Farm, Journal, Update

End of a Season

Well I guess this is my final blog post until next season. The blog will continue but my friend Adam will be writing with Hendrick House’s current news. Thank you so much for tuning in to our little project and I hope you will keep checking for updates to see what next season has in store. I have learned so much with the Beginning Farmer’s class and have made some really great friends in the industry. I can not thank them enough for their patience and guidance.

I would personally like to thank Rick Weinzierl for taking on this fantastic program and being an amazing teacher and wonderful friend. He has offered so many opportunities to me and my company and I am forever grateful for this experience. I would like to thank Mary Hosier for her complete support for my company and my cooking. It was a huge compliment that you organized and attended farm to table dinners requesting me as your chef. I would also like to thank Jeremy Shafer and Bryan Warsaw for all of their help and guidance. These two people, along with Kenny Ehler, are some of the best people I have met in my time in Champaign. They are truly golden! Not only were they knowledgeable and willing to teach me, but they were also a lot of fun. I highly recommend getting to know these guys if you have the chance. Jeff Kindhart is a one of a kind! Absolutely hilarious, although he made fun of me A LOT :). That’s ok though…. he didn’t know what risotto was :). LOL. He is an amazing resource to have. He helped me immensely this year with my tomatoes and steaming my spinach bed to make it weed free. All of the people I have listed DONATED their time to help me, just because they wanted me to succeed. photo (3)It was an amazing feeling getting to work with these people. Finally, thank you to the Student Sustainable Farm (Zack and Matt) for loaning out your equipment and teaching me to use it. Also, thank you for allowing me to tag along and help with your harvests. There is no better way to learn than hands on!

That being said, I had my final harvest of spinach today. It was an absolutely perfect day and I was happy to be outside for a couple hours. I even had a surprise visitor show up. My good friend Phil, who owns and farms Moraine View Farms, just happened to be driving by. I was happy to see him and even talked him into helping me harvest the rest of my spinach. photo (4)The power of persuasion :). I love talking with Phil. He is so easy going and has so much insight in to organic farming. He loves to share his knowledge with me and I am always interested to hear what he has going on during the seasons at his farm.

As I say my final farewell I can’t help but reflect on some great moments of this year. There are definitely too many to count but I have to say some of the highlights were the first beautiful harvest of salad greens, the excitement of laying down raised beds with plastic (hanging off the back of the tractor), the beautiful trellising Jeff taught me how to build, working with the greatest friend (Kevin, who put up with my anal OCD ways), my tomato jungle, the beautiful green beans that my boys loved, the moment when Kevin and I knew our peppers would survive after the bout with bacterial leaf spot and of course planting my own cover crop in the big tractor. I will certainly miss the honks my friend Danny Stierwalt makes as he is driving down South Lincoln, laying on the horn in a different vehicle 15 times a day. My favorite was the honking in the combine as he turned each row across the field. (He farms for the U of I and another amazing friend I met this summer.)

I will miss the casual visits from Jeremy and Bryan, just checking to see how my day is. I will miss working 1.5 acres away from Todd, who was another incredible friend, helping me in anyway he could as we learned together through disease and insect trouble. I will also miss the visits from Rick, who was always eager to help. I learned so much from him this season. All and all this was such a valuable experience and I look forward to learning from all my mistakes as I plan for next year.

Farm, Journal, Update

Clearing the Tomato Jungle

photo (1)Adios tomatoes!! We have had our ups and downs like any relationship but I loved you and enjoyed every delicious flavor you had to offer. I had to take a moment and sit in my tomato jungle before saying goodbye, although I was completely busted by my farmer friend Jeremy. It was a little embarrassing actually because I laying in the middle of my plot enjoying the cool sunny day and trying to get one last picture of this season’s tomatoes when he pulled up. I am pretty sure he thought I was injured waiting for someone to drive by and find me. LOL.

photo-1Kevin and I pulled another great harvest yesterday. In fact, it was one of the biggest days of the season. I mentioned that I cut the tops of the tomatoes, well they were all ready yesterday. We also had a huge harvest of green bell peppers and green beans. We got a little over 700 lbs of produce off of our little plot of land in one day. I know that may not be a big deal to most farmers but I felt it was HUGE for us. It was hard to walk after I sat down for a bit last night. Kevin and I were like two little old people trying to shuffle around. It certainly was a great way to end one of the last big harvests of the season. We are not finished, by any means, but we will now be able to focus our efforts on to lettuce, spinach, a small amount of peppers, green beans and chard.

I am racing the clock to try and get things finalized to plant a cover crop by October 15. We still have a lot of things to do. Now that the tomatoes are finished I will harvest as many green tomatoes that we have a place for and tear down the plants, removing the tomato clips and preparing the rows to remove the trellises. Once the trellises are removed then we will roll drip tape and pull plastic, preparing that side of the plot to be mowed and tilled. Never a dull moment and no rest for the weary!! It will be a little depressing seeing a bare spot where the tomato vines and trellising used to be. It will also be heartbreaking to uproot our pepper plants that have fought so hard and are now looking more beautiful than ever. Until next year!