Sunday, September 16, 2007

Summertime Blues

"Well I'm gonna raise a fuss, and I'm gonna raise a holler. About workin' all summer, just tryin' to earn a dollar. Well, I went to my boss who governs me. He said, "No dice bud, you gotta work late" Sometime I wonder, what I'm gonna do, there ain't no cure for the summertime blues."

Since David is essentially his own boss, he has no one to complain to but himself about his hours. As the season has progressed long hours in hot and humid weather has been the norm. As summer fades into fall the temperature might be getting better but the hours available to work are getting shorter. While working shorter hours might seem like a good thing, the amount of work that needs to get done does not decrease along with the shorter days. In particular, Saturday harvests have been ending past sundown. There is no let up in the amount of work that needs to get done despite the decrease in the available hours in which to complete the work. And so it goes.

Despite the travails, David continues to push through and continues to grow good things to eat at the farm. With the changing of seasons some veggies are going and some are coming. Cucumbers are gone. Summer squash are close to going. And most sadly of all, tomato season is rapidly drawing to a close. Beets are back. Spinach is coming back. Winter squash, including pumpkins are here. Being involved with farming allows for a deeper appreciation for the natural flow of the seasons and the changing availability of locally grown crops. As a society we have grown accustomed to all produce at all times of the year. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it does lead to a disconnect from how people lived in the not too distant past. The small, local farmer is part of our national heritage. Regardless of where you live, support your local farmer, whether they grow organic or in a conventional manner.

It's a dog's world- David's dog, Hule, has had herself a busy summer and most recently some adventures. Over the summer she has kept the ground hog population in check by catching 8 ground hogs. Considering the potential damage to crops that ground hogs can cause, this is an important contribution to the farm. A few weeks ago as David was going down to the field he noticed that a deer had somehow gotten into the fields overnight despite the fence surrounding the field and the closed gates. Hule went after the deer and in the process of chasing the deer suffered a cut paw that required stitches. The worst part of the experience was that Hule was confined to the apartment for close to two weeks. And just last week Hule had an unfortunate encounter with a skunk. No, it was not a dead skunk in the middle of the road. It was a very much alive skunk that was not happy to be confronted by a dog. If you have never had the 'privilege' of smelling a skunked dog there is one word of advice, DON'T.

In brief organic farming is an approach to agriculture that aims to create a system of farming that "uses our understanding of nature as a guide for gardening and living, and caring for the plants without using synthetic chemical pesticides or synthetic fertilizers." (Rodale's All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening) While this sounds simple enough, nothing is ever as simple, or easy, as it could or should be. There is debate and discussion about the value, validity, and importance of the organic label on foods. There are some larger agribusinesses that are trying to stretch the definition of what constitutes organic. And there are some who question whether there is any real value to growing things in an organic manner. Each individual needs to do their own research into the issues and make their own decision about how to shop and eat. An article in the New York Times (August 19, 2007 addresses some issues about the whole notion of organic labeling. If you interested you can read the article through the following link:

As summer heads to fall winter squash have arrived. Pictured above is a spaghetti squash. When cooked you cut it in half, length wise and using a fork scrape out the insides. In doing so you get strands similar to spaghetti.

This is a butternut squash. It has a sweet, nutty taste similar to pumpkin or sweet potato.

This is another winter squash called delicata. One of the tastier winter squashes. Creamy pulp that tastes a bit like sweet potatoes.

This is a buttercup squash. Sweet and creamy orange flesh. One of the more highly regarded winter squashes.

This is only a portion of the winter squashes that were harvested. In addition to those pictured and described above David has acorn squash, Long Island cheese pumpkins, and various sizes of pumpkins. Unlike various other sellers, all the pumpkins and summer squash that David sells he grows.

The following pictures are intended to show the various colors that mother nature offers in her bounty of vegetables.

The current growing season will be coming to an end within the next 4-6 weeks. You are encouraged, once again, to enjoy the freshness and flavor that is available to you through a local farmers' market. You can find David and Gravity Hill Farm at either the Lawrenceville Market on Sunday mornings (9-1) or New Hope, Pa on Thursday afternoons (3-7). If you are reading this, please make it a point to stop by and say hello. Get to know your local farmer. Know where your food is coming from.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Turn, Turn, Turn

"To everything (turn, turn, turn), there is a season (turn, turn, turn) And a time for every purpose, under heaven. A time to be born, a time to die. A time to plant, a time to reap. A time to kill, a time to heal. A time to laugh, a time to weep."

The farm season started in April and will continue through the end of October/early November; depending on the cooperation of the weather. It has been a long season and there is still plenty to do in the next couple of months. Each day, each week, each market, brings its own set of challenges, successes, and disappointments. The market at Lawrenceville has been consistent and David is very appreciative of his 'regulars' and those new friends who are discovering the market and Gravity Hill. David has also been enjoying his other new friends at the New Hope farmers' market. Market days is the payoff for all the hard work the rest of the week. Plants get planted, nutritious produce is harvested. There is a time for everything.

