Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Our roots in CSA

The season is starting off great at Broadturn Farm. Our early tulips, narcissus, and perennial flowers offered an early boost into the markets which we have been building in the world of local cut flowers. We also have twice the amount of strawberries planted so we've been filling orders for Rosemont markets in Portland, the Portland Food Co-op and a few other places. We have been focusing on these wholesale outlets since last year as our CSA vegetable operation has plateaued.

 That said, CSA remains our primary focus on the farm. 14 years ago when Stacy and I started farming in Cumberland, it was clear to me that Community Supported Agriculture was the way forward; the business model with no down-side. Good for the farmer: An assured market, up-front capital, and permission to grow a wide variety without worrying about "loss-leaders." Good for the consumer: A discounted product of the freshest kind, a connection with a farm, and an encouragement to eat that wide variety of healthy produce. It also appeared fundamentally good for the environment since stabile, non-exploitative markets nearly always lead to positive ecological choices, and customers were supporting our choices to grow organic produce.

We still stand by the central tenants of the CSA model, but all things evolve and we have dealt with problems with many facets of this kind of farming. As we have matured we have gotten a sense for other opportunities beyond CSA, just as some of our customers themselves move beyond the model and one way or other become more tied into the local food movement in ways apart from being a CSA member. But there is still no better way to get an infusion of the freshest and diverse produce into your kitchen than CSA. And this week is flush with Greens!

Here is this week's harvest:
Mustard greens
Garlic Scapes
Spring Turnips
Radishes -- here is, in our opinion, the best thing to do with radishes: thinly sliced and soaked in Ume plum vinegar (or some other fruity vinegar). This is technically a "refrigerator pickle" and it works great with spring radishes. (this jar is probably four or five bunches of radishes, so you can use as smaller container.)

This is the week that we are turning over fields to begin a summer-fallow period. This allows us to diminish the weeds in our fields while still maintaining a good amount of organic matter in the soil. We have been growing good cover crops of rye and vetch all winter, and now we mow it, chisel plow it, and work the cover into the soil.

 After a few weeks it will look like the picture below, ready to be planted to another cover cropping. Tilling is damaging, and cover cropping is restorative, and after 8 years of doing this at Broadturn Farm, we have seen great improvements in the quality of the soil.

 This picture below is of a freshly plowed field from sod. Its very exciting to turn over new ground. It reminds me of our first years farming. Inexperienced as we were, there was so much potential after making that first step forward into farming. An unwritten, blank slate; this one up along the road in our Fogg field, will be filled in with an expansion of rhubarb in the coming years. Thanks to John Snell for selling us that sweet moldboard plow!


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

CSA week 2

Week 2
Beet greens
Red Radishes
Hakurei Salad Turnips

The days are zipping by and we are wild and manic with harvesting and planting and weeding. Every weekend this time of the year has us traveling all over the place dropping off wedding flowers. Each minute seems accounted for. It's a pretty wild ride, farming in June in Maine. We are trying to remember what varieties of tulips we loved last month when we were harvesting them so we can get our order in now for fall planting. 6000 tulips gave us a lot to think about! And then there were the anemone and frittalaria and the narcissus and the tree peony! Spring has been abundant

As we approach the summer solstice, with a berry stained hands and our arms loaded with peonies, it all feels right.

Our crew this year is amazing. There are old faces and new faces and everyone's hands seem to be able to move while they talk (important criteria for farm work). I love to hear their dreams, watch them learn new skills and overhear last year's intern who is now a returning employee skill share with a new intern. Knowing they are learning, gaining skills, eating well and being present in the work and in this moment of their lives makes personnel management ever so pleasant.

 And, we say it every year, but the truth of the matter is they make this place what it is. Without them, John and I would be, well.... pretty lonely and working really hard to keep up.

There are some introductions to be made. For those of you who are planning to visit, there are 2 adorable baby goats. They are still without names. They are 3 and 5 weeks old. They are currently living in the animal barn. This season's pigs have arrived as well. They are in the tree line in the field across Hanson Rd from the farmstead. They love company so make sure you go up and say hi.

 And, a little harder to visit but undeniable the cutest, there is a batch of kittens in the farmhouse. Flora is fostering a momma cat and her 3 babies in the bottom drawer of her dresser for the Brunswick Animal Shelter. She has a lifelong (all 8 years of it) dream to run a cat shelter cafe where you could come in and have tea and pet cats. At 8 weeks of age, the kitties will be ready to be adopted. They are heavily handled by our resident cat whiperer so I do expect some well socialized felines to enter society after they leave here. Kittens anyone? Or a lovely momma cat who is a baby momma herself? If you're interested, you'll need to adopt them through the Brunswick Animal Shelter.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Week 1: Here We Go

This week is our first CSA distribution of the season. As with other years, things are just getting started with the first harvest. The winter held on for longer than usual and we thought we would be late on most early crops. Then we had a week of unseasonably hot temperatures and we lost a few crops to the heat: most of our first broccoli and the pac choi. The chives, rhubarb and sorrel, all perennial crops, have committed themselves to flowers, but we will still harvest what we can. On the flower side of the farm, we had a great tulip and narcissus harvest and are eagerly awaiting the peonies by the end of the week. Strawberries are not far away after that.
 And on and on and on. Planting and harvesting so many crops and some many successions feels like a whirlwind which sneaks up behind you and before we know it, the abundance in the field is overflowing.

We have a great crew this spring with plenty of familiar faces from years past. We continue to try some new tactics while staying true to the goals of soil building and natural pest management.

