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Welcome to our blog! Learn about our farm operation, public programs, and the people behind our work through the Notes from the Field and Education sections. Peruse the Recipes section for some staff favorites.

Waltham Fields Community Farm (incorporated as Community Farms Outreach, Inc.) is a nonprofit farming organization focusing on sustainable food production, fresh food assistance, and on-farm education. For more information about Waltham Fields check out our website!

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Full Strength of July


It seems as though the season is moving along at such a quick pace.  It's already the second week of July!  Cooler weather crops have come and gone, and we are settling surely into the summertime.  We are nearing the end of greenhouse seeding for the season (just two weeks left!)...thus closing the spring and looking ahead to the fall
as we start to plant autumnal brassicas.  I was amazed, standing in the field the other afternoon with Erinn and Anna as we checked on the recently transplanted broccoli seedlings: they're taking root so fast!

The crew seems to be mimicking that rooting behavior.  Last week we welcomed a fourth field crew member Andre to the team and it feels like we are really hummin' now.  The jokes and camaraderie are as plentiful as the harvest.  We've enjoyed fresh cucumber popsicles made by Stacey, and ended one Friday with an intense race to plant celery.  We split into two teams, and among all of us we planted two 200' beds in under fifteen minutes!  Imagine eight sweaty farmers at the end of their week, bent over planting, yelling, laughing, and moving faster than tractors, all within inches of each other.  Strategizing, competition and motivation were at an all-time high.  It was neck and neck to the end and totally incredible.  And, in case you were wondering, my team won...

            Despite the dry weather, the farm looks lush right now.  The squash and zucchini plants are deep green and huge, and I've never seen such consistently beautiful lettuce.  Both our Lyman and Weston fields are in the groove as well, and the potato plants are up to my knees! Some highlights of the past week have felt like benchmarks.  Dan and Erinn finished tying the first round of tomatoes, and we began the garlic harvest last week.  I won't say too much, but it's coming out of the ground and looking impressive.  The flower field is blooming and every day I fall more in love with the snapdragons.  We are watering nonstop.  I must say I am feeling the full strength of July now.
As we make our way into another warm week, I remind myself of the ebb and flow of this work.  There are patterns and rhythms, joys and frustrations.  Sweltering days and moments of reprieve.  It seems as though we are finding our stride now.  Erinn asked me the other day what my favorite thing to do on the farm is... I simply can't choose.  Since April, I have learned so much about farming, and while our days follow a pattern, there's always something new, whether it be a small victory or an interesting challenge.  The first harvest of the morning is always my favorite and I hope you enjoy it on your plates as much as I enjoy harvesting it from the field.
 
Until next time ~     Janelle, for the crew

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Notes from the Field: Pictures of Summer

From my nine seasons on this wonderful farm I have lots of photographs. I have been here so long that I have pictures that are actually printed out on paper! (That's how we used to do it.) I have lots of photos of the initial days of spring, onions and tiny brassicas germinating in the greenhouse, picture perfect lettuce starts, the orderly beauty of the first tractor work of the season, cutting furrows directly into winter, exposing the promise inherent in freshly tilled soil. I have photos of favas beans emerging, freshly flame weeded carrots popping up in perfect, clean rows and beautiful cucurbit plantings domed in deep green lines with gaudy yellow flowers showing beneath their foliage. 

But my photos chronologically usually end right about now and usually pick up again sometime in mid-October, when the light starts to slant away and the beginning of the end appears on the horizon. I have lots of photos in May and June, lots in October and November, and a tiny handful of July and August.
This is because now is 'go time' for your farmers, even for part time farmers like me. For the next two-three months we are flat out: greenhouse seeding, transplanting, weeding and cultivating, making beds so we can keep planting, watering (watering!!!) and harvesting, harvesting, harvesting. Picking, washing and packing the beautiful bounty of our work, to fill the CSA barn for distributions and to provide for many in need in our communities.

It is a wonderful time of year, and yet it's difficult for me to stop and snap a few pictures, unrelated to pictures of broken things that need to be fixed (what is that part number...?) or pictures of unfamiliar insects or plant disease (whoa, what is that?).

