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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!

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

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