Sunday, March 23, 2014

New Year, Same Process

"If I had ever been here before
I would probably know just what to do
Don't you?
If I had ever been here before on another time around the wheel
I would probably know just how to deal
With all of you
And I feel
Like I've been here before
Seeded yesterday. Seeded Today. Seed some more tomorrow. Even if a day is missed here and there, seeding is an ongoing activity throughout the season. Some items, like onions, winter squash, and watermelons, get seeded once and that's it. Some items, like kale, Swiss chard, and lettuce will be seeded in regular cycles throughout the year. Some, like cucumbers and summer squash, will have three rounds of seeding and planting.

Here is what has been seeded since the previous post.

March 18- More beets (5 varieties), kohlrabi, kale, celeriac (celery root), and celery.

 March 19- Ficoide Glacial ("It has fleshy, lightly acidic leaves that are covered with shimmering silvery dots. The leaves are crunchy and refreshing in salads, and may also be cooked like spinach".), shallots, celtuce, escarole, lettuce (8 varieties), and parsley.

A word about the ficoide glacial. Last season it was seeded. It had a great rate of germination. It got planted. It did well in the field. It never made it to market. Why? Simple answer- the deer loved it and ate all of it every time it was planted. Well, if at first you don't succeed, try again. So here we go again. The intent is to do a better job of protecting it from the deer. Not sure what the plan is since steps were taken to protect it the first time it was eaten. Everything that was done to protect the ficoide last year was to no avail. This was also true for the first plantings of beets and Swiss chard. In past years we've had problems with deer late in the season. In farm season they were a pain from the get go. Maybe turns will be taken to sleep in the field with the dogs.

March 22- Three more varieties of onions, artichoke, more fennel, and spinach. There were 36 flats of one of the onions and fourteen each of the other two. Each cell had five seeds. Do the math, that's a lot of seed.

As the pictures below will illustrate, the estimate of it taking about three weeks to fill up the green house was inaccurate.

This has been pictured in a much earlier post. It is the schedule of seeding and allows David to keep track of what is seeded, when it is seeded, and so on.

Most seeds are covered with the regular soil mix. Some things are covered with vermiculite. In general vermiculite is a part of the soil mix and aids in the drainage within the soil- it prevents the soil mix from getting too dense and allows for the seed to be able to germinate without rotting. These are flats of lettuce that are covered with vermiculite. While most seeds will do just fine in the darkness of the soil mix, some seeds, lettuce, prefer being covered with a substance that will allow more light to get through.

This is the beginning of the third row of tables.

Two days later the third row is almost full.

This picture gives a sense of how full the green house is as of 3/22. Space is being saved on the left- 21/2 tables will be for tomatoes, peppers (hot and sweet) and eggplant. The glare at the back of the green house is due to the light reflecting off of the newly installed insulation. Why it's taken until this year to insulate is a good question for which there is not a good answer.

Never one to be left out of the action, Ernie is giving David some love and some instructions about how to seed.

Spring is coming!? As of today a 60% chance of snow for Tuesday. And so it goes.
Support your local farmer. Support sustainable agriculture. Support organic farming.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

And So It Goes

The early part of the season is marked by seeding, seeding, seeding and more seeding. Seeding is repetitive. It can seem boring (actually at times it is boring). Whoever, there is a certain meditative aspect to seeding. You concentrate on the specific task at hand, you pay attention to what you are doing and only what you are doing. This is a concept called mindfulness and it is applicable in many ways. An athlete might call it being in the zone. In seeding, if you think about all the seeds and all the flats it can be overwhelming. If you concentrate on one seed, one flat at a time you move Further along.

The soil mix. Each farmer has their own recipe and if you are interested you can find proportions and ingredients on-line. If you farm organically you need to make sure that your mix has the right balance of ingredients to provide the seed the nutrients it needs to not only germinate but also to thrive. David uses a mix of peat moss, compost, blood meal, bone meal, greensand, limestone, purlite, and vermiculite. After three days of seeding we are on the fifth batch of mix.

Hule and Ernie continue to be best buddies. Ernie, at one year, continues to be energetic with Hule, who is now 10. He continuously badgers Hule until she relents and plays with him. They provide us with a great deal of enjoyment. Ernie is the best thing that could have happened to Hule this past year.

If you go back to the previous post you can compare the pictures to see how much more seeding has been done. More onions were seeded on 3/15. Today, 3/16, Swiss chard, broccoli, cabbage, fennel, and beets were seeded. Tomorrow seeding will continue. The caveat to this is that the forecast calls for snow. 

In the spirit of St. Patrick's Day, here's a toast to a warming trend in the weather.
Think Spring!!!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Here Comes Yet Another Farm Season

Here comes a new dawn, here comes a new day
Tune up start to play, just like any other day.
Can't stop, can't be late, mustn't make the people wait.
Can't even comb my hair or even change my underwear

 Last year cleaning of seeding flats took place on March 5 and seeding started on March 12. This year the weather outside has been frightful and there was a burst pipe on the well tank. The well was fixed and some flats were washed on March 11. Seeding was going to start on March 12, but the forecast for March 13 was below freezing and it was not worth the propane to heat the greenhouse. Instead seeding started on March 14 with some scallions and onions. Seeding scallions and onions is very time consuming. With scallions 8 seeds go into each cell; 5 seeds per cell for the onions. Most other varieties of vegetables are usually 1 seed per cell, with some being 2 or 3. Thus, if you do nine flats of a variety of scallion it takes a great deal of time.

