These Dogs’ Days Are Almost Over

The onset of fall means cooler temperatures, the beginning of classes, and pumpkin-spice-everything. It also means, unfortunately, the end of our summer out at the farm. We’ve been busy harvesting crops and preparing the farm for the fall, and will soon be handing off the work to the fall interns.

It’s been a bountiful summer for our tomato crops, despite the best efforts of the hornworms to eat all the plants. We’ve had big harvests every week, maxing out at 51 pounds one week! At this point, it’s evident that the tomatoes in beds without buckwheat are out-producing the tomatoes in beds with buckwheat by a significant margin, which is interesting to note and will help us inform our planting decisions next year.

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(Leeks!)

We also took a visit to beautiful Golden Russet Farm in Shoreham, where we learned about Will and Judy Stevens’s history with the land and their business philosophy. An extra special treat was that Mike Pallozzi, a summer intern last year, is one of their summer workers this year and gave us a wonderful tour of the farm. It was interesting to hear what his experience working on a private for-profit farm was like after working on the knoll!

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In addition to our flower operation, we recently started selling our basil, since we have a large amount. Thanks to Maisie’s posting on Front Porch Forum, we’ve been able to sell our basil and flowers to both community members and people affiliated with the college!

As the growing season winds down, we’re beginning to look forward to next year. When a crop is finished, we take out the old plants and put a cover crop in their place to protect the soil over the winter, ensuring that next year’s crops will have a good place to grow. A less exciting but equally important task is pulling out any weeds that are going to seed so that next year’s crew will have fewer weeds to pull.

We’re not quite done yet, though—we have a busy final few days ahead of us, with visits from the Cornwall second graders, a MiddView trip, a Transfer & Exchange students trip, and a Sustainability Tour group. In other words, we will be using the pizza oven a lot. We’re excited to show people what we’ve been up to this summer, and especially for the second graders to see how far the pumpkins they planted have come.

Though we’re sad our summer is coming to an end, it has been both an educational and an exciting summer working at the farm. Working with Jay has been an irreplaceable experience, thanks to his knowledge, patience, and, most of all, his immense kindness. We know the farm will be in good hands this fall, but whether we’ll be abroad or on campus this coming semester, we will always come back.

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(The farm during the partial solar eclipse!)

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Knoll Knews!

Howdy hey folks! We know it’s been a little since our last update, so here’s a four-word summary of what’s been going on at the farm: tomatoes, tobacco hornworms, tears.

We’ve been spending a lot of time recently thinking about tomatoes: led by our fearless tomato enthusiast Maisie, we’ve measured the difference in tomato production from the beds in our experimental regenerative area. The conclusion? Tomatoes taste good. (We’ve been forced to eat a few.) Also, the plants seem to produce more in beds without buckwheat than in beds with it.

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Unfortunately, we’re not the only ones who have enjoyed the tomatoes this summer. We’ve been graced by an abundance of tobacco hornworms, a vibrant green caterpillar whose bright exterior belies its evil intentions. These nasty nuggets have been doing a number on our tomato plants. How dastardly! Luckily, the interns, with our hornworm enthusiast Julia leading the effort, have managed to squish most of them before they can do too much damage. We had a real treat recently when Will found a hornworm the size of a beefy finger; it was so excited to be stepped on that it squirted its insides three feet up!

Now for the tears: Emma and Helene left the farm recently. Sad! While we were sad to see them go, we are glad that they’re having fun in their new exotic locations (Copenhagen and New Jersey, respectively). However, sad tears weren’t our only tears! We cried tears of joy when Liesel joined our crew, splitting her time between doing “rock stuff” in BiHall and working at the farm. Huzzah!

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A quick business update: we’ve been selling our cut flowers on campus, and have also continued with our PYO flower operation. It has expanded so much that we’ve hired a consultant to look into offshore bank accounts, and are hoping to move toward a more international market. We’ve also enjoyed selling our produce to Atwater dining for Language Schools, and are excited to start selling to them for fall semester soon.

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We also visited Wild Roots Farm in Bristol, where Jon Turner showed us around. It was great to see his farm after he has helped us so much with ours! A highlight was catching chickens that escaped from the coop; none of us balked at the challenge, we’re no chickens!

