Genesee Valley Organic Community Supported Agriculture

Notes from the Farm - July 1999
By Elizabeth Henderson

Peacework Organic Farm


This has been a richly eventful spring. On May Day, 73 of you celebrated with us at the farm, and danced around the Maypole to assure fertility for the coming season. It felt lovely to be able to welcome you to our new greenhouse, to my new home, and, an extra bonus, to show copies of Sharing the Harvest , fresh from the printer on April 30. Spring planting is usually more than a full time job. This year, Greg and I have worked doubletime to get all the planting done while also completing construction of the packing shed, setting up new equipment - the greenhouse heating system, the walk-in cooling system, irrigation, and membership recruitment. We both took on jobs we had not done before: Greg is master of mowing and marketing, while I am Tilly-tillage. But with a lot of help from many of you, and from Doug Kraai, despite the challenges of new equipment and the chunks of undigested sod that made pushing the planter a chore, we did it. We got all the crops planted on time. Food is flowing out of our fields and into your kitchens!

Record breaking dryness added to our workload. In an average year, if such a thing exists anymore, there is ample moisture through the middle of June, and a droughty period from then through most of July. With less than an inch of rain from May 8 through June 14, we found ourselves carrying buckets of water to plants while scurrying around assembling irrigation equipment. Unrolling 6 or 7 miles of trickle tape must have been an impressive rain dance; after only 10 days of pumping water, the skies gave us a break. Now we are ready whatever happens.

As of the 4th of July, most summer and full season crops are growing vigorously. The plants doubled in size in a day or so after the rains returned. The early tomatoes are already starting to color up! Potato beetles have yet to visit the 4800 row feet of potatoes (red, white, yellow, and hairy-leaved). Of the seven varieties of winter squash, only the buttercup is under attack from the cucumber beetles. The eggplants seem determined to grow even though their leaves look like brown lace from flea beetle munching. Repeated doses of irrigation water finally awakened a good germination of carrots. The dryness had its worst effect on the sugar snap peas - we only got a sprinkling of them; the first planting of corn - spotty germination; and the cantaloupe melons - many empty spaces in the row. Despite watering, melons curled up and died, and a few which escaped desiccation disappeared into the gullet of a mysterious night time marauder. Multiple plantings of spinach have kept that popular item in good supply, while deer ate most of a planting of lettuce. With any luck, there will be more green beans and summer squash than any of us wants to pick. The fall broccoli, cauliflower and cabbages will soon be ready to transplant. By repeated hoeings and machine cultivations, we have beaten back the chunks of sod which threatened the 6000 row feet of onions.

I am thinking of writing an essay on heavy objects. There have been many of them in our lives these spring months: * our new spader, a 1300 pound implement that, once we figured out how to adjust it, does an excellent job of turning under cover crops; * the pile of asphalt roofing that sat all winter blocking the door to the building that has become the packing shed. An incredible crew of amazons, with some help from our intern Andy Wolf, moved that pile onto my truck and then off the truck and into another barn; * the doors, windows, pieces of wood, washers and driers, rolls of plastic, cast iron radiators, a central air-conditioning unit, and old farm implements that Doug Kraai had stored in the packing shed and barn that we redistributed to other barns and sheds; * the 2000 books, furniture, the Allis-Chalmers G tractor, a 900 pound set of discs, a carrot washer, and items too numerous to list, as they write in auction ads, that we have moved from Rose Valley Farm; * the weighty old cooler from the distribution garage, moved with the help of Spencer Richardson and Michael Thomas, and * finally, the saga of the walk-in cooler. With carpenter Paul Bartow, Greg built it last summer in the section of the barn that collapsed under ice and snow in January. They built it solidly to last, a full ton of materials. How to shift it into the new packing shed? To the rescue an unlikely fairy godmother, friend and Gregs former employer Ross Parks, a wizard with levers, winches, pry bars and his hydraulically equipped flatback truck. Ross winched the cooler out of the old barn onto his truck, drove it across the yard to the packing shed, and pushed it into place. We still needed to turn it 90 degrees. The first Sunday morning work day in June, with reinforcements from the child care committee and the Kraai family, 15 of us lifted the box and turned it. Everybody ready? One-two-three lift! Turn! What a team!

In the people department, we have been fortunate to recruit Andy Wolf as intern for the entire season. His family lives in Chittenango and he studied agriculture for a year at Morrisville. Earlier in the spring, Fred Miller, CSA member, came out regularly to speed up our electrical wiring and wisecracking, and, with Tim Saunders, moved 50 boxes of books upstairs and drywalled the store room. For the month of June, Ales Vymetal from the Czech Republic worked with us before going on to Brookside Farm, an organic dairy in Massachusetts. Three young women from Germany and England, Hannah, Merle and Katarina, are doing a working holiday with us for the month of July. Hannah is the daughter of my college room mate, who is also coming for ten days at the end of July. My son Andy will be visiting too. He called me recently with exciting news - he is engaged to Midori Sugahara, a fellow bilingual third grade teacher from Argentina and Israel. Now all we need are some helpers for the fall. Please pass the word!

Many children are coming to the farm when their families come to work. Greg and I welcome children and want to make the farm a positive experience for them. Our efforts received a great boost from the work of a special child play area committee, headed by Audrey Harpe. With help from her husband Jim Aroneseno, Mike Boucher, Barbara Brody, Paul Costello, Chinda Roach, and Betty Donahue, Audrey organized the clean up and reconstruction of a childrens area in the barn yard with strawbale walls and a large sand box. The farm crew also appreciates the straw seats - we use it as our lunch room.

On June 15, we got our feet wet with agri-tourism. On first contact, teacher Kathy OLeary gave me the impression she wanted to bring her second grade class from Greece to see the farm. When we learned the group included 85 first and second graders, we had a moment of panic. Our solution was to divide the group into four sections, and spend 20 minutes with each on greenhouse production, insects, planting and a special featured appearance of Rick Austin and some of his chickens. As a finale, Doug Kraai took them to see the buffalo. The tour was a great success. In the future, we would like to offer tours to other school groups.

So far, so good for this first season at Peacework Organic Farm. We hope you are enjoying the food that we are enjoying producing for you!



Senposai

From the same Brassica rapa group as mizuna and other Chinese mustards, senposai resembles collard greens, but the texture of its leaves is more like lettuce. It is a very hardy plant and can withstand heavy frosts. Like the other mustards, senposai is high in pro-vitamin A and ascorbic acid. The name suggests a Japanese origin, but CSA member Junko Tsubakimoto reports she has never seen it in a store in her region of Osaka.

Raw, the leaves have a mild mustardy taste. The pungency disappears when you cook it. Mixed with other vegetables in a stir fry, or all by itself sauteed with olive oil and garlic, senposai is a sweet flavored green. You only need to cook it a few minutes!




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