Provider Farm

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August 5, 2017

This Week's Share

The weather continues to be well...challenging...for fruit ripening. Wet and cool, while I love it because I don't have to irrigate, most farmers would rather have a dry year and our fruiting crops would probably agree. That being said, we still have load of food coming out of the field and so many new and exciting crops this week, so I guess I really shouldn't complain!

We saved the melons from the crows and the first of them are starting to roll in. Our yellow watermelons are on of the first and absolutely scrumptious! They are slightly limited this year thanks to the crows but there is definitely enough for everyone. Also first to ripen, are our Sun jewel Asian crisp melons. These are probably not familiar to many of you, they are yellow with white stripes, have a very thin skin and a sweet mild flavored crisp flesh. Soon to follow will be our pink melons and cantaloupes. We aim to have melons for about 3 weeks, a great way to cap off the summer!

Also new to come in are our peppers. We grow lots of different colors and types. First to come in are our purples, greens and lime green bells and our frying peppers. These all turn to yellow and reds, but it takes a bit of time for that so you'll see those in a few weeks. We also grow many types of hot peppers including jalapenos, anaheim, Hungarian hot wax, seranos, cayenne and habaneros. Each one has a different time of ripening, but the jalapenos and hot wax start us off.

Our field tomatoes are just starting to show the slightest blush of color, so you will start to see more diversity and abundance there in the next week or two. The tomatillos are starting to flow. These curious light green fruits have a papery husk around them and are used quite often in Latin American cooking. Try the out in a green salsa. We love it and it freezes well.

We are just starting to pick out of our fall(!!!) brassica planting which means the collards are ready. These are big flat leaves and one of our favorite fall treats.Saute them up with onions and garlic and add a little water or broth until they reach your desired tendernes.

This planting of  cucumbers is starting to be very tired and the next round hasn't started blossoming yet, so we will continue to pick what we can and hope the others start fruiting soon.

Recipe of the Week: 

Salsa Verde

Ingredients: 

 

1 pound tomatillos, husked

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 jalapeno chile peppers, minced

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

2 cups water

Directions: 

Place tomatillos, onion, garlic, and chile pepper into a saucepan. Season with cilantro, oregano, cumin, and salt; pour in water as needed to prevent from scaulding. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until the tomatillos are soft, 10 to 15 minutes.
Using a blender, carefully puree the tomatillos and water in batches until smooth.

Credit: 
allrecipes.com but there are a bazillion variations out there

The plant destroyer

Larry making adjustments to our sprayer.
Larry making adjustments to our sprayer.

Dear Friends,

The melons, peppers and tomatoes are all rolling in, along with a seemingly daily dose of fog. August usually arrives on the farm, hot and bright. A brilliant explosion of delicious crops, sunshine and heat stroke warnings. This year though, the world seems destined to stay wet. Even when it’s not raining the farm feels damp. There has certainly been some heat and dry spells but low night time temperatures and high relative humidity have us waking up to cloudy skies and soaking wet plants every morning. This is one of those daily occurrences I would probably be completely oblivious to if I didn’t farm. So the grass is wet with dew in the morning, who cares? Well we do. The reason we care if the grass is wet with dew is that it means the tomatoes are also wet. Water is like a highway for moving disease and a petri dish for propagating plant diseases. If the tomatoes are wet it means there is the opportunity for disease to spread.

When it comes to tomato diseases there is one in particular that makes us curse the dew and long for sunny dry weather. That disease is of course Phytophthora infestans, (Latin for plant destroyer) more commonly known as late blight. If you have been a member with us in the past you have certainly heard us mention late blight before. If you were a member with us in 2012 you probably remember that we lost our entire tomato crop to late blight. Late blight is the worst. We don’t like it. It caused the Irish potato famine. Unlike other tomato disease which only affect the plant, what makes late blight so devastating is that it ruins the fruit. Beautiful tomatoes develop sunken, black, rotten lesions, making them completely inedible. The weather has been very favorable for the spread of the disease and there have been several confirmed cases in Western Massachusetts, so we are on high alert.

