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Ode to the staff for a great 2016

The farm is on the downward slide for the season and the crops that are still in the ground are growing slowly, due to cooler weather and less sunlight. Since labor is the farm’s highest cost it was time for the farm staff to transition into the kitchens for the winter. Labor is one of the biggest problems we struggle with financially and physically. I have been so fortunate in previous years to have great help but that consisted of chefs who had a place to go in the fall when service started back up. This presented a problem because fall is also the busiest time of year for the farm. As the farm continues to grow it was imperative to find another full time person who was flexible during the winter months and a couple reliable part time people who could work during the busy season. It is also key to be able to retain the good help so that we don’t have to start over at the beginning of each season, which has been the case thus far. I have been in the hospitality industry for a long time and finding good help is always hard. These jobs, especially farm work, are physically demanding while being exposed to the elements; rain,  dirt, heat, bugs, humidity and eventually cold. It is definitely not for everyone. I feel incredibly lucky to have met and worked side by side with the three wonderful people who helped this year. Not only were they hardworking but they were an absolute pleasure to be around. We had a lot of laughs and it made hard work fun.

Unfortunately I do not have a picture of Rey, our part timer who got us through the busy season. We were fortunate enough to find him through another local farm called Prairie Fruits Farms. Rey was flexible with his schedule, helping us only on peak harvest days, which made him an excellent match with us. From the moment he stepped out into the field he worked hard and was up for anything. He is a phenomenal baker so he would also shower us with gifts of fresh bread and PFF cheese. We will definitely be seeing more of him next year if he is still available.

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A little of Terrin’s humor, hiding in the idea garden

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Terrin, always smiling

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The hardest I’ve ever laughed in my life when Justin and I tricked Terrin into turning on the water to wash pack. A huge geyser of water shoots you up in the face. Justin and I were laughing so hard we couldn’t answer Terrin when he kept asking if it was on yet and if he could step away. Lol, dedication! I did arm him with my raincoat before he went for it. *Note: it was 6:30 am and freezing cold

Terrin was our other part time/ full timer. He started part time for us and then switched to full time during the peak season. Terrin is Justin’s best friend (I will talk about Justin later). I hope that every business has someone like Terrin working for them. He is one of those people who is like a magnet, drawing people to him with his positive attitude and constant quick lines and jokes. He reminds you that life doesn’t have to be taken so seriously and the small stuff can be laughed off. Terrin wasn’t afraid of hard work and getting dirty, coming in at the end of the day covered in head to toe in mud and yet still smiling. He was instantly missed after his last day and I look forward to 2017 when he comes back.

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Justin found a surprise crop of carrots in our beet bed. (We didn’t grow carrots this year) 🙂

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Justin mad at me for taking his picture early in the morning for the blog. 🙂

I saved Justin for last because he was the key component for a successful 2016 growing season. When you work in a kitchen it is a must that you be able to flow and “dance” with your coworkers, working closely on a line together.  Although we are not in as tight of a space as a kitchen, that could be applied to working on the farm as well. Justin and I have similar philosophies when it comes to work; be dedicated, work hard and love what you do. It didn’t take long for Justin to become invested in the farm as his own and able to have vision and interest for the future. Besides being reliable and hardworking, Justin was able to anticipate all of my moves staying one step ahead of me while rocking out to Van Halen and sporting his Steelers hoodie. He was literally my right hand. At some point in the middle of the season we didn’t have to speak words to communicate because he already knew and could anticipate what I was going to say. I have only worked with a few people in my lifetime where we were able to “flow” like this and it is like finding a double yolk in an egg. It is rare and lucky. Because we were able to work like this it freed me up to focus on other areas, knowing that he would not take short cuts and do what I needed him to do the right way. Justin moved into the kitchens last Friday for winter and will be back at the farm next spring. His absence has been felt in just a few short days and he is already greatly missed.

