Tuesday, September 30, 2008


The ewes grazing on pasture. They will stay on pasture until the middle of November. Then we will feed them hay in the greenhouse barn. They will still have access to pasture but they tend to prefer the warm shelter of the greenhouse once the snow begins to fly.

Jean-Paul cutting the Sudex (sorghum-sudan grass) that will help control some of the soil born diseases we have on the farm and will help increase the organic matter in the soil. Next year we will plant bell beans and oats in the spring which will be worked under in June and will be followed by fall cabbage.

photos by Johannes Courtens

Week 17 Letter from a Farmer

Wall Street appears to have been partying until the lights went out. I really wonder if there is anyone at the wheel looking out for us. Given that, is there anyone in Washington wondering about what happens when we run out of the natural resources we have grown dependent on? Is our dependence on natural resources another short-lived dream? In this case we are all partying. According to Dennis Meadows of MIT and his project team, “Limits to Growth,” we have maybe 16 years of the world’s copper resources left, 24 years of tin, 50 years of oil, 60 years of steel, and 75 years of aluminum. The experts vary greatly on the reserves of potassium and phosphorus for the purpose of agricultural fertilizer. As most of the easily accessible minerals have been removed and the demand from Asia and India has expanded, we should expect the cost of minerals and fertilizers to rise dramatically during the next decade, which will trickle down to the cost of food and other supplies.

There have always been individuals around who provided us with a different perspective on the world. Back in the 19th century, as the world entered the industrial revolution, people like Emerson, Hawthorne, and Thoreau offered us a different road map. Their perspective was viewed as naïve and transcendentalism was looked down on as a quack philosophy. Even if some of the aspects were a bit flaky, imagine if mankind had adopted their world view of nature as a partner and humanity as a unique individual of free choice; where would we be today? Instead we have fully embraced the benefits and conveniences of the industrial revolution, and we have given up our true individual freedom. Only slowly, because there is little left, do we see some reversal of the 19th-century perspective on nature as a savage wilderness, an impediment to mankind, and the opposite of true civilization. But just as individualism is currently expressed in our clothing, our return to nature is still somewhat sentimental. From the perspective of Thoreau, very little of our socio-economic life is based on our respect for nature and its laws.

Rudolf Steiner was one of those visionaries who drew lessons from the laws of nature. In the course of eight lectures he emphasized the farm as a living organism and viewed the farm as an individuality – closed system – (Agriculture June 7-16 1924). Steiner was also a vocal critic of connecting land to capital and credit (World Economy, lecture V, July 28, 1922). He warned that connecting land (real estate) with credit and capital is harmful to the economic process.
He argued that: “In a healthy economic process we must not and cannot give credit based on the security of land, even to a person working the land. He/she too should only receive personal credit – that is to say, credit which will enable him/her to turn the capital to good account through the land.” In light of the housing bailout, I was reminded of Steiner’s words. As it is with most of Steiner’s work, his advice is always highly sensible, but I am reminded that this kind of practicality never gets a foot on the ground, as it is always opposed by personal greed.

Okay here we go, more bad news: “Modern day agriculture contaminates our water supply with the use of mineral fertilizer and pesticides. Researchers say this year's dead zone may be the largest ever recorded due to increased fertilizer use in the Midwest and flooding along the Mississippi River dumping even more water than usual into the Gulf of Mexico.” Over time, agriculture (through excessive tillage) and forestry (through clear cutting) is responsible for the release of trillions of tons of carbon; on top of this, methane out of manure in feedlots and nitrogen oxide out of fertilizer adds even greater to the greenhouse effect.

