Sunday, December 20, 2009

Jean-Paul in the news

For link to video:

Adrian Ooms and Jean-Paul Courtens are Dutch farmers who left home as young men to start a new life in America. By coincidence, they both ended up in Kinderhook, New York -a place where Dutch farmers were already tilling the soil 400 years ago.

These days Ooms and Courtens are known as exemplary farmers, each in their own specialist field. Dairy farmer Adrian Ooms (pictured in lead photo), born and raised in Schiedam near Rotterdam, has kept his farm small, with about 450 milk cows. This is uncommon in the USA, where most milk is produced on very large dairies. But in a recent trend to reintroduce smaller-scale agriculture in New York state, the Ooms Dairy Farm is often upheld as a model. One of Adrian's sons has even been appointed Vice President of the powerful New York State Farm Bureau, the most important agricultural body in the state.

On nearby Roxbury Farm, run by Jean-Paul Courtens, we find a whole different type of agriculture. Mr Courtens, originally from Amsterdam, sells his biodynamic produce by means of Community Supported Agriculture. In other words, the customer pays an annual sum for a weekly delivery of organically-grown fruit and vegetables. But included in the fee is the right to vote on what crops should be grown on the farm - and the customers can come help out during the harvest too. That's easier said then done, since most of the customers live on Manhattan: four hours by car from this beautiful farm in the Hudson Valley.

Robert Chesal of Radio Netherlands Worldwide

For link to video:

Monday, November 16, 2009

Celeriac Recipes

Celeriac and Butternut Squash Soup
3 TBS butter
1 onion, chopped
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1 celeriac, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Sage and Thyme to taste
1 quart cooked and pureed butternut squash
1 large tomato, chopped or ½ can canned chopped tomatoes
2-4 cups of your favorite stock
½ cup lentils cooked
Salt and Pepper to taste

Saute onions, apple, celeriac, garlic, and herbs in butter until soft. Puree the mixture. Put the pureed celeriac mixture in a soup pot and add pureed butternut squash, tomatoes, stock, and lentils. Heat. Salt and pepper to taste.
from One United Harvest Cookbook on the Winter Green Community Farm website

Mashed Celeriac
1 celeriac, peeled
olive oil
handful of fresh thyme, leaves picked
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3–4 tablespoons water or stock

Slice about ½ inch off the bottom of your celeriac and roll it on to that flat edge, so it's nice and safe to slice. Slice and dice it all up into ½ inch-ish cubes. Don't get your ruler out – they don't have to be perfect. Put a casserole-type pot on a high heat, add 3 good lugs of olive oil, then add the celeriac, thyme and garlic, with a little seasoning. Stir around to coat and fry quite fast, giving a little colour, for 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to a simmer, add the water or stock, place a lid on top and cook for around 25 minutes, until tender. Season carefully to taste and stir around with a spoon to smash up the celeriac. Some people like to keep it in cubes, some like to mash it, but I think it looks and tastes much better if you smash it, which is somewhere in the middle. You can serve this with just about any meat you can think of.
from Chef Jamie Oliver at

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Week 15 Newsletter

As most of the crops have been planted or harvested, we are entering a new stage on the farm. While summer is not officially over, we have fully embraced the fall. Last week, we spread compost on next year’s vegetable fields and seeded them down with oats and field peas. This is also a time (while the season is still fresh in our minds) to review what worked well and what didn’t this year. There is always a lot that doesn’t work well and I fully understand that while any new solution could create new problems, we always live with the hope (even after 20 years of trying) to perfect what we do by incorporating necessary changes.

Running a farm is a combination of working with nature, people, and technology. The challenge is to properly address the needs of each component. We have become pretty decent at solving our technological challenges by having kept pace with the 21st century in accessing information and using equipment. As opposed to technology, interacting with nature and people requires an open mind and an open heart, as both are never constant. All you can do is create an environment whereby you foster stability as best you can. And herein lays the challenge.

Jody and I are under no illusion that we have the intellect or the wisdom to create that environment by ourselves, nor should we. The acceptance of our limitations led us to become a CSA farm and immerse ourselves in its underlying philosophy of community. It was the input from and insights of many members that helped bring about the farm as it is today. Very early on, the members understood that in order for a farmer to produce high quality food, the farmer needs to stay on the farm. This was one of the founding principles of Roxbury as a CSA farm. In the early 1990s, the most plausible way to make a farm work economically was to spend three days a week at a farmers market (rather than taking care of the farm). Another small example is that when we expressed the difficulty of growing garlic due to the high labor input at the wrong time of year, the members committed themselves to taking on an important roll in the planting and harvesting of garlic. In short, our relationship has always been about dialogue to find solutions to challenges.

The largest accomplishment of this dialogue is, of course, the purchase and preservation of farmland. The members recognized that we were not in the position to take on a huge debt load to purchase farmland. Members, with the help of the Open Space Institute and Equity Trust, completed a successful fundraising effort in 2002, securing 150 acres, barns, and housing for farmers in perpetuity.

When we say “members” we recognize that it is rather difficult to be in dialogue with all members or that we have a system in place for getting input from you through democratically elected representatives. The members that participate in running the sites, the ones that come to the summits for visioning and budgeting and to the member workdays have always been self-selected. We are deeply grateful for the enormous amount of effort, energy, and goodwill that has poured into the farm since 1990.

Since 2003 I have been concerned that we have started to live under the delusion that Roxbury Farm has everything figured out. So, why hold a summit if we have it all figured out? We admit, we are not a struggling operation and we are not operating in a crisis mode. But, we recognize it to be an oversight to discontinue a platform for dialogue. Of course dialogue continues informally and we appreciate the many e-mails we receive, the feedback on the annual surveys, and the discussions during workdays and CSA pickups. But, when you create a space like we have in our past summits, those types of conversations develop much deeper qualities as we all make a commitment to implement proposed changes.

This fall, we are seeking members to participate in a summit at the farm again. We want to exchange thoughts and ideas for the long-term future of Roxbury Farm. A diverse perspective from members, farm coworkers, and us will make for a fuller picture of the past, present, and future. In the end aren’t we all blind men describing different parts of the same elephant? Together we create a better picture of the whole animal.

We plan on having this meeting in early November. If you are interested in participating, please e-mail the farm at This will not be a forum for individual wishes to be discussed; instead, participants are asked to come as if one is a members’ representative. At the summit, we will discuss the present and future challenges that will impact the success of Roxbury Farm in the future. We need your help to find creative solutions to some challenges we are already aware of. There might be many we are not even aware of and, therefore, even if you can’t participate in person, we would like to know what you think are possible challenges (and possibly any ideas you might have for solutions).

