Friday, January 28, 2011

21st Century Farming / Here is the 2011 brochure

Well, I just created my own website.  I know, you all have been doing it for years, but thanks to my friend Ben who recommended google, and I guess thanks to google for making everything possible for free.  I mean, what do those guys not do.  Grow vegetables, I guess.  Not yet anyway.  All of this was necessitated by the continued shrinking capabilities of the Intervale Center, who used to host the brochure.  But let's rather thank them for helping me become self-sufficient in a new way. 

Here is a link to the brochure.  You may have to download, then print.  Slightly less efficient, but still works.

Looking at the Stella Natura calendar this weekend to see which will be the first days of seeding.  For more info on that look back to posts of the past.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sunglolds and Bottlenecking

This year I might do something that I haven't done in any of my previous nine years of farming: not plant any sungold tomatoes (even though this picture makes them look mouthwatering).  They have been the standard for cherry tomato sweetness and have a great color, and won the Tomato Taste-off all the years we were at Quail Hill Farm.  For the past two years I've had so much splitting - and I feel like the taste has been dropping off earlier and earlier each year.  This description from Johnny's says alot
Exceptionally sweet, bright tangerine-orange cherry tomatoes leave customers begging for more. Vigorous plants start yielding early and bear right through the season. Tendency to split precludes shipping, making these an exclusively fresh-market treat. The taste can't be beat.

You know if the catalogue is admitting splitting then there is some major splitting.  So instead I am looking at this one from FEDCO 

WOW! Cherry Tomato OG (58 days) Ind. An open-pollinated cherry tomato better than Sun Gold? That’s been the holy grail of tomato breeders. Garland, ME, breeder Relentless and our tasters think he may have it: the orange color, the Sun Gold Brix with more tomatoey flavor and an added resistance to cracking. A selection from Relentless’ SunWine group with Brandywine, Sun Gold and a grape tomato in the parentage. Nearly fully stabilized; this is the F-8 generation. Earth Passionate Agrarian™–grown. Open source seeds.  

This is what we farmers do during the winter, puzzle, like an eye doctor going, "A, or B, B or C . . . "  I like that WOW is open Pollinated.  To me it indicates that it will be easier to keep a healthy gene pool going once it is stabilized, but here is where my knowledge is really fuzzy (or made-up), so correct me if you know something about how seed population bottleneck.  Is this how it always happens in commercial agriculture.  Maybe it's par for the course and it shouldn't seem as weird as it does: we have really bred these plants, almost all the ones that are on our fields, to be good at one thing, so it should be no surprise that they are a little fragile genetically.  I felt like this same thing happened to Merlot lettuce.  A beautiful color, and it used to have reasonably sized heads.  But over the years they started to shrink and shrink, and now if you read the seed catalog it says

This Merlot adds as much to your baby salad mix as a good wine adds to your dinner, providing incredible color, excitement and full-bodied flavor. Slow to grow, slow to bolt, plants never achieve much size or density, but are ideal for the baby leaf trade. Not for mature-head production,  

It did not always say that about the size.  I also felt like a lot of my FEDCO brassicas were bottlenecking and getting just generally weaker, so I switched a bunch to Johnny's last year which I think worked well.

Does anyone want my weather prediction?  After this next few days, nothing lower than twenty and basically a trend towards spring.  See you then. 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Vermont Winter

I think this is the most wintry Vermont Winter since Rachel and I have moved here, five or six years ago (forget which) - The weather forecast thus far indicates that it will keep chugging along as same.  And I am shocked to announce that I think we are handling it pretty well.  We haven't gone skiing or anything yet (I bet it will be Ciaran who finally forces us to go), but we just keep going to the Y and the library, and keep plugging away at farm tasks (the ones less fun than seed ordering, like securing permits, buying biomulch and row cover, etc.), but I also know winter isn't over yet, and I better not predict our victory over it when I almost had a near hallucination looking at this curious George book.  I saw this page and I almost started having a reverie thinking about what a nice vacation spot it looked like.

Well, more from the farm soon, did I mention we are trialling some new varieties of potatoes (blue gold Yukon-y flesh, blue outside) - I liked the red gold so much last year I decided why not do both.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

New Year

I haven't ordered the seeds but all the numbers are written down, so lots of supply orders go in next week.  Always so much to be excited about this time of year, seed-wise.  They all seem like wise choices.  I think I'm holding true to my word of consolidating the tomatoes - although that still somehow means about five new varieties.

Every year has its theme I think.  Last year to me was the year of learning to do it right, not just by the seat of my pants (which had tended to work but it's nice not to have to be lucky).  This year could be summed up (isn't it awesome I'm already summing up 2011) by two phrases: core competencies and KIS (Keep it simple).  They're the same but from different angles: the first, economic: stick with what you do well and just work on doing it better.  In the case of OHF, we know vegetables, CSA vegetables, i.e. the basic ones plus just a few to keep it interesting.  Core-competencies are what keep small Davids beating Goliaths, so long as they stick to what they know, their own business model, they are not really ever in the same competition as those big guys.  This is how the economics people also justify the otherwise impossible fall of giants like Ford to Hyundai.

KIS might have originated with AA, but all the same . . . this year especially, the first season with two kids, it's all about getting quality cauliflower to people, not purple cauliflower, sorry purple cauliflower lovers, let's get this year under our belt and I'll bring it back!

Was reading the Marriage of Heaven and Hell by Blake and I loved how this image had so much going on underground, I really felt it gave the true sensation that it is the ground actively doing something to feed the trees and us.  Also reminded me of the Tom Waits line, there is a world going on underground.

A few pages later Blake says, "Without Contraries is no progression"

So true Blake, so true.

Look for more farmy updates soon, we get into the thick of it quick.