Sunday, June 6, 2010

Welcome to the Henry Got Crops! CSA 2010

By Nina Berryman
This is the week we have all been waiting for! Since the close of the CSA season last year, we’ve been working hard to get ready for the 2010 season. One of the aspects about farming which I love most is the constant learning process that happens by necessity. Given the variability of the weather, no two seasons are the same. Given how many different ways there are to do the same task, there is always a new method to experiment with in an attempt to make systems more efficient on the farm. I’m excited to see how this season unfolds!

So what is new this year? We have expanded from 55 shareholders to 80 shareholders. These numbers represent large share equivalents, meaning we’ll count a small share a ½. Because small shares are so popular this means we actually have about 130 individual families eating off of the farm (and that’s not including shares that are being split by multiple families). This year we have also expanded our working share option, meaning a crew of people will be exchanging work on the farm for a lower priced share. You’ll see most of these people helping out with the pick-ups on Tuesdays and Fridays.

To accommodate our larger shareholder population, we are growing on a bit more land. We are not leasing more land, instead we are utilizing the land within the space we used last year more effectively. More beds will be in production this year and a few or our pathways are smaller so we can grow more food. We have two new growing structures on the farm this year which will greatly increase our ability to grow earlier and later into the season. They are the hoop houses which are located on the left hand side of the field. In the first, larger one, we have early season tomatoes planted. The second one was just finished last week and we hope to put late season crops in there so they can keep growing into the fall when it would otherwise be too cold to be growing out in the field.
Another new structure on the farm is our wash station. Construction for this was started last fall and we are just about to start using it for the first time. Construction was done by volunteers from Friends of the Wissahickon as well as students from the Saul’s AP Environmental Science class. The new wash station is located just behind the old one, next to the side of the white building by the parking lot. This wash station was made from wood that came from wind-fallen trees in the Wissahickon park. It has four wash bins so multiple people can wash at one time and has built-in tubs and spray tables to make washing our vegetables faster and easier!

This year we have expanded the number of classes we are working with at Saul as well. All the classes we worked with last year have returned and three more are joining us in the field once a week to learn hands-on about small-scale, vegetable production. We currently work with the AgroEcology class, AP Environmental Science, Wildlife Biology, two Landscape design classes, a math class, and soon we’ll start working with Plant Science and an Animal Science class that is incorporating urban farming into their curriculum. Also, occasionally the food science class comes out to the farm as well. Last week the food science class prepared all the food for a Future Farmers of America banquet that was held at the school, and they used spinach and lettuce from the farm in their recipes.

An update about changes for the upcoming season would not be complete without mentioning the exciting new vegetables we are trying this year! In the spring we have vitamin green, an Asian green that grows quickly and can tolerate colder temperatures. We are also growing dandelion greens to add variety to our selection of cooking greens. We are also planting tomatillos and ground cherries, relatives of the tomato. We will also be planting some scorzonera, a root vegetable that grows similarly to parsnips. Our herb and flower section along the fence line will be expanded, with exciting new additions like sorrel and statice. We have already expanded our perennial section this spring as well. As many of you know, perennials take a while to get established so they may not end up in the share until next year or the year after. In the ground we have sunchokes (also known as Jerusalem artichokes), rhubarb, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries. They should be ready in one or two years.

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