So, if an enlightened perspective can’t get us out of this other impending crash, can we do it out of self interest? For the simple reason of survival, regenerative agriculture will need to become part of any solution. Adopting these practices will not only help retain nutrients in the soil and keep them out of our water supply, oceans, and atmosphere, we will even be able to sequester carbon. According to Timothy LaSalle of the Rodale Institute, 20% of all carbon emitted in the U.S. can be sequestered if farmers switch to regenerative farming methods. If his figures are correct, this would amount to about 300 million metric tons of carbon a year. So, while I would like to appeal to your highest and noblest intentions – yeah, the Thoreau in you – I remind you that the furthering and adoption of regenerative agriculture will be good for your future pocketbook as well. Organic farming is not only about food safety, it is about global safety. After this crash, we learned that we can’t count on our leaders to take care of this – at least so long as Monsanto and Cargill have their ear. ~Jean-Paul

Notes for Members

The garlic planting workday will be Saturday, Oct. 11. We hope the weather will cooperate with us this time! Meet us at 10:00 am at the North Farm location at the CSA barn. Bring your water bottle, sunscreen, warm clothes, place settings, and a potluck dish to share.

What would you like to hear about in the upcoming farm newsletters? Send us your questions or comments, we would love to hear from you. email us at info@roxburyfarm.com.


Greens with Goat Cheese

¾ lb of Asian Braising Greens
2 TBS Pumpkin Seed Oil
Pinch of ginger
Pinch of anise
1 tsp Tamari
Sliver of soft goat cheese

Rinse and dry the greens. Stack them on top of each other and roll (you may need more than one stack) and cut them into thin strips. In a good skillet or wok, on medium heat, add the pumpkin seed oil. When it has heated add the greens. After a minute add the tamari, ginger, and anise. Cook for a few more minutes. Add the goat cheese in small pieces until it melts. Take off the heat and serve. from Gluten Free Girl at www.glutenfreegirl.blogspot.com

Garlicky Greens or Beans

Asian Braising Greens, Bok Choi, or Green Beans
1 tsp fresh ginger root (minced)
1 garlic clove (minced)
2 TBS water
1 TBS soy sauce or tamari
1 tsp cornstarch
½ tsp brown sugar
½ tsp sesame oil
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Vegetable oil for cooking

Heat oil in a wok or skillet. Saute garlic and ginger for 1-2 minutes then add your vegetable (if using green beans lightly steam first) and sauté for a few minutes. Combine the water, tamari, cornstarch, brown sugar, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl and stir until combined. Add to the skillet and stir fry with your vegetable for 30 seconds. Serve. from www.blogchef.net

Thursday, September 25, 2008


The member workday scheduled for this Saturday, September 27th is cancelled due to rain. The forecast calls for over an inch of rain to fall on the farm tonight and tomorrow making the field conditions to wet and muddy for harvesting sweet potatoes.

Please join us in October for planting garlic. Check the newsletters and the blog for the exact date. Hopefully the weather will be more cooperative then.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pastured Turkey Photos

Our turkey flock happily grazing on pasture.

Week 17 Newsletter

As we are living in a period of great turbulence, we at Roxbury Farm need to think about how we should adapt to these changing times. What are Roxbury’s strengths, weaknesses and opportunities, and what are the threats?

Roxbury Farm’s greatest strength is to be found in our direct relationship with you, the members. The members come first as they provide the farm with financial security. We also see strength in the choice of a long-term land tenure model that frees the farm up from heavy financial obligations. This tool also provides safekeeping to the members by guaranteeing the farm’s continuation beyond me and Jody. This land tenure model includes a resale restriction on the farm house, which is tied to the 99-year lease. This will allow the farm to remain affordable to any future farmer. A future transition (which we hope will not happen for at least another thirty years) can only be to another working farmer, as opposed to a developer or hobby farmer. Last, our strength-within-a-strength is the long list of prospective members who will replace any non-renewals.

Roxbury Farm’s weaknesses are the seasonality of operating a farm in the Northeast, which makes it difficult to attract a permanent staff and allows us to use equipment only for a short period of the year (with payments and depreciation for the full twelve months). But having to work with a different crew each season can also be a strength, as new people make for new friends and they sometimes offer us fresh and exciting insights. Another weakness is our reliance on oil. Here we can observe another paradox, as the members who live far away are also our greatest strength; you allow us to operate at a critical scale. Another “weakness” of the farm is that we cannot expand it to reduce costs. The farm as a living organism is not only limited by its acreage, but also by the number of people that make for a cohesive crew.