Over the past couple of years we may have lulled you – and ourselves – into the idea that it is just us and the site coordinators who are providing you with a service (and we enjoy doing so). Members can, and are, providing a mutually important service back to the farm. Members provide us not only with the financial resources but also with an energy that is clearly felt by the farmers – and it exudes further into the farm, providing the basis for it to become a living organism. This energy is especially important and appreciated in a year like this one. Your connection is the lifeline that keeps this phenomenon moving into the future. While it sounds appealing, it is really an awe-inspiring responsibility.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Saturday's Workday Postponed

The workday scheduled for tomorrow, Sept. 12 is postponed until Saturday, Sept. 26. Unfortunately it is raining this afternoon and will rain again tomorrow. The field conditions will be too wet for the potato harvest.

On Saturday, Sept. 26 we will be harvesting sweet potatoes. We are hoping for dry weather and to see you there!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Week 13 Notes for Members

ROXBURY FARM WINS AWARD FROM JUST FOOD: Each year Just Food gives out the McKinley Hightower-Beyah awards to groups or individuals who carry on the work of McKinley Hightower-Beyan. He was a City Farms Trainer, an advocate for food security and food justice, a leader in his community, and a dear friend to Just Food. This year Roxbury Farm will be given one of the five awards. The awards will be given at the Let us Eat Local event to benefit the work of Just Food.

MEMBER WORKDAY: Join us for a member workday on Saturday, September 12. Meet us at the North Farm at 10:00. We will have a potluck lunch around 12:30 p.m., so bring a dish to share and your place setting. Hope to see you there!

Week 13 Newsletter

Jody wrote last week about the products we use as plant protectants because we believe that good communication is a prerequisite of any successful relationship. While you might not like everything you hear or read, we think having honest and solid information available develops a sense of trust. In the marketplace, trust is replaced by a quality assurance label – like certified organic or certified humanely raised, etc. Ultimately, we are at your service and what we do is based on our assumptions of how our time is best spent raising crops without clearly written guidelines. For clarification, we stay within the certification requirements of organic agriculture by looking not only at the United States standards but also at those of the European Union. For example, while the BioTelo plastic mulch used on the farm is not included on the OMRI list, it is certified to be used in Canada by Ecocert and in the EU under the IFOAM standards – and is therefore good enough for us to accept it as a practice. While I personally have distaste for using copper as a plant protectant (it goes against everything I believe in, but it is an approved substance within organic standards), I was compelled to use it. The alternative was disheartening both for our crew – they had worked very hard getting the crop to where it was by carefully seeding, planting, and trellising it – and for you: we would have delivered a far less interesting share this time of the year. After all, what is a season without tomatoes?

In the spirit of sharing information with you, I report that this year we worked harder than usual while experiencing unfortunately lower returns to you. It is a hard year for CSAs, as members do not always realize that a difficult season is especially hard on farmers. It takes extra effort to deliver the same product, if that product is even yielding anything to begin with. One local CSA farmer came to us with tears in his eyes, telling us about the difficulty of his season and the anger he had to deal with from his membership. As the Roxbury Farm membership has a reputation of being most supportive in times of trouble, he asked what our secret is. We honestly couldn’t tell him, except to say that we let everyone know how things are going on the farm. Yes, it took a long time to develop the trust that we feel you endow us with. Thank you for that, and for all your supportive letters and emails.

It is hard to believe that we still have 12 deliveries left after this week. Nonetheless, we are still planting greens and lettuce: in all, another three acres’ worth to add fresh greens and salad mix to the late September and October deliveries. For all other vegetables, it has already been determined as to how they will yield for the remainder of the season.

We have three corn plantings left, with the last two plantings most likely yielding relatively small ears and some worms (although Lydia and Mike spent almost a whole day squirting a few drops of BT in the silk of each ear of the corn). The popcorn looks good, except that the steers left a few footprints in it lowering the yield a little bit. Generally, as it was a very, very good year for sweet corn because our fields drain relatively well, the losses in the corn from the flooding have gone largely unnoticed at the pickup site – everyone received the promised six ears a week for most deliveries. Still, the corn that had been submersed was mostly left in the field.

All the winter squash is harvested and now sits either in the barn or the greenhouse to cure. The total yield is smaller than usual. Because of quality concerns, we have already given out the Sunshine and Delicata Squash. We won’t wait too long to give you the Buttercup, and we will only hold on to the Acorn and Butternut squash until October. We figure that this squash will store much better in your dry kitchen than in our moist barn. The sweet potatoes look good, but we expect the yield to be smaller than usual, as we only had a few days of real summer. They like it hot and dry, two conditions we haven’t seen much of.

The potatoes have been a trial, and took a lot of our effort to protect, as the weather has been hard on them, in addition to the blight they suffered from the excess of water. Once we start digging, we’ll see how large the losses are. Potatoes are not the only crop that suffered from standing water. While the cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and kale on the higher ground all look good, the plants in the low spots are miniature and might just give up altogether.

The cucumbers, peppers, and eggplant have been yielding well, despite the cool summer. They greatly benefited from the favorable conditions provided by the high raised beds and the mulch provided by plastic and shredded hay. We had good control of the European corn borer through weekly releases of parasitic wasps. We still have some melons in the fields that have not matured yet, so please look out for some juicy fruit coming your way.

While most salad mix looks fantastic and relatively weed-free, the last few plantings suffered from a self seeding of barley and oats. This farmer could not get in the field in time where we had planned to seed lettuce to work in the green manure crop. When we did have a window of opportunity it didn’t seem that the seed in the barley and oats was viable; nevertheless, some of the viable seed created an interesting mix of lettuce with grain. We figured that you prefer salad without “wheat” grass, unless you were planning on juicing it all. We ended up missing quite a few weeks of greens and lettuce, as either the weeds or the grain shoots made for an unacceptable product.

The beets, carrots, parsnips, celeriac, and fennel that did make it through the wetness look good, but again we will be looking at lower than usual quantities to distribute, as we weren’t able to weed some of them in time to provide a satisfactory yield.

We brought seven butcher hogs to the Hill Town Pork slaughterhouse this past Thursday. The hogs were tame, well-fed, and content. In my opinion, they were some of the best hogs we have raised so far. In two weeks, we will deliver the other seven and pick up the non-smoked portion of the first batch of pork.

