Provider Farm

From our fields, for your family


August 28, 2016

This is the time of year when shareholders start to ask when the share ends. The last share week is the first week of November. We're just a little over half way done and have lots more food coming!

This Week's Share

Lettuce will be making its way back into the share. We robbed the cradle for some mini heads last week and they should start to size up more as the weeks progress.

We continue to see evidence of the impending fall in the share, this week in the form of spaghetti squash. Popular with our shareholders,Spaghetti squash is an unusual winter squash. Mild in flavour, the flesh of the squash isn't mushy like butternut, but is stringy when baked and scraped out of it's skin like spaghetti. To cook one, just cut it in half and scoop out the seeds, then flip it over on a baking sheet and bake at 450 until you can easily scrape out the insides with a fork. I like to top ours with a hash of summer squash, eggplants and tomatoes fried up with onions and whatever fresh herbs you have on hand. Summer crops and fall crops together! This is my favorite time of year for eating.

Recipe of the Week: 

Spaghetti squash casserole

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup cottage or ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella
  • parmesan for topping
  • 1 cup fine bread crumbs
  • oregano, parsley, basil, thyme, and other herbs to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Halve the squash and scoop out seeds. Bake face down on oiled sheet until it is easily pierced by a
fork, about 30 min. Let stand until cool enough to handle, then scoop out pulp and place in large bowl.
3. Meanwhile, heat butter and sauté onions, garlic, and mushrooms with herbs, salt and pepper. When
onions are soft, add tomatoes and continue to cook until most of the liquid evaporates.
4. Stir this mixture into squash pulp with remaining ingredients except parmesan.
5. Spread into buttered 2-quart casserole. Top with parmesan.
6. Bake uncovered, 30-40 minutes. Makes 4-6 servings.

Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen

Christmas in August

Spuds are us!
Spuds are us!

Dear Friends,

Some truly stellar days and a really beautiful week of farming. After so many weeks of heat and humidity, it was nice to get a break. We even had some nights that were down right chilly, with temperatures dipping into the low 50’s. The rustle of the leaves and some bright clear, cool mornings are giving off tiniest hint of fall. Even just the promise of fall is enough to put a smile on our faces and a spring back in our step. It’s always exciting when the hooded sweat shirts come back out and shorts go away. I love the change of seasons. It’s one of my favorite things about farming. The constant change and transition of one thing to the next. We transition from hakurei turnips and sugar snap peas to melons and tomatoes, then from melons and tomatoes to winter squash and potatoes. The crops change, and the tasks change. Fall might be on the horizon but it’s certainly not here yet, by the end of the week the heat and pretty much returned and we were back sweating in our t shirts.

Earlier than ever before we wrapped up our potato harvest this week. Wanting to take advantage of my Mom watching Shep, and our additional summer helpers, we decided to get started on the potatoes a little earlier this year. Last week I wrote about crops performing below expectations, well the potatoes are a crop that have exceeded our wildest dreams this season. We have had some bad luck with potatoes in the past. Between weeds, water issues and pest pressure, we just never seem to grow potatoes particularly well. This is something that has been weighing on me over the 5 years that we have been here. Why can’t we grow potatoes? I love potatoes, you love potatoes, Kerry loves potatoes, hunter loves potatoes. Everyone loves potatoes, so why can’t we grow them well?

After some analysis, discussion and research we boiled the problem down to two parts. The first, and possibly most drastic problem being a tiny little insect called a potato leaf hopper. These tiny, minuscule little vampire bugs suck the juices out of the potato leaves and cause what is known as ‘hopper burn’. Hopper burn causes the leaves to turn brown and die eventually killing the entire plant. It really looks more like a disease than insect damage which usually looks like holey leaves. These little pests are extremely hard to control organically, none of the organic approved sprays are very effective and they are pricey. Hoppers are also incredibly prolific and what is worse is they also live in hay fields and field edges, which means even if were to spray them, new leaf hoppers just journey back into our potatoes from the surrounding world.

Last year we tried covering our entire crop of potatoes with a giant sheet of row cover to keep the bugs away. It was a disaster. After a heavy rain the row cover smashed the plants down, and we could no longer cultivate or hill the spuds. This allowed the grass and other weeds to take over and severely impact our yield. This brings us to our second problem, weed pressure. The potatoes get too big for us to hill at just about the time of year that the weeds are growing the fastest. Add to that the fact that the leaf hoppers decimate the foliage, leaving no competition for the weeds and you get a weedy mess of a field by the time August rolls around. This makes digging the potatoes difficult and can also invite in critters to feast upon our spuds under the cover of a weedy canopy.

So what did we do differently this year? The first thing we did was focus on varieties of potatoes that have good natural resistance to the leaf hoppers. Our friends at extension referred us to a Cornell study looking at this very subject, so we decided to choose our varieties based on what they found did best with leaf hopper pressure. One variety called King Hairy is actually covered in small, thin hairs that are supposed to ward off the leaf hoppers. The rest didn’t have any kind of defense, they just seemed less disturbed by the hoppers. They would still have leaf hoppers on them, they were just much slower to show the signs of hopper burn. We also selected varieties that produced earlier, so they could get a jump on the hoppers. Plant breeding is such a fascinating subject to me, and one that I feel is so vital to organic agriculture. If you don’t want to be spraying insecticides and fungicides every other day, having good plant varieties is such a crucial component in the equation. It’s also why we advise anyone trying to keep a home garden to seek out and use commercial vegetable varieties from a proven seed company, and not just the packets they sell in the super market.

The other change we made was growing our potatoes on the same biodegradable black plastic we use for our melons, summer squash and tomatoes. This allowed us to worry less about the weed pressure, and also had the unintended consequence of making it much easier to irrigate. Since we lay drip day with the plastic, watering our spuds was a breeze. This was absolutely crucial this year since it was so incredibly dry and probably had as much to do with our increased yields as anything else . The plastic meant that we couldn’t hill the potatoes so we did see some more green shoulders than normal, but the loss due to green potatoes was minimal compared to overall increased yield. 

One other thing we did was a practice called "chatting" or green sprouting our seed potatoes.  This involves putting the seed potatoes in the sun for a couple weeks before planting them in the early spring. We were hoping by jump starting their growth, this would give them a little more time to get ahead of the hopper invasion.

All in all, over the past 2 weeks we harvested over 7,000 pounds of potatoes! Hannah, whose first experience digging potatoes was last year’s disappointing crop, said digging them this year was like Christmas! Well, I couldn’t agree more, we were really happy to finally get a decent crop after years of trying new things. We ended up growing mostly white potatoes but there are some red ones that will make their way into the share and also a yellow variety called Keuka gold that Kerry and I both find especially delicious.

Hannah, Holly, Chris, Erica, Shelby and Larry

Your Farmers,

Max and Kerry

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