Our opportunities include a membership that is asking us for more than just vegetables. While we have maxed out our ability to produce “in season” vegetables, we have a real opportunity to expand our lamb, beef, and turkey operations. We have reached the optimum number of butcher hogs that we can keep, because an increase would do damage to the woods instead of improving them. If we were able to build better cold storage (which also means a greater reliance on energy), we could expand the delivery season with root crops, cabbage, and winter squash. This would also allow us to provide longer-term employment for the crew.

One threat is the short-term security we have left on our packing house and barns at the South Farm. We have seven years left on our lease before we need to rebuild. The price of energy, which impacts everything from gas to wages and supplies, is also a threat to the sustainability of the farm; to what extent can we pass on all these increases to our members without pricing the share out of reach for most of you? We get the impression that many people must have stopped shopping at Whole Foods, as that company has posted substantial losses in the past few months. Are CSAs affected by a tightening economy as well? The weakening of the economy in New York state in particular adds to this issue. The pain of the collapse of Wall Street will be felt most in our state.

Another threat is the tightening regulation on food safety. If the FDA decides to treat small farmers as food processors because we sell salad greens, we will have to spend an exorbitant amount of money to comply with their standards. FDA please get it: We do not process food, nor do we have feedlots contaminating our fields, and neither do we re-use and filter our rinsing water. Food safety is, in their minds, still an equipment issue; we know it is mostly a human issue, or rather the lack of real human interaction with the product. Every time something is produced on a very large scale, mistakes are only discovered when it is already too late.
Yet another threat to the farm is the changing of weather patterns. We have already had to bear the brunt of that this year. Based on more than just this year’s experience, we don’t think that drought will be a major threat to the Northeast – rather, it is excessive rainfall.

When I add all these considerations, I realize that we have already taken some action to avert some of these threats. We bought (yes, we took out an additional mortgage) another ten acres of flat, well-drained land that is highly suitable for a new washing and packing barn. This spring we built a farm road that connects this new piece of land to our other land. Unfortunately, it borders on some of the wettest pieces, so drainage tile will need to be installed to continue this new road to our existing farm road. Drainage tile looks more and more like a necessity as this year’s wet conditions caused too many losses in the field, from lettuce to tomatoes. A new packing barn is the answer to a lot of the possible threats, but also puts Roxbury Farm in a vulnerable position, as the price tag for this project would be near $500,000. As we are making attempts to lessen our threats, we add to our weaknesses. In this economy we will be hard pressed to take on such an obligation. We need financial advice and we have started to work with Hudson Columbia Partnership in identifying possible funding and sources for low-interest financing.

If New York state is in trouble, maybe the time has come for it to reach out to its many small businesses, especially the businesses that help prepare us to deal with a world beyond cheap oil. We are proud that we have never asked for government support, but the time has come to change our mind on this one. This mess has shaken all of us up, but if we all become shell-shocked, we will never get out of it. As stretched as it might sound, now is the time for action and strong government support for the greening of New York state. We will be able to strike two birds with one stone: weaning off of our oil dependence and basing the strength of our economy on small businesses that actually produce something, as derivatives have proven to be anything but productive. ~ Jean-Paul

Week 17 Notes for Members

Thank you to the many members who contributed to the fuel surcharge. We are grateful for your trust and support. The words of encouragement you sent along with the contributions are greatly appreciated and lifted our spirits.

Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has began seeking information from the public and industry about whether additional consideration is needed when genetically engineered (GE) animals are imported or moved across the country.
Consideration will be given to comments received on or before Nov. 18.
Send two copies of postal mail or commercial delivery comments to Docket
No. APHIS-2006-0188, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS,
Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.
Comments also can be submitted on the Federal eRulemaking portal at
public comments USDA

Join us this Saturday, Sept. 27, and help us harvest sweet potatoes. We will meet at the south farm (south of the Martin Van Buren site) at 10:00 am. There will be a potluck lunch at 12:30 pm so bring a dish to share. Wear old clothes and bring water and sun screen.