As the days begin to shorten, we now turn our attention to next year, to what we can do differently, what worked well, and what we need to improve upon. We invite you to let us know how the season went for you and what you feel we could do better or differently next season. Your feedback will help us to serve you better and to meet your needs. In lieu of being certified, this is what helps keep us on the right track.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Week 12 newsletter

Since we wrote to you about spraying the tomatoes with copper to save them from the late blight, we have received quite a few emails asking us about what that means and if we spray other crops with other products. We also had a visit from a French agriculturalist who asked about the American organic certification and whether we participate. We explained that, because of the CSA relationship of trust and open communication about our farming practices, we don’t feel the need to be certified. In addition, certification would cost us quite a bit of money and it doesn’t make sense to pass that cost on to the CSA members. In order for you to feel comfortable with our farming practices, we thought we should share with you the products we spray, what crops we spray, and why we spray.

Copper: One of the products that organic growers can use is NuCop 50 WP. It is a blue powder that we mix with water and spray on the tomatoes as a fungicide. The copper is absorbed by the spore of the oomycete pathogen and kills the spore. The oomycete that has already developed on the plant cannot be killed. Organic growers have to use the spray as a protectant and apply it before the pathogen appears on the crop. Once the oomycete has established itself on the crop, the copper can be sprayed to control the spread of the spores, but the copper will not destroy the pathogen itself. We use copper to control early and late blight in the tomatoes. For early blight, we spray when the plants are young and, once they begin to have fruit, we quit spraying. The late blight infection we have now requires that we spray until the end of the harvest. If we quit spraying copper, you would have only one or two more weeks of tomatoes at best.

We handle this product carefully and we do not go into the tomatoes for 24 hours after copper is applied. As we stated before, you should wash your tomatoes before you eat them. The copper product is only on the surface of the tomato and easily washes off. Copper is a trace mineral in the soil and, because we rotate our crops every year, this one season of a heavier-than-normal use of copper will not affect the soil life or soil health. Copper does not leach into ground water. We are careful to spray only when there is no wind so that the copper does not drift into other areas of the farm or into other crops.

Entrust: This is a product we use to control European Corn Borer in sweet corn and peppers. We also use it when the flea beetle infestation is especially heavy in greens like arugula or in eggplant. With the addition of the parasitic wasps (trichogramma ostrinae) we also use to control the corn borer, we have almost no worm damage in the corn. We have more damage in the peppers this year because we didn’t control the worms early enough. The larvae from the corn borer moth eat holes in the tops of the peppers. Then, when it rains, the peppers fill with water and rot on the plant. If not controlled, the larvae can do a lot of damage very quickly in a pepper crop. We spray the corn because most people do not enjoy finding worms in their corn ears.

Enrust is created from bacteria called spinosa that are found in the soil. It works best on pests that eat the sprayed leaves. Entrust can have some effect on the pests and beneficial insects when it has just been sprayed. Once the product dries, it is not harmful to insects that are not ingesting the sprayed leaves. It is not considered to be toxic to humans. We are careful to spray so that it does not drift (blow in the wind to places we do not want it). Insects can build up a resistance to Entrust, so we do not spray it more than two or three times on a crop per season. We use about two ounces per acre per application and the product is broken down in the soil.

Bt: This product comes from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis. We use the product called DiPel DF. There are many different strains of Bt, but we use this one to control cabbage loopers (the worms found in your cabbage and broccoli). It works only by digestion and causes the larvae of the looper moth to quit eating. We sometimes use it to control corn earworm in the corn by spraying it directly on the silks of the ears. We only do this if our scouting (carefully surveying the crop for evidence of a pest) shows that we have a high level of corn earworm moths in the corn field. DiPel DF is not toxic to humans or other animals. It only affects the larvae that eat the plant leaves.

All three products are aided by what is called a spreader sticker and, in our case, that is Nu-Film P, another OMRI approved material. Nu-Film improves the material’s effectiveness by protecting it against early UV degradation, by making it stick to the leaves of the plant, and by lowering the surface tension of the water which creates a smaller droplet and therefore better coverage.

Biodynamic Preparations: The biodynamic preparations are used in addition to good farming practices to increase the health of the soil and plants on the farm. They are similar to the homeopathic remedies we use to benefit human and animal health. We use horn-manure preparation to increase the humus formation in the soil (the stable soil aggregates that increase organic matter) and to increase the rooting of the plants. Horn manure is made by filling cow horns with cow manure from animals raised on grass. The filled horns are then buried in the ground over the winter. When the horns are dug up in the spring the manure has fermented into a compost-like substance. After we dig it up we insert the six compost preparations and store it in a stone urn immersed in peat moss to maintain its freshness. The compost preparations are made from fermented medicinal herbs: dandelion, chamomile, valerian, yarrow, stinging nettle, and oak bark. We also put very small quantities of each in the compost piles. We also apply both horn-silica and (on a trial basis) the horn-clay preparation, which are both made in a way similar to the horn-manure. We use very small amounts of these preparations and stir them in warm water for one hour. Horn-manure and horn clay are sprayed on the soil and horn silica is sprayed on the leaves of the plants.

When we are making a decision about whether or not to use a certain product, we carefully weigh the pros and cons. We have increased the use of spraying because we felt that you wanted a less damaged product. We heard from you that you don’t want to find worms in your broccoli or corn. We understand, and we do our best to deliver that. We do not use products that are not on the OMRI list (OMRI is the organization that decides if a product can be used in certified organic production). If you have further questions about what we use to protect the crops so that we can deliver a better product to you, please send us an email at This continued discussion is how we determine your needs and how to best meet them. It is important that, even though we have had this relationship for almost 20 years, the lines of communication stay open. We thank you for your questions and input.

For more information on Entrust, DiPel DF, and NuCop WP50 we recommend that you read the Resource Guide for Organic Insect and Disease Management published by Cornell University. You can find it on their website:

For an article on the Biodynamic Preparations we suggest the article on the ATTRA (The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service) website: and at the Biodynamic Association’s website:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Week 11 Newsletter

This week, we received a visit from the widely respected professor Tom Zitter, along with Cornell Cooperative Extension agents John Mishanec, Laura McDermott, and Chuck Bornt. Tom is a researcher at Cornell University, where he heads the Zitter Lab and Field Program, which deals with the biology and management of pathogens of fresh market vegetables, with emphasis on potatoes, tomatoes, and cucurbits. As I have written to you before, we have been working with Cornell for many years conducting tomato, potato, and cucurbit trials, as well as soil management. For three years we participated in a trial to help assess the quality of late blight-resistant tomato varieties.

Their visit was a good opportunity to check up on the health of our tomato plants. Unfortunately, due to the misconception that hot and dry weather doesn’t favor late blight, this farmer had slacked off on the spraying of copper in the last two weeks. It did not take Tom very long to discover the first lesions indicating that late blight has started to fester on our late planting of tomatoes. It was a blessing to have him and Chuck visit us that day, as we think we might still be in time to lessen the infection by going back to a more careful spraying regime.

