Goodbye to August…Hello to Harvest!

Well summer is winding down, but the good news is our crops are not! It’s the end of August but our tomatoes, eggplants, squash, peppers and cucumbers still have quite a bit of life in them that will last for another month or so! We’re harvesting about every other day now, admiring the colorful array of vegetables that are popping up. School will be starting, but thanks to our crops we have an excuse to still sneak down to farm a few times a week to harvest!  

And of course it’s only natural that right as the school year is beginning, more and more things get thrown onto our to-do list. Next weekend two of our farmers will be attending the Sustainable Agriculture Education Association annual conference in Corvallis, Oregon. They’ll be presenting our STOGROW, and hopefully getting some great ideas and inspiration to bring back to the farm with them. We also are in the midst of planning our events for Tour de Farm: Northfield, an event that will be touring the local Northfield farms and ending with a festival at SEEDS farm. The event in being held on Saturday, September 29th from 1-7! Not to mention STOGROW’s annual Harvest Fest will be happening shortly after in October. There’s lots going on, so make sure that you stay posted about what’s happening on the farm and ways that you can get involved or come out for a visit!

 

The Dog Days of Summer?

We’re deep into the month of August but the mercury in the thermometer is barely touching 80 degrees these days!  None of us are complaining at all, of course: this weather makes for some very pleasant mornings out in the field.  Our tasks at the farm now alternate between picking the ever-present blight leaves, weeding, and harvesting.  Hillary recently undertook the incredibly hefty task of uncovering our insanely overgrown raspberry patch.  What used to be a jungle of sky scraping thistles is now a cleanly manicured plot of fruit bushes.  It’s unbelievable how many raspberries were hidden back there! The caf will be gifted a few pints of these gems every now and again for the rest of the season; we could certainly pick them bucketsful, but, well, we get hungry when we’re picking them so…

All of our produce is just beginning to peak, which is perfect because the start of the school year is right around the corner!  Our earlier crops – such as our snap peas and lettuce – are showing signs of waning, but our rows of yellow crookneck squash, zucchini, eggplants, cucumbers, and black cherry tomatoes are now getting into full swing.  A few weeks from now, we will have winter squash to add into the mix, along with a plethora of different peppers.

We might have missed out on the dog days of summer, but we certainly enjoyed every other minute of the season out on the farm.  Our summer is winding down and we’re beginning to shift our focus back up onto the Hill for classes, but we’ve still got a few fun things left out on the farm come the fall.  The first week of school, some of us will be shipping off to the West Coast to partake in a collegiate conference on sustainable agriculture out in Oregon.  Following that, we’ve got a farm tour during Homecoming Weekend, and a Fall Harvest Festival to close out our season before the frost creeps in.  We’re looking forward to everything that’s coming up ahead!

It’s That Time of Year…

It’s that bittersweet time of year the farm these days…we’ve been harvesting our first squash and cucumbers, with many many MANY more to come in the following weeks, but at the same time we’re struggling to ward off the blight that is quite persistent in plaguing our poor tomatoes and snap peas. If anyone is not familiar with blight, it is a bacterial disease that is associated with large amounts of rainfall; rain water hits the ground, splashes up onto the bottom leaves of the plant, a water-loving bacteria grows, and diseased leaves turn yellow and die. Blight spreads easily from one leaf to the next, and can eventually spread to the entire plant. So for the last week or so we’ve been adamantly picking off the yellow leaves from our precious tomato plants, racing the blight clock that is ticking over our heads as rain clouds loom up above us. You never think about rain being a problem for farming; typically you’re wishing for rain and hoping for no drought. But too much rain is just as bad! And unfortunately all too common here with Minnesota’s touchy weather. But we’re working hard to keep our tomato and snap peas plants living and we have the proof! Everyone’s hands and clothes have a faint yellow tint to them, our sinks and bathtubs lately have resembled a yellow paint palette, and I know I personally can’t stop smelling tomato everywhere I go… but ‘tis the season! And it’s worth it, we have some beautiful red tomatoes coming in, and lots of green ones promising an abundant harvest as long as the weather cooperates and the blight is contained.

