What's Happening At High Mowing?
Hello growers and gardeners!
We're still covered in snow here in northern VT, but things are sure starting to heat up! February is the month that we start getting slammed with orders - it seems we are all getting sick of winter and ansy to jump in and start in on our garden plans.
The winter months are also the time of year when our sales representatives scatter across the country to attend a variety of organic and agriculture conferences. We enjoy talking to our customers at these events and hearing their stories and feedback. It is also nice to have the opportunity to attend workshops to pick up new ideas and skills.
At the end of January, Tom Stearns, president and founder of High Mowing Organic Seeds, gave an inspiring keynote address at the 2011 Eco-Farm Conference in California. He spoke about the need to re-imagine and revitalize our local food-sheds, during which he highlighted our community of Hardwick, Vermont. In our region, we have many food-based businesses that share resources, and over the years we have garnered community support which has resulted in new jobs, a stregthened local economy, and great local food networks. At the Eco-Farm conference, Tom's talk received a standing ovation! Take a listen for yourself: Can You Imagine a Better Food System? It’s Easy if You Try!
Tom will be sharing his thoughts on the same topic at the Mid-west Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) conference on February 26th. If you're in the area, swing on by!
High Mowing Organic Seeds' Spring Social! (Sun. March 20th)
Thoughts turning to spring…and to growing? Join us to learn some new techniques, learn about new varieties, learn about seed cleaning and production…or just share some good food and growing tips with friends! Workshops on tomato grafting, spinach and winter greens trial production in our high hoop houses, tours of our facilities, and a potluck!
The Spring Social will be held at the High Mowing Organic Seeds warehouse located at 76 Quarry Road in Wolcott, Vermont. We are just off Rte 15, across from the Fisher Covered Bridge, between Wolcott and Hardwick.
For more information about our Spring Social, please see our Spring Social Schedule
Back to Top
Getting Started with Nightshades and Alliums
- Megen Hall
After writing last month's article on building your own seed starting workstation, I have been propelled into the second gear of garden planning. I just got my seed order and my Stella Natura calendar and have begun the process of organizing my planting schedule. There's still plenty of time before crops can go in the ground in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, but there are a few that need to get started long before the snow melts, such as nightshades and alliums. Starting seeds indoors, whether under lights or in a greenhouse, is necessary if you want them to reach full maturity in climates where the growing season is short, or to get a jump on planting even where the season is long. To establish your seeding dates, you want to determine when to put your plants in the garden or greenhouse and count backwards to from there.
Nightshades, such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, should only be planted outside after all danger of frost has past and once soil temperatures have warmed. Planting into a heated greenhouse or an unheated high tunnel will allow for earlier planting dates, but resist the urge to start your plants too soon. Soil temperatures will still need to be taken into consideration when figuring your dates.
Nightshades can be started indoors 6-8 weeks before their planting date. They can be seeded approximately 4 seeds per inch and ¼" deep into channel trays filled with moistened potting soil. Cover your tray with a propagation dome or some other clear plastic tent to hold in heat and humidity during germination, and place on a heat mat. Bottom watering or misting with a spray bottle can be used to keep the soil evenly moist (not soggy). Optimal soil temperatures for germination are between 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit. Once seedlings emerge, remove the cover to reduce humidity. After the first set of true leaves appear, carefully transplant seedlings into their own individual cells. Repeat the transplant process as necessary; once the roots fill the cell, but do not allow the seedlings to become root bound.
Onions are dependent on day length for bulb production and can be direct seeded in some climates, but transplanting is recommended in regions with shorter growing seasons. In the North (latitudes north of 35º), choose long-day varieties and sow seeds approximately 8-12 weeks before transplanting into the garden. Onions can be transplanted as soon as soil can be worked. Seeds can be sown in 1" cells about ¼ - ½ " deep. As a rule of thumb, if you want larger onions, plant one seed per cell, for smaller onions, 2-3 seeds per cell. Optimal soil temperatures for germination are between 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit. When seedlings reach 5", trim to 1" to increase girth and allow plants to re-establish about 7 leaves before transplanting into the garden.
Nightshades and alliums are just a few of the crops that should be started early indoors, but there are some herbs, brassicas (such as Brussels sprouts), and others that require an early start as well. Check out our Vegetable Planting Guide (pdf) for the particulars on other crop types. You can also learn important tips and advice from our expert gardeners here at HMS with our new Seed Starting Video. Have fun getting started!
Back to Top
- Paul Betz, High Mowing Organic Seeds Sales Associate and owner of High Ledge Farm, VT
Greenhouse season gets closer every day, and while my greenhouses are sitting idle at this time of the year, that doesn't mean I can ignore them. They are always on my mind, especially with the threat of winter weather.