Four years ago, our local extension agent, Chuck Bornt, asked us if we had some space in our tomato section to add about 400 plants of about 50 different late blight-resistant tomato varieties. They had no funding at the time but, with the cooperation of growers like Roxbury Farm, and the ongoing concern that late blight would one day have a catastrophic impact on tomato production (well, that proved to be a foresight!), we went ahead. Those 50 different varieties were trialed at Roxbury Farm; by one other grower in the western part of the state; and at the Thompson Vegetable Research Farm at Freeville, N.Y.

I remember Chuck telling me that he was biased against one variety and he was hesitant to include it in the mix, as it produced a strong indeterminate tomato plant. Tomatoes are classified as determinate, semi determinate, and indeterminate. This terminology applies to how the tomatoes ripen on the vine. Indeterminate tomatoes ripen one cluster at a time. The Juliet and Golden Rave tomatoes you receive are both indeterminate, making for a very tall tomato plant. As you can imagine, trellising such plants is not without difficulty. The earlier planted Juliets have reached well above their six-foot trellis, with the latest vine growth falling over the last strings. The weight of such plants, in combination with strong winds, can cause the trellis to collapse, which occurred in one section last Saturday with some of the Golden Raves. Needless to say, commercial growers demand determinate lines from their breeders. These plants are usually around four feet tall and the tomatoes ripen almost simultaneously on the whole plant.
We told Chuck we are not afraid of some tall plants if we think the flavor and quality are worth it, so he included it.

At such a stage in variety trials, crops have just a number; only when they are released on a commercial basis do they get a proper name. As we always look for the latest improvement of disease and insect control in seed stock, our current red potato is still named NY 129. Many of the late blight- (Phytophthora) tolerant tomatoes in the trial of 2005 were bred by Prof. Randy Gardner of NCSU. He created the well-known Mountain series that have good tolerance against Alternaria (early blight) and Fusarium. We have grown the Mountain Fresh and Mountain Pride, which are large beefsteak types, but many of you preferred a less firm and sweeter tomato.

Once the 50 varieties matured, we looked for combined disease resistance, flavor, earliness, fruit size, firmness, color, smoothness, and crack resistance. A tomato can be late blight-resistant, but if it is very sensitive to Septoria (which was not part of the research until recently) or without good flavor, we still have little interest in growing it. One variety stood out from the pack, literally, as it grew to six feet tall. The vigorous plant produced a small round tomato – due to the size and shape of the tomato, it was named Ping Pong by our own Johannes (coming out of the always creative and imaginative mind of a then 15-year-old). Best of all, according to other trials, it is virtually resistant to late blight. We were very excited about it, and asked Chuck if he could secure 100 seeds of the Ping Pong variety so we could start delivering those tomatoes to the membership. Every year since then we have had to pull some strings, as there wasn’t much of a seed supply available. Word got out that Ping Pong was a winner; maybe not for large commercial growers, but certainly for specialty crop farmers like ourselves, and possibly for home gardeners, too, as its flavor is fantastic. Nevertheless, we have been able to add a small supply of Ping Pong tomatoes to your share each year by securing about 200 seeds from Cornell.

Last year, we wrote a letter of support to help Tom apply for a large grant to develop Septoria-, early blight-, and late blight-resistant tomato varieties. Though the money granted to Cornell is much less than requested, we will still hold the first trial by next season. This kind of work is greatly underappreciated by the scientific world, and therefore hugely underfunded. Rumor has it that North Carolina State University is pressuring Randy to spend less time on developing new varieties and more on molecular marking (researching what gene is responsible for what trait).
This winter Ping Pong received its commercial name: Mountain Magic. We were disappointed, but we understood – it is Randy’s creation after all. We can still call it Ping Pong, and so does Tom. On the Zitter Lab website homepage you’ll find a picture of Mountain Magic, with the caption “a.k.a. Ping Pong.” Thanks, Tom, and thanks to all the folks at the extension service for providing farmers with the latest developments and innovations in agriculture.


Week 10 Newsletter

When I arrived at Roxbury Farm on a June morning ten years ago, I had no inkling of what a profound role Roxbury would play in my life – that my life would be forever entwined with the life of the farm.

Over the last ten years, the farm has changed dramatically. In 2000, we moved to new land and formed partnerships with Equity Trust and the Open Space Institute to preserve and protect the farm for agriculture in perpetuity. With the support of the membership, the farm has grown to 300 acres of protected prime agricultural land. When we moved to the farm, the land was starved and lifeless. Over the years, through the proper use of green manure crops, careful cultivation, application of compost and lime, diligent pasturing of cows and sheep, and the use of the biodynamic preparations, vitality and structure have returned to the soil. As we spend so much time and energy on caring for the soil, it was especially painful to watch 100 acres of it covered with the flood waters from the Kinderhook Creek two Thursdays ago. To be honest with you, in the thick of the moment questions arose with possible answers that would force us to make some radical changes should we ever continue to farm that land again. Now, after six days of sun and dry weather, the fields look better, and, with the help of many uplifting emails, we are able to put it behind us.

Thinking over the last ten years, I don’t really remember the crops we grew as much as I remember the people who grew the crops with us. The relationships we have formed because of the farm are among the most rewarding aspects of the work we do. We have been blessed by the talents of many people who come to the farm for a season or two to learn while they work, and work hard. Each of them has left their mark on the farm. Many of them have gone on to be farmers. Some don’t farm, but bring their experiences from the farm into their world by how they eat and how they educate others about agriculture and food. The farm has now grown to a size and level of complexity that means we need to share the management with others. Creating a space for other people to feel that the farm is theirs is a challenging exercise in creativity and patience on all sides, but it’s a challenge we gladly embrace.

The many members who support the farm every season with their share dollars, their volunteer labor at the sites or on the farm, and their encouraging notes and emails changed my idea about the future of agriculture. The relationship of trust between us, as your farmers, and you, as our customers, is quite remarkable. Your outpouring of support since the flood kept us going.
The last devastating flood I remember was in 1993, when I lived in Iowa. It felt like the whole state flooded, taking many of the corn and soybean fields away with the flood waters.
Those farmers had only the government to depend on for relief and support. Trying to negotiate the maze of government disaster relief forms and regulations is not something I would want to entrust my future to. Columbia County has been declared an agricultural disaster area this year, but there may never be any monetary support behind that disaster declaration. While about 65 acres of the second cut of our hayfields, an acre of broccoli, some lettuce and greens, some radish for seed, and about an acre of sweet corn were completely lost to the flooding, much of the yield of many of our fall crops will also be reduced due to the wet weather and diseases that came with it. The monetary damage to crops and equipment is close to $25,000; but knowing that you will continue to support us through this difficult year means that we have much less to worry about than many of the other farmers in our area.

