Welcome to our blog!

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!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Notes from the Field - All Star Break

The short break for baseball is no break on the farm.  It's high season, and it always seems to be the week when it's over 90 degrees with no rain in the forecast. Our neighbors to the west and north have been slammed with rain, but the spot thunderstorms that have been popping up in eastern Massachusetts have missed us so far. The last week when we got over a half inch of rain was back in mid-June, and we've had less than a quarter inch in total so far this month. Vegetables need about an inch of water a week to grow the way we'd like them to. Do the math, and it quickly becomes clear that we've been doing a lot of irrigating.

As soon as the weed crew finishes a project, we scramble to move the big aluminum irrigation pipes to get water on the newly exposed plants so that they won't expire in the heat. As fast as we can harvest, we move the crops to the wash station to be plunged in cold water and packed in the 38 degree cooler. Zannah and Sutton fire up their pumps throughout the week to keep drip irrigation flowing to the peppers, eggplant, squash, cucumbers, melons and tomatoes at the Lyman and Gateways fields. It's hard weather to work in, but it's good weather for hot-weather crops, if they can get enough water. On the other hand, it is tough weather for crops like chard, lettuce and kale, as well as the broccoli and cauliflower we put in over the last two weeks. Our first planting of greens is suffering in the dry weather, but we're watering the second planting like crazy to try to get it to move along for an August harvest.

The good news is that this upcoming week of hot, dry weather will help keep the late blight that was found in Western Massachusetts last week at bay; the organism that causes late blight, a devastating disease of tomatoes and potatoes, does not thrive in hot weather. Other diseases, like basil downy mildew, and pests, like onion thrips, Mexican bean beetle, flea beetle and potato leaf hopper, don't seem to mind the heat. This season, we've entered into a new relationship with the University of Massachusetts Extension Service in which they visit us every two weeks to scout the farm for pest and disease issues and make recommendations to help us deal with them. As a result, we know a great deal about all the issues our crops are having this year (onion maggot! cabbage root maggot! pythium! heat damage followed by alternaria spread by irrigation water! thrips! tomato fungal disease!) in a season in which we seem to have hit the jackpot of those issues. Our continuing education in plant pathology and entomology, while fascinating, is also a little discouraging, since it usually involves a recommendation to spray one of the two effective insecticides we're allowed to use as organic growers or to rotate the crop far away from its current location for many years.

This week also marks the beginning of our Outreach Market in downtown Waltham. The Market, now in its sixth year, is our most powerful tool for doing the important work for which the farm was founded -- helping provide access to healthy food for all people, regardless of income. With the help of donations from our members, including CSA shareholders, we work with local social service agencies who have connections with Waltham's low-income population to distribute vouchers to their clients for a free bag of vegetables at the Market. Folks who don't have vouchers can purchase a bag of vegetables for five dollars, filling it to the brim with their choice of whatever veggies we have available that week. People who happen by and are curious about the market get lots of information about the farm and the purpose of the market -- and if they still feel like they qualify for a five dollar bag of vegetables, they get one, no questions asked. Thanks to Martha Creedon and the Waltham Farmers' Market, we can also accept EBT payments for vegetables at the market. More than $45,000 worth of produce moved through the Outreach Market last season. It is a project of which we are very proud and to which we are deeply committed, even in a challenging season.

Weeds, water, diseases, markets, lots of plants waiting to go into the ground -- no, it's no break, it's mid-season. We're hopeful that soon the harvests will take off and we'll have less time to worry -- I mean, think. Until then, we'll enjoy this moment of midsummer when, as Hal Borland wrote, "the beat of time is like the throb of a healthy heart, strong, steady and reassuring...it is the richness and the ripeness of the earth again made manifest. And man participates, if he will, not as proprietor but as a participant in life itself."

Enjoy the harvest,
Amanda, for the farm crew

No comments: