The Newton Farmer, October 2010
Dear Farm Friends,
As harvest time continues, the size of our shares becomes a little smaller than the giant bags that we were toting home in September. Things are winding down. I’m cutting up tomatoes and freezing them, and there are herbs drying in my kitchen. It’s time to preserve the summer bounty so we can enjoy some of it later in the year. It’s an attempt to put a little bit of summer in a jar.
| Notes from Greg Maslowe, Farm ManagerI have a love and not exactly hate—perhaps melancholy is a better word—relationship with October. I love the cool days and crisp nights. I love the stunning display New England woods put on at this time of year. I love that the end of tomato picking is in sight! But I also get a serious case of the fall blahs around this time every year. I suppose that if I were more prone to jargon and our penchant to label everything, I’d find that I suffered from seasonal affective disorder. Whether it’s the change in temperature, the decreasing hours of daylight, or simply the fact that I spent too many years in school so I still associate fall with the return of papers and exams, I find October to be a month when my energy levels go down, even while there’s still work to be done.
Like for many kindergartners, October is a time when the farm staff is planting garlic. As kids in schools throughout Newton put garlic in the ground as part of a unit on life cycles, we’re busy planting our first crop for 2011. Garlic is one of the most winter-hardy crops we grow and is usually planted in late October or early November. Once it’s in the ground, we cover it with a thick blanket of straw and don’t really do anything with it until the following July when we harvest it. (Okay, there’s cutting the scapes in May or June, but that’s not a whole lot of work, and we get to sell them.) This summer, while a great year for tomatoes, was not such a good year for many garlic growers. Seed companies all over are sold out of garlic because of shortages from their suppliers. We, for example, buy a portion of our seed garlic direct from a garlic grower in upstate New York. When he sent us our shipment it was with a refund check for the 30% of our order he couldn’t fill. Fortunately, we had a pretty good year with garlic and saved a bunch of it for seed, so we’ll be able to plant our 3,000 or so garlic plants for next season.
Most of the rest of our field—other than garlic and cold-hardy greens like kale, spinach, and cabbage—is slowly but surely being planted with cover crops for the winter. After planting as much as possible with oats and peas (like the tomatoes I talked about last month) we’re on to planting winter rye, simultaneously the savior and scourge of many an organic farmer. Winter rye is a wonderful plant that can germinate (that is, sprout or start growing) in temperatures down to 32 degrees! This incredible feature allows farmers to plant winter rye very late in the season (often in late November) and still have a crop protecting their soil over the winter. Why would you want to wait so long to plant a cover crop? Because that allows you to keep cash crops in the field longer, which is good for your bottom line. The problem is that unlike oats and peas, which are killed by a hard frost (but continue to protect the soil because they don’t really rot over the winter), winter rye never dies. Okay, maybe never is an exaggeration. But if you’ve ever planted winter rye in your garden, you understand the sentiment. Not only is winter rye not killed by cold weather but it comes roaring back with a vengeance come spring. This makes preparing beds for planting a real pain. Or I should say can, as we at Newton Community Farm have been doing some experimenting with alternative ways to handle winter rye that make it a much more attractive cover crop. But since I’ll need something to write about over the winter, I’m going to leave that as a cliff hanger for now.
One of the great joys of October for organic farmers, and anyone who has a home garden, is the gold that rains down from the sky: those golden (and red and brown) leaves falling from the trees that literally (at least in New England) grow anywhere you don’t keep mowed. Leaves form the basis of our fertility program at the farm. We take in over 100 cubic yards of leaves each fall from landscapers whose clients don’t seem to realize what they’re giving away. Actually, they’re not even giving it away. They’re paying someone to give it away for them. We use these leaves as the basis of the compost operation that ensures that our soils continue to be enriched every year rather than worn out by constant farming. We’ll spend the next few weeks slowly moving our current compost pile to make room for as many leaves as we can possibly fit onto the farm. Over the next year we’ll mix these leaves with crop residues; some very select grass clippings (to avoid herbicides); rotten fruits and veggies; kitchen scrapings from many of you; and a healthy dose of mussel shells from a local restaurant to make a nutrient-rich compost for our field. That huge pile will have shrunk by 80% but in the process will have turned into black gold.
Before signing off, I wanted to pass along some wonderful news. Megan Talley, our intrepid intern with whom many of you had the great pleasure to work, will be returning to Newton Community Farm for the 2011 season as our assistant grower. Megan’s return will be a great boon to the farm, and I’m very excited to have her coming back.
| Harvest Festival
On September 26 we celebrated another successful season at our fifth annual Harvest Festival. This is truly a community event, and we are so grateful to all of our neighbors who came out to enjoy some good old-fashioned fun! We had a wonderful time enjoying all of the farm tours and kids’ activities. (A special thanks to Becky Leiter for her all-natural pumpkin-decorating station!) We had an impressive food spread, thanks in large part to Chipotle Mexican Grill’s taco stand and the mouth-watering bake sale donations from many farm supporters. We also had great live entertainment from Boston Front Porch’s trio of mandolin, banjo, and fiddle and Julia Priest’s fantastic children’s sing-along.
