Farm, Journal, Update

Back in the Saddle Again…

I apologize about my tardiness in posting. After the 14 hr work day combined with the intense heat and humidity my brain wasn’t quite up to the challenge of being witty last night when I got home.

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Classes started yesterday for the U of I and food service is in full swing. Also, summer has finally decided to join the party just as the ac broke in my kitchen :). That being the only thing that went wrong yesterday was a pretty big victory compared to last year.

Produce delivered to Sororities and Fraternities 1st day of Service

Produce delivered to Sororities and Fraternities 1st day of Service

 

I arranged to have use of a walk-in cooler that is not shared with Hendrick House, which meant I was completely out of the way of the hustle and bustle of first day service. I also received access to a farm vehicle which allowed me to haul the hundreds of pounds of produce from the farm, to cold storage and then to their respective homes. I am communicating with about 10 chefs who are interested in the farm project and it is working out beautifully so far. They are excited and are now placing sizable orders each week. Every vegetable that Kevin and I harvested Sunday morning had a home by Sunday afternoon. We were able to wash, fill orders and have them packaged, sitting in the walk-in and ready to go out early Monday morning before I had to be in the fraternity. It was beautiful and everything went very smoothly.

Fresh Veg for AKL ready to roll

Fresh Veg for AKL ready to roll

AKL Produce for 1st day of service

AKL Produce for 1st day of service

I love being able to see the life cycle of the vegetables first hand. I love harvesting, then talking with the chefs to see what they are most excited about. My absolute favorite part though is introducing 18-21 year old fraternity boys to new types of fresh vegetables, completely going against the stigma of a young fraternity boy’s pallet. I put lunchbox peppers on the salad bar yesterday along with some heirloom tomatoes and I had to fill the containers again before dinner. “If you build it they will come.” “If you feed them they will eat it.”

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Lunchbox Peppers

This is a critical time for the farm since everything is now ready. I am trying to harvest every day/ every other day to meet the orders that are flying in and also to keep up with the ripening fruit. This is such a great problem to have :). We are still working on cloning technology so that I am able to farm, cook, train and cater the special events that are quickly approaching. Hopefully by the end of the week everyone will be trained at AKL and I will be able to step back a little bit and be out in the dirt full time again.

Green Zebra, Valencia and Pink Wonders

Green Zebra, Valencia and Pink Wonders

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Farm, Journal, Update

Hot Sauce Peppers!

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IMG_1682Busy Busy Busy… We had a huge harvest and delivery today, distributing nearly 500#s of produce throughout the company. It was beautiful and full of color. I am now starting to harvest three days a week and delivering two, Monday and Friday. That will probably change once school starts next week so that I can properly accommodate the chefs.

AKL helpers Mario and Zach

AKL helpers Mario and Zach

Now that the students are back I had some very sweet volunteers at AKL, Zach and Mario. I always get such a thrill when these boys take an interest in the farm. I love showing them what they will be eating in its raw form.

Lunchbox Peppers

Lunchbox Peppers

The sororities are back in action starting this week and the girls at Gamma Phi Beta will be the first to eat the lunchbox peppers this year. I can’t wait to hear the review from Chef Christie.

Face melting pepper

Face melting pepper

Speaking of peppers, I was harvesting last Friday and I found a Golden Greek that I had missed harvesting the previous week. This pepper had become large and had a golden yellow tint to it. For some reason I had an urge to take a very large bite and instantly regretted it. I seriously thought my face was melting off like an Edward Munch painting and I then began hallucinating. It took about 30 solid minutes to recover, dousing my entire head with my water jug. Now that I know the capabilities of these little gems, my plan is to save a section of them and make hot sauce out of the peppers.

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Green beans

Green beans

The fall plantings are coming along nicely and we should see head lettuce in about two weeks. The demand is astounding and I am so excited for this crop to be ready. The spinach and green beans have started to show and Kevin and I just got the second round of basil in the ground today.

Spinach

Spinach

Summer is officially over and school starts in 1 week! Things are about to get incredibly busy but we are better prepared this year, having learned from our mistakes the previous year. I have new systems in place and now know what to expect and how to manage the farm and large harvests while training people to help me in the  kitchen. Wish us luck!

Summer

Summer

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Farm, Journal, Update

Tomato and Pepper Party Time

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Dinner!

Dinner!

 

Ding, Ding, Ding…. The dinner bell has rung and it’s tomato sandwich time, my favorite time of year! The Dukes mayo (that traveled across four states) has been opened and the tomatoes sliced and assembled.