There were only a few organic farms in Columbia County ten years ago; now there are many. Our Columbia County “farmers club” has grown and is another source of support and advice during all types of weather. On Saturday night, many of us gathered at Katchkie Farm, right across the road from Roxbury Farm, to enjoy a beautiful dinner at a Farm to Table event sponsored by Great Performances from New York City and the Red Barn restaurant here in Kinderhook. More than 100 people, farmers, chefs, and eaters gathered at linen-covered tables in the middle of the vegetable fields and dined on all-local produce, meat, cheese, and spirits. It was quite an experience to taste our vegetables prepared by expert chefs. It was amazing to see so many people come out to support local agriculture.

This is what I think has changed the most over the ten years I have been a part of Roxbury Farm: the ever-expanding interest and support for local food production by you, the eaters and customers. So, while the farm needs to change and adapt over the next ten years, knowing that we have your support will keep us going to 2019 and beyond.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Flood 2009

Last Thursday, July 30th, we received over 4 inches of rain. This in combination with 6 inches of rain from towns upstream from us on the Kinderhook Creek resulted in flooding that hasn't been seen since 1948. The lower fields on both farms were completely covered in water. Fortunately we weren't growing very many crops on the fields this season. The creek receded the fields are drying out. It will be quite awhile before we can work the soil again.

See the flood in photos below. From top to bottom:
Seven foot tall sorghum-sudan grass under water; Our tractor stuck on high ground in the cow pasture, it drove right out after the water receded: Our cows stranded in the pasture. The next morning the crew herded them out by land and by canoe; The row of equipment under water; The back of the sweet corn field in the flood water; Dave and Linda canoeing the cover crop on the field we grew our fall crops in last year; Two plantings of broccoli flooded out; The next three are different views of our vegetable fields under 3-7 ft of water.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Garlic Workday this Saturday

We will have a member workday this Saturday, July 11th to harvest the 2009 garlic crop. Please join us at the North Farm/CSA Barn location around 10:00 am. If you arrive later look for signs to tell you where to find us. We will have a potluck lunch around 12:30 pm so please bring a dish to share, your plates, and utensils. Wear old clothes and shoes that can get dirty and bring your sunscreen, water bottle, and gloves. Members of all ages are welcome for an hour or the whole day. Hope to see you there!

Photos from the farm

This is the new corral and handling system to help us move the cows with less stress on both the animals and the humans.

Week 5 Newsletter

This season we are managing more animals than in past years. We will be finishing eight steers on pasture at the South Farm. Jody’s 50 ewes produced about 80 lambs that are pastured on the North Farm. The two sows had large litters but, unfortunately, one of the sows wasn’t too careful and stepped on quite a few, reducing the number of butcher hogs this year to 15. That sow was brought to the butcher a few months ago (we constantly cull animals with bad mothering instincts or ones that are mean). The butcher hogs and the single sow live in a seven-acre forest at the North Farm. The sheep and pigs are kept in by a high-tensile, 13-strand, woven-wire fence; it keeps both the predators out and the farm animals in.

With the increase in the number of animals comes the need for good handling systems. When the steers are ready for slaughter, we need to maintain a stress-free environment (for both people and animals). Getting an animal into a small trailer in the middle of a field without a handling system is hard on the animal and frustrating for the people trying to chase it. Unless you are a hunter, there is little point in chasing animals.

Our steers have a 30-by-36-foot corral that moves with the pasture. It consists of a bunch of interlocking gates that are easily taken apart and put together again. They have grown accustomed to this place, as we have placed the water tub and salt box in the corral. During the extreme weather of the past few weeks, the steers have come to view the corral as a sort of barn they can use as a refuge. If we need to move the steers to another pasture, we first lock them inside the corral. In the beginning, they freaked out when we locked the gate behind them. But, despite their thick brains, they have realized that the reward of this temporary restraint is new lush grass - lately they passively wait until Mike and I have set up a new fence.

If we want to load them onto a trailer, we have another setup that moves the steers through a crowding tube and alley, which allows us to sort them. For some reason I don’t understand, cows and other animals are less frightened when they are forced to move through a curving aisle with walls that restrain them on both sides. Giving the animals too much space allows them to hurt themselves, as they respond to the illusion that they can flee; restraining them has a calming effect.

We have a similar sorting system for the sheep - the trick here is to get them all in the barn. Sheep have a strong herd mentality and, unlike the steers, the sheep stick together. That gives a sheepherding dog a great advantage, as he/she can move the herd as one flock. Once inside the barn, it has been a challenge to get the first sheep to move through the sorting chute, but when you get one in (sometimes with a little encouragement) the rest are more likely to follow.

The nice advantage of sheep and steers over pigs is that they make us completely self-sustainable in our food supply; they eat grass, which especially after all this rain has been in plentiful supply. For the pigs, we used to buy in pig feed from a local grain dealer that purchases his grain from local farmers. That has changed; this year he couldn’t guarantee that the grains he purchased were GMO-free. As a result, we have secured another source of pig feed from Green Mountain Organics that will guarantee the feed to be free from any GMOs. Unfortunately, the cost of certified organic feed is much higher - the cost per ton went from $310 to $590. So, my dear pork lovers, you will notice an increase in the cost of pork this fall. If that means that we have priced ourselves out of the market due to our set of high standards on both animal ethics and feed source, we will be happy to give the forest back to the gnomes.

On ethics: We are expecting a visit this month from the Animal Welfare Approved organization to label our meat as certified humanely raised and handled. Our main obstacle to certification had been that our butchers were initially a bit shy in getting certified (it takes both the farm and the processor to obtain the label) but, after their facilities and handling systems were approved, we were able to complete the process. The requirements for certification are reasonable and greatly consider the welfare of an animal from the animal’s perspective. Good pig, cow, or sheep farmers should be able to get into the psyche of the animals they raise; once you do, you can’t do a fraction of the things we typically expose our domestic animals to these days.

Not everyone enjoys eating meat, and neither should we consume a lot of it; but when we do, it’s great to know that the animal made a contribution to the environment by keeping more land in grass (a very good remedy against global warming) and that we did everything to assure you it led a stress-free life. ~Jean-Paul

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Garlic Harvest Workday and Farm Update

Dear Roxbury Farm Members,
The Garlic Harvest Workday will be on Saturday, July 11th from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. Members of all ages are welcome for the whole day or a few hours. Please meet us at the North Farm/CSA Barn Location. We will share a potluck lunch around 12:30 pm. Please bring a dish to share, a plate, and utensils. The farm will supply beverages. We also recommend you bring work gloves, a water bottle, and sunscreen. Wear clothes and shoes that can get dirty. We hope to see you there!

