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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!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

NOTES FROM THE FIELD – A Week in the Life of the Field Crew by Laurie Young

Farmer Amanda discusses production at Lyman during the recent Farming in Waltham program.

Monday, June 30th, we meet at 8am by the wash station as we do every morning. It's me, field crew leader Laurie, and the fab four field crew (Dan, Paul, Rae and Ruby). Amanda is waiting to give us our marching orders for the morning harvest. We start each weekday with harvesting. It is the coolest part of the day and best time to get crops out of the field, through wash up, and into the coolers where they await distribution. Mondays tend to be our smallest harvest day. We start in Lyman and harvest around 500 squash, zucchini and cucumbers. The plants are growing quickly and the fruit seems to be growing even faster. Once we've unloaded those into the coolers we collect garlic scapes. We'll be harvesting the garlic next Monday so this will be our last scapes harvest. So far this season we've harvested over 3,000 garlic scapes!

We've squeezed our morning break in and now it's time for lunch. Thank goodness because it's sunny and already in the mid-80's.

After lunch Dan and I head over to Lyman to repair and move some fencing. Seems a neighboring ground hog has decided to help themselves to some cantaloupe plants. Amanda spotted one over the weekend and the evidence is clear in the chewed up nubs that were once stems with leaves. We're hoping our chicken wire and wooden stakes will deter our unwelcome guest. The sun on our backs is brutal, but we both try to stay hydrated and focused. Rae, Ruby and Paul have their hands in the hot soil (heat from above, heat from below) as they transplant in the Field Station West.

Four o'clock, it's time to go home.

Tuesday, July 1st, we head to Lyman to get Napa cabbage, bok choy, scallions, radishes and turnips. It's already clear it will be another hot day. We seem to be moving slowly already and it's quickly becoming apparent we probably won't get through our harvest list by noon. The bok choy looks a little nibbled on but still delicious, we're finishing the last bed of this planting of enormous scallions and today is our first pick of the turnips. Everything in Lyman seems to be growing like crazy. We get our harvest back to the main farm and into wash up. Then we drive out to Field Station West to cut 182 fennel bulbs. The roots on the fennel are getting bigger and harder to cut. My serrated harvest knife keeps hitting rocks as I try to cut through in one push. It's becoming more of a sawing action.

After lunch it's already a sunny, 88 degrees outside. I'm going to take a look at completing the irrigation set-up for our field around the corner. Ruby helps Anna, one of WFCF's Assistant Growers, with some direct seeding in the fields while Dan, Paul and Rae continue yesterdays transplanting. I like working on irrigation. This is new territory for me and I enjoy learning a new task.

Four o'clock, it's time to go.

Wednesday, July 2nd, we head out to our field at the UMass property to cut 400 heads of lettuce. Like everything else, the lettuce is big. It is also home to countless spiders that like to dwell in the lettuce leaves. To harvest we push the lettuce head to the side to expose the root and with one swift slice we separate the lettuce from the root in the ground. If it's a good cut all of the dirty, slimy outer leaves will fall right off, but sometimes we have to make another cut to ensure the majority of root is gone and with it the less pleasant looking leaves. We then flip the heads of lettuce upside down to make them easier to see in the bed so that none are left behind during pickup. Following the lettuce, we harvest endive and escarole, Swiss chard and 175 beets. Now it's time to head to Lyman.

Once at Lyman we harvest kale, collards and kohlrabi. We need 75 bunches of kale, 50 bunches of collards, and 150 green and purple kohlrabi. Like the fennel, kohlrabi has a tough root to cut - not as thick as the fennel root but definitely strong. After these crops we each pick our tool, clippers or harvest knife, and begin on the squash, zucchini and cucumber harvest. The plants are so big now that I have to wear my long-sleeved shirt to protect me as I reach into these scratchy plants. Their prickly stems and leaves make my arms itch when they touch my skin. The yield from these plants keeps increasing, as does the size of the squash, zucchini and cucumbers.

After lunch Amanda and I go back to Lyman to finish the zucchini harvest (forgot my long-sleeved shirt - paid the price). This is the first time all season we've had to extend the harvest after lunch. By now the temperature outside is 91 degrees with a heat index of 102. It's hot and sunny! When we get back to the main farm, I spend the rest of the afternoon working on irrigation. Ruby has been working with Anna again on direct seeding in the fields, and after that she joins Dan and Paul in the greenhouse to work on seeding in trays for more seedlings that will later be transplanted. In the afternoon Rae is working in the distribution barn. I'm sure it's good to see happy shareholders walk away with the beautiful food you've just harvested that morning!

Four o'clock, it's time.

Thursday, July 3rd, the week is winding down. After meeting at the wash station we head out to Field Station Center and harvest lettuce, endive, escarole and Swiss chard. Next we tackle the 191 fennels and then gather 196 beet bunches. I like harvesting beets. One, because I like eating beets, and two, it's fun to pull these huge and beautiful red orbs from the soil. We put three or four in a bunch, depending on the size of each beet, band them together and drop them in the tractor wheel tracks. As we finish the harvest we carry bins down the track and pick up the bunches making sure not to overload the bins - beets are heavy. After dropping those crops at the wash station we head out to Lyman to harvest kale, collards, turnips and kohlrabi. This is the fourth sunny, hot day in a row and the humidity has been rising all week. We are all drenched and red-faced and ready for lunch.

After lunch the temperature is 90 with a heat index of 99 degrees. We continue our work tired but undeterred. Ruby, Dan, Rae and Anna head to the greenhouse to load plants into the truck for transplanting. Ruby will then have her turn in the distribution barn. Dan, Rae and Anna take turns driving the tractor with the transplanter attached. The other two transplant while riding on the transplanter. It is nice to sit for a bit but still hard work. Paul and I are in for an afternoon of "tying tomatoes". The reason to tie tomatoes - tomato plants that are staked up and tied will grow and produce better tomatoes that are easier to pick. Untied plants will grow along the ground, causing the plants to tangle and the tomatoes to rot, and can lead to disease.

Four o'clock...

Friday, July 4th, we head straight to Lyman to get through our harvest as quickly as possible. The deal is, as soon as harvest is completed our workday is done - Happy Fourth of July! We start with collards and 100 bunches of radishes. Our grand finale will be the squash, zucchini and cucumbers. We harvest 1,001 total and are finished by 10:00am!

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