1 fennel bulb
3 tomatoes
1 carrot
2 cups light vegetable stock
Olive oil

Cut the vegetables into pieces, put the on a baking tray with a little olive oil and sprinkle some salt over them. Roast for about 10-15 minutes or until soft and a little golden in a pre-heated oven (350°F). Put the vegetables in a pan and add the stock, leave it to simmer for 8-10 minutes and then blend it into a creamy soup. Add a little olive oil and salt if needed before serving.
From Lucullian Delights at http://lucullian.blogspot.com

1 lb collard greens
1/4 cup olive oil
1 red sweet pepper, cut in 2-inch strips, 1/4-inch wide
1/2 large onion, slivered
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Tabasco sauce, to taste
2 teaspoons honey

Slice off the stems from the collards right below the leaf, and discard the stems. Fill the sink with cold water and give the leaves a good soaking and washing to get rid or all the grit clinging to the folds of the leaves.

Drop the greens into a couple of inches of boiling salted water. Steam for 2-3 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water. Drain again and chop coarsely.

Pour the olive oil into a large skillet. Toss in the peppers and onions, seasoning them with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Once they're soft, toss in the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Dump in the greens and give them a stir. Add 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, the vinegar, tabasco, and honey. Stir one more time and serve.
From Recipe Zaar at http://www.recipezaar.com

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Week 16 Newsletter

After printing the letter from Frank Scheib and Dick Shirey, we were not surprised to receive a letter from at least one member who requested to hear more about the farm budget. We have always been very open with our finances and encourage involvement from members. We used to have an annual budget meeting with a self-selected group of members representing all the different communities. Dick and Frank have been intimately involved with this process for many years. Back when we had these budget meetings it was always interesting to me that the tension was so unusual: unusual in the sense that the members requested a large share-price increase while the farmers were for a more modest one. The members were right, as they wanted to ensure Roxbury Farm’s sustainability; there is little sense in cutting corners from a long-term perspective. But we were concerned that an excessive price increase would scare members away from participating. During the '90s we had to sell our produce to wholesale accounts, farmers markets, and restaurants in addition to the CSA members, and this was less than ideal. Our combined long-term interest was to increase the CSA, as we agreed that it makes for the most efficient operation. At the end of the day, we were always able to reach a consensus; a share price was set, each community pledged to recruit a certain minimum number of members, and the farm had an operating budget that served as a guide of our projected income and expenses.

As production became more efficient, the “dividend” was paid out in an increased amount of produce, which meant that at some point we halved the shares, because a full share was simply too much food for one family. This so-called half share became what we know today as a full share (the half share grew in size over the years). So, while the share price increased, so did its size. After 18 years of CSA we have always tried to maintain the cost of a share at about $1.00 per pound of vegetables. Some years we went over and some years we went under. The kinds of vegetables have changed, too, but overall we find that we provide the members with a better value than we did 18 years ago, as our quality has gone up and the prices of vegetables in the supermarket have increased substantially. This season we can no longer claim the $1-per-pound rate, as we have hit a ceiling of efficiency. We are running out of ways to save operating costs and costs are going up faster than our ability to produce better.

Yes – that brings us to this exceptional year. This year alone, our fuel costs have increased by about 100 percent compared to last year – from $21,000 to about (projected) $40,000. Our payroll will have gone from $137,000 to about (projected) $160,000 (this does not include Jody and me). As a result of the increased fuel cost, payroll, and utilities we will spend at least $43,000 more than last year. The base share price for 2008 increased by about three percent, which means we will have approximately $17,000 of extra income. Combining these three items, we are faced with about a $25,000 shortfall on our projected budget.

We expect extra income from hay and meat, but the expenses associated with these new enterprises barely cover their costs; we know it will take a few years before we are able to reach a level of efficiency similar to what we have attained with the vegetables. We also have had some unexpected expenses. For instance, in the last two weeks we had to hydro fracture the well for the packing barn (we came to the farm one Monday to find we didn’t have any water); the compressor of the walk-in cooler broke down; we installed a new fuse box that serves both the pump and the cooler; and one of our larger tractors needed to be split in half when one of its seals leaked fluid from the engine to the transmission. But then again, we always have something that needs to be fixed on this farm. Our total budget for the farm enterprise might break $600,000 this year; Jody and I hope to skim off eight percent of that in profit, which is also our wages. We always put at least 10 percent of our total revenue back into the farm: This year we invested heavily in on-farm housing, a new tractor, and a fence for the farm animals, while we took out equipment loans for a new baler and disc-bine. These equipment loans are financed at zero percent, so we figured we are better off stretching these expenses out over three years.

