a better picking experience for shareholders in the pick-your-own fields.

So far, I'm really pleased with how this plan has worked out. I think that both the field tomatoes and PYO tomatoes look beautiful - they are better weeded and trellised this year than they have been in the past couple of years, and as a result, the plants look healthier. With fewer tomato beds to worry about, the crew has also had more time to care for other important crops like peppers and eggplant. As with every crop in farming, there's no guarantee that your most thoughtfully laid-out plans will lead to better harvests (weather systems don't really care about your plans!), but I think that this plan is setting us up for a better chance at a successful tomato season.

What's in the share: Lettuce, Carrots, Ailsa Craig Onions, Kale, Escarole, Summer Squash/Zucchini, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Peppers, Red Slicing Tomatoes, PYO Beans, PYO Cherry Tomatoes*, PYO Flowers, PYO Herbs.
New this week: Watermelon, Celery, Chieftain Potatoes (red skin, white flesh).

*Late blight has been reported in neighboring Middlesex County. This disease spreads quickly on wind and rain, so during wet weather, we will close PYO tomatoes to reduce the chances of the disease spreading to Appleton. Please do not enter tomato fields when we have closed them!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Wedding ring found

A wedding ring was found last fall near the CSA barn. If you are missing a ring, please email our Office Manager Maura Mastrogiovanni at mmastrogiovanni@ttor.org with a description.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Week 9: Meet the Machines

Have your kids (or have you) been dying to get a chance to climb all over our tractors and learn about how our equipment works? Well, this Wednesday, August 7th from 4 to 7pm is your chance! Meet the Machines "Open House" is back, and the CSA's equipment, as well as the haying operation's equipment, will be out on display in the CSA parking lot. Feel free to bring a picnic to enjoy by the barn. Cold drinks will be provided.

For those of you who can't make it on Wednesday, here's an introduction to one incredibly important piece of CSA equipment:

The Kubota at rest after a long day
Kubota M6800: At 60HP, this tractor is the workhorse of the CSA. We use it to prepare our fields for planting and seeding, as well as to do some cultivation work and some harvesting.

After we've plowed in the spring using one of the haying operation's more heavy duty tractors, we use the Kubota to disk harrow our fields. This breaks up clumps of dirt and debris while also beginning to smooth and flatten out the field. If we are putting down organic fertilizer for a crop, we hook up our broadcast spreader to the Kubota to evenly spread the pelleted fertilizer around the fields. Next, we follow with our Perfecta, which incorporates any fertilizer we've put down and also makes the fields smooth enough to plant into. If we are seeding directly into the ground (which is how we seed carrots, beets, greens, chard, spinach, rutabagas, turnips, radishes, sunflowers, beans, cilantro and dill), then we hook our roto-tiller up to the Kubota to fluff up the soil and make a completely flat, debris-free seedbed. If we are transplanting seedlings from the greenhouse, we skip the roto-tiller and either hook up our plastic mulch-layer, or hook up our waterwheel transplanter to the Kubota. The plastic mulch-layer is used to lay down a thin layer of biodegrdable plastic that keeps down weeds and warms up the soil for crops (we use it for onions, tomatoes, eggplant, sweet potatoes, watermelon, cukes and summer squash). The transplanter dibbles holes at the desired spacing for us to transplant into. If it's dry out, we can also fill its tanks up with water so that the transplanter drops water into each hole. The transplanter has two seats on the back so that crew members can sit on back and plant while the Kubota is pulling the transplanter down the field.

As you might imagine, all this field preparation keeps the Kubota pretty busy, but we have plenty of other tasks we use the Kubota for. The Kubota is also used for cultivating with our Lillistons and Reigi weeder. The Lillistons are set up to kill weeds in between our two-row crops. The Reigi weeder is a fantastic device for weeding one-row crops, and it also can get some of the weeds within the row, saving us some hand-weeding and hoeing time! (Most tractor cultivation implements can only kill weeds in between crop rows, and we have to come through afterwards to pull out weeds by hand that were left within the crop row).

We also hook up our potato digger and under-cutter bar to the Kubota to aid in harvesting root crops. The potato digger cuts under potato plants and then drops the potatoes back on top of the soil. The under-cutter bar loosens up the soil beneath carrots, parsnips and sweet potatoes to speed up harvest. Without either of these implements, we'd have to go through our fields with pitchforks and loosen these crops by hand.

Finally, we use the Kubota to mow around field edges and to mow in crops once we are finished harvesting them. After we've mowed in crops, we disk harrow again with the Kubota to break up debris, and then hook up our broadcast seeder to spread cover crop seed. One final pass with the disk harrow or Perfecta incorporates the seed into the soil and we then leave the field alone until next spring when we begin the cycle all over again.

As you can see, the Kubota is essential to our daily operations. We try to have it running any time it's not wet out. Someday I dream of getting another similarly sized tractor so that we can carry out two of these operations at the same time, and so that we can give our Kubota a rest occasionally!

What's in the share: Lettuce, Carrots, Ailsa Craig Onions, Scallions, Kale, Summer Squash/Zucchini, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Green Peppers, Potatoes, PYO Herbs, PYO Flowers.
New this week: Escarole, Red Slicing Tomatoes, PYO Cherry Tomatoes.
*Apologies to Monday/Tuesday folks who came in last week expecting Marini's sweet corn- there was an unexpected delay, but we will do our best to make sure you get the same number of weeks of sweet corn as Thursday/Friday folks. The wet spell we had last month has not only created challenges in our fields, but also at Marini's - hence the difficulty in predicting when corn will be available to us this year!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

CSA phone line back up and running

Our phone line and voicemail are working properly again. Apologies to anyone who had difficulty reaching us over the past week or two!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Week 8

Crew photo courtesy of Nicole Boyd
It's hard to believe we are already a third of the way through the season! Last week brought some welcome relief from the previous week's heat. The rain also allowed us to focus our energy on projects other than moving around irrigation pipes (an activity that consumed much of our time towards the end of the heat wave).

Even though the heat from a few weeks ago was trying at times, we were rewarded this past week with some rapid vegetable growth. Thursday we pulled in a very promising green pepper harvest. Our eggplant also appear to be recovering nicely from the onslaught of Colorado Potato Beetles we dealt with a few weeks ago. Hand-picking beetles off the plants, though time-consuming, seems to have paid off, as did the application of organic fertilizer. We've also been eyeing the watermelon as we collect our cucumber harvest nearby. In our impatience for summer fruit, some of us have broken open a couple of watermelons. The insides were still a very pale pink, but we should have some melons ready in a few weeks. Finally, the cherry tomatoes are looking pretty good as well. We added another level to the trellising on our Sungolds last Wednesday and were able to pluck a few ripe fruit off the vine to sustain us through the back-breaking work of tying up tomato plants. There's not enough yet to open for PYO, but we should be able to start picking in the near future.

This Monday Le Creuset will be back 3-6pm to do a cooking demo and to share information on discounts for CSA members. Hopefully this time we'll have no tornado warnings, as we did the last time they visited!

What's in the share: Lettuce, Kale, Chard, Carrots, Beets, Ailsa Craig Onions, Summer Squash/Zucchini, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Red Gold Potatoes, PYO Flowers, PYO Snap Beans, and PYO Herbs.
New this week: Green Peppers, Flamingo (pale yellow) Sweet Peppers.

*The planting of greens that is due to be harvested this week is also looking a bit weedy and hole-y (we're still feeling the effects of the massive amounts of rain we received a month ago!). We may have to skip greens again this week if it takes too long to harvest. Subsequent plantings are fortunately looking better!

Friday, July 26, 2013

CSA office voicemail not working

There's been a glitch in the CSA's phone line and we have been unable to receive any voicemails. We are working on getting this problem fixed and apologize for any inconvenience. If you need to get in touch with us, please email lholdorf@ttor.org.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Week 7


Garlic garlands makes the barn look great, smell great and keeps the undead at bay!

In spite of the heat we managed to get quite a bit accomplished this week.  The Great Garlic Harvest of 2013 has finally been completed.  All those lovely bulbs have been bunched and hung up to dry.  The barn looks really spectacular festooned in this fashion and the smell is truly incredible.  We have taken to affectionately referring to the space as ¨the garlic cave¨, and i think it should provide great peace of mind to all that Appleton Farms CSA is now vampire proof.  In about 6 weeks time the garlic will be dried and cured and ready to be sorted into seed for next year or bulbs to be distributed to our members. 

While the hot weather was very taxing on us farmers, we made sure to pay it forward with interest to the weeds.  We thinned and hand weeded beets and we made tremendous gains in clearing out the weeds in our celeriac beds.  With stirrup hoes we molested the weeds that encroached upon our winter squash.  We used string trimmers to subdue the weeds that had shot up between the beds of eggplant, and the cultivating tractors were never long idle.  The scorching weather may have jerkyed some of us farmers but it was at least as desiccating to the weeds.  So while the farmers might be looking a little frayed around the edges the fields are beginning to look almost tidy!  Good work team.

