It has been a very hard 7 weeks. Of course, it wasn’t bad at the beginning, when the rain started in early June. Indeed, we were grateful to get rain after a short dry spell. But as the weeks progressed with heavy rain events, some coming about every 36 hours, the soil started to get saturated, and as is noted in the news, many farms were wiped out across New England. Lucky for us that we are not located next to a river. We upgraded our foliar sprays adding more manganese and potassium to help keep the plants photosynthesizing and feeding their microbial partners below the surface of the soil. For the most part we have dodged the bullet though there are locations on the farm that are a little lower and a little wetter that suffered some crop loss. Our garlic bore a 40% loss and it is unclear yet how our sweet potatoes will fare. Weed growth has been rampant such that we cannot keep up with their removal. Based on conversations with our Real Organic Project certifier Davey Miskell this past Thursday and Friday, however, we are doing much better than many farmers he has been inspecting.
If I were to give any advice to growers it would be to prioritize soil fertility, maintaining a constant plant cover wherever possible – with living mulch as a next best alternative- maximize diversity, add in grass or clover pathways where possible in vegetable operations, mob stock pastures with intensive and regular rotations (daily where possible), and maintain as many perennials in your system as possible. We have been completely no till since 2014 and have noted significant improvement in drainage since that time.
My request of consumers is that you learn your farmers’ practices and make sure that you are buying from those who prioritize soil fertility, carbon sequestering practices such as cover cropping inter-sowing, mulching, perennial systems, maximization of photosynthesis, and animal integration. Send your farmers over to us if they want some support making some changes.
It is hard to know if we will make it out of this climate crisis alive, but we do have so much power in our own hands to support a healthy climate. Keep the soil covered in growing plants of all types. My grandfather in western Iowa made it a priority his entire life to plant trees wherever and whenever he could. I am grateful for his wisdom.
Davey Miskell, Real Organic Project, enjoying breakfast Friday morning
Expressing Gratitude this Week
Abby Morgan worked for us during the summers in 1998 and stuck around for 7 summers. She is back in Holden, is a teacher at Bancroft and has time to volunteer here this summer. What a ray of sunshine, and a high performing farmer she has been. It was clear to me on Thursday when Sister Anna Muhammed brought her kids from NOFA’s Tapley Apartments Garden program in Springfield. As she worked with some young teen girls hoeing lettuce, then basil, celery and collards, she chatted them up about their double Dutch exploits. Abby, we are so happy that you are back with us this summer.
Abby with the Double Dutch kids
Anna Muhammed took over our NOFA Springfield gardening work 6 years ago and has brought hundreds of kids to organic gardening and farming over those years. As always, it was a fantastic day spent with her and her students. Anna is one of those people whom I aspire to more like because of her centered and consistent approach to living life from her heart.
Anna carrying a crate of leaves for mulching
We got this email last week from the State: “Congratulations! We are pleased to notify you that your application has been awarded a Food Security Infrastructure Grant (FSIG) in the amount of $. We want to thank you for your commitment to strengthening our local food system and ensuring that individuals and families throughout the Commonwealth have access to food.”
Thank you, Jack, for writing this intricate grant application so that we can build a new walk-in cooler to replace our 1930’s era walk-in cooler that we brought out from our disbanding Boston food coop and built into our barn back in 1992. We will start construction right after we sell the turkeys in late November.
Videos this week
Kamarin prepping lunch
CSA News Week 9
Here is the line up for this week.
Best guess on what will be in your share bags this week
- Summer squash
- Swiss chard
- Green beans
Emails from readers
Julie and I have occasionally mentioned our interest in RFK Jr. for his work on
environmental and health issues. Since he has become a candidate for the
Democratic nomination for president in 2024 several of our good friends have
expressed concern about our interest in him. We would be happy to hear from
farm friends and other readers of this newsletter about their reservations
regarding him and will try to respond honestly and thoroughly. We don’t want
this discussion to dominate the farm newsletter, for sure, but we are all
citizens and need to make important decisions about our beliefs in the next
year. So please be ready for thoughtful pieces on him occasionally and feel
free to respond similarly. Jack
This one occurred last week. The writer’s name has been abbreviated for
Date: Thu, Jul 13, 2023 at 8:40 AM
Subject: Fwd: The New Yorker Radio Hour – The Conspiracies of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
To: Julie Rawson email@example.com
Julie, Please listen to this interview of Robert Kennedy before you go further in endorsing him. I will let the interview speak
for itself. — S
From: Jack Kittredge firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Jul 13, 2023 at 1:50 PM
Subject: Fwd: The New Yorker Radio Hour – The Conspiracies of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Thanks, S. We have listened to a lot of RFK interviews and I did listen to a lot of this one. He does say a lot which is very unconventional for a politician. But I think there is enough wrong with this country that the old answers are not going to work. I very much want to hear new ideas and I am very distrustful of the power centers in America which have been preventing full and candid discussions. It has gotten so bad that this interviewer can’t just ask him questions, he has to discredit the man for a couple of minutes before even giving him a chance to speak.