On another note we have experienced another week of rainy weather. Fortunately the fields were dry on Monday so the crew worked until 8:00 pm to get all of the transplants and seeds in the ground that needed to be planted last week and this week. Monday night it started to rain again and hasn't stopped since. After three weeks of this weather the crops are beginning to suffer. You may notice that over the next two or three weeks the shares may be lacking a few items because of the weather. Over the last week we have only harvested about 1000 summer squash and zucchini. Usually by this time of year we are harvesting over 4000 summer squash and zucchini a week. The squash and zucchini need lots of sun and warm temperatures. The peppers and tomatoes are starting to fruit so we are hoping for some hot, dry weather to ripen them for your shares.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Week 4 Newsletter

The wet weather has caused the vegetable farmers in the Northeast to go on a late blight alert. Late blight is the disease that caused the potato famine in Ireland in the 1840s. We experienced it firsthand in 2000 on our tomatoes. After the spores arrived (with a thunderstorm), it blackened the plants in a matter of days, transforming them into slimy, moldy skeletons as the mold consumed all the tissue. It is a disease feared by both organic and conventional farmers, because there is no cure once it has been detected. The only thing a grower can do is preventative treatment. We have been advised to spray moderate amounts of copper, though it is generally considered too mild of a treatment when the infestation level is high.

In last week’s letter I stated that many crop failures are human failures. In the spirit of that I will quote a variation on this by John Mitchell, an Irish political writer of the 1840s: “The Almighty, indeed, sent the potato blight, but the English created the Famine.” His observations were considered treason by the English and he was exiled to Bermuda. Two and a half million people starved to death because the landlords regarded the land as a source of income from which to extract as much money as possible. During the late 1840s, peasants were evicted from their properties and landlords burned down their modest cabins (shacks, really), to use the land for grazing and grains. While millions of people starved to death, food continued to be exported to England.

There are some lessons to be learned from this experience. Not unlike the new wave of young farmers, born and bred in the city, who venture into agriculture these days, the average Irish farmer leased a farm of one to five acres in size. We are in the middle of an enormous land transfer from active multi-generational farmers to wealthy landowners. Organizations like the Columbia Land Conservancy and the Open Space Institute recognize the need to create a link between these new landowners and farmers, understanding that there will only be a fruitful relationship when the two parties get along and there is an ironclad agreement describing mutually agreed-upon terms. There is an influx of city folks in the Hudson Valley in love with land, both rich and poor, and not only around here. A while ago, a young farmer in California wrote on a blog:

“Then there is the issue of land access. There is no doubt that the owner of our ranch is doing the best that she can, with what she has. But why are we still in a situation where the rich get to decide the best uses for land, while hard working, intelligent, compassionate, humble workers just do what we’re told? Most opportunities that I hear about for young farmers in this area involve farming for someone with land, and that someone is no doubt rich, and almost as likely, they KNOW NOTHING ABOUT FARMING. We get told to mow the lawn with a fossil-fueled machine, instead of having it grazed by sheep. We are told that floating row cover looks tacky, ‘can we not use it?’ ‘Well, maybe not, if you don’t mind grubs in your radishes’.
My point is this: the sustainable food system will never truly exist under the currently existing conditions around land ownership. It’s not just enough to create local markets for organic food. If we truly need 20,000,000 new small-scale farmers to make this thing work, then those millions of farmers need secure access to land. No matter how many well-intentioned ‘progressive’ rich people there are in the Bay Area who want to see a farm on their land, tenant farming, sharecropping, or—as they used to call it—‘serfdom’ isn’t going to cut it.” (By Antonio Roman-Alcalá of San Francisco)

While the land-loving city folks have little in common with the greedy English Counts of the 1840s, we need to encourage thinking outside the box. Antonio’s writing underscores the need for new ideas regarding land ownership. While Roxbury Farm served as a model in 2000 when we moved to new land, few have followed our lead. Our transition was largely made possible by charitable gifts from the CSA members and the Open Space Institute. Simply stating that every farm needs 1,200 members and an Open Space Institute isn’t going to cut it; there isn’t enough gift money earmarked for land preservation. Something fundamental has to change in our approach to land ownership, something far more radical than philanthropy. We sympathize with Antonio in his hope that something better is still to come. ~Jean-Paul

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Week 3 Newsletter

The weather appears to form a pattern. Reviewing last year’s newsletter by Jody was titled; ”Gone to Hail”. The hail hit again, except this time it spared Roxbury Farm. Little Seed Gardens, Golden Harvest, and Yonder Farm (only a few miles north of us) were hit hard, losing a majority of their crops. Yonder Farms supplies the farm with fruit and this is the fourth year that they will apply for crop insurance for their apples. There is a bittersweet side to this as one consequence is a drastic reduction of their spraying regime. Damage from hail is mostly cosmetic but the global market excludes any fruit that shows a blemish. For four years we have been able to purchase “low spray” fruit not by design but by default.

The sudden wet weather has changed everything on the farm. While only a few weeks ago we were occupied with irrigation and haymaking; now we deal with muddy harvest conditions, and the challenge of staying on schedule with the succession plantings. Each vegetable is seeded in successions to ensure a steady supply and optimum quality. Some folks believe that having a CSA is less demanding as it reduces the risk to the farmer. I don’t agree; we feel a tremendous pressure to ensure that every week we have a great share to deliver. Once we have the down payment in our hands we have made a promise to you. If your main outlet is a farmers’ market and you lose a lettuce planting or two, you miss a few sales. But as a CSA you can’t afford to miss any succession or experience any crop failures because your members put their trust in you.

We all understand that the members share in the risk of any possible catastrophe like hail, flooding, or windstorm. But notwithstanding those acts of God, farmers have a lot of influence in the outcome of a crop. Most crop failures on farms are still human failures. Sometimes it is a matter of poor planning; planting parsnips in a weedy field whereby the weeds become twice as tall as the seeded down parsnips, or planting a crop like broccoli that requires a lot of nitrogen in a low fertility field. The other most common mistake was pointed out to me many years ago by my friend and colleague, John Peterson of Angelic Organics.