At the end of last week we dug the first of our potatoes.  Our tractor driven single row potato digger makes this task a lot easier by scooping beneath the potato plants, agitating the soil particulates and sifting the potatoes to the soil surface.  Our harvest team follows behind the tractor and a kind of scavenger hunt begins.  Most potatoes can be picked up as easily as picking daisys but to make sure that we don´t leave any good potatoes behind we also comb through the top few inches of soil in search of stragglers.  This weeks share will include buttery delicious Red Gold potatoes.

While working in the fields at Appleton, our farmers cross paths with members doing Pick-your-own almost daily.  This week we received such an outpouring  of  support from many of our members.  Your words of thanks and encouragement have a great and inspiring impact on us, especially during some of our tougher weeks.  From all of us farmers, a heart felt thank you for all the spontaneous appreciation.

What´s in the share: Lettuce, carrots, beets, napa cabbage, kale, chard, summer squash and zucchini, cucumbers, broccoli, Ailsa Craig onions, PYO flowers, PYO herbs, PYO green, purple and yellow beans.

New this week: Red Gold potatoes and eggplant.




Wednesday, July 17, 2013

No Carrot Club this Friday 7/19

Carrot Club is cancelled this Friday due to the heat. Hope to see you next week!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Week 6: Garlic Harvest and reminder about pick-up pass policy

Garlic waiting to be bunched
Thanks to everyone who came out on Saturday to help with this year's garlic harvest. We've harvested, bunched and hung only about half of our garlic in the barn, but we're already almost out of room! It's a nice contrast from last year, when we lost the majority of our harvest to garlic bloat nematode. Normally, we save seed from our garlic harvest, but since all our garlic was contaminated with nematodes, we had to buy in all new organic seed last fall. Because garlic bloat nematodes can linger in the soil for up to four years, we've also been taking a lot of precautions to ensure we don't spread the pest to other fields, including sanitizing all our tractor implements after using them in last year's garlic field. If you pick up your share on Tuesdays, be sure to thank Jon (who is in the shareroom that day) for all his hard work painstakingly power-washing the harrows and plastic mulch layer after he was done with his tractor work.

With many people going on vacation over the summer, I wanted to take the opportunity to remind everyone about our pick-up pass policy. You are allowed to use a pick-up pass to switch your pick-up block up to 3 times over the course of the season. The pass is intended for use within the same week, so if you miss your Monday/Tuesday pick-up block, you can come that Thursday/Friday. Likewise, if you know you will be unable to pick up your share during your regular Thursday/Friday block, you should pick your share up earlier in the week on Monday/Tuesday. You may not use your pick-up pass to take two shares in one pick-up block. If you will be away for a week, you should make alternative arrangements for a friend to pick up your share, or you can skip the week knowing that we donate excess produce to local food pantries. We do understand that things sometimes come up at the last minute, and that Thursday/Friday folks who unexpectedly miss the last pick-up of the week only have the option of using their pick-up pass the following Monday. In such rare cases, we can allow pick-up pass usage the following Monday/Tuesday, but you would only be allowed to take the one share at a time (so you would need to come back during the Thursday/Friday block to pick up your regular share for that week).

The reason for this rule is that we make our crop and harvest plans around a certain number of shareholders coming each week. We simply aren't set up to accommodate shareholders picking up double shares in one week, particularly with the popular and limited crops. Also, because some crops have short windows of harvest and because of the perishable nature of vegetables, leftover vegetables from one week often don't translate into a surplus to use towards the next week's share. If you have any questions about this policy, please don't hesitate to get in touch with me at lholdorf@ttor.org.

Finally, remember Week 2 of the CSA when we had about 8 inches of rain? Well, we will be seeing the effect of that this week in our greens harvest. The greens beds we should be harvesting from this week got partially flooded, destroying part of the planting. Those same beds were then too wet to cultivate for several weeks, so they got overtaken by weeds. The planting after that was seeded in a field with flea beetle issues due to lack of dry space elsewhere, and on top of that, it later got partially flooded as well. Be prepared for no greens this week and possibly next week as well. The good news is that the lettuce looks terrific, so you should still be able to make salads.