The season is chugging along here, nearly July and hard to believe. Our wonderful seasonal crews are getting tan and trained and faster and better at all of the things that we're throwing at them. It's a joy to see so many people back at the farm after the months of solitary work, adding staff through the spring and then finally an explosion of people as the first shares of the season hits the stand. This year
has been particularly enjoyable for me so far. I credit our staff and a healthy dose of sunshine, and a great thanks for the wonderful people in my life. We are all nose down right now, and will be for the next several months, and we will be tired and sore and sunburned. But this job makes it easy to feel like it's worth it and I'm hoping that this is the year that I get a few mid-summer shots, tomatoes ripening, cukes and squash, melons vining out, chilis...you get the picture.
Enjoy the harvest,

For all of the crew,

Dan

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Summer Solstice - a poem from 2005 by founder Oakes Plimpton

Summer Solstice

Full moon, evening star out on the night before the Solstice.
Summer is already here though, contrary to the weatherman;
Flowers blooming, warm days - OK cloudy and cool this June,
But nice and hot this very day!

Is it not too ordinary around here?!
No all night Scandinavian bacchanal where the sun never sets!
Could we build cairns of stones and have the drama of ritual dance?
We can rise at sunrise at Robbin's Farm and say a few well-chosen words.
But will it live up to primitive ritual - to the Druids of Stonehenge!?

Do you not wish you lived then??
When I was seventeen I attended a Shoshone sun ceremony,
All night long drums and dance in a great tent
Until the sun rose in the East. Then the great Chief spoke!
Who shall speak for us?? Well, we will gather still and see the sun arise.

Robbins Farm, once a farm, is a park on a hill with a view of all of Boston. 6/5/05



Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Notes From The Field: Sunshine

Summer time is upon us in full bloom and I must say when I step back, breathe, and look at the whole picture, the farm is absolutely radiant.  The sun is now at its highest point in the sky extending its rays with great intensity upon each and every being below.  Last week the sun made itself known.  It's that time of year when we must pull out the big hats, the sun lotion, and hydrate.  Even the greenhouses must wear sun protection.  The shade cloths will go up this week so that the seedlings can tolerate the heat to come.  This is the time of year when our farming days come the closest to the length of the daylight.  It would be neat to see a time lapse of all the places we go and the work we do throughout the day: we are like humming birds, never stopping to rest our wings. 
Each morning Janelle and I harvested lettuce at our Lyman Fields, rushing to get the harvest done to be back before the field crew begins at 8am. The field crew was the newest edition to the staff last week and is making the transition into farm life in June: harvest and a lot of transplanting.  The mornings start off cool but before we know it the sweaters are off and a sweat is already broken.  Erinn and Naomi harvested the last of the lettuce for the Waltham Public Schools.  Radishes are beginning to bulb up and the bok choy is a bit bigger than the last generation. 

The garlic scapes we picked in the morning were so juicy and aromatic that even that evening in my yoga class I could smell them as I came into downward-facing dog.  I'm glad I love the smell of garlic!
We were able to plant the rest of the peppers and cantaloupe last week at our fields in Weston.  Our 4th generation of beets went in at Lyman as well as the eggplant thanks to a volunteer group through Boston Cares.  At our Waltham site we put in round two of cucumbers as well as okra and more lettuce.  On Saturday we had an amazing turn out for our biannual Crop Mob - we were able to collect and put away all the bags, hoops, and floating row cover from the spring brassica plantings.  This was a huge feat and had been weighing on our minds.  
Crop Mobsters rescuing the Swiss chard! 

Now we will be able to fertilize, cultivate, and water the kale, collards, and cabbages.  In addition, we weeded two beds of Swiss chard and 5 beds of carrots.  It is refreshing to see how people who have never met each other can come together and work together to create such a change in the landscape.  Thank you all so much for supporting this event.  If you weren't able to make it we will be hosting one more on July 23rd.
June is a challenging time of year in that we have an overwhelming amount of work to do, but more so in that it is a time of transition.  With each week harvest increases in size, time, and space.  We are heading into the hot, sunny and dry weather when we must think constantly about irrigation.  There is still seeding to be done both in the greenhouses and in the fields.  Transplanting must continue at a steady rate as well as everything that leads up to it.  And don't forget the weeds.  They are fierce and seem to jump out of nowhere when you aren't looking.  They are sneaky that's for sure.  But through these challenging times comes transformation.  There is the reward of knowing we work hard and the sense of accomplishment that comes with our dedication.  We are always learning and through this a deep sense of community forms.  We work closely together and we are like family.  
Kamelia, Lauren, Erinn and Shannon bring out fixin's for homemade ice cream
sandwiches to celebrate Naomi's birthday during lunch break.
I feel grateful for the people I work with and for the opportunity to work with the land and so close to our food.  I just want to say thank you for all the support from the farm staff and the members of Waltham Fields Community Farm.  It's so easy to get caught up in day-to-day details. 