You might be wondering who writes these words, and those of you who know us well and who have been with us for years mill be able to hear John's voice behind this, our first, CSA newsletter. Where is Stacy? Well, Stacy has gone off a deep end of sorts. You see, Stacy does most of our marketing around here, so unfortunately she gets pretty involved in the social media side of things: posting to Facebook, post pictures of flowers and produce on Instagram, not to mention the constant phone calls and emails that go though her smart phone. Talk about a whirlwind. By mid-Spring she is like a spinning dervish or a samurai doing all one has to do to keep the ship afloat. It was nearly too late before we noticed her crazed dependency on the chatter of social media, and we pulled her phone out of her hands. Responding as quickly as possible, we deleted Instagram and Facebook from her phone, signed her out of her Amazon Prime account, delegated Pinterest to Laura, and allowed the Spotify playlist to play out... Silence.
Yesterday morning Flora came downstairs, and Stacy looked at her with fresh eyes. "You smell like summer" she said to her daughter. Flora took a whiff of Stacy and said, "You smell like dirt... and coffee." As it should be.
And, so though this newsletter is a little dry and not as wild as one of Stacy's posts, I'll stay at the helm until we can get Stacy back to normal.

Week 1 CSA harvest:
Tomato seedling
Napa Cabbage

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Monday, March 23, 2015

50 Shades of Brown

John and I love winter. We love the quiet 3 months when the only folks who stop by are UPS, the oil delivery guy and an occasional wedding client. Our computers are open all day, spreadsheets and emails and phone calls are happening. We shovel snow. We xc ski. We stop listening to the news, trading it for House of really is all the same, right?

But then, its March. The snow begins its slow recession, any falling snow doesn't amount to much. The dooryard and all the pathways are 50 shades of brown frost and mud, all of it frozen. We fire up the greenhouse. The reality that we are going to do this again, this farming thing, another season of it, another adventure in agrarian wonder, another turn of the sun... it sets in, and we embrace it. We're antsy. The house seems small and claustrophobic. We need to get out and move our creaky bodies. And, maybe, just maybe, the frost free hydrant in the cow barn that is frozen solid will finally give way, letting us ease up on hauling water in 5 gallon buckets for the cows each day we milk.

The greenhouse is busting at the seams but the nights are still in the single digits. Even some of the days are barely suitable for the green babes. Keeping a propagation house going in a frigid spring is an exercise in creativity and Yankee ingenuity, all involving layers of plastic and foam insulation. We had intended, in the fall, to move another small hoop house over near to our current propagation house to create a cold frame. But, time escaped us and its still on the to-do list. Of course, the 2 feet of snow remaining (not to mention the frozen ground) make deconstruction and reconstruction a puzzle. So, we shift and crowd and light fires for warmth and hope for the best out there. There's a healthy amount of knocking on wood this time of the year, hoping we don't jinx the season. Farmers are a superstitious lot (at least these 2).

Last week's shopping list:
  • Dahlias.... lots of them... (like 2000) because, again, I am ashamed to admit, I still have not mastered storing them. You flower ladies will be glad to know that 400 are Cafe au' Lait's.. (50 Shades of Dingy White). 
  • 50 Freedom Ranger broiler chickens. We tried them for the first time this past year and they are so much cuter than the big white Cornish Cross. I guess that makes them more "duel purpose" for you fanciers out there. But the 2nd purpose is not eggs, its more like farm-camp cuddle-able.
  • 15 Khaki Campbell ducks-- eggs, cuddle-able, and comic relief. Triple purpose. 
  • 6 pigs as usual.
  • Acidanthera and Martagon lily bulbs. I have a hard time ceasing the flower shopping when the snow is still so deep.
  • A case of work gloves, small and large.
  • Sun hemp and Fenugreek cover crop seeds... John is convinced fenugreek is our new thing. A wonder-herb.
  • parts....for so many different broken things around the farm

I would be a bad saleswoman if I didn't mention all the ways you can be involved in the farm. Usually in late February I have a crisis moment, feeling withered about hustling business and checking the CSA sign-ups like a hawk. The CSA and education at the farm are the heart and soul of what we do. It is the pulse of all that happen here....growing community through food and farming and flowers. 

That said....

We still have Produce and Flower CSA shares available. We have Credit CSA shares available for credit in our farm stand.

Schools are signing up for field trips for the spring.


There are a few open dates left for hosting weddings at the farm this summer.

Finally, mark your calendar for our annual Open House. Saturday, May 9th 1-4. We'll have farm tours, a Maypole, live music from the Gawler Family and Bennet and Edith and hopefully lots of green grass. I know you'll be as ready as I am to get out of the house.


Monday, February 9, 2015

2014 Recap in Photos

Given all the whiteness outside our windows, I thought you all might enjoy a little colorful memory of the 2014 flower season here at Broadturn Farm. We had, by all accounts, a fabulous year.
We are preparing in earnest for 2015. Seeds have arrived and are all organized on their shelves. Google spreadsheets are thick with details of when, where and how. We are rested and vacationed and having a great time meeting prospective couples, talking to new camp families and thinking about the best combinations of vegetables to harvest for the CSA each week. Cucumbers and dill. Rosemary, garlic and fingerling potatoes. The grilling medley: summer squash, eggplant and peppers. That end game dream is where we start in the planning. What do we want and when, is that possible in our climate and can we pull it off.... those are the first questions. From there, we decide on which field to plant each crop, what amendments are needed for everything, how best to plant things to make cultivation, irrigation and harvest simple and straightforward. It's a logic puzzle every year. It gets a little easier but then we muck it up by adding something new. Lilies anyone? How about 100 ft of clematis? Did you say you could use some okra? 12 acres? Do we need to open up another one?

Without further ado....