But on a brighter note our other crops are doing marvelously!! It’s incredible how much things can grow overnight. We’ve already harvested yellow squash, zucchini, eggplants, cucumbers, and lemon cucumbers this week, and this is only the beginning! By next week we’ll have more squash and zucchini than we’ll know what to do with! Our basil, cilantro, lemongrass and mint continue to keep us busy as well. There is nothing better than those harvest mornings when the sweet aromatic scent of basils fills the air. Meanwhile our chickens are entering their version of the “terrible two’s”…they know they can escape their fenced in area and now take advantage of their outdoor play time to plot a great escape each morning. The morning isn’t complete if Payne hasn’t chased Azzazello or one of the hens all over the tomato field, herding them back in to their coop before they peck up all of our mulch.

All in all, every day at the farm brings new produce, new surprises, new challenges, new mosquito bites, and new lessons. As time is winding down this summer, we sadly become more and more aware of our limited mornings left at the farm, but anxiously anticipate what the next few weeks will bring in the garden!

A Great Start to Another Great Week

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We like to farm at an hour that is deemed socially unacceptable at which to be awake and functioning.

We’re looking at another great week on the farm!  The weather is supposed to be sunny and beautiful for the next few days, so we are all excited to be outside working and enjoying it.  I think we can safely say that all of the extremely tedious farm work is completed for the season: all the tomatoes have been staked and trellised, and all of our 50+ rows have been weeded and mulched.  All that remains for the rest of the season now is daily maintenance, which usually includes weeding out a few stray, pesky weeds, re-trellising the tomato and cucumber plants as they continue to grow, and dusting our leafy greens with flour to deter the bugs.  However, due to some recent, strong storms, the tomatoes have taken a beating and have developed some early stages of blight; it’s now a race against time to see if we can pull off all of the diseased leaves before it spreads up the plant.

Despite the uncertain future of our delicate tomato crop, the rest of the produce is coming along fabulously.  We had another successful harvest today, and hauled a full load of herbs, lettuce, snap peas, squash, lemon cucumbers, and eggplant (our first of the season!) up to the cafeteria this morning.

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Give it another week or two, and our squash crop will be ready to explode.  The sea of elephant-ear-leafed plants is in its early stages of producing, and right now we’re bringing in two or three ripe fruits every few days; soon however, we’re going to be swimming in squash as these guys will be brimming with hundreds of fresh zucchinis and yellow crooknecks weekly.  If you don’t believe in aliens, stop by the farm for a day during a squash harvest and you’ll quickly change your mind: they’re mutant crops.  Harvest one and ten will pop up in its place overnight.  It’s unfathomable.

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It’s definitely a great start to another great week out at STOGROW: this is our favorite part of the farming season!  Have a fabulous day.

Happy August!

It’s officially August! Wow, where did the time go? I think back and it seems like everything flew by on fast-forward. But yet when I looked out over the field today, filled with giant tomato plants, sprawling squash leaves, and towering snap peas, I remembered all the hours that had passed on the far since the first weeks when all the plants were so small you feared of snapping them in half without even trying. When I think back to the start of the summer and our first days farming, I realize what remarkable transformations have occurred in the short span of two months. Our first day on the job we biked down to the farm all riled up to get farming and work in the dirt, but we found our promising farm to be an overgrown, weed jungle that quickly put a damper on all of our high spirits. But now when you stand out in the field, you are surrounded by luscious green leaves and the sweet smell of tomatoes, looking out to the natural lands with the sun rising above you…the farm couldn’t be more picturesque. And all that happened in just two months!

We are harvesting every week, weeding like crazy, and researching bizarre home remedies to combat our nasty bugs who have moved in as our new farm neighbors. Rather than worrying if the seeds will ever grow, now it’s “What if our tomato plants get blight?” and “How do we get these cabbage worms out of here?” This morning we began our new “flour therapy” on our kale and spinach plants. Supposedly bugs will eat the flour rather than the leaves and, well, you know how we joke that we feel so full we might explode? Well apparently that’s a real-life problem for bugs… A crazy solution, but cross your fingers that it works!

Everything has changed since the start of the summer – our daily tasks, our concerns, our triumphs. The time has gone so fast, but yet so much has happened! So much has been wisdom learned, so much experience gained, and so many vegetables planted. And the best part is…it’s only August! We still have another month of summer break to pretend we’re not students with homework and exams, and we still have at least two more months to spend out on the farm harvesting! And let me tell you, harvesting is the GREATEST part of our job. So while it’s sad to see our time on the farm going by so quickly, we’re ready to see what the next months’ harvests will bring!