In the preceding months planning for the coming year has been taking place. What new varieties of plants to grow. What seed companies to buy the seeds. Planning the layout and organization of the fields in terms of crop rotation and which part of the field to have lie fallow. With these tasks complete, the seeding has started. Now, if the weather would just warm up and give the soil a chance to dry out the various farmers in this area, and elsewhere, will be very happy.

These are the flats of scallions and onions that were seeded on March 14.

This gives perspective on the size of the green house. Within three weeks it should be full.

The start of seeding means that the start of plowing, planting, weeding, harvesting, marketing, and complaining about the weather (oh, that's already started) is right around the corner. This is an exciting time of the season. Looking forward to seeing you at the farm and at markets.

Healthy eating to one and all. Support your local farmers. Support sustainable agriculture. Support organic farming.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

To Market To Market

For farm season 2013 Z Food Farm sold its produce at the Rittenhouse Square Farmers' Market in Philadelphia, at a weekday market in Summit NJ, at the farm on Wed. and Fri., and at four special New Amsterdam Markets in NYC (more about these markets later). In addition to the markets
Z Food Farm expanded the size of its CSA. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. A CSA is where people buy a share in a farm at the beginning of the season. Then, over the course of the season, receive a weekly bounty of produce. The value of the bounty well exceeds the amount of money that the person pays up front. For the customers this is clearly a value. For the farmer it provides cash up front to cover their expenses at the beginning of the year before income starts to come in through the market sales. In addition to the traditional model of CSA, where the farmer provides specific items on any given week, Z Food Farm has a market share model. In this model members buy 'store credit' and receive added value to their share. For example, if a customer buys a $250 market share they receive $280 worth of credit. The benefit of the farm share model is that people receive a greater value for their investment. The benefit of the market share model is that people can pick and choose what they get on any particular visit to the farm. Farm share members will need to come, or send someone if they can't make it, to receive their share. Market share members can come once a week, twice a week, or whenever they choose. Some of the produce sold at market is harvested the day of the market. Clearly harvesting can't be done on Saturday for the Rittenhouse Market, but the produce is harvested Thursday afternoon and Friday. Thus everything that is provided is as fresh as possible. With this as background, here are a few pictures of this years markets.

Jerusalem Artichoke, also known as sunchoke (due to the plants stems and flower looking similar to a sunflower), is a tuber that stores inulin rather than starch. This makes it a useful alternative for people with diabetes. It is very versatile as it can be used in as many ways as you would use a potato- thinly slice and fry, make into a soup, boil, roast in the oven. This was the first year that David grew it and it proved to be a popular item. People who were familiar with them were very happy to see them. People who were new to them and tried them were more often than not happy to have tried them and bought more at future markets.

A sad sight- as mentioned in a previous post the tractor had a broken clutch and was out of service for close to five weeks. Though it rained most of the time the tractor was gone, its absence, combined with the rain, led to a domino effect of problems. Sigh

During farm season 2011 and 2012 Z Food Farm participated at the New Amsterdam Market in NYC. The market was located in front of the old Fulton Fish Market building on the lower East Side. Sadly, and for multiple reasons, the market this year was essentially discontinued. There was a special June market and then one market a month for September, October, November, and December. Z Food Farm participated in all markets except for the December market. At this time the future of the market is unknown. For information about the history of the market, the vision for the future of the market and surrounding area, and some of the current obstacles to the future of the market go to .

Summit NJ has had a Sunday farmers' market for quite some time. It is a very successful market as the community of Summit has shown great support for all vendors and for farmers bringing their fresh produce. This year the market managers decided to start a Thursday afternoon market to supplement and compliment the Sunday market. The underlying belief was that people would be have an opportunity to procure either produce or some other items that they might otherwise not be able to obtain until Sunday. The theory of the market was good, but the market was not successful. Though it was located near the train station, the market did not generate the foot traffic necessary for the market to be successful. The people who came were happy that the market was there as they were able to get what they had run out of following their shopping at the Sunday market; exactly what the market was hoping for. Unfortunately, not enough people attended the market. At the time of this writing the future of this market is in doubt.

 Some of the produce available at market. The shishito peppers are generally found in restaurants where they are served as a tapas. The shishito is a Japanese pepper that is intended to be sauteed whole in olive oil to the point of starting to blister and turn brown. For those who are inclined, garlic can be added just as blistering commences and cooked just to the point where the garlic is done. You can then sprinkle on a little sea salt and then eat. The flavor will have gone from a basic green sweet pepper flavor to something totally different and difficult to explain and describe. However, without exaggeration, the flavor of them when cooked is amazing.

Another picture from one of the New Amsterdam markets.

Another new item for Z Food Farm for 2013 was purple sweet potatoes. David grew them an experiment and they were a huge hit. They are a deep purple inside and when cooked seem to get even darker. When cooked they have a creamy, almost fudge like texture, and are extremely flavorful.

Another new item was Chinese celery.  Both the stalks and leaves are used, and they are best used in a stir-fry, soup, or a saute. The taste is stronger than regular celery and if used in a salad starting with a small amount would be best. 

One more scene from the New Amsterdam Market. This picture was from the October market and shows quite a bit of diversity.

 As of today, March 8 the start of the season is close at hand. Hopefully the snow storms are at an end and that warmer weather will help melt the remaining snow and start to dry out the soil to help make it safe to plow. Seeding will start as soon as soon as the well tank is repaired. Yes, the season is starting off with something in need of repair. Sigh.

The other hope is that this year will be drier than last. Considering that there was record rainfall for June and near record rain for July, it is bound to be somewhat drier. Here's hoping that it will be dry enough to let all of the local farmers get their seasons off to a rousing and successful start.

Fun cooking to all.