I hope that this information helps you in gaining some understanding of how we make this farm work financially. We hope that you do not have the impression that without your contribution we won't be able to survive; we are a stable farm, but could not foresee such dramatic changes in our economy. We have already received contributions from many members and are very grateful for your support and your trust. We all thank you very much. ~Jean-Paul

Week 16 Notes for Members

We should have included this address with last week’s letter.
Roxbury Farm
PO Box 338
Kinderhook, NY 12106

Brian Kimmel, an independent film producer filmed at Roxbury for Ingredients, a documentary examining the joy of cooking locally grown food.

Seeds of Change, a seed catalog is including Roxbury on their 2009 cover.
From Farm to Table, a WMHT cooking series, is including an interview and scenes from the farm.

A photographer for National Geographic, Green Guide, visited the farm for photos for their issue on local foods.

Please plan to join us for a workday on Saturday, September 27. We will start at 10:00 am and harvest sweet potatoes. There will be a potluck lunch at 12:30 pm and then work again until people are tired. We will meet at the office at the south farm which is located south of the Martin Van Buren Historical Site.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Week 15 Newsletter

Letter from Two Members

Author Michael Pollan summarizes his most recent book ‘In Defense of Food’ in seven words: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Here’s our attempt to describe Roxbury Farm in seven words: “Roxbury grows food, promotes wellness, teaches connections.”

Let’s take a look at the three key words: food, wellness and connections.
Food. When Pollan and we refer to food, we are talking about real food that comes from fertile farms, not so-called food from industrial agriculture or from processing plants.

Wellness. Everyone has an individual approach to wellness, but paying attention to the source and quality of one’s food can pay important dividends to one’s wellness.

Connections. Our food is connected to many other facets of human activity and the natural world, namely, energy, water, chemicals, location, labor, farming methods, and weather. You can read about these connections to food, but you can appreciate them and understand them better as Jean-Paul and Jody teach us weekly about them in terms of the bounty or scarcity of the harvest at Roxbury.

As you have been reading in the Farm Letters this season, you know that the connections between food and energy; between food and labor; and between food and weather are threatening the solvency of Roxbury. We are members of Roxbury for seventeen seasons, and we have followed closely the feasibility of the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) concept of growing food. We are convinced that CSA at Roxbury is not only practical but also so appreciated by members that they will respond to support Roxbury’s survival.

Therefore, we hope that each member will join us in sending a $25 surcharge to Roxbury to cover the deficits caused by unforeseen increases in energy and labor costs.

As we were preparing this letter to you, we recalled an anecdote from Michael Pollan’s book ‘Omnivore’s Dilemma.’ The driver of a BMW stopped at the farm stand of an organic farmer who also raises free-range chickens and wholesome eggs. The driver asked impertinently why the eggs cost more than those in his supermarket. The farmer pointed to driver’s expensive car and said to him, “You clearly appreciate quality in automobiles and are willing to pay for it. Well, eggs are no different; you can have my high quality eggs, but only if you are willing to pay for them.”
As consumers we have been conditioned by advertising to pay for quality products that confer status on us, but when it comes to food we have been conditioned to look for the lowest price. As long-time members of Roxbury, we have noticed that we have the best of both worlds. We have quality and nutritious produce, and often we pay no more than we would in a supermarket. We want this beneficial enterprise to continue.

Thus, we are more than willing to send a voluntary surcharge to Jean-Paul, Jody and all the workers at Roxbury in appreciation for their efforts in these difficult times. Please unite with us in compensating Roxbury for their unforeseen costs growing the nourishing food we so appreciate.

~Dick Shirey and Frank Scheib
Founding members of Roxbury CSA in the Capital District


The pigs living in the woods.

Over 75 bins of winter squash and potatoes are already stored in our washing and packing barn. They are stacked 6 high to the ceiling.