A few years ago I wrote about efficiency and maintenance. I am not going to rewrite that now; you can find a link to the article here. I will say that now is the time to start thinking about any greenhouse fixes and adjustments. Tune up your heaters and run them for a day or two before you have a house full of seeded flats. It's better to find out what's not working at the expense of a little fuel, rather than my plants.
The work I do at this time of year is twofold; inside I am doing some "imagineering". I think about work flow, supply storage, what works, what doesn't work. Soon enough there won't be time or space to make these adjustments. Now is also the time to do a really deep cleaning. I haven't had the time to do one in the fall for a while, so come late winter I remove any weeds and sweep up all the soil and debris from last season. I check doors and openings for fit, and make any needed adjustments.
Outside, my main concern is snow. Snow gets heavy fast, and can actually absorb the water from the air and gain weight as time goes on. All that weight pushes straight down on the greenhouse, until it overloads the capacity of the pipe and any cross ties that support it. Typically the place the pipes fail is at the hip board, where a hole has been drilled. The result is a heavy, cold, expensive mess. As an aside, anyone who received an NRCS high tunnel is financially responsible for its upkeep, and if it comes down during the study period, you are on the hook. Our greenhouses are a gambrel style, with a high sidewall, which helps the snow to slide off. I make a point of clearing them after every heavy snow. I use a roof rake, and the snow generally comes off fairly easily. The bigger problem comes from the snow once it's on the ground. At some point the sides build up and there's no room for new snow to accumulate. I used to shovel this by hand but now I have a new ally.
About five years ago, I got a rear mounted snow blower for the tractor, and it is an amazing tool. I brought it over to a friend's farm and cleaned up his houses in a few hours. That includes the time it takes to fix any broken shear pins. It really shines where the room between the greenhouses is tight. It's hard to plow or push snow out for 100'. The snow blower throws it out. It takes a few passes to get all of it removed, but it is as easy as sitting in the seat. By keeping the sides clean, the new snow (there's always more snow coming) can slide off to then be moved by the tractor another day. An added bonus is that all that snow can melt somewhere else. I have some drainage issues we are still working on, and the last thing I need in the spring is to have all that cold water running through the greenhouse and taking away my heat. I can push it over the bank where it can melt in peace.
Here's to a successful 2011 season for you and your farm.
Back to Top
Katie's Kitchen - Fresh Winter Salad
- Katie Lavin, Wholesale Sales Manager
Here is one of my favorite salads, always different depending on the ingredients I have to work with. If the beets are already cooked, this is a cinch to throw together. This amount serves 6-8 people and can easily be doubled to feed a crowd. Make it a few hours before you eat to let the flavors meld. Adding pea or sunflower shoots really puts this over the top!
3 cups cubed cooked beets, 1 inch pieces
3 cups cubed raw peeled kohlrabi, 1 inch pieces
2 cups chopped apples, 1 inch pieces
Optional: A shredded carrot? ½ cup of matchstick-sliced turnips? Raisins? Pea or sunflower shoots?
Dressing (all of these ingredients are "to taste", meaning add more yogurt if you want it creamier, more cinnamon for more cinnamon flavor, etc):
¾ cup of plain yogurt (or use part mayonnaise)
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
¼ teaspoon salt
Mix all of the dressing ingredients together. Add to your beets, kohlrabi, and apples (and any other creative extras besides the sunflower shoots). Watch it turn a delightful shade of fuschia. Adjust your dressing ingredients to make the salad taste the way you want. Sprinkle the top of your finished salad with a generous handful or two of pea or sunflower shoots and admire your creation. Serve and enjoy!
Back to Top
Upcoming Food and Farm Events
New Mexico Organic Farming Conference –
The Southwest’s Premier Conference for Organic Agriculture
February 18-19, 2011
Marriott Albuquerque Pyramid North, Albuquerque, NM
The 2011 NM Organic Farming Conference includes: a welcome by Dr. John Boren, Director of New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service; keynote by Jane Sooby, Director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation; delicious organic meal and snacks with a focus on locally produced items; and over 30 sessions on crops, livestock, weed and pest management, market gardening, and farm support. Sessions are taught by experienced organic producers and experts in the field.
Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association: 32nd Annual Conference –
Inspiring Farms, Sustaining Communities
February 19-20, 2011
Granville School, Granville, OH
Inspiring Farms, Sustaining Communities is OEFFA’s 32nd conference! After all this time, the conference is stronger than ever because of the educational, inspirational, and networking opportunities it offers. There will be over 75 workshop to choose from, a raffle, book signings by keynote speaker Joan Dye Gussow and Gene Logsdon. Speakers include Klaas and Mary-Howell Martens with their keynote, Living Upstream: Decision-Making on an Organic Farm, and Dr. Joan Dye Gussow with her keynote, Where have we been? Where are we going?
Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service: 22nd Annual Organic Farming Conference
Booth # 106
February 24-26, 2011
La Crosse Center, La Crosse, WI
High Mowing Organic Seeds' founder and President, Tom Steans, will be giving the keynote speech at this conference. The MOSES Organic Farming Conference is the largest organic farming
conference in the U.S. Organized by the Midwest Organic and Sustainable
Education Service (MOSES), and held annually in La Crosse, WI, the OFC
is an extraordinary, farmer-centered event. With over 70 informative
workshops, 150+ exhibitors, locally-sourced organic food, live
entertainment and inspirational keynote speakers, the OFC is celebrated
as the foremost educational and networking event in the organic farming community.
From its humble beginning with 90 attendees twenty years ago, our most
recent conference in February attracted over 2,700 farmers, advocates,
educators, students, and more!
Harvest New England: Ag Marketing Conference & Trade Show –
The Expanding New England Farm Enterprise: Reaping More from What We Sow
March 1-3, 2011
Sturbridge Host Hotel, Sturbridge, MA
This unique marketing conference targets New England growers interested in learning new marketing ideas or fine-tuning strategies for business success. This is a detail-oriented conference featuring keynote speaker John Stanley: Merchandizing Your Way to Success, and a general session with Farmer and Author Ben Hewitt: Revitalizing the Local Economy Through Local Farms and Foods. Break-out session tracks focus on: Growing Your Business, Funding Your Business, Selling Your Product, Marketing Your Product, and Adding Value to Your Product.
Connecticut NOFA: 29th Annual Winter Conference
March 5, 2011
Manchester Community College, Manchester, CT
Join us in celebration of local organic farming, gardening, landscaping and sustainable lifestyles. This event will feature 30 plus workshops, a vendor and exhibit area, keynote speech, delicious potluck lunch, children’s program, and a series of hands-on cooking demonstrations.
Organic Growers’ School: 18th Annual Spring Conference
March 5-6, 2011
University of North Carolina at Asheville, Asheville, NC
The Organic Growers School Spring Conference is a one-of-a-kind event that brings people of all walks of life together for a weekend of learning and networking near Asheville, North Carolina. Since 1993, the OGS Spring Conference has been the best way to kick-off the season, with over 70 classes and hands on workshops on a variety of topics, from starting your first vegetable garden, baking bread, and saving on home energy costs, to raising your own goat herd. The mission of OGS is to provide down-to-earth, practical advice on growing and sustainable living, while remaining affordable and accessible to anyone wanting to participate. New Tracks for 2011 include: Fruit Production, Urban Farming, Primitive Skills, and All About Poultry.
California Small Farm Conference –
Small Farms, Bright Futures
March 6-8, 2011
Doubletree Hotel, San Jose, CA
Attracting approximately 500 participants yearly, The California Small Farm Conference is the state’s premier gathering of small farmers, farmers' market managers, university researchers, federal and state agriculture agencies, agriculture students, food policy advocates, consumers and others. With 25 workshops and five workshop tracks, there is something for everyone. Keynote speaker is Craig McNamara, president and owner of Sierra Orchards, a diversified farming operation that includes field, processing, and marketing operations, producing primarily organic walnuts. He also serves as the founder and president of the Center for Land-Based Learning. The goal of this innovative program is to assist high school students in becoming lifelong learners, overcoming barriers to change, and building greater social and human capital in their communities.
Georgia Organics -
14th Annual Conference & Expo: Go Grow!
March 11-12, 2011
10 In-Depth Workshops focusing on farmer education, 9 Educational Session tracks, 12 Food and Farm Tours; keynote speaker Vandana Shiva. This year Georgia Organics will take you to the very beginnings of agriculture in the state, and to the roots of organic farming in Georgia, not to mention trips to some of the state's best organic farms, sustainable livestock producers, coastal habitats, and expeditions into the heart of Savannah's rich culinary heritage.
NOFA New Hampshire Winter Conference –
Localizing Food: Organic Matters
March 19th, 2011
Exeter High School, Exeter, NH
The Winter Conference is the premiere gathering of New Hampshire’s organic food and agriculture community: farmers, gardeners, localvores, educators, and consumers joining together. This year our keynote speakers are Ben Hewitt, author of “The Town that Food Saved”, the story of the economic resurgence of Hardwick, VT, and Jack Lazor of Butterworks Farm, Westfield, VT.
Please join us for over 40 workshops, including some led by teens and programs for Youth and Children. This year herbalists from the NH Herbal Network will be leading several of the sessions. Plan on strolling through the popular Green Market Fair where vendors and a farmers’ market offer all things green and organic.