Friday, November 28, 2008

Summertime Blues

"I'm gonna raise a fuss, I'm gonna raise a holler about a workin' all summer just to try to earn a dollar. Every time I call my baby, and ask to get a date my boss says, 'No dice son, you gotta work late'. Sometimes I wonder what I'm gonna do, but there ain't no cure for the summertime blues."

Whether it is Farmer David, or his merry band of workers and volunteers, working on a farm is hard work. Whether it is working in 100 degree heat, or rain, or wind, or when it is dark to the point of not being able to see what you are doing, or come the late fall in freezing temperatures, the work needs to get done. To persevere requires commitment and dedication. To persevere requires more than just a sense of professionalism and a sense of obligation to completion of task. To be a farmer requires a love for what you are doing. The proof of Farmer David's love for what he does reflects the notion of the expression, the proof is in the pudding. The pudding in this case are the people who come to both the Lawrenceville Farmers' Market and the New Hope Market. Week in and week out people consistently compliment Farmer David for both the beauty and the quality of the produce he brings to market. The following pictures are a sample of the produce that was brought to market over the course of the 2008 farm season.

This shows the set up at the Lawrenceville Market. All the produce that is sold at market is grown at the farm.

Fennel, and chard, and beets, and turnips, and basil; Oh My!

Beans, beans, good for your heart. The more you eat the more you.... Oh. Not these beans. Great to eat raw. When cooked the purple is cooked out.

You say tomato, I say tomatoe. Farmer David grew 51 varieties of tomatoes this year. For a full listing go to and click on the produce link. You will then see a link to the tomatoes that were grown.

Yes, it really is a blue potato.

The bounty of the harvest. Purple scallions? You betcha.

These are Sun Gold cherry tomatoes. People would often buy two so they could eat one on the way home and still have one to share. They are candy on a vine.

The salad mix and the arugula are big favorites.

Over the course of the season Farmer David grew 13 varieties of lettuce. For a full listing you are again encouraged to go to the Gravity Hill Farm website, click on the produce link and then the lettuce list link. Lettuce is not particularly fond of warm weather. Despite this, with only a couple of exceptions, Farmer David was able to bring lettuce to market throughout the entire summer. This was very labor intensive, but Farmer David felt it was well worth the effort.

Nope. Not beets. Nope. Not radishes. These are scarlet turnips.

That's it for now. Hope you enjoyed the overview of produce. To be able to bring this type of bounty to markets week in and week out requires a labor of love. Happy and healthy eating to all. Support local, sustainable, organic agriculture.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


"Prince or pauper, beggar man or thing,Play the game with every flower you bring
Dandelion don’t tell no lies, Dandelion will make you wise, Tell me if she laughs or cries
Blow away dandelion
One o’clock, two o’clock, three o’clock, four o’clock chime
Dandelions don’t care about the time"

In addition to produce, Gravity Hill Farm grows flowers. Last season Farmer David grew a variety of flowers that he brought to market. In this endeavor Farmer David was greatly assisted by his friend Natalie who would arrive every Sunday morning at the Lawrenceville Market and make bouquets from the cut flowers. This season Farmer David again grew a variety of flowers. However, family farmer/owner Maria was primarily involved with the cutting and bunching of the flowers. In this endeavor Maria was aided by Pam and Susan. Pam has previously managed her own organic farm and as a friend of Maria was enlisted to provide her assistance and expertise. Susan was a friend who was recruited to provided her enthusiasm and assistance. A great time was had by all, except when it was raining. Ah well, the joys of farming. Not for the lazy or the weak of heart.

What follows are some of the flowers that were grown at the farm this year.

Van Gogh would be proud.If they weren't real you'd think they were paintings.

On Oct. 9, 2008 the NY Times Magazine had articles pertaining to food policy, farming, and organics. One of the articles was written by Michael Pollan, author of "Omnivore's Dilemma". It is a rather lengthy article, but if you are interested in issues pertaining to local, sustainable agriculture, organic or not, it would be worth your while to read the article. Click on the link:

Good health and good eating to all.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Still Doing It

"Well, I've moved into the jungle of the agriculture rumble to grow my own food. And I'll dig and plough and scrape the weeds till I succeed in seeing cabbage growing through. Now I'm a farmer, and I'm digging, digging, digging, digging, digging. Now I'm a farmer, and I'm digging, digging, digging, digging, digging".

First things first. Apologies for falling so far behind in keeping this current. Despite the fact that as of the date of this posting the farming season is close to the end, this and future posts will be presented in chronological order.

At the end of August there were some changes. Malaika, Emma, Patrick set off for college and Emily returned to high school. Their efforts, energy, humor, and presence will be missed. Replacing them on a full time basis is Mike. Jose has also joined the Gravity Hill cast and crew on a part time basis. A big welcome to both.