The irony of it all is that I was confronted by John during a session I taught to other CSA farmers about equipment. I explained to the group the methodology of properly sizing your equipment to the scale of your operation. This can be a relatively academic exercise. John became very agitated with the exercise and at the peak of his frustration screamed out: “This is wrong, you need to take these numbers and multiply them by at least two”. “But John, not too many people can afford that” I replied. “It is more expensive to undersize your equipment” was his final word on it as he continued to sulk during the remainder of my presentation. While John has a real love relationship with his farm equipment (read: Farmer John on: “Glitter and Grease”) he is also rational and in retrospect I had to admit he was correct. The crop losses that were due to equipment breakdown or inability to get the work done during small windows of opportunity changed my perspective. Collecting the many pieces of highly specialized equipment (you won’t find many pieces of our equipment on the local equipment dealer’s lot) took many years and a lot of research to collect. When John visited Roxbury Farm last year I accomplished something I never dreamt would happen; he not only approved our choice of equipment, he was almost envious.

Last week was one of those weeks where this foresight paid off. We only had one day to put all our plants and seed for the week in the ground and to plow up ground for future succession plantings. Unfortunately that day was on a Wednesday; our busiest harvest day of the week. That day showed us that people are still the most important resource as the majority of the harvesting (even on a large scale) is done by hand. Our crew of nine, with exceptional focus harvested and washed 400 bunches each of turnips, radishes, broccoli rabe, and scallions, 400 lbs each of salad mix and braising mix, 400 heads each of lettuce and bok choi, 2400 scapes, several boxes each of cilantro, parsley and sorrel, and they were able to harvest the daily picking of summer squash and zucchini. In addition to that, we were able to mulch about two acres of plasti-culture, stale seed bed 2 acres of raised beds, plant 6000 sweet corn plants, 3000 broccoli plants, 3000 Brussels sprouts plants, seed down 7000 row foot each of salad and braising mix, cultivate two acres of potatoes, four acres of sweet corn, and work up about four acres of new vegetable land. Yes, it was kind of late when we were done that day but when it poured buckets of rain again the following morning we knew none of our efforts had been in vain.

The common mistake most CSA farmers make is that they penny-pinch when purchasing equipment. While equipment is very costly, a breakdown can be far costlier as a farmer potentially loses the opportunity to get his crops in the ground. What I learned from Farmer John is that it is better to oversize your equipment as it allows you to take advantage of small windows of opportunity. One of those small windows was last Wednesday. With John Middleton keeping the equipment in tip top shape, with a harvest crew moving in high gear, and the foresight that you can hardly have too many pieces of equipment around, we have a little more peace of mind. That, and headlights on the tractors. ~Jean-Paul

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pick Your Own Strawberry Farms

Thompson Finch Farm: Ancram, NY (southern Columbia County) Organic Pick Your Own Strawberries and Raspberries and a Farm Stand. Always call ahead to check on picking conditions at 518-329-7578. For directions visit their website at

Indian Ladder Farms: Altamont, NY Pick Your Own Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, and Apples and a Farm Stand. Call ahead at (866) 640-PICK. For directions visit their website at

Stone Ridge Orchard, near New Paltz, NY Sustainably Grown Pick Your Own Strawberries, Pear, and Apples and a Farm Stand. Call ahead 845-687-4379 or visit their website at

Samascott Orchards, Kinderhook, NY Pick Your Own Strawberries, Blueberries, and Sour Cherries. Call ahead at 518-758-7224 or visit their website at

Yonder Farms, Valatie, NY Pick Your Own Strawberries. Open most weekends during strawberry season. Roadside stand is on Route 9 just north of Valatie.

The Berry Farm, Kinderhook, NY Pick Your Own Strawberries and Blueberries and a Farm Store. Call for information at 518-392-4609

Week 2 Newsletter

So far, the weather has been great. Temperatures have been balmy and we’ve only had a few days that reached into the upper eighties or lower nineties. While April was an extremely dry month for us (hardly any precipitation) and May moderately dry, June has brought quite a few welcome showers. The dry weather in late May and early June allowed for great field conditions to plow and plant and to bale up most of our straw and first cutting of hay. Finishing the first cutting before the first vegetable delivery greatly reduces the stress on the farm. Most of the hay is sold to a local beef farm, some of it is stored for winter use for our sheep, and the rest is saved to use as mulch in the vegetable fields. We grow hay not only for the animals: it is an integral part of the farm.

The farm is about 300 acres, about 90 of which are devoted to vegetable crop production, 100 to hay, and about 50 to permanent pasture. To maintain fertility on the vegetable land, we import compost and plow under a significant amount of green manure. Green manure is basically a crop that is specifically grown to be plowed under in order to provide fertility to what we call a cash crop (a crop that is exported off the farm). On other farms, sorghum, buckwheat, soybeans, oats, barley, rye, field-peas, red clover, crimson clover, and ladino clover are strictly grown for feed or sold off the farm. At Roxbury Farm you will see those crops cultivated (as well as chickling vetch, hairy vetch, sweet clover, and bell beans) but strictly to help build soil fertility. True, we don’t plow under all of our green manure crops – the rye and hairy vetch are cut and pressed into 900-pound, round bales.

All of our green-manure mixes consist of a member of the grass family combined with a legume. Cereals, such as rye, contain a lot of lignin, which brings stable carbon into the farm, while the legumes, through their symbiotic relationship with rhizobia, help fix nitrogen. Like the green-manure plots, hayfields consist of a mixture of grasses and legumes. That particular mix is nature’s way of being most efficient.

About seven acres of vegetables are planted in non-GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms), corn-based mulch. At first glance, the product looks just like regular plastic, but over time it behaves quite differently. At the end of the season, it breaks down and becomes part of the soil. The dark black surface of the plastic absorbs heat more readily than bare soil, holds the moisture, and helps maintain the organic matter level. Naturally available nitrogen and phosphorus are better available in relatively warm soil. Cold soils do not allow naturally occurring nitrogen and phosphorus to become available to plants, which greatly reduces our ability to produce early crops in the spring. So we fool nature with the use of black
plastic and row covers by increasing the temperature of the soil.

Weeds in between the plastic can be a great problem, as the wheel tracks do not get the proper shade needed to suppress weed pressure. This can be a real dilemma; we space crops such as peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, etc., widely enough to increase air flow and light, but all that light allows weeds to continue to germinate. Once the peppers or tomatoes reach a certain height, we can no longer cultivate the wheel tracks with our tractors. Before you know it, you have a jungle in between the vegetable rows competing with the vegetables for light and nutrients, and creating moist conditions that induce plant diseases.

