Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Brief farm update

Hello friends of Tree Gate Farm. Sorry to all those who don't follow the farm on Facebook and have missing out on the updates there. Since we've neglected the blog for most of the summer, here's a quick rundown.

We're only holding one farmstand a week this season. We can be found outside of Red Feet Wine on Thursdays from 4–7 (starting at 3:30 this week due to overwhelming demand). Harvesting and going to market on back-to-back evenings really wore us out last year, and since we've doubled our CSA membership from last year AND increased sales to restaurants...and are providing crops for Crooked Carrot (more on that relationship below), we thought it was in our best interest to slow down our pace just a bit.

And in that vein, we've bought a used greenhouse (30'x96') that we'll install this fall, picked up a well-worn walk-in cooler (10'x12') for $500 -- which we are in the midst of rebuilding and repairing -- AND we'll be building a new root cellar thanks to a grant we applied for last year. That's our idea of slowing down on the farm.

Of course this time of year there are (not quite literally) tons of produce we bring to market.  Piles of yellow crookneck summer squash, rainbow chard, cukes, and fancy French green beans. The sweet corn is basically done, so maybe we won't bring any tomorrow. One of the crops you won't see at market is paste tomatoes. They don't sell well at the market, and this year we are growing them on contract for Crooked Carrot, a local business making all kinds of lacto-fermented pickles, kimche, and a fantastic small-batch tomato-basil sauce. And I'm not saying that just because we got a jar tonight to taste before it even gets placed on store shelves. So awesome to have a local company using so many local ingredients right from the farms.

A jar coming back to the field for a visit

Not only can you get Crooked Carrot's great creations through their Community Supported Kitchen, but now the Piggery and GreenStar have them on their shelves too!

One of the great features of the farm's relationship with Crooked Carrot has been working with Silas on varieties and timing. Silas was the field manager at Stick and Stone Farm (where their kitchen is) before launching Crooked Carrot. So he really knows the farmers' view of growing, harvesting, even delivering the produce to their operation. Which REALLY makes a difference when there is a late harvest due to a cool summer, or a short season due to some pest or disease. Also, he knows the coversations about the next year's plantings begin now...not a few weeks before you want the produce.  At this time of year, a farmer is already thinking about which cover crops to plant this fall so that next spring the beds are ready for certain crops at the right time. Or preparing additional soil amendments for specific crops. Few chefs or bulk food purchasers think with that kind of lead time.

We've been lucky. Our main commercial customers, The Piggery, Just a Taste, and Felicia's Atomic Lounge are run by farmers or great gardeners who understand seasonal produce and appreciate the bounty that this area provides, and when it is available. I guess I'm feeling particularly appreciative of all of our customers these days when reading about the difficulties so many other beginning farmers have finding suitable land and good markets. We have a CSA loaded with people who appreciate the effort it takes to bring food to their table and we enjoy hearing about the great family meals we've been able to contribute to.

I also just noticed how late it is, and that we have to get up at dawn to harvest everything for market. Hope to see you under the tent.