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Short and Sweet

This will be on the shorter side today, my apologies. The farm is winding down and Friday will be the first opportunity for the chefs to purchase green tomatoes. The tomatoes that are on the plants are not ripening anymore and since the temperatures are on the cooler side I do not expect them to. Our peppers have started to slow way down as well so now we are looking towards the fall crops to bring us home for the season. We are currently harvesting kale, beets, broccoli and squash. We are still waiting for our cauliflower and broccoli raab to come on. I have one more round of lettuce in the greenhouse that will be planted this week so I hope the frost holds off until the end of October.

The basil in the hydroponic set up seems to be doing well so we are also going to move forward with planting the rest of the towers.

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The chefs are continuing to amazing me with the delicious items they are sending me pictures of. Brittney from Delta Delta Delta made an amazing tomato and goat cheese tart with tomatoes from HH farm. I wish I could have been there to try it. Maybe she will share her recipe with us :).

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I will be representing Hendrick House at a cooking demonstration at the Champaign Farmer’s Market. I will be making a fall salad compiled of kale and apples. Please come out and support your local farmers!!!

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It’s a sloooow down

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The chefs have been doing some fantastic things with the tomatoes. Kat at Pi Beta Phi is so great at using farm produce and cooking with the seasons. I walked into her kitchen last week on delivery and the smell was intoxicating. She had some of our poblanos and was roasting them on her stove. She has also been on a standing order for tomatoes since the beginning of the season and sent me this picture of a delicious looking caprese salad she served to her girls.

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Unfortunately tomato season is coming to an end. I am super disappointed because we had a month and half less harvest than we did in 2015, which means we are way down in sales. This is entirely due to the fertilizer burn we experienced on our transplants in the spring, which caused us to scramble to replant. We didn’t get the peppers and tomatoes in the ground until end of June/ beginning of July. This is also super frustrating because this was the first year in three years that we had weather that allowed us to grow a fantastic crop. I guess if there is a bright side to this it would be that the tomatoes and peppers we did harvest were absolutely beautiful. I didn’t even see a 2nd tomato that had a scab from bacterial spot, which was a complete opposite from last year. I really really really hope that we will continue this dry hot weather for summers to come and now that I can focus all of my attention on the farm, eliminate accidents such as fertilizer burn in the future.

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My poison signs must be working because we are back up in our numbers for our strawberries. I thought about setting up a lawn chair and camping out all weekend but instead made 15 trips just to make sure no one was stealing. The strawberries are really going to like the cooler weather coming up so I am anxious to see how that progresses.

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Basil seems to be ok so far. Fingers crossed!!!

We are racing mother nature at this point. Our fall crops are very close to producing. I just hope the first freeze, which is typically mid October, holds out a little later this year.

 

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Kale

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Kale has been a real winner this year. Without even realizing it, kale has been the best selling crop of 2016. I think the main reason we didn’t notice kale pulling out in front is because it has been a crop that has been going since the beginning. I chose a different variety than we have planted in years past to try to avoid black rot, a disease that commonly affects red russian kale. Although I prefer red russian to curly, the variety we chose to grow this year, I am very happy with the success. This crop was planted back in May and there has been next to no disease issues and very little pest problems with occasionally spraying for cabbage looper. I have noticed that the chefs seem to prefer this variety as well. Mel from Gamma Phi Beta made some beautiful kale chips for her sorority girls last week.

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There farm crew had sort of a rough week last week, mostly due to our schedule being thrown off because of rain and thunderstorms. We have been forced to grow out transplants outside due to the excessive heat in August. It was too hot for the seeds to germinate in the greenhouse. Unfortunately that opens the door for the birds to feast and they are especially fond of our lettuce. We have not had very good luck keeping up with our succession plantings of romaine this year, entirely due to birds. Incredibly frustrating. The weather has dramatically cooled down so we will try yet again but this time keep the seeded trays in the greenhouse.

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The other bad news we had at the end of last week is that my grand plan to make back the hydroponic expense from the strawberries took a sour turn. Damn downy mildew struck us again. I know it is prevalent in the field but was hoping since the basil was somewhat protected in the caterpillar tunnel that it would come out unscathed. Not the case. We completely ripped out the other side of the tunnel (not planted in strawberries) that we had just set up and planted a couple weeks ago. I then ran a 10% bleach solution through the lines in attempt to sterilize the substrate. (Substrate is a fancy word for what the plants grow in…..in substitution for soil.) I also filled a backpack sprayer with the same 10% bleach solution and sprayed the rims of each beta bucket and the tunnel itself. We replanted today but only 6 towers. I would like to see if we can make it out of this nonsense without further problems. Fingers crossed.

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We love visitors at the farm, especially the little ones! Justin was in charge of watering last weekend and he brought his family out to see all the hard work he has been doing the last three months. I hope this adorable little superman comes back to visit again! Maybe he can use his super powers to make our downy mildew go away!

 

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Last week wasn’t all doom and gloom though! We did happen to see the weinermobile while we were on delivery and of course I made the boys pull over so we could get a picture!

 

 

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Pests come in all shapes and sizes

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The Chefs continue to do amazing and delicious things with the farm produce. Jacobo at AEPI made this mouth watering pasta salad with our farm tomatoes and roasted poblanos.

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Stealing is bad. Stealing from a farmer is the worst. I mistakenly weeded in front of our caterpillar tunnels exposing the sides for the viewing pleasure of anyone walking along the arboretum path. We noticed a strong decline in our strawberry harvest numbers. I decided to put up a couple signs to deter the pests. Although it now looks like a crime scene area, we did see a rise in our numbers this week.

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This week was the first large harvest of tomatoes. It was amazing. We are now starting to see the numbers we should and now we are just racing time. This year is the first year that we are getting more perfect looking tomatoes (1sts) than sauce tomatoes (2nds). Sometimes it is hard to believe when Terrin and I pull a tomato off a brown hanging limb and the tomato is flawless.

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Potatoes… what can I say. I love this crop because it is usually low maintenance for the entire season until we harvest them. This year we had a bum year. Our plants were attacked by potato beetles, something which we have not seen in previous years. We had a tough weed problem last year so I decided to grow under plastic. I didn’t think that we wouldn’t be able to hill them. Once the plants were dead and we ripped plastic to see if we would have a crop. We were deceived because most of the crop was laying on the top of the bed. We dug the three beds in the hopes of having something to show for our labor and unfortunately we only pulled 30#s. That will be enough to cover the cost of the potato and lesson learned for next year.

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