The corruption of public health, which I used to greatly respect, by 1) censoring and canceling opposition opinions, 2) mandating masks, distancing, and shutting down public life without evidence of the benefit from any of it, 3) refusing to investigate the curious origins of the pandemic, and 4) discrediting drugs which were off patent, reasonably priced, economical and effective in the Third World in favor of untested and expensive vaccines, all combined to make it clear to me that this public crisis had been seized for private advancement and was a perfect example of the corporate capture RFK is criticizing.
I know there is a large number of well-meaning people who are closed to this
analysis, most likely including you. I probably would have been one myself 30 years ago. I am sorry to see this, but I don’t expect any of you to be convinced by argument or podcasts. Personal experience is what brings wisdom in my own life and I expect in others as well. My concerns as cited in the previous paragraph may seem far-fetched to you now, but they will become more apparent as information comes out.
Here is one brief example of the censorship I mentioned, admitted by Mark Zuckerberg. Such cynical abuse of power is destructive of public confidence and trust. Why would any liberal who believes in free speech allow it?
In a recent podcast interview, Meta/Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted
straight out that government censorship went too far and undermined trust in the
institutions. In part:
“There hadn’t been time to vet a lot of the scientific assumptions, and, you
know, unfortunately I think a lot of the kind of establishment on that, um, kind
of waffled on a bunch of the facts, and you know, asked for a bunch of things to
be censored, that in retrospect wound up being more debatable, or true, and that
stuff is really tough, right, and really undermines trust.”
Thanks for the note and link, S. I would recommend listening to RFK with an open mind and see if you don’t think, as we do, that he is an honest and thoughtful guy. Let’s keep communicating! — Jack
Date: Thu, Jul 13, 2023 at 7:16 PM
Subject: Re: The New Yorker Radio Hour – The Conspiracies of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
To: Jack Kittredge email@example.com
I look forward to learning more about RFK. I will try to keep my mind open.
I certainly agree with you about the corruption and collusion between corporations and the political system! The word corporatocracy [sp?] fits what we have as governance. I have trusted the health care system to research the causes of autism – for instance – and they found no cause and effect. AND there is a cost/benefit analysis that is taken into account which may cloud the nuances of the whole picture. But I’d like to learn.
Admittedly, I feel that RFK has an ax to grind, even though he may have some good ideas.
To be continued. Get dinner on the table. S
Working Shareholders Always Welcome
It is not too late to join us. Reach out if you would like to help. Kamarin is now going down to 3 days per week, and we are looking for help on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. These are days that we do “progress” work – weeding, mulching and planting. Be in touch
Thanks to Donna Tizzano, Wednesday shareholder who came to work with us last week. So nice to meet our shareholders and enjoy their help!
Now is a good time to order broilers for our August 27 slaughter date
Our poor meat birds have taken the hardest hit from the devastating rains that we have suffered. Large parts of their pasture, our hayfield, have gone under water with more and more regularity. Sunday’s storm (7/16) found them in the mud. I ran around gathering straw to build a bit of a moat for them. Over the next couple of days we moved them to higher ground. Jonathan was able on Friday to cut another portion of our hayfield on Friday so they have somewhere to move this morning and for the next couple of weeks. It has been touch and go. Luckily the weather forecast looks hot during the day, dry and cool at night for the next week. Maybe we have moved out of this rainy pattern.
We offer hens at around 5 lbs. and cockerels at around 7 lbs. This is a one-time per year purchase. The birds are whole. We have one per week here at the farm. First, we roast it, then make chicken stock, have another major meal with that, and have a few meals that include chicken salad. It is the best chicken you will ever taste – guaranteed. Order via the link below.
