Week of September 17th – CSA Newsletter

Even though the end of the season is in sight, the amount of work that needs to be done each week is still a pretty long list. I spent some time last week with the student interns discussing what the end of the season looks like and where our priorities lie. There are many projects that still need to get done before the ground freezes. And with how temperamental the weather can be, who knows when that will exactly happen. We’ll revisit our list weekly but some of the big projects that we have left are to sort our seed garlic, prep the ground where garlic will be planted, weed and mulch our newly planted strawberries, prep the hoophouse and greenhouse beds for winter plantings and harvest, harvest, harvest!

Last week we began to harvest beets and potatoes. The name of the game this time of the year is to try to get ahead as much as possible because we don’t want to have too many storage crops that are still in the ground when the weather really starts to turn. Another big project that we got done was to “top” all of our tomatoes growing in the hoophouses. Topping the plants means to cut off their growing point. This is an important task because we want to have as much fruit as possible ripen before the season is over. If we left the plants as is, they would still continue to put on foliar growth and fruit clusters. With the days starting to shorten and the temperatures starting to cool a bit, there just isn’t enough time to grow and ripen fruit. The topping signals to the plant that their time is almost up and they begin to put their remaining energy into ripening.

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Week of August 27th – CSA Newsletter

Welcome back to all my Tompkins Cortland colleagues. I hope you all had a great first week with the hustle and bustle of students back on campus. The new semester means a new “crop” of student interns on the farm. And if the first couple of classes are any indication, it looks like a terrific group that will be spending time with me on the farm. Most of the interns this semester are new students enrolled in the Sustainable Farming and Food Systems degree at the college but we always seem to attract students from other degree programs. This semester there are a few students from the Culinary Arts program. I’m always excited when there are students who care enough about where their food comes from and want to learn some aspects of agriculture. I get especially jazzed when Culinary Arts students are on the farm. I think that it can have a huge impact on their experience at Tompkins Cortland when they can have the hands on experience that ties in the production side of things with the food that ends up in the kitchen and eventually on our plates. I believe this is the fifth semester in a row that I have had at least one student from the Culinary Arts program. 

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Week of August 13th – CSA Newsletter

Sunrise on the farm

We are inching our way to the midpoint of our CSA season. It’s hard to believe, but it is happening. These next couple of weeks on the farm is just treading water, spending most of the time harvesting for the CSA, our farm stand and restaurants. Anything else that gets done is just icing on the cake until the fall semester starts and my new “crop” of interns show up. I’ve been lucky this summer to hire a part-time worker and even better is that he is a graduate of the Sustainable Farming and Food Systems program at Tompkins Cortland. It’s been so nice to have someone here that is familiar with the farm and how we do things. In addition to all of last week’s harvest, we managed to get some field projects done and a little bit of transplanting. We were stopped in our tracks last Wednesday but that storm that rolled through. It was the first time all season that we got one of those really hard rains during the middle of the work day. It showed up while we were in the middle of planting some bok choi for the fall and just kept coming. We powered through finishing the bed but were soaked to the bone and shifted to inside work after that. I think we ended up with close to 1.75 inches of rain that day.

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Week of August 6th – CSA Newsletter

Last week was the final week of our Summer Internship on the TC3 Farm for the students in the Sustainable Farming and Food Systems program at Tompkins Cortland. For most of them it was their third and final semester on the farm. This cohort has been an absolute pleasure to have out here and their “growth” has been amazing since they first stepped onto the farm last fall. I feel that they’ve all come a long way in their personal growth and as a learning community. For those of you on campus, if you see any of the farming students, please say thank you for all their hard work. They are a big part of what happens on the TC3 Farm, from crop planning/rotations in the winter months to planting and harvesting in the summer and everything in between. I look forward to seeing where and what they all end up doing next.

We kept very busy on the farm during the last week. In addition to our weekly harvests and trying to keep up with the weeds, we did one last big planting. We got 14 beds of fall brassicas in the ground, including cabbage, collards, cauliflower, kohlrabi and napa cabbage. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that we have a long enough season and that we can keep the pests (mostly the woodchucks) at bay.

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Week of July 30th – CSA Newsletter

I started to have flashbacks to last season with the weather we were having in the early part of last week. 3 plus inches of rain in 3 days was a lot to handle, especially with the heavy downpour we experienced on Wednesday. I was starting to stress that we weren’t going to be able to get back into the field to finish this season’s plantings. But that stress subsided when the rain stopped and the sun came out on Thursday and Friday to dry out the fields and get us back on our way. Things definitely slowed down with the amount of field work we were able to get done but we managed clear out the last of the early carrots that were planted and the rest of the garlic. So, all the garlic is now hanging in the upstairs of the barn curing away. Garlic won’t be in the CSA share again until the end of August, at the earliest. After it’s done drying, we will sort out the largest, most uniform bulbs to replant for next year. 

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Week of July 23rd – CSA Newsletter

Well folks, it looked like all the dancing at Grassroots worked and our rain prayers have been answered. In all my years farming, the summer’s guaranteed rain events happen during Ithaca Festival and Grassroots weekend. Now today’s rain was a little heavy at times, but beggars can’t be choosers, so I’ll take whatever we can get. And the veggies will definitely enjoy it.

For last week’s field trip, we went and visited Groundswell’s Incubator Farm. The Groundswell Center for Local Food and Farming is a non-profit based out of Ithaca that is near and dear to my heart. I’m a former Farmer-Educator for them and currently sit on their board. The TC3 Farm and the Sustainable Farming and Food Systems degree at Tompkins Cortland are here today because of Groundswell. Long story short, but Groundswell created a Summer Practicum that was offered for credit through Tompkins Cortland in the summer of 2010. That first summer students decided to put on a Local Foods celebration to culminate their work. Former college president, Carl Haynes was invited and asked to say a few words. One of his comments was that it would be great to see this as a degree program one day at Tompkins Cortland. And the rest is history. If you’re not familiar with what an Incubator Farm is, it’s a farm that offers land to growers at an affordable price and often provides shared equipment and technical advice. What makes the Incubator Farm at Groundswell unique is that their target audience are those who are traditionally underrepresented in agriculture (women, persons of color and New Americans). Liz, the farm manager, gave a great tour of the different operations at the farm and some of the obscure vegetables growing there. About half of the folks farming there are Karen Burmese refugees and many of the crops that they grow are not traditionally grown in our region.

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