Early summer in Wolcott this year has brought much rain and cabbage maggots. But it still looks like a hopeful start.
As we all face our own weather and challenges, it reminds me of how resilient we growers can be. There is always something out of our control to complain about, work on, or act on quickly.
As I listen and look around at growers’ meetings and conferences it is heartening to see the careful preparation and responding that we all do to handle these issues.
I am happy to say that our own research and production farm is looking great even with twelve inches of rain in the last two weeks. The crops are all planted and healthy (minus a few brassicas), the weeds are at bay and the crew is not overwhelmed.
In the last month I have visited some farms in other parts of the country and I have been overwhelmingly amazed at one common feature of organic growers wherever I go: we are creative problem solvers of the highest order, highly engaged and thoughtful…..Independent Thinkers!
Not to say all farmers are not of equivalent aptitude, it just seems to me that organic growers have been faced with more challenges that have already been solved for conventional farmers.
We are creating new systems and solutions that work in sustainable environments.
Some of these are answers that have either been lost in our culture or are new pressures never before challenged in such a way.
I would also say our organic community, philosophy and method lends itself to such folks that like a good challenge and are not afraid of hard work.
Participating in nature is certainly more complex than quick fixes and magic bullets that alienate diversity and sustainability.
For which ever