Conventional growers use an herbicide in between the plastic while organic growers generally despair and seek their cleanest ground for plasti-culture. It is therefore a myth that organic growers use plastic mulch as a form of weed control; yes, it is very effective around the plant, but it creates a huge problem in between the beds. We have experimented with all sorts of solutions, including the seeding down of annual rye grass and Dutch white clover. The thinking is that providing shade by growing another low-growing crop will reduce germination of new weed seeds. This is called living mulch, as opposed to dead mulch like straw, hay, or woodchips.
The suppression works well, except in wet years when the grass and or clover become so vigorous that they become a problem too. Lately, we have switched over completely to the application of dead mulch. At first, we bought in straw bales from a local grower. When that became cost prohibitive (about $1,500 an acre), we started growing our own rye straw. When we don’t make enough rye straw, we alternatively use an early first cutting of hay that is free of weed seeds. The hay mulch has proven to be a great alternative to the use of rye straw.
Last fall, we only had a few bales of rye straw left and Jody wanted to keep some in the barn for bedding for the sheep and pigs. As a result, the garlic was mulched partly with straw and mostly with grass-based hay. This spring, we were pleasantly surprised with the result: the garlic has never looked this healthy. While straw tends to steal nitrogen out of the soil in order to break down, the hay proved to be a source of nitrogen, creating lush growth while suppressing the weeds. The disadvantage is that it takes about twice as many bales to provide the same weed suppression as straw, because the hay tends to break down faster – but, on the other hand, we don’t have to apply any other fertilizer, because the hay feeds the crop.

Hay fields are self-sufficient in their need for nitrogen and carbon. Vegetables take a lot of nitrogen, while they generally exhaust the soil carbon. Removing the hay and applying it as mulch on the vegetables, along with the cultivation of green manures, greatly helps us to reduce our dependence on imported compost and other fertilizer. ~Jean-Paul

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Photos from the Farm

This spring we worked on updating our washing and packing areas. We poured cement for a new washing shed for the root washers. We will start on the walls and the roof soon. We also built a new completely washable wall in the washing and packing barn and installed new lights.

Week 1 Newsletter, June 8

Welcome to the 2009 season! We are excited for the first harvest after months of preparation. We have had a busy and productive spring and look forward to a great year.

Over the winter we received many concerned emails from you about food safety bills being debated in Congress. H.R. 875 was one that brought about the most controversy as we heard that the bill would outlaw organic farming and backyard gardening. We also heard that in order to grow greens we would soon have to plow up all of our grass strips and cut down the trees around the fields to prevent wildlife from coming into contact with our produce. We are supportive of stricter food safety guidelines, especially for the industrial sector of agriculture, but we were and are worried about how those laws could affect farms like ours. So, fearing the worst, we decided to educate ourselves on exactly what food safety guidelines and laws would mean for our farm.

In April, I attended a food safety workshop with four other organic farmers in our neighborhood and about 20 conventional farmers. Our regional Cornell Cooperative Vegetable Extension Agent, Chuck Bornt, organized the workshop to answer all of the questions that farmers were asking him. The food safety regulations, at this point, are only required by certain grocery store chains and large produce wholesalers and not the federal government. These regulations are called GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) Standards and are only concerned with microbial or chemical contamination of the produce. Some farmers’ markets in the Hudson Valley may also soon require GAP certification. There are many private institutions as well as the USDA that will certify your crops as GAP certified. Each crop a farmer grows needs to be individually inspected up to three times each season and the inspection costs $92 an hour plus driving to and from the farm. To be certified you need a written food safety plan that covers all aspects of harvesting and handling of the crops grown on a farm. A food safety plan is a good thing and most of the GAP guidelines are common sense and practical. At the workshop we had the chance to discuss our farming practices with GAP inspectors and food safety specialists. We will soon post ours on our website at

The five organic farms at the workshop posed unusual questions for the certifiers and experts. Such as, how do you feel about CSA members harvesting crops for the whole membership (i.e. when you come to a member workday to take part in the garlic, potato, sweet potato, or winter squash harvest)? They don’t like that idea as they see this as a huge risk for microbial contamination. We asked about written guidelines for incorporating animals into a farm. There aren’t any that address the needs of a farm to be more self sustaining with their fertility. One farmer asked about certifying a farm that grows 60 crops. Presently each crop would need to be certified individually. This is unpractical and unaffordable for most of the organic growers in our area. At this point there is no other alternative to the crop by crop inspection. This needs to be changed if farmers’ markets are going to require GAP certification or there won’t be any farmers at the market. The inspectors were open to a discussion about how we farm and said they will need to be educated about sustainable farming practices in order to certify our farms.

Our fears about the end of farming as we know it were unfounded (so far). There are no laws that require us to become GAP certified, although we do follow the guidelines that exist at this point. Educating ourselves about food safety helped us to make some changes on the farm. The food safety experts don’t want soil buildup in the packing barn. Our washing line for the greens, broccoli, peas, etc was in the same barn as the washing line for the root crops. They also want plastic walls that can be washed down. This spring we poured cement for a new washing shed for the root crop washers. We will begin construction on the roof and walls this week. We built a new wall in the washing and packing barn that is covered with white vinyl that is completely washable. We also installed new lighting in the barn that will allow us to do a better job of inspecting the produce. We hope these changes will result in a better product and at the same time has the benefit of a much more pleasant working environment.

We need to continue to be aware of what is going on with food safety legislation. We need to make sure that food safety experts and the lawmakers understand what it means to be sustainable and to look at a farm holistically. We need to make sure that they are just as concerned about the application of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides as they are about compost and organic soil amendments. Our attention to food safety is not only to prevent microbial contamination. We are also concerned with growing food in a way that improves soil health, provides habitat for beneficial insects, rare plants, and other wildlife, protects water quality, and allows you to have a connection to the land and people that grow your food. We hope you will continue to let us know about your concerns and that we can all be part of the dialogue to improve not only food safety but the sustainability of agriculture in the U.S. ~Jody

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


On January 29 and 30 the two sows had their litters. We have 15 plump and happy piglets running around the greenhouse. This is the first year that we have a Tamworth boar. Tamworths are a brownish-red heritage breed that do well raised outdoors and on pasture.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Enrollment Update

Thank you to all of the Roxbury Farm members who have re-enrolled for the 2009 season. We have a record number of 815 shares reserved for the 2009 season. One site, the Eileen Street site in Albany, is already full.

If you are presently a Roxbury Farm member and still want to sign-up for the 2009 season please send your form in as soon as possible. You only have a few more days to reserve your share before we open up membership to the general public. With only about 200 shares still available we are sure the spots will fill up quickly.

If you are not presently a member and are interested in signing up for the 2009 season, the 2009 enrollment forms will be available on our website, , on February 1st. Download the form, fill it out, and send it to the farm to reserve your share.