Fall has finally arrived! We have been busy with voluminous harvests, and the CSA distribution is at its peak of abundance. The beginning of this week was quite hot, but it has cooled down a lot and we even had a light, patchy frost Thursday night.
We have been picking most of the time recently. Our morning harvests for CSA have been larger, as we have been picking a few hundred pounds of broccoli and cauliflower each time. We also have had a brief but delicious burst of sweet corn, and we also have been getting bok choy and delicious fall spinach. We have also been bringing in lots of colorful sweet peppers and juicy tomatoes.
In addition to hearty fall crops, we are beginning to bring in some of our storage crops that we will distribute long after the end of the growing season. Over the last two weeks we brought in the storage beets, totaling 2,625 pounds! This week we also brought in three wagonloads of winter squash! We still have butternuts left in the field, but all of our acorns, jesters, delicata, buttercup, kuri, carnival, kabocha, and pie pumpkins are now in bins in the upstairs of the CSA barn!!
Around all of the harvest, we also managed to fit in a CRAFT visit this week. The three of us drove down to Stanfordville, NY to tour Sister’s Hill Farm. The farm is owned by the Sisters of Charity and operated by Dave Hambleton and his crew of three apprentices. The theme of the tour was systems eficciency, and we looked at their wash/pack/CSA distribution area, as well as their bed setup and cultivation system. Their wash system was very well-designed: they use a single type of container for harvest, storage, and display; move things around with hand trucks on the large concrete slab; have an in-ground scale to minimize lifting. In the field, they use the same bed marker for all crops, making transplanting, direct-seeding, and cultivation straightforward.
This week I also had the chance to make it to another farm tour, this one organized by UMASS Extension. We toured the wash/pack area at Atlas Farm, a 95-acre Organic veggie operation in Deerfield, and talked about produce safety compliance and wash efficiency. Atlas is one of the biggest vegetable farms I’ve ever visited and the equipment and labor-power involved is huge. Their wash system is very simple though. Most of their fruits go through the same style of brusher-washer that we have, though it has a few accessories to help things move more quickly. They also use a hydrocooler to cool and rinse greens and herbs before they go in the cooler. Last of all they have a separate, larger brusher-washer and barrel washer for potatoes and root crops. Despite the size, I felt like I was able to glean some useful strategies. Most crucial is having a cement floor, so that lots of produce can be moved around on wheels instead of being carried. The other is simply having space to maneuver, move things around, and expand if needed.
Around our own farm, I also installed a new in-feed brusher to our brush-washer, speeding up the beet wash. Sidney was able to take a morning off to see her dear friend Abigail, visiting from Bellingham, WA. We also spent some weekend time processing apples into sauce and butter for the winter! Owen, David and Leora all spent this weekend in New Hampshire at the Draft Animal Power Network annual gathering.
The big fall harvest is one of my favorite parts of being a farmer. As tasty and valuable as herbs, zucchini, lettuce, and all the other summery vegetables are, the fall storage crops really bring me joy. I love cooking hearty fall and winter meals with hearty vegetables, and the crispness in the air is so refreshing after the heat of summer.