I'm learning that it's important to observe through clear and calm eyes and remember to take time to look back on where we have been.  Remember when there were almost no leaves on the trees and the fields were barren only a couple months ago?  And also to bring ourselves to the present of where we are today, once again the fields bursting with a multitude of the color green, full of growth and bounty.  The rhythm of the farm life continues.
Looking forward to seeing some of you at the next Saturday pick up!  Enjoy the harvest,
Anna
Assistant Farm Manager
For the Farm Crew

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Notes From The Field: Push and Pull

The past week has been all about finding our harvest rhythm again and these smaller early harvests make it a bit easier for us to do that. Just like that, full days that can be dedicated to bed prep, transplanting, cultivating or greenhouse work are gone. Harvesting is rewarding work and this transition is a great one to be in the midst of, but it does take some more mental gymnastics and shifting of expectations to juggle all of the other work needed to ensure we have crops to harvest in 6, 12 or 20 weeks from now. Now that the CSA has begun, we'll be harvesting every morning, working together to get in tender greens before the heat sets in and hustling through the late morning to wrap things up by lunch. Time flies in the afternoon as we race to get in transplants, put plastic mulch down for another round of cucumbers or seed 30 trays of Swiss chard in the greenhouse. All throughout the mornings, I'm invigorated when I look out across a field to see weed crew extricating kale from giant amaranth or teasing tiny carrots away from just germinating lamb's quarters. They came out of the gates strong this past week and hand weeded or hoed roughly 10,000 row feet...
...in other words, they weeded... 
almost 2 miles of the farm!

Dan took advantage of the great cultivating weather we've had (hot, dry, windy) and zipped around killing weeds with the Super As, then took it down a few notches to flame weed the carrots, which is most effective when walking at a snail's pace. In the words of Robert Frost, we have many more miles (of weeding) to go this season, and your help would be such a boost if you can make it out to Crop Mob this Saturday. We're hoping for a critical mass of volunteers to make a big impact on our weed population, so come on out to the farm if you have some free time between 9am-noon this Saturday. Stay a little while after for some tasty snacks from Basil Tree catering. The difference that a few extra hands can make during the beginning of weed-bonanza season is tremendous and helps make our crops healthy and vigorous; it also helps our weed crew stay happy! 

Anna, Erinn, Janelle, and the early season garlic. 
This week's share will have some beautiful red and green butterhead lettuce and Swiss chard, both of which we hope to have on the stand pretty consistently throughout the season. Garlic scapes and radishes will make their debut, and will be an option in your share the next couple of weeks. I'm a big fan of the chicory family and heads of frisee will be the first of a few crops from that family that we'll be harvesting over the coming weeks. (If you don't like it raw try it sautéed with garlic scapes, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.) Kale, bok choy and spinach will round things out. On the horizon we've got a few nice plantings of beets coming on, along with some very baby summer squash that should be ready for picking soon. Pick your own crops are coming along nicely and we'll see some more peas and herbs added to the list soon. For this week though, I hope you enjoy the quintessential taste of early CSA with the sugar snap peas. I also hope you'll find some stillness and solace in the quiet rows of green and coming abundance while you're out in the fields this week.


With Gratitude,
Erinn, for the farm team

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Notes from the Field - Fall Song


Obligingly, the weather and light have made abrupt changes, ushering in the end of our summer season together.  The golden sunlight at 4pm yesterday was beautiful but weak and waning.  A heavy frost, even ice, lingered in the long shadows in the fields throughout the morning after a low of 23 degrees on Sunday night.  NOAA has officially called it the end of the growing season in the Northeast. 
 
We're moving towards our darkest day, more rapidly now it feels, only to immediately begin the tilt, orbit and rotation to our longest one once we reach it.  We still have a lot of food to harvest, store and distribute through our November/December Winter CSA (purchase your Winter Share today!), to the local schools, and for donations to food assistance programs in the region - but the cold is definitely upon us.  Thank you for being a part of this farm; I hope that the season was as enjoyable and delicious for you as it was for us.
 