The past few weeks, we’ve noticed lots of changes at the farm: many songbirds have left, while lots of crows have come; most summer crops are putting their energy into fruit production; and our tan lines have gotten more defined than we ever thought possible. We look forward to spending the rest of the summer on the farm with Jay and Eva!

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We Still Out Here

Surprise! We’re still here! You’ve probably been sent into a deep existential crisis without our farm updates to help you through the day, so we’ll try to fix that now.

A few weeks ago we visited Paul Horton at Foggy Meadow Farm in Benson. Paul grows a great amount of produce for farmer’s markets in Rutland, Middlebury, and Burlington. Although he farms during the summer, he specializes in winter production in greenhouses. Paul got into farming later in life, after working as a businessman for several years. Even the Weybridge Preservation Interns order his produce to be enjoyed during the year!

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We were also lucky to be able to take part in a class for the School of the Environment; the class took place at the farm, and was focused on non-human others (a category that includes plants, microorganisms in the soil, and many members of Congress). We did several activities on the farm with the students, like putting another layer on one of our Hügelkultur mounds and cleaning up an area that will be a plantable bed next year.

Last week, we held the First Annual Midd Summer Farm Festival, which was a great success. The crowds were huge, it was the biggest crowd of any Midd Summer Farm Festival ever, the people loved it, just look at the polls. Don’t listen to anybody who says otherwise. We served up 30 pizzas and a massive salad with lettuce, tomatoes, and edible flowers fresh from the farm (and that’s not fake news). There were fun people and good vibes and bumpin’ music, and we were glad to see everybody enjoying the farm.

Recently we’ve been harvesting sun gold and Ruth’s Perfect tomatoes, rainbow chard, beets, and lettuce. We also harvested lots of our garlic, which we’ll string up to dry soon. We’d like to see a vampire try to get near our farm!

We’re also going to be starting open hours for flower picking at the farm soon—it’ll be just dandy(lion). (But we also have non-dandelion flowers, including but not limited to zinnias and cosmos and zinnias and cornflowers and zinnias.) Stay tuned for updates!

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Another exciting update—we’ve expanded into the fashion industry! When harvesting garlic scapes one day, Julia and Will discovered that besides being a tasty treat, these fun curlicues can also double as chokers! Garlic scapes are the new black. We are currently pursuing a multi-million dollar deal with Gucci, so keep your eyes out for our FarmFresh 2017 fall line!

On the national level, Amazon has not yet approached us about going under their umbrella but we are expecting a call any day now. Until next time, peas.

Peas, Pizza, and (trans)Planting, Oh My!

Thursday 6/29/17

Well hello there!  It’s been a full week so far, and it’s only Thursday!  Much of our Monday was consumed by throwing a pizza lunch for Charlie Sargent.  He has been a friend of the farm and will soon be retiring from the position of Dining Services Purchasing Manager at the college.  Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs, and we ended up making almost one pizza per person.

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On Tuesday we visited the Siler’s farm to pick up a trailer full of hay for mulching.  Upon arrival, we were greeted by two very wiggly, very happy dogs named Sophie and Red. John Derrick showed us around the barn and we met a number of wide-eyed cows and calves.  Then, we headed upstairs to the hayloft and filled our trailer with hay.

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Yesterday (Wednesday) was a wonderfully sunny field work day, and we were visited by a School of the Environment class.  In addition to reorganizing the compost mounds, we transplanted basil, split chive plants, augmented a metal trellis with poplar branches, and, of course, picked peas.

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Today we visited Elmer Farm in Middlebury to get a taste (figuratively) of local agriculture. Jennifer and Spencer, the owners, have been farming here for eleven years.  Jennifer talked with us about their Community Supported Agriculture operation; they tailor the quantity of produce per share to the community members’ needs, and their offerings have expanded immensely since they first started the CSA.  Then, Spencer gave us a tour of their fields and facilities.  It was fascinating to hear about how they developed both their infrastructure and their planting schedule around the types of soil on their land and its microtopography.