Week 15 Notes for Members

FARM UPDATE: We spent a lot of time last week preparing some of the fields for next season. We had about 8 acres planted in Sudex, a sorghum-sudan grass that grows to about 8 feet tall. We grew this cover crop to increase our organic matter and improve the health of the soil. Jean-Paul mowed it down and then our neighbor chopped into fine pieces with his silage chopper. Once it was chopped Jean-Paul worked it under with a disc. John spent much of the week spreading compost and working it in. Soon we will plant fall cover crops of oats and peas or rye and hairy vetch to cover the soil for the winter.

Please plan to join us for a workday on Saturday, September 27. We will start at 10:00 am and harvest sweet potatoes. There will be a potluck lunch at 12:30 pm and then work again until people are tired. We will meet at the office at the south farm which is located south of the Martin Van Buren Historical Site. Bring water and sunscreen also.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Week 14 Notes for Members

We wish Wouter van Nuil good luck as his time on the farm comes to an end. Wouter has spent the last 5 ½ months working on the farm as part of his agricultural training. He attends a 4-year school for Biodynamic Agriculture in Holland. He will start his 2nd year of school in a couple of weeks. We will miss having him as part of the farm crew. His hard work and knowledge have been great assets to the farm this season. We are sure we will see great things from him in the future.

Please plan to join us for a workday on Saturday, September 27. We will start at 10:00 am and harvest sweet potatoes. There will be a potluck lunch at 12:30 pm and then work again until people are tired.

Garden-Fresh Gratin

1 small eggplant (about 1 pound)
2 sweet peppers (red or green) 2 tomatoes
1 small onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced 2 teaspoons
chopped fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 tablespoon butter

Trim eggplant; cut crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices. Core and seed peppers; cut into rings. Slice tomatoes thinly. Set vegetables aside. In bowl, toss together onion, garlic and thyme. Arrange half of the eggplant, overlapping slightly, in lightly greased 8-inch square baking dish. Sprinkle with half each of the salt and pepper. Top with peppers and half each of the onion mixture, tomatoes, and cheese. Repeat layers once. Sprinkle with bread crumbs; dot with butter. Bake in 400ºF oven for 45 to 55 minutes or until golden and vegetables are softened. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. from www.aubergines.org

Week 14 Newsletter

The potato digger is fixed again and Johnny, Wouter, Mike, Jody and I picked up about 6,000 pounds on Saturday, while Cara and Luke tended the farmers market stand. The yield looks adequate (we are expecting about 30,000 pounds in total yield this year), with the early varieties greatly reducing our average yield. While the Adirondack Red potato has a pretty interior, its susceptibility to scab makes it a poor choice for our farm. The later potatoes like Keuka Gold and NY 129 (a new variety that has not been given a real name) have good resistance against scab and potato leafhopper. We also like Eva and NY 79 for a white potato. Next year we will be introducing another red potato named NorDonna which will replace Adirondack Red and we will try to get our hands on a supply of All Blue seed potatoes.
The winter squash harvest is completed (partly due to the great efforts of our member volunteers) and is stored in the barn. We set a record yield of 50,000 pounds. The onions, on the other hand, suffered from a bad infestation of thrips. The little bugs ate the leaves and reduced the yield dramatically. After giving out onions for a consecutive seven weeks, we only have about 3,000 pounds left. We gave out most of our onions because we do not have a good place to store them this year. In the past we have stored them with apples at a nearby orchard. Our neighbors don’t expect to turn their coolers on at all this year, as most apples will go directly from the field to the apple sauce factory.

The sweet corn has been very good this year. Some sections outyielded our conventional neighbors – who average about 300 bags per acre; now we are faced with a potentially heavy pressure from CEW (Corn Ear Worm). The CEW moth flies in with fall storms from the South. They do not overwinter in New York, although the line below which they can overwinter keeps moving north. Please inspect the tips of the ears in your share this week for a worm and remove it; fortunately they do not affect the rest of the ear like the ECB – European Corn Borer – (which is currently absent in our traps). We always scout for insects and we have seen a greatly reduced number of insects this fall. We wonder if the excessively wet conditions created poor conditions for reproduction. The birds and the raccoons have also been less active than any other year.