To combat late blight there are a few approaches we can take. We try to grow late blight resistant varieties of tomatoes. This includes some heirloom varieties like Striped German that happen to be very resistant and more modern varieties bred by Cornell specifically to help organic growers in the northeast deal with late blight. Often times these plants will still get late blight but they are less susceptible to showing symptoms and you are more likely to still get a harvestable crop even if the plants get infected. (I should mention that all of these varieties of resistant plants have been developed through traditional plant breeding methods and are not genetically modified or GMO. Breeding varieties for resistance to disease is one of the oldest foundations of agriculture and incredibly important for the future of organic farming.)

There are other methods to deal with diseases too. We make sure our plants are properly spaced so we have good air flow. We use crop rotations so disease can not spread from year to year. We build our soils through cover cropping and feed our plants the nutrients they need to be healthy. Some diseases we manage by planting successions of crops like our summer squash and cukes. Once one planting goes down from powdery mildew, the next one is ready. Other times,we can just plant a little more and simply ignore it like early blight on tomatoes. But with late blight, some of these techniques may help a little, but this disease is a biggy, travels in the wind on storm fronts and is completely destructive and brutal and will wipe out a healthy planting of tomatoes in no time.

The other organic option we have to protect our tomatoes is to spray an organic approved formulation of copper. Copper is a commonly used broad spectrum organic fungicide. By broad spectrum I mean that it will work for just about any fungal plant disease on just about any crop. We use it sparingly, usually only on tomatoes. Conventional farmers use stuff that is systemic in the plants. Copper works only as a preventive measure. If you have sprayed your plants with copper when the late blight spores land, the copper ions will denature the cell walls of the bacteria, causing them to die. In order to ensure that the copper is present when the spores land we have to spray on a weekly schedule. While we certainly didn’t become an organic farmers to spray our tomatoes with copper, we have weighted the options carefully and believe the use of copper to be an appropriate and responsible measure to take.

Actually doing the spraying of the tomatoes can be a bit tricky. Unlike other crops, the tomatoes are supported by 6ft tall wooden and metal stakes. We have a high clearance tractor and a sprayer but it’s not that high. For the first couple years I would spray the tomatoes with a motorized back pack sprayer. Walking up and down each and every row, each and every week. It was a very tedious, slow and sweaty process that I can’t say I looked forward to. Last year Kerry’s dad Larry and I designed an addition to our tractor spray to allow it to fit over the tomato trellis. We added an arm 8 ft off the ground that rides over the trellis with a hose and nozzles that hangs down between the rows. We have to plant our tomatoes in 2 bed blocks with an empty bed for the tractor in between but that is a small price to pay in order to not have use the back pack sprayer anymore.

With all that said, are tomatoes are looking beautiful and we have our fingers crossed that they will continue to be healthy and robust.

Your farmers,

Anthony, Chris, Erica, Hannah, Holly, Kelsea, Kerry, Larry and Max

 

Focus on a Farmer

Hannah Tripp has been around Provider Farm as long as we have. She came to us as a volunteer after her freshmen year of college at UCONN during our first year farming here in Salem, and was so great we quickly snatched her up and hired her. The farming bug took hold of her real good and she has stayed with us for five years since then, first working summers and then upon graduating, coming on year round. She is our crew leader now and is pretty much as competent as us in most tasks on the farm. She also is our washshed manager and washes pretty much every piece of produce you take home with you. She is our head irrigator and deer fencer keeping crops watered and safe from hungry critters. Many of you know her from the Friday share room as well. Hannah is an extraordinarily hard worker, tough as nails, and takes care of the toughest jobs without a complaint. She is diligent and detail oriented and just an all around nice person.

She had never really thought too much about farming before she arrived those 5 short years ago but says she loves farming because it challenges her to be a better person. Her favorite day farming was her first year when it was just her and Max and another employee set to load all the cantaloupes into a truck. Now loading melons involves tossing them up to a catcher in a moving truck. It requires fast throwing with accuracy and its usually a million degrees. Seamed like a big challenge to wee Hannah, but she crushed it and felt completely triumphant she was able to compete the task. People talk a lot of bad about the youth of today, but let me tell you, if they are anything like Hannah, everything is going to be OK. One of my favorite parts of my job is working with and learning from young people and Hannah is an absolute pleasure to have on the farm.

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