Tomorrow will be bittersweet since we say goodbye to Sam, who will now be working full-time as a preservation intern.  His help has been invaluable this past month, but we know that his preservation work will be appreciated by many during the coming academic year at Weybridge house.

Notes from Aboveground, on the Farm

This has been a week that could only be described as warm, wet, and wild. With a smattering of rain mixed in with the sunny weather, we were able to get lots of field work done. We got our usual fill of weeding and thinning, and will, against all odds, have enough materials for our compost heap. We also saw some pretty cool swallowtail butterfly caterpillars hanging out on the dill.

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You’d better get bready for this next update—I promise you will loaf it. On Tuesday we visited Otter Creek Bakery’s wood-fired oven to help (watch) Ben make sourdough. We were inspired by his bread, and hope we can prove ourselves and rise to the challenge of making bread in the pizza oven.

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Additionally, we have been harvesting sugar snap peas all week! The rainy weather has given us a huge crop of peas, so we’ve harvested almost every day.  Currently, our peas are being purchased by the dining halls and Otter Creek Bakery.  In fact, Otter Creek Bakery said that they might use our peas in a special, which we’re all looking forward to seeing.

Yesterday, after a couple rain-free days, we were able to fit in some transplanting.  We carefully popped the plugs of soil and sprouts out of the flats and gently pressed dirt in around them.  Then, we watered them with an aromatic mix of organic watered-down seaweed and fish fertilizer. Now, we have neat rows of baby collards, lettuce, and brussel sprouts soaking up the sun and rain.

Until our next rainy day, au revoir!

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Meet the 2017 Summer Interns!

Will

Will is from Westford, MA and is a rising sophomore here at Midd, where he is studying English and Arabic and has yet to take a non-humanities class. He enjoys reading, cross-country skiing, and farming (he’s also a spring-fall intern), and also pretends to like running. Nothing makes him happier than the smell of tomato plants and manure in the morning, except maybe dogs. This summer at the farm, Will hopes to set a record for most weeds pulled in a three month period and also for most defined farmer’s tan/Birkenstock tan combo (he is already nearing the latter). If Will had to pick a spirit vegetable, it would probably be asparagus because even though they make your pee smell weird, they have a pretty good flavor. He is looking forward to getting his hands dirty and exploring the best state in the Union this summer. On his list of favorite farmers, Jay is numbers 1, 2, and 3.

Emma

Emma, from Reading MA, will be a Junior when she returns to Midd in the Spring after studying abroad in Copenhagen. There she will be studying Architecture and hopes to find ways to incorporate her interest in Environmental studies with sustainable design. This Summer she is working on the farm and taking part in the Foodworks program where she will be studying Food systems with Professor Molly Anderson. She likes long walks on the TAM, skiing, lacrosse, and the satisfying feeling of pulling out a quack grass root. She loves food and growing it and can not think of a better place to farm than on the knoll. Her spirit vegetable is chard because even though no one is excited to see a swiss chard saute at Ross dinner, she’s proud of the little guys for being our biggest product. After work you can find her scouting out swimming holes and hikes with sunset views, and working to get a better birk tan than maisies chaco tan. Its Jay’s world, we’re all just living in it.

Sam

Sam is a joint farm intern and preservation intern this summer, and is a rising sophomore. He is interested in breadmaking, backpacking and beekeeping, and is spending his time at MIddlebury working towards a degree in some sort of Environmental field. Originally from Denver, he hopes to assimilate into Vermont culture this summer, and hopes to win the award for best flannel, severe neck tan, or even best straw hat if he’s lucky. His spirit vegetable is probably an onion, because they are sweet and flavorful even if there is lots of crying. On the farm, he hopes to perfect his scythe twist, achieve perfect ergonomic form in his squat for corn planting, and master the art of turning in manure. He also hopes to make a sourdough loaf that bring the bakers at Otter Creek great pride.