While a picture of Mike and Jose can be found on the official Gravity Hill website, the following picture of Mike with Valerie and David conveys the notion that it is not only postal workers for whom neither rain, nor sleet, nor gloom of night will prevent the execution of their duties.

The following pictures are intended to give a partial sense of the ongoing process of seeding, planting, and growing. At this writing it is towards the end of October and some new planting has recently been done. However, new seeding has come to an end and nothing more will be planted. But, sit back and enjoy the scenes of summer growing.

This picture is from inside the greenhouse and you have a sense of different stages of development of various plants.

This is a picture of some plants that have 'grown up'. In short order they will be moved to the tables just outside the greenhouse. There they will be exposed to the elements so as to toughen them up in preparation of going into the ground.
This shows plants in the ground. Notice how 'clean' it is between the rows of plants. This means that Farmer David and his merry band of helpers have spent innumerable hours weeding. Let's be clear, weeding is not for the faint of heart. It is hard, time consuming, and tiresome. And during the fullness of summer done in very hot weather. Only mad dogs and farmers go out in the noon day sun.

Another picture showing the plants in the field. Some are 'out in the open', some, as shown in previous posts are protected by the white fabric that is seen in this picture. The fabric protects the plants from bugs and from the direct sun.

The plastic in this picture is intended to suppress some, operative word being 'some', of the weeds. In traditional farming pesticides and other chemicals are used to prevent bugs, weeds, and diseases. And guess what you get to put into your body when eating foods grown this way? Anyway, in organic farming you do what you can to minimize loss due to bugs, weeds, and disease. Your body will thank you.

In the October 13, 2008 issue of Newsweek magazine there was an article entitled, Best Organics for the Buck. The following link should take you to the article.
The article is brief. It does a nice job of conveying which foods people's best interests would be served by buying organically. Two websites are included that show analysis of tests done on conventionally grown produce. The information conveys which produce has high levels of pesticides (cranberries, nectarines, peaches, strawberries, sweet bell peppers, celery, cucumbers, tomatoes, among others) and those that have less (bananas, citrus fruits, pineapple among others). The two websites are and

For now, happy and healthy eating.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Do It Again

"Standing in the middle of nowhere, wondering how to begin. Lost between tomorrow and yesterday, between now and then. And now we're back where we started, here we go round again. Day after day I get up and I say I better do it again."

Farming is an incredibly long distance race; marathoners have it easy. During the 'off' season farmers spend their time cleaning, organizing, planning, and ordering. Once the actual season starts, sometime around late March/early April, the labor doesn't cease until the end of October/early November. While there are variations from farm to farm, depending on the size of the farm operation and the number of helpers (paid/volunteer/intern), those farmers who are involved in local, sustainable agriculture, and especially those who are farming organically (as Gravity Hill Farm is doing) are engaged in an extremely challenging endeavor. Farming is a seven-day-a-week job; as often as not, working from just after sun up to sun down. It is uncertain if John Lennon had farmers in mind when he sang about working class heroes, but farmers, past and present, are truly heroes for their persistence and tenacity. There is much that a farmer has no control over (rain, heat, bugs [those nasty bastards]), but through it all the farmer must get up and persevere, day in and day out. That is what the farmer has control over, and regardless of how they are feeling - physically, emotionally, or mentally - the farmer, whether it be Farmer David or any other, needs to get up each day and do it again and again. Those reading this who are aware of the challenges facing small, local farmers appreciate what the farmer is doing in order to bring fresh, nutritious and gorgeous seasonal produce to market or to community-supported agriculture (CSA) members. For those who aren't aware, it is hoped that this message provides some small insight of what goes into providing you food that is fresher and tastier than you can find in most supermarkets.

The farm season is a continuous cycle of seeding, germination, growing in the green house, seasoning on a table outside of the green house, and planting. While waiting to be planted, the newly seeded plants and those that have started growing need to be watered - daily. If the greenhouse is full, and the outside tables are full, watering can take upwards of two hours per day, depending on the size of the farm operation. Once planted, the plants need to be watered through irrigation, weeded, and, in certain cases, trellised (tomatoes, peas, cucumbers). And while most 'stuff' starts in planting trays in the greenhouse, some plants are directly seeded into the ground. And this doesn't happen just once at the beginning of the season. While some crops do well in the spring, others prefer the heat of the summer, and some do best once fall weather rolls around. There is no break from the entire process; the cycle is repeated many times throughout the entire season.

So, the next time you go to a farmer's market, say hi to your local farmer. Tell them how much you appreciate the great produce they are making available to you and thank them for all they do. Farmers truly are working class heroes.

Here are some seeds that have germinated. At this size they are still in the greenhouse.