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It’s hard to get the farmers together for anything but when I told them it was Justin’s going away party they all showed up :). Everyone misses him. They hate having their pictures taken which brings me a lot of joy when I do it 🙂

 

Thank you Justin, Terrin and Rey for everything and making the 2016 growing season smooth, stress free and successful. I can’t wait for winter to come and go!!

 

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Basil Crisis 2016

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Well the hydro basil crisis of 2016 seems to be on the mend. It did get a little chilly in the caterpillar tunnel last week with temperatures in the evenings falling into the high 40’s. I lowered the sides all the way down and the basil seems much happier. Even with planting the rest of the towers, I still have not seen signs of downy mildew, which is a huge relief. The basil is now getting to the size where I will be able to make cuttings. If all goes well in the next couple days, we will start the harvesting process and things will be back on track.

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The strawberries have responded well to the cool temperatures and look better than ever. With the sides rolled down it adds extra theft protection so we have been seeing a rise in our numbers. The strawberries are also much sweeter than they were when they started producing in July. I have been told this is also due to cooler temperatures and size of the berry.

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Justin and I are slowly breaking down the farm. The tomatoes are completely out as well as the trellising. As we were taking out the posts we saw our hawk friend watching us, waiting for the field mice to escape from under the plastic.

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Buh Bye Tomatoes

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Justin and I stated ripping out our tomatoes last week. It is sort of a tedious process because before we can rip them out, we have to take off all of the trellising clips and cut away the vertical string. That doesn’t seem like very much when explained that way but if you figure four to six clips per plant, 90 plants per bed and 13 beds it becomes very tedious. Once all of the garbage is removed from the plant we then rip the plant out of the ground and haul it away for compost. I believe it is imperative to remove the plant from the area in order to help cut down on disease for the next growing season.

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Our fall crops are doing very well. We had a beautiful harvest Monday consisting of beets, kale, onions, green tomatoes and squash. Our peppers still look good and will hopefully continue to produce as long as the weather doesn’t start to get too cold during the day. The crop that is our biggest producer right now are our green beans. My goodness!! We are harvesting every other day pulling over 100 lbs of nice looking product a week. In years past we have really only been able to get two great looking pickings off one plant and the third being so so. This week was our third harvest from the plants and they are still going strong. This is such a great thing to see as the year is winding down.

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Our broccoli has been slowly started becoming ready. I love growing broccoli because, like the green bean, this crop is relatively easy to grow and is in high demand with the chefs.

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Fall has arrived

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Apples, cinnamon and pumpkins are on everyone’s mind, as the weather has turned cooler and the final signs of summer are coming to a swift close. (Except for this week when it is supposed to be 80 degrees Thursday… weird.) Tomatoes were the first to go and now the peppers are dwindling down and starting to not produce as much. The focus of the farm has definitely been directed to harvesting our fall crop, which keeps us very busy as we are harvesting daily. Now that the weather has turned cooler, Justin and I spend less time on farm maintenance and more time doing the actual growing. Because the days are growing shorter the plants, weeds included, are just not growing as fast. This is good and bad for us. It is great in the sense that we do not have to dedicate time to weeding and mowing but bad in the sense that we still have plants in the ground that need to get bigger.

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Our fall crops that consist of green beans, kale, squash, radish, broccoli, broccoli raab and cauliflower will carry us through the end of the year, hopefully giving us that financial push to help the farm move towards profitability.

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I found a purple tomatillo when I was harvesting last week. It was better than finding a prize at the bottom of a cereal box. They are slightly sweeter than regular tomatillos and are most commonly eaten raw. It was such a beautiful deep purple color in contrast to all the green. Tomatillos, what an impressive crop!!!

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The chefs sent me some lovely photos of things they have created with our produce. Paige at Phi Sigma Sigma has been begging for green tomatoes since the start of the season this year so she was over the moon when I added them to the availability email last week. She made fried green tomatoes that were so yummy they could even be served at the Whistle Stop Cafe.

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Kat from Pi Beta Phi sent me a picture of a sage biscuit she made from our rooftop sage. I thought this was so inventive and the biscuit looked flakey with a moist center. Well done chefs!

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