These birds had a charmed early life, but it has been challenging the past week or so as our hayfield has reached its limit of saturation. We are now back on higher ground and the birds have dried out again and are looking quite happy.
Ways to Donate to MHSC
We are now providing 14 summer shares to these folks and only need $1000 more to provide 14 fall shares to the Worcester Community Fridges.
If you would like to donate for shares you can make a check out to the Many Hands Sustainability Center and send to 411 Sheldon Road, Bare, MA 01005 or make a donation on line here –
Workshops at MHOF
Cooking with your CSA share RECAP
7 of us had a great time cleaning out our refrigerator and making salad of lettuce, tulsi, basil, cucumbers, green onions and parsley; we made a stir fry with ground beef from the Farm School along with onions, kale, chard, parsley, oregano, summer squash, broccoli. We added salt, pepper, cloves, sage and tamari sauce. Next we prepared a chicken soup with stock from our last roast chicken as a base. We included a jar of canned tomatoes from last year, garlic, onions, kale, chard, summer squash, oregano, parsley, tulsi, and basil. We added salt and pepper and celery leaf powder for extra flavor. To highlight beets, we chopped a bunch of beets – roots, stems and greens – and steamed them until tender, then added salt, pepper and butter.
I received this kind email from Maureen and Bill Gasko –
Dear Julie and Claire,
What a wonderful time at the farm today. Chopping veggies with some lovely people and then sharing an amazing lunch was sheer delight.
Thank you both for helping to orchestrate such a fun experience. You created an environment that was warm and welcoming. Then to give us tips on preparing the incredible farm share we receive each week was truly enriching. I even got to actually enjoy eating beets!
Hope the remainder of your summer goes smoothly and enjoyably.
Love and gratitude,
Maureen and Bill Gasko
Two more workshops coming up this fall
- Food preservation– September 16, Julie, Clare and Jack; 10-2 with pot luck; $50-$100
- Hedgerows for Food and Diversity; Agroforestry on Farms and Homesteads October 7, Jono Neiger to lead; 10-3 with pot luck; $50-$100
Dealing with the excess rain was again a major focus this past week. The pig yard is well drained except for right where their house resides. Luckily, they like to hang out in the woods, a pig’s natural environment.
Pigs coming to see me Saturday afternoon
Some of us attempt to get all of the all-farm foliar feeding done early in the morning
while others take on the ever-increasing farm chores – 3 kinds of layers, turkeys, and meat birds and daily moves of their tractors, pig feeding – with an insertion of a big farm breakfast. We are happy when we can pull all of that off by 8 when the volunteers arrive.
We continue to do spot and short weeding jobs as we harvest on M, W, F mornings when we have more staff. Our flowers, parsley and next lettuce beds are all taken care of with either weeding, mulching or both. Local shareholders are welcome to come and pick some flowers, by the way. Find one of us and we will point you in the direction of the flower bed at the back of house field obscured from view by the third hoop house. Every day as we pick beets, half of us weed the next session of beets. Thus, we keep up with the hoop house weeding – mostly bindweed – where some of the cucumbers reside, and are staying on top of the arugula and chives. Over in the west field we are picking away at cabbage weeding, Brussels sprouts and collards where the weeds are very tall and much of that field has been teetering on the wet side.
Throughout the week we finished weeding and mulching and cover cropping around the basil and tulsi (much of this with the Springfield kids’ help) and also prepared two collard beds for replanting, and weeded and mulched new beds of celery and basil. The young lettuces received attention also.
Weeding, mulching, and hoeing, oh my!
Thursday, we finished harvesting our rather sad garlic crop and tarped the area to give it a rest for a couple of weeks before replanting. Tarps were put on the oldest lettuce beds two upon emptying them on Thursday.
Rolling out the tarp post garlic
Kamarin, Jonathan and Tim are holding down the mowing, weed whacking and repairs while Clare, Leslie, Paula, Marissa and the volunteers and I get as much planting (cabbage on Wednesday), and weeding done in the afternoons.
It is a bit of a three ring circus with each of us taking on major acts!
Do you have a group that would like to come out and volunteer on the farm? Reach out. We can always use your help.