What's in the share: Lettuce, carrots, beets, mini cabbage, napa cabbage, bok choi, broccoli, summer squash and zucchini, radishes, salad turnips, PYO green beans and PYO herbs.
New this week: Cucumbers, Chard, Ailsa Craig onions, and PYO sunflowers.
* Flowers got picked pretty heavily this past week, so we may need to give the plants a chance to recover this week

Be sure to check out our Recipes blog for ideas on what to do with your share. Also, shareholder Megan Sudbay has a blog about how she uses her CSA share each week that you should check out!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Week 5: Garlic Harvest and Carrot Club

Our annual Garlic Harvest is coming up this Saturday, July 13th from 9am to noon. Meet us at the CSA barn and help us to harvest, bunch and hang garlic. This event is rain or shine - if it is rainy we will work inside the barn hanging garlic. Refreshments will be provided.

Also, Carrot Club starts up again this week! Carrot Club will meet Tuesdays and Fridays, July 8th - August 16th from 2pm - 3pm. Activities are geared towards children ages 3-7. Meet at the Carrot Club sign outside the CSA barn. Parents are welcome to stay with the group, but it is not required. Read a story, play games and learn about the delicious vegetables we grow at Appleton Farms during this one hour program. Questions? Please email afeducator@ttor.org.

It was a hot week out in the fields, but I think most of the crew was happy for a break from the rain. We'll be seeing the effects of June and early July's intense rainstorms reflected in the harvest soon, with reduced or delayed yields for certain crops. In the more immediate future, a couple of greens plantings were either flooded or seeded in less desirable places due to the lack of available dry space. As a result, we'll see reduced yields and some holey greens that suffered from flea beetle damage. The first fall carrot seeding (planted in the end of June) was almost completely washed out when we got 2 inches(!) of rain overnight, so we tilled it in and reseeded this past Friday. As a result, we'll likely have a longer than usual gap between the spring and fall carrots. Two sunflower plantings also succumbed to the wet, which is unfortunate because sunflower seed is quite expensive! The winter squash field spent much of June partially underwater, and we were therefore unable to plant into part of it. While we found space in another field for most of the squash (all except the Red Kuri and gourds, which are still waiting for a home), it pushed out some of our later plantings of summer squash and cucumbers, which could mean gaps in the the summer squash and cucumber harvests. Part of the potato field also flooded, which weakened the plants in the wet areas and made them more susceptible to Colorado Potato Beetle damage. If the wet didn't already cause those potatoes to rot in the ground, then the potato beetles certainly finished them off (the plants on that edge of the field are almost completely defoliated). 

While many of our vegetables suffered from the rain, the weeds are thriving. Though I'm generally not a fan of heat well up into the 90s, this week I was thankful for it because it meant that the weeds we uprooted with the tractors, hoes and by hand had no chance of re-rooting. Now it's just a matter of tackling 24 acres of weeds that have been quickly taking over our fields!

In spite of the weather-related challenges of the past month, I think overall the farm is looking pretty darn good. Summer crops like squash and green beans are just beginning to come on, and the pepper, tomato, cucumber, and watermelon plants look really healthy. The eggplant got hit pretty hard by Colorado Potato Beetle, but I'm confident that with the TLC the crew has been giving those plants, they'll bounce back just fine. If we can just avoid anymore serious deluges washing out our newly seeded crops, we'll be in really good shape for the rest of the season!

What's in the share: Lettuce, Greens, Kale, Napa Cabbage, Bok Choi, Kohlrabi, Radishes, Fennel, Scallions, Carrots, Garlic Scapes, and PYO herbs (including dill, cilantro and basil).
New this week: Chioggia Beets, Summer Squash/Zucchini, Cabbage, PYO Flowers and PYO Green Beans.

*If you like making sauerkraut or kimchi, this is the week to do it! If you've never made either before, check out Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz for a good intro to the art of fermenting foods.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Week 4

View of the broccoli field
We have a couple of important announcements for next week. First of all, we will be open for the holiday Thursday, July 4th. However, our hours will shift to 11am-5pm for that day. The week of July 8th we will return to normal hours.

On Monday, July 1st, representatives from the Le Creuset store in Kittery, Maine will be in the shareroom to do a cooking demo and they will also have information about discounts on Le Creuset pots available to CSA members.

Also, we want to thank everyone who has sent in their full share payments for the season. Payment was due June 1st, and this year was the best year ever in terms of on-time payments! We are still waiting on a few outstanding balances, so if you are unsure whether or not you still owe money for your share, please check with one of the shopkeepers when you pick up your share to find out if you have a balance.