We would like to thank Chipotle Mexican Grill, Whole Foods, Rosenfeld Bagels, Trader Joe’s, and Haley House Bakery Café for donating food to the event. And last, but certainly not least, we are so grateful to the many volunteers who made the event possible: Rebecca Leiter, Peter Lewinberg, Mithra Merryman, Ken Mallory, Margaret Mallory, Anne Ryder, Ellen Huberman, Ruth Lederman, Dede Vittori, Ruth Nussbaum, Ed Craddock, Amy Sellke, Ross London, Karen Emmons, Laura Ogara, Reetika Oliphant, Jennifer Cusack, Ina Bachman, Alison Wilson, Paul Huang, Linda Huang, Linda Chafets, Esther Messing, Arnold Messing, Anne Drowns, David Kezer, Joyce Pollock, Anne Callahan, Margery Bailit, Nick Lake, Concetta Daurio, Emily Daurio, Noah Baker, Tom Baker, and Claudia Jacobs. Thank you for your time and energy; we couldn’t do this without you!
| Halloween on the Farm on October 29!For those of you with children in preschool to third grade, mark your calendars! Join us on Friday, October 29, from 3:00 to 5:30 p.m. for scary stories, apple bobbing, cider pressing, and trick-or-treat bag decorating. The cost is $5 per family.
| Newton History Museum Reception November 10The Newton History Museum is hosting an exhibit about the farm and its place in Newton’s history. Five large and colorful panels depict the farm as an example of a vernacular New England farm, including the development of south Newton; the influence of Italian immigration on the farmscape and its agricultural history; and the stories of significant members of the Angino family, especially Jerry Angino, Newton’s walking historian.
On November 10 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. there will be a reception for the farm community to celebrate what we have accomplished in the past six years in bringing a piece of Newton’s history back to life. Folks of all ages are welcome. It is a great opportunity to see the other exhibits at the museum while celebrating your involvement with the farm. Light refreshments will be served.
Hope to see you at the reception.
| Fall ClassesThe weather is undeniably cooler, the days are quickly growing shorter, and the leaves are changing. It is fall, and the change in season brings change to our educational program as well. Many of the classes we offer in October and November focus on the many ways you can support local, sustainable food systems year-round in your own kitchen. Offerings range from adult classes in making pie, cheese, and beer to our Budding Cooks series for children, as we make several exciting varieties of pickles and applesauce to store away for colder months. For those of you who don’t mind the cold weather, we are offering one final fall farming course titled “Extending the Growing Season,” and for our elementary-school gardeners we are offering a Fall Farmers class on October 28 (an early release day). And don’t miss “All About Apples,” a fun class for the whole family, where we will be celebrating the New England apple picking tradition and tasting several varieties of local apples. Be sure to keep checking the Web site for educational updates during the fall and winter months!
October 17: All about Apples
| Accessible Gardening
The Education Committee has been working with the Mayor’s Committee for People with Disabilities to make the Learning Garden more accessible to all. In late 2009 the MCPD awarded Newton Community Farm a grant for the purchase of accessible garden structures. In April a three-section raised bed, a raised-bed table, and a vertical wall were constructed. All are accessible to gardeners with wheelchairs as well as those who cannot comfortably kneel on the ground to garden.
Throughout August and September, staff and clients from the Charles River Center and the Newton-Wellesley-Weston Committee For Community Living have been coming to the farm to spend time in the Learning Garden with farm education staffers. The visitors have planted in the raised beds, watered, harvested, and sampled vegetables, thoroughly enjoying their time in the garden. You may have seen these new gardeners when you came to pick up your CSA share. Next time you see us in the Learning Garden, stop to say hello.
| A Place to Dig, Learn, and Grow: New Farm Logo and Tag LineYou may have already noticed our new logo. The new design features the barn and fields, representing the “iconic” view of the farm. We also have a new tag line: “A Place to Dig, Learn, and Grow.” The logo was designed by volunteer Allison Pottern Hoch. Many thanks, Allison!
| RecipesI like homemade soup. And as the weather turns cooler, I get the urge to make hearty hot soups, often those from Jane Brody’s cookbooks. So take a look at Potato and Turnip Soup, a simple and lovely first-course soup that contains mostly potatoes, turnips, and skim milk. And for a really good main-dish soup that is packed with protein and fall produce, try Three-P Soup, made with sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and peanut butter.
| Volunteer hours end October 30.Thank you for the great season of work. See you in the spring.
| Farm Wish ListWe’re still looking for a “hog” scale in working condition.
Coffee percolator (30 cups or more)
clean fill – about 1-2 yards
If you can help us with any of these items, please contact Greg Maslowe at 617-916-9655 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are a 501(c)3 organization. Your donations may be tax-deductible. Thank you for your support!
Please contact us if you have any questions about this newsletter or ideas for future issues, or if you want to be added to our mailing list. Just e-mail Susan Tornheim at email@example.com. For more information about the farm, e-mail Greg Maslowe at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out our Web page at newtoncommunityfarm.org (or click on the image at the top of the page).