This winter, we'll hash out the lessons we've learned from this season and get some much needed rest, readying to greet you again next year, just days away from the summer
solstice.  In the meanwhile, take a moment to savor Mary Oliver's poignant articulation of this transitional time of year.  Stay warm, be well and know that we are grateful to have you as a part of the Waltham Fields community.

For the Farm Crew,
Erinn Roberts, Farm Manager


Fall Song by Mary Oliver
Farm Manager Erinn harvesting sweet fall carrots!


Another year gone, leaving everywhere
its rich spiced residues: vines, leaves,

the uneaten fruits crumbling damply
in the shadows, unmattering back

from the particular island
of this summer, this NOW, that now is nowhere

except underfoot, moldering
in that black subterranean castle

of unobservable mysteries - roots and sealed seeds
and the wanderings of water. This

I try to remember when time's measure
painfully chafes, for instance when autumn

flares out at the last, boisterous and like us longing
to stay - how everything lives, shifting

from one bright vision to another, forever
in these momentary pastures

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Notes from the Field - Autumnal Greetings and Partings

This week you have probably noticed dramatic changes in the farm landscape--tomato stakes have been pulled, large chunks of tomato and brassica fields have been mowed, cover crop is growing strong after the 5+ inches of rain we received ten days ago.  Normally, this time of year we're keeping our eye on the many beds of roots that we're counting on for the Winter CSA Share, looking to strike a balance between giving them time in the cold weather to sweeten up but avoiding the decimation that we know our local vole and goose populations are capable of.  More recently our big concern turned out to be the cabbage field.  Knowing that many inches of rain was forecasted, we realized that the tender, flat drum head cabbages (aptly named Tendersweet) would all burst with any extra bit of moisture.  We harvested half the field one day, and the rest the next.  As it turned out, the other green cabbages and one variety of red were also on the verge of bursting and they quickly made it onto the next episode of what Roy deemed our farm reality TV show, "Cabbage Rescue".  We're usually maxed out for cold storage during this time of year, but having a cooler full of cabbages this early in October makes it feel particularly tight.  Luckily, they're a crop that will hold in the right conditions for many months, and I'm feeling relieved to know that we have them safely out of the field.

In addition to cabbages, you're starting to see the autumn greens really rolling in, most of which tend to fall into the "farmers' favorite" category-the unique deliciousness of broccoli raab and mustard greens is a much talked about topic during the morning harvest.  Unfortunately, some of our fall roots have made a poor showing this year.  We seeded parsnips two or three times through early to mid-summer, with no luck at all.  They're a finicky germinator and though we usually get something from a planting, this year's hot and dry weather seemed to be too much for those little wisps of seeds to find their potential.  Rutabagas and purple top turnips also took a hit from the extreme weather, and while they germinated and their greens have been looking great, the root formation is very spotty.  Much as we tried to get water rotated through the farm consistently, it was a big challenge to get enough moisture in a year when most fields needed two weekly rounds of irrigation.  But salad turnips and red radishes have come along nicely throughout the fall.  Leeks have been stellar, and you'll see them once again this week, as well as some delicious garlic.

The most dramatic event of the week will happen quietly on the farm, when Zannah Porter works her final day with us on Saturday.  Zannah joined us in 2012 after spending a couple of years at Land's Sake farm in Weston.  She ran the gauntlet in her interview, sitting down with Amanda, Andy, Dan and myself.  We all knew afterwards that she could be an important addition and complement to the farm, and four years later, you can see that we were proven correct. By her second season, she was managing the Gateways property in Weston, which has remained her focus in subsequent years.  She has also taken careful care of our equipment fleet, staying on top of maintenance and researching and making new purchases to increase efficiency and production.  Zannah has cared deeply about and taken deep care of Waltham Fields from the start and working with her has been one of the highlights of my time here.  She has a strong appreciation for the natural and non-human world going on around her, and farming is just one expression of that.  By working with Zannah, we've all vicariously enjoyed canoe trips through Maine, hikes in the White Mountains, childhood romps through Virginian creeks and woods, stints working for a white water rafting company and all sorts of other adventures.  And then of course, there's Banjo, the favorite farm dog of the past four years. Both of them will be missed dearly, but we couldn't be happier for her to take on her next adventure as the head Farm Manager at Powisset Farm.  This farm won't be the same without her, so if you see her around the fields this week, give her a big thank you.

Erinn Roberts
Farm Manager