Once again, this past week was a bit wetter than we would have liked. With an additional 3 inches of rain, many of our already saturated fields flooded again for a couple of days. As all of the well-drained field space is already spoken for, we have hit a bit of a wall with transplanting. Because of the wet, currently we have no place to put the 3rd summer squash planting, gourds or the last of the winter squash (a few beds of Red Kuri squash). We've also had difficulty finding dry space to put our weekly greens and lettuce plantings. In order to make space as quickly as possible, we've been mowing in crops as soon as they are finished, but it takes time to work in the debris enough to make new beds.

Another consequence of the rain has been that the weeds have really taken off. When it is this wet, tractor cultivation and hoeing are not very effective at controlling weeds, as they re-root easily in the soaked soil. Wednesday we had a brief respite from the rain, and the fields dried out somewhat. We took full advantage and had all 3 cultivating tractors going at once while the rest of the crew hoed and hand-weeded our tomatoes, peppers and winter squash. It was a productive morning and there's no doubt we set back weed growth in those fields. However, Thursday's rain brought a new flush of tiny weeds and also helped some of those pesky weeds re-root. A farmer's work is definitely never done! Hopefully we'll have some sun this week and be able to continue attacking the lambsquarter, nutsedge and crabgrass!

What's in the share: Lettuce, Greens, Kale, Napa Cabbage, Kohlrabi, Fennel, Radishes, Hakurei Salad Turnips, PYO strawberries, PYO peas, PYO herbs, including cilantro and dill.
New this week: Carrots, broccoli, and garlic scapes.
With a lot of new and exciting items to harvest, we are taking a week off from harvesting beets, but don't worry- they will be back in Week 5!

Friday, June 28, 2013

No PYO Volunteers tomorrow

Due to the predicted thunderstorms tomorrow (June 29th), PYO Volunteers is cancelled.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Week 3

Thanks to everyone who came out to the Bluegrass Picnic on Saturday, and thanks to Old Cold Tater for entertaining us with some lovely bluegrass tunes. We had a beautiful afternoon for a picnic. Everyone seemed to enjoy the delicious desserts and the kids certainly seemed to enjoy climbing on the tractors! If you missed out on Saturday, you'll get another chance to hear Old Cold Tater (and climb on tractors) at the Harvest Dinner in October.

This week we're hoping to get the last of our winter squash, gourds, tomatillos, hot peppers, and 2nd cuke planting into the ground. The past month has been a flurry of transplanting, and while I think the crew's done a really great job keeping up with our schedule this year, as always, there are a few things that are just going to have to go in the ground a little late. June is always tough because we still have lots of things to seed and transplant, the weeds really start to take off, and suddenly we have to start spending half our days harvesting. I'm looking forward to hopefully having some time to tackle more weeding projects! I particularly have my eye on our tomato, eggplant and pepper field, and the nutsedge that is popping up in between those plants.

Nutsedge popping up through plastic mulch 

Nutsedge is a particularly tenacious perennial weed affecting several of our fields. It's a grass-like plant that grows mainly from tubers (which are edible) that send out underground stems called rhizomes. In a single year, one tuber can send out rhizomes producing 1,900 new plants and 7,000 new tubers. The tubers can remain viable for up to 3 years, and each tuber has up to 7 buds and enough energy to sprout (and sometimes re-sprout) them all. That means that even when you pull out the plant, if the tuber remains in the ground, you'll see new plants popping up in no time. Another challenge with nutsedge is that unlike many of our other common weeds (like lamb's quarter, pigweed and purslane), nutsedge is capable of poking through the thick layers of straw and the black plastic mulch that we put down in our fields to keep down weed growth. In a "nutshell" (sorry - I couldn't help myself!), controlling nutsedge organically is quite challenging - basically you just have to keep cultivating and hand weeding it in the hope of eventually just wearing it out. Fortunately, we have a fantastic crew that is ready to wage war on this persistent weed! In the next week you'll probably see us out in Field 5 hoeing and hand-weeding away.

What's in the share: Lettuce, Greens, Kale, Napa Cabbage, Kohlrabi, Fennel, Scallions, Radishes, Hakurei Salad Turnips, PYO strawberries, PYO peas (sugar snap, snow peas and shelling peas), PYO herbs.
New this week: Red Ace Beets, PYO Dill, and PYO Cilantro.

Be sure to check out our Recipes blog for ideas on how to prepare your veggies.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Reminder: Bluegrass Picnic and PYO Volunteers this Saturday!