Maisie

Maisie is a rising junior from Chicago, Illinois and is so very glad to be working at the farm this summer.  While the rolling hills and Green Mountains of Vermont are far different from her home ground (flat land and a forest of tall buildings), she likes the new land that she’s transplanted in!  She loves the feeling of putting seeds in damp soil, looking past campus to see blue ridges rising in the distance, watching thunder-storms rolling forward, and holding a plant in her hands.  Off of the farm, she can be found trying to convince friends to go swimming in rivers, dreaming about food (especially fresh fruits, baked goods, and dairy), reading slowly, or sketching.  At school, Maisie studies biology and a smattering of other subjects, from chemistry to gender studies.  She is grateful to be spending so much time outside and around green growing things this summer, and hopes to be able to continue doing so beyond the shift of summer into fall.  Her spirit vegetable is arugula/salad rocket and her favorite awkward tan line is a crisp chaco-tan.

Vanessa

Vanessa Dikuyama is a rising senior from Medellin, Colombia. She likes growing, making and eating food, and the interpersonal connections that come with it. She is crazy about lentils and the greens (and weeds) that she munches on while working on the field. The most satisfying thing, she claims, is pulling dandelions and horseradish roots from the ground. Besides food, Vanessa enjoys dancing, going on hikes and looking at architecture blogs. Vanessa is a farm intern for the spring and fall of 2017 and is working at the garden for a couple of weeks at the beginning of the summer. She is not escaping the heat of the summer months though. On the contrary, she is searching for warmer lands in her home country during the summer. Vanessa’s spirit fruit is mango and her favorite terrible tan is the raccoon tan.

Julia

Julia, who is from Marblehead, MA, is a rising Junior at Midd. She loves being in Vermont (or as her dad calls it, “God’s Country”) and enjoying the mountain views, which are a nice change of scenery from Marblehead’s seaside landscape. At school, Julia is a Sociology/Anthropology and Political Science double major. She loves nibbling on strawberries at the farm and always enjoys pulling up quack grass roots from the garden beds. Julia is a farm intern for the summer of 2017, but other than farming she enjoys throwing javelin for the track team at Midd, walking on the TAM, skiing, and scouting out swimming holes. Julia’s spirit vegetable is broccoli, and she’s been told her hair has a similar texture to it. Her favorite terrible tan is the farmer’s tan and, of course, her favorite farmer is Jay Leshinsky.

Helene

Helene Rowland is a rising sophomore from New Jersey, and she’s a foodworks intern working at the farm for the summer. While she has worked on a farm before, she mainly worked with pigs, and so working with vegetables is a little intimidating. That being said, throwing for the track team, working as an FYC, and whitewater kayaking has given her the confidence to face her fears. A large fan of oatmeal, she hopes to use natural remedies to avoid sunburns, but she hopes to acquire a good mid calf before the season is over. Helene’s spirit vegetable is spinach, because it reminds her to ~stay fresh~. She is hoping to translate her skills onto the farm into her environmental economics degree, where she will convince companies to go green, as well as secure Jay’s role as the head of Vermont’s agricultural board.

Mamma Pea-a!

While the first few weeks of stormy weather gave way to a few hot days, it’s gone back to rain, so we’ve decided it’s a good time for an update:

Last week we harvested some salanova lettuces, Johnny-jump-ups, chive flowers, and tarragon for reunion. We also had fun meeting the alumni and showing them around the farm!

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We’ve accomplished most of what we’d hoped to get done in early June. We’ve gotten high rates of germination on our Brussel Sprouts, Chives, and Basil, and are close to transplanting them into rows outside the hoop house. Our onions and garlic are almost at maturity, and we might have some garlic scapes ready in a few days. Our beans all the way from Bhutan have started to come up, and are doing exceedingly well. We’re almost at the point of having true leaves even though it has only been a few days since they were planted. Perhaps most exciting, we’ve gotten a few strawberries; unfortunately, they haven’t made it farther than our mouths.

This past week, the interns and Jay worked with Jon Turner of Wild Roots Farm to create a Hügelkultur mound. Caked in manure, the interns layered Poplar wood, stumps, manure, woodchips, compost, and hay to create an inviting spot for new growth. The Hügel mounds are a permaculture technique, used to create sustainable and self-sufficient agricultural ecosystems. In a year or two the bed should be ready for planting, and the hope is that it will be an über-sustainable, no-watering-needed bed.