This is a view inside the greenhouse. Plants are in various stages of growth. The plastic sides of the greenhouse can be rolled up and down. This allows the plants to be kept at the right temperature and to be protected from rain. In the back center of the greenhouse is the housing for a fan which is used to cool off the greenhouse if it gets too hot. On the right side is a heater which will provide heat when it gets too chilly.

This shows the increase in the amount of seeding that has been done.

This shows Farmer David watering seedlings that have been moved outside to prepare them for their lives in the field. This needs to be done outside and inside the greenhouse on a daily basis. Watering requires a great deal of patience as it is not something that can be rushed. To state the obvious, a poor job of watering can be life threatening to the plants.

These are tomato plants. The wooden stakes will be used to trellis the tomatoes to provide them with stability to prevent them from toppling over. Trellising is very time consuming.

These are tomato plants that have grown up and are being held up by trellising. To trellis special string is tied to a stake and is wound in and out between the plants and is tied off at the next stake. As mentioned, very time consuming and damaging to the hands and fingers.

As long as you gaze on Gravity Hill sunset, you will be in paradise.

More pictures showing the process of planting and growing next time.

In the last posting an important friend of Farmer David's was overlooked - so, a big shout out to Adam for all he's done. And speaking of Adam, he has a blog describing the garden that he is growing at the Lawrenceville, NJ communtiy garden plot. You can follow Adam's exploits at:

Another blog to check out is Farm Blogs From Around the World: The site is as its name indicates, blogs from farms from around the world. A very cool place to visit.

Happy and healthy eating to all.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

With A Little Help

"What would you think if I sang out of tune, would you stand up and walk out on me. Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song, and I'll try not to sing out of key. Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends, he gets high with a little help from his friends, oh I'm gonna try with a little help from my friends."

First to redress an oversight from last years (farm season 2007) postings. There were a great many people who provided Farmer David with invaluable time, effort, energy, emotional, and spiritual assistance. While they know who they are, here is a shout out to those who assisted either by their labor or support in various other ways. If any have been forgotten, humble apologies. To correct any oversight contact David and you will be sure to be included in a future posting. Big Shout Outs!! to the following- Gab, Mikey and Emily, Adam, Betsy, Natalie, Farmer Dean, Farmer Matt, Farmer Mike, Mary Jo, and Farmer Rob and Pam. Much appreciation to the various Spoonies who spent time volunteering at one time or another. Farming is an arduous lifestyle and any farmer is dependent on the kindness of others. Without all of these fine folk, Gravity Hill Farm would not have been as successful as it was during its first year of production. So again, a heartfelt thanks to one and all for all that you did.

As the second year of production was gearing up the land in production went from 1.7 acres to a little over 4 acres. In increasing the size of land being put into production, and thus increasing the amount of work that would need to be put into making the farm a success, the Gravity Hill Farm Team of David and Maria and Farmer David, recognized that it would be necessary to hire a couple of people. Along with two full time people one other person was hired to work on a part time basis. And then came unexpected help from two young women who are volunteering a tremendous amount of their time. A joke could be made questioning their sanity for working as long and as hard as they are for little compensation. However, humor in this case would devalue their commitment to the success of the farm.

So, let's introduce Gravity Hill Farm's 2008 work crew.

Last year Natalie would show up every Sunday morning for the Lawrenceville Market and help with getting everything set up. More importantly Natalie was most instrumental in putting flowers into beautiful bouquets to be sold. This year Natalie still comes most Sunday mornings to help with the set up.

Emma is spending a portion of her summer vacation from college working part-time at the farm. As with the other workers, Emma is proof that not all people of her age group (late teens-early 20's) are self-centered and concerned only with material wants. There are easier ways to make money than farming.

Over the past couple of years, Patrick has done various odd jobs on the farm, but this is his first year working as a true farmer. Patrick is another college student finding that working the land is far more challenging than most people might imagine. Sadly, both Patrick and Emma will be leaving at the end of August to return to college.

Emily is going to be a senior in high school. She has been spending at least 40 hours a week volunteering!! Her time and efforts have proven invaluable, especially in the context that she is volunteering.

Malaika is the other volunteer at the farm. She is giving about 30+ hours of her energy a week to the farm. Malaika spent the first part of her summer as an intern learning how to make cheese. As does Emily, Malaika has a strong commitment to local, organic, sustainable agriculture. Sadly for Farmer David, just as Emma and Patrick, Emily and Malaika will be leaving at the end of August to return to their respective schools.

Valerie is working as an intern and will be staying with the farm through the end of the season some time in October. She is yet another example of a young adult accepting the challenge of working hard on a daily basis. As do the others Valerie demonstrates commitment to a job well done.

Farmer David trying to get a point across to his staff about their need to stay focused on their tasks. Just kidding. While the heat and the grind can take their toll,Patrick, Valerie, Emma, Emily, and Malaika all perservere against the elements and the challenges that farming presents on a daily basis.