Join us for the Bluegrass Picnic this Saturday, June 22nd from 4 to 6pm in front of the barn! Bring a blanket or lawn chairs to sit on and a dessert to share (I think I'll make some strawberry rhubarb tart!). Old Cold Tater will be playing for us and we'll have the tractors out for the kids to play on.

Also, come join us Saturday 9:00-10:30am for our new Pick-Your-Own Garden volunteers hours. This Saturday we'll be transplanting popcorn and basil. Come help us transplant and then if you didn't get a chance to pick this week because of the thunderstorms, pick your strawberries and peas!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Week 2 and Bluegrass Picnic next weekend!

The new Field 6 duck pond
The sunshine this weekend was a welcome sight for the CSA crew! After nearly 8 inches of rain over the course of last week, the fields are completely saturated, and in some spots even flooded. Our harvest trucks always seemed on the verge of getting stuck and our boots were constantly sinking into the muck. We had been hoping to finish transplanting our winter squash into Field 6 this week, but a chunk of the field is underwater (and a couple of ducks have apparently taken up residence!), so we'll have to wait until it dries out a bit and in the meantime see what we can fit in the very limited available space in another field. After the sunny weather on Saturday, some of our fields dried out enough that we were able to get some tractors running on them. With potential rain in the forecast for next week too, we had to jump on the opportunity Saturday and Sunday to try to catch up with preparing fields for planting and cultivating to keep down weeds.

Our annual Bluegrass Picnic is coming up this Saturday, June 22nd from 4 to 6pm.  Bring a picnic and come sit by the barn while listening to the CSA's favorite bluegrass band, Old Cold Tater. We'll also have the tractors out for the kids to play on!

What's in the share: Greens, Lettuce, Bok Choi, Broccoli raab, Spinach, Scallions, Fennel, PYO Sugar Snap Peas*, PYO strawberries*, PYO herbs (chives, oregano, mint, parsley)*.
New this week: Kale, Napa cabbage, Kohlrabi, PYO Snow Peas*, and PYO Shelling Peas*!

Check out our new Recipe blog for ideas on how to prepare your veggies.

*Be sure to check the pick-your-own board in the barn before heading out to the fields so you can get containers and tips on where the best picking is!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Saturday morning PYO Volunteers starts this weekend!

This Saturday June 15th we invite you to come join us in the Pick-Your-Own fields 9 - 10:30am to help us weed, hoe and maintain PYO crops. We will meet every Saturday until July 20th. Look for one of our crew at the barn at 9am, or out in the fields look for the blue sign highlighting where we are working. Most of the time working in the fields is spent either kneeling or repetitively bending over, so this work may not be suitable for those with serious knee or back issues. This work is also not appropriate for young children. See our Volunteering page for more information about PYO Volunteers and to learn of other ways you can get involved at the farm or with other Trustees properties. Feel free to email me at lholdorf@ttor.org with any questions!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Week 1

Welcome to the first week of the CSA season! If you are assigned a Monday/Tuesday pick-up block, please pick up your share either Monday 2pm-7pm or Tuesday 11am-5pm. If you have a Thursday/Friday pick-up block, you can pick up your share either Thursday 2pm-7pm or Friday 11am-5pm. For those shareholders who are new to the CSA and were unable to attend the orientation on Saturday, please let one of the shopkeepers know when you check in and they will be happy to go over the pick-up routine as well as answer any questions you might have.

In spite of the nearly 4 inches of rain we received over the course of Friday and Saturday, there seems to be minimal damage in the fields. There was some flooding over some newly seeded greens, so we'll see soon whether that will affect germination. Everything else looks great, and we're looking forward to a strong first week.

We plan to open pick-your-own fields this week, though please note that in cases of thunderstorms (which are predicted for Tuesday), we will close the fields for safety reasons. We also may close the PYO fields during heavy rains to prevent damage to PYO crops. Wet and muddy days offer prime conditions for spreading plant diseases, as well as for compacting the soil around crops. If you ever do pick up your share on a day when PYO fields are closed, you may come back during our Saturday picking hours, which are 8am-noon. Please note that your share entitles you to pick once per week, so you may only use Saturday Pick-your-own hours if you did not pick during the week.

What's in the share: Greens (arugula, tat soi, red russian kale, baby bok choi, tokyo bekana), Lettuce, Bok Choi, Broccoli raab, Spinach, Radishes, Hakurei Turnips, Scallions, Fennel, PYO Sugar Snap Peas, PYO herbs (chives, oregano, mint, parsley).