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We also met with Ross Conrad, a local organic beekeeper who tends the bees at our farm. He’s written the only book on organic beekeeping and we’re very lucky to learn from him. He showed us the hives and explained his philosophy about beekeeping—by not wearing any protective equipment, he says that he forces himself to be mindful of the bees and their tiny hats. We can’t wait to harvest some honey in the fall!

Children! Kiddos! Munchkins! Hooligans! We had the Cornwall second grade class at the farm last week, and they planted pumpkins and were also super cute.

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In the upcoming weeks, we will be reaching out to work with others in the food system. In the upcoming week, we will be working with otter creek to learn how to make bread in the pizza oven. We also will be travelling to Golden Russet Farm in the hopes to learn about organic farming on a larger scale.

Stop by if you have any questions or just want to see our smiling faces, or if you want to volunteer!

 

Seedlings & Patience

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Our labors are starting to pay off!  After hours of weeding and pampering the seeds we’ve planted, there are beautiful, two-leaved sprouts coming tentatively out of the seed flats and garden beds.  Most often, the leaves are rounded, like flat green raindrops lifted on tiny twigs of green, though sometimes they are curved inwards, like a bean or a heart.  Occasionally, there is still the shell of a seed hanging on to the leaf-edge, which I find particularly satisfying to liberate the sprout from.

Keeping watch as the seeds sprout around us is one of the ways in which we can cultivate an attentive relationship with our landscape–cherishing the growth of these plants like small birthdays and providing an environment conducive to their growth, while still respecting and preserving the soil.

Waiting for the sprouts to arrive has been an exercise in patience.  To get evenly spaced rows of zinnias, beans, or chard calls for building up soil beds that have been shifted over the past year by many tending hands and compacting feet, stringing lines above the beds to attempt evenly spaced furrows, and kneeling to plant and carefully cover the seeds (sometimes small and prone to flying away on a breeze).  Yet, it all seems worth it when dry soil beds come alive with green.

Another Day, Another Dandelion

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Oh goodness.  Another day, another dandelion.  It seems that now that I’ve been weeding them, they pop up everywhere.  Dandelions in the pea-plant beds, dandelions by the sidewalk, dandelions outside of Weybridge house, dandelions in my sleep.  They are such a resilient species because their root goes deep and is hard to pull out of the soil completely.  Half the time when you’re attempting to uproot one, only the leaves pull off and you’re left contemplating how many days it will be until you have to try to defeat the same plant again.  

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It’s so easy to see dandelions as an enemy to be battled, but pulling these weeds isn’t so different from trying to transplant a cherished sprout.  You try to lift it out of the ground with as many of its roots intact as possible, so that it can keep growing in its new spot.  The only difference is that these sprouts are meant for harvest later.

I wonder what a bed would look like if it contained all of the dandelions we’ve uprooted, transplanted rather than composted.  Maybe it would be a bright yellow ruffle on the knoll, a curved smile of plants so hard to pull.

 

New Summer, New Farm

Hello from all of the Summer 2017 Farm Interns!  We just got here last Tuesday and are already so glad to be getting our hands dirty, weeding, and planting at the Sustainable Farm. Rainy weather has not slowed our progress and work has been continued from the Spring season, with projects underway indoors and out on the fields. So far, we’ve planted potatoes, melons, a million zinnias, sunflowers, beans of all sorts, colorful swiss chard, basil, tomatoes, peppers, three varieties of squash, nasturtiums, buckwheat, more zinnias, sweet potatoes, a couple extra rows of zinnias, and soon pumpkins!

New to the farm this year is a small apple orchard and a few plum and pear trees. Additionally, we are working with Jon Turner of Wild Roots Farm to farm no-till beds and make a hugelkulture mound, which stacks a variety of materials to store water and create nutrients for new plants.

With the pizza oven project complete, we hope to use this space more, open it up to the community, and take on new projects. When we aren’t planting and harvesting, we may build a wood shed, a new entrance, and replace the big hoop house roof.

Stay tuned to hear more about this year’s interns and veggies to be harvested. Also, all are welcome at the farm.  If you’d like to say hi, we’re around 8:00-3:30 Monday-Friday and would love to tell you all about the things we’ve planted!

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