If you can't make out what the document below is, it is the official notification that Gravity Hill Farm is certified as organic. It was a long process to apply and then it took a long time for the document to come. Regardless, congratulations to David and Maria and David, the team behind Gravity Hill ORGANIC Farm.

For those who choose to farm they need to avoid building walls. They can not afford to be either a rock or an island. They have need of friendship, laughter, support, and love. So, to those of you who helped last year, once again, much thanks and appreciation. To this years staff and volunteers, much thanks and appreciation as well, the farm wouldn't be the success it is without you.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


"I'm gonna be 'round my vegetables. I'm gonna chow down my vegetables. I love you most of all, my favorite vegetable. If you brought a big brown bag of them home, I'd jump up and down and hope you'd toss me a carrot. I'm gonna keep well, my vegetables. Cart off and sell my vegetables. I love you most of all, my favorite vegetable"

While it might take a village to raise a child, it takes a lot of people to effectively/efficiently run a farm. Last year Farmer David did the vast majority of the work on his own. Various friends helped out as their time allowed, and their help was essential to the success that Farmer David achieved. This year there is a young man working on a full time basis. There is also a young woman who is working full time as an intern; as an intern she is learning about the trials and tribulations of being a farmer. There is another young woman working part time and two other young women who are volunteering a remarkable number of hours. (Volunteering??? Yes, volunteering!) So, Farmer David does have much more organized help this year in comparison with last year. And since Farmer David is working sun up to sun down on an almost daily basis, the assistance of others is again an essential part of the process. In a future post these wonderful people will be introduced. However, despite Farmer David and his cast of heroes, there are two people without whom there would be no Gravity Hill Farm

Long before there was a Gravity Hill Farm there was a couple who had a dream of owning a farm. Through years of hard work their vision became a reality. Just as farming is about the process of tilling, planting, nurturing, working hard and then finally seeing the growth of your crops, so to with the emergence of the farm. With no further ado, here are David Earling and his wife Maria Nicolo. Without their efforts and commitment, on many different levels, there would be no Gravity Hill Farm.

Here is Maria helping with the planting. Bending over in the heat and direct sun is not for the faint of heart.

While Maria is working in the field, David is busy holding up the farm truck.

David and David contemplating their sanity for being involved in farming. 'And we're doing this because ........? Oh yeah, despite the expense and the hard work we enjoy what we are doing and derive great satisfaction from growing organic produce.'

Maria lecturing Farmer David about the virtues of hard work. Mr. Earling looking on glad it's not him being lectured. (Just kidding. Success can only be achieved through teamwork and cooperation and the team of David, David, and Maria are working diligently towards the goal of great success at Gravity Hill Farm.)

Well, here's looking at you kid. One part of the dream that David and Maria had was to have animals as part of their farm. While the llamas and alpacas were introduced in the previous posting, our furry friend will say good bye for today.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

At The Farm

Someone told me, It's all happening at the farm. I do believe it, I do believe it's true. The llamas stand for honesty, alpaca's are insincere, and the chikens are kindly but they're dumb. The dog is skeptical of changes in her routine, and the farm keeper is very fond of rum.
Cats are reactionaries, guinea hens are missionaries, attack geese plot in secrecy, and Pekin ducks turn on frequently. What a gas! You gotta come and see. At the farm. At the farm. At the farm.

While it might not be lions, and tigers, and bears, Oh My, there are now animals at Gravity Hill Farm. Yes, animals. While the chickens are intended to earn their keep by laying eggs, the other animals are there for fun, enjoyment, teaching the responsibility of caring for animals. So, with no additional delay, let's meet our animal friends.

This is Marco the llama.

This is Leo the llama.

This is Gunter the alpaca. (The brown one facing towards the camera.)

This is Enzo the alpaca.

And these are twin llamas, Lisa and Mona. Apparently twin llamas are a rare occurrence. The individual who provided the names for the blog did not know which was Lisa and which was Mona. (It wasn't Farmer David. It wasn't farm owner David's wife Maria.)

Here are the various feathered friends in the animal barn shortly after their arrival.

And here are some pictures of the fowl in their pasture next to the barn.

Here's Farmer David with his new kitten, Edward the Gato (gato being the Spanish word for cat). Just as David's dog, Hule, has been a valuable asset to the farm in keeping down the ground hog population, the bane of many a farmer, David has high hopes for Edward the Gato to earn his keep in going after various other critters that tend to populate farms and barns.

OK. Hule isn't new to the farm, but any post about animals at the farm has to include a picture of David's companion, Hule. She is on the scent of something.

No, this is not a farm animal. It is just a really cool looking moth, or some other big winged bug.

Food is continually growing at the farm. Check the official Gravity Hill website for a listing of the different vegetables that are currently available. Long days and pleasant nights to one and all.