All our subtropical vegetables were delayed from the cooler than normal spring and summer conditions. All farmers in the Northeast experienced a much later than usual harvest of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. Some later plantings are loaded with fruit that refuse to ripen. By the time the tomatoes turn color, many plants succumb to disease pressure from Alternaria to Septoria and bacterial Canker. On a good note: We have an abundant crop of eggplant and this is the first year we did not lose it to Verticillium wilt. Verticillium is one of the many diseases we inherited from the previous farmer and it survives in the soil. This new variety of eggplant has some resistance to the disease, and between our cultural practices of using compost and biodynamic preparations, we nurse the plants through the initial infestation. This year the plants simply outgrew the early signs of infestation. Also, the low levels of ECB allow us to harvest plenty of peppers. The moth lays its eggs on the top of the pepper and the larvae create a little hole that allows water to run into the pepper, which causes the pepper to rot from the inside out. The sweet potatoes look healthy but they could use another two months of dry and hot weather; as there will be little chance of that, we will be expecting a much lower yield than usual.

The fall crop of broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower looks promising although they were all planted later than usual. The wet weather delayed the planting time and this will affect harvest date and possibly total yield. The Brussels sprouts are affected by Alternaria leafspot and it is too early to tell if it will affect the quality of the sprouts. Don’t have high expectations for this crop, but we aim to have at least one or two stalks ready by Thanksgiving.
The parsnips, beets, and carrots look great; this took a valiant effort on the part of the crew, as they spend many hours weeding on their hands and knees. The weed pressure was very high this season – the wet soil conditions allowed every weed seed to germinate. We lost many plantings of greens and salad because we simply could not keep them free from weeds. As the ground dries up, we have a much greater control of the weeds and you can expect a regular supply of greens and salad to be part of your share again. The pigs have been very healthy this season, taking advantage of the space we have given them. The boys live segregated from the girls in different woods. None of the boys have been castrated this year. We are told that castration is a largely unnecessary procedure. We will find out if this procedure actually affects the flavor of the meat. We also separated the male and female sheep as those boys were not castrated either. The turkeys have been a success – though we were expecting large losses while they were young, we only lost a few birds. The only problem was that they could fly over our five-foot-tall fence, so we had to clip the feathers on one of their wings (this doesn’t hurt them, it is just like getting a haircut). The three steers are very happy and love the fertile pastures we provide them with.

Making hay was a challenge, but we only lost about 40 bales out of the 750 round bales we pressed this year. The remainder is of very high quality. We sold about 450 round bales at a reasonable return. One round bale weighs about 600 pounds, so we baled about 250 tons of hay and straw. We pressed about 60 rye straw bales, which were all used for mulch between the rows of eggplant, tomatoes, summer squash, peppers, and cucumbers. Some of our hay bales are also used for mulching between the crops. It is important that we only take the very early cutting of hay to prevent the mulch from containing any weed seed. Due to the use of hay over straw mulch – which depletes the soil of nitrogen – we find that the yield of our garlic was higher this year. This is greatly due to the increased fertility of the soil, as the hay acts both as mulch, soil conditioner, and fertilizer.

Many fields are, as usual, covered with a green manure crop. This year we are experimenting with Sudex, a plant closely related to Sorghum, as a means to combat the many soil-borne diseases on this farm. Some of the Sudex is more than six feet tall and will be worked under in the next few weeks. According to the Soil Health Team at Cornell, Sorghum may harbor greenbug (Schizaphis graminum), which in turn attracts lady beetles, lacewings, and other beneficial predatory insects. The green matter of the Sudex can also create a compound that kills off pathogens and harmful nematodes in the soil. At the least, we will be incorporating a massive amount of organic matter. After I succeed in mowing it down we will need the help of our neighbor’s chopper to hack the Sudex in little pieces so that we can work it into the soil. If we don’t chop it into tiny pieces, the eight-foot-tall stalks will quickly clog up our chisel plow that we use to plow the soil.As we review this year’s crops, our mind is starting to focus on next year’s as we are preparing the fields for next year’s production. Our next few weeks will be spent spreading compost, spraying the horn manure preparation, spreading lime, and seeding the fall cover crops on the many fields where the harvest has been completed.
~ Jean-Paul