One of summers great treats is in full swing- tomatoes!! As mentioned David grows a variety of heirloom tomatoes and, given the relative shortness of the season, it is vital that he have good weather to enhance the quality of taste and the proper ripeness of the tomato. Last weeks rain had a significant negative impact on David's tomatoes. There are many things that a farmer can control, the weather isn't one of them. It is merely a part of the ngoing process of farming and one of the significant challenges that all farmers face. However, given the difference between the type of tomato that is commonly available in your local grocery, and the wondrous delight of what is available through your local farmer, the effort is worthwhile. The tomatoes you buy at a store are bred to travel and to last a fair amount of time on the shelves of your store. Heirlooms are grown to preserve part of our cultural heritage and for their taste. Some are beautiful. Some are so ugly only a mother could love them. They are not intended to travel long distances and once picked don't last a long time. In this context you are encouraged to read the article, So Many Tomatoes to Stuff in a Week by Melissa Clark. To read the full article go to:
To give you an idea about what the article is about the following quote is offered: "Meaty and succulent, their velvety flesh enclosing a fragrant jelly of golden seeds and dripping with sweet pink juice, summer tomatoes are everything their cold-weather counterparts aren’t, including cheap and abundant."

Run, don't walk, to your nearest farmers' market and get your fresh, locally grown tomatoes. Remember, there are a multitude of tomatoes; the beauty of a farmers' market is that you can ask the farmer all about them. What follows are some pictures of a representative sample of the tomatoes that Farmer Dave has available at market. Peak tomato season has only a few short weeks remaining. If you like fresh tomatoes, now is the time to get them.

"Medium sized tomato ripening to a green color, with cream/yellow spots and stripes. The flavor is generally considered excellent and this variety often makes top ten lists for its taste. The Green Zebra is used heavily in salads and salsa for its mild sweet-acidic flavor blend."
( Yes, it is a tomato. Ripe and delicious. As with many heirlooms, you can add a unique color to your salad.

"This tomato truly resembles a peach. The 2-oz. fruits have a peach like fuzz and are yellow, often with a hint of pink blush when fully ripe. The flavor is outstanding." Yes, it does have a peach like fuzz!! Yes, it tastes like a tomato! (

"We’re forever shaking our heads at Cosmonaut Volkov, this strangely-named Ukrainian tomato that wins taste test after taste test. Simply put, for rich, deep, true tomato taste, Cosomonaut Volkov is the best-tasting tomato in our own and other trials. Has that perfect blend of sweet and tart, with a rich complexity that has you savoring the flavor long after you’ve swallowed it. Does have some cracking and yellow shoulders, but not nearly as badly as Brandywine or Pruden’s Purple. Consider Cosmonaut as a commercial tomato for markets that appreciate superior taste." (

"The Cherokee Purple was rediscovered by tomato grower Craig LeHoullier. LeHoullier claimed that it was more than 100 years old, originated with the Cherokee people. The Cherokee Purple tomato has a unique dusty rose color. The flavor of the tomato is extremely sweet with a rich smoky taste. The Cherokee Purple has a refreshing acid, is watery, thick-skinned and earthy with a lingering flavor. The Cherokee Purple plants are very prolific making this plant a good heirloom for gardeners and farmers."

"Dr. Wyche used to own Cole Brothers Circus which overwintered in Hugo, Oklahoma. He fertilized his terraced mountain-top gardens with elephant manure and scattered lion and tiger waste to keep out deer and rabbits. Heavy yields of 1 pound tomatoes with nice smooth shoulders on healthy plants. Meaty and rich tasting for a yellow-orange tomato."

"The marbled interior looks beautiful sliced. Complex, fruity flavor and smooth texture."

"(Sudduth's Strain) Brandywine first appeared in the 1889 catalog of Johnson & Stokes of Philadelphia and by 1902 was also offered by four additional seed companies, but soon disappeared from all commercial catalogs. Our best selling tomato and one of the best tasting tomatoes available to gardeners today. The seed of this strain was obtained by tomato collector Ben Quisenberry of Big Tomato Gardens in 1980 from Dorris Sudduth Hill whose family grew them for 80 years. Large pink beefsteak fruits to 2 pounds. Incredibly rich, delightfully intense tomato flavor."

"Mild flavor and low acidity make this one of the best varieties for tomato juice. Bright, golden-orange fruits, 2-1/2 to 3" in diameter average 6 to 7 oz. apiece and have meaty, thick walls. Fruits are solid, with few seeds."

"This heirloom tomato was discovered in Wisconsin although its origins are in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which is the heart of the Amish Country. The tomatoes are teardrop or heart-shaped with a brilliant red orange color. The Amish Paste tomato has a balance of acid and sweetness. When it is sliced fresh the juicy flesh sparkles and has a solid texture. The Amish Paste is eaten fresh or in sauces."

"Gorgeous 2½" fruits are fire-engine red overlaid with golden yellow stripes. Top quality, extremely uniform strain, very productive. Great sweet flavor. Sure to be a best seller at farmers’ markets."

"The excellent flavor, rich tomatoey sweetness and good texture make this ideal for creating sauces."

Happy and healthy eating to all. Remember, Gravity Hill- good things grow here.