 

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Shouldering on Tomatoes

Shouldering on Tomatoes

We had a beautiful harvest last Friday and today. We are getting approximately 250#s of tomatoes a week now, most of those being seconds. I am making deliveries twice a week and all of the seconds are being processed down into tomato puree. We did however, get a whopping 6#s of firsts today. It was a small victory but a victory nonetheless. I am extremely excited to get these first couple

Gorilla Tomato

Gorilla Tomato

batches of tomatoes harvested and off the plants to make room for the healthier fruit. We are having some shouldering problems where 1/2 of the fruit is red and the other 1/2 green. This makes for a confusing harvest. Shouldering is due to excessive direct sunlight, so I can only assume that because it has rained here in central Illinois for two months the tomatoes are not used to the sun. With all of the other damage from the spot and excessive rain, this problem doesn’t concern me until we have new healthy fruit on the plants. Today was the first day that I could see some positive results from the fertilizing and copper applications. The new growth is gigantic and lush. The tomatoes sort of have a gorilla look to them with large upper bodies and very small, sad lower limbs. I am still scared to prune, not wanting to stress them out. Selfish because they are stressing me out! 🙂

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The peppers are so beautiful and I am absolutely in love with them right now. As you walk through the beds you get an overwhelming smell that is rich and sweet. The Carmens are huge and starting to turn from green to an elegant red, which surprises me considering the temperatures have only been in the 70s. This is my second year growing this variety and I couldn’t be happier. It has a very high yield and will succeed in a wide temperature range….. obviously proven after this year.

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The foliage on the bell peppers are struggling against the BLS but the fruit is still beautiful. Those and the Golden Greeks are work horses and have been producing like crazy. Harvesting the Golden Greeks has become similar to the horrid green bean harvest of the previous weeks. However, these peppers are valuable to me because they sell at a great price and can be processed and redistributed as pickled pepperoncinis, which makes them valuable to the company as well. I will suck it up and try not to complain :). Ian and Heath have been doing most of the pickling and they have been absolutely delicious. It is a little like playing russian roulette because some are mild and some are very spicy. Makes for fun games for the unsuspecting. I try to use my ninja skills to sneak by Heath and steal some every time I deliver to Newman but it seems he is always eagerly waiting for my deliveries by the door.

Sweet Sweet Lunchbox

Sweet Sweet Lunchbox

The peppers I am most excited about are the Lunchbox peppers. This is my first year growing this variety. I am a little nervous because I have approximately 900#s hanging on the plants, waiting to turn (slight exaggeration).  The reason I am excited about these is because of the yield they will produce and the flavor. These peppers are sweet and can be eaten raw, straight off the plant. Of course you might want to wash the copper hydroxide off first but Kevin and I like to live on the edge.

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Although tomatoes and peppers are the biggest news going on right now, they aren’t the only news. The romaine head lettuce is in

Not so sneaky Deer

Not so sneaky Deer

the ground and thriving. The next batch was taken out of the greenhouse and is hardening off as we speak. Big thanks to Jeremy for commandeering us a trailer away from the crime scene where the deer decided to munch on our greens. I felt pretty confident in the safety of this batch of transplants until I found some tracks in one of my spinach beds. Hopefully they will have a heart and leave them alone until we are able to plant them Wednesday.

Say CHEEZZZEE :)

Say CHEEZZZEE 🙂 They hate having their picture taken so of course I try to do it as often as possible. Thanks Kevin and Jeremy!!

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Farm, Journal, Update

Game Time

Ariel photo of our plot

And so it begins…… the tomatoes and peppers are starting to ripen. Everything for fall has been planted, whether it be transplants or direct seeded. Consider the past two months practice for the real deal coming up. School starts in just over two weeks and the farm is ready.

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IMG_1533I had a beautiful and colorful (finally) bounty to deliver this morning. I am harvesting green peppers 1) because I am impatient and 2) because I am worried if I leave them on the plant they will scab from BLS or get bottom rot before they turn red. The peppers have had an amazing turn around from the fight with BLS and the fruit (so far) has not been affected. Tomatoes, completely different story. I feed them, I give them “medicine”, I give them TLC and lots of attention…… and they are just not happy. The new growth is still

Some interesting shapes Goldie Cherry Tomato "Rubber Ducky you're the one...."

Some interesting shapes
Goldie Cherry Tomato
“Rubber Ducky you’re the one….”

developing spot, despite my fertilizing once a week and copper applications. I harvested 50#s this morning but they were all seconds which only sell for $1. I expected this since they were the oldest fruit on the plant when the plants first started going downhill. Despite their temperamental attitude I am still hopeful they will pull out of it since it is still the beginning of their harvest.

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I harvested all of the green beans last week and ripped out the plants so I could replant for fall. This was the third harvest off of each plant and it totaled to 120#s (3 beds 180ft long/ spaced 1ft apart). I jumped the gun in last week’s blog, singing the praises of the green bean and how easy they were to grow. It must be some sort balance for the intense effort it takes to harvest them. I was lucky to have some very sweet helpers and it still took almost two full days. I do have to mention that they were very delicious and I will be sad they will not be available to snack on for the next 4 weeks.

Deer Damage

Deer Damage

I got the first batch of the romaine transplants in the ground today. I was planning to plant them last friday but when I came in to work I noticed some deer had salad for dinner. They had eaten all the tops of my little plants. I moved them closer to my plot and fertilized hoping it would bring them back to life. It didn’t. Luckily, I am absolutely horrible at math so I had some extras to fill the beds. I even planted some in one of the green bean beds. The romaine is much easier to harvest and we almost get the same selling price per lb. No brainer :). I did leave the other two raised beds for a fall green bean planting which I am sure I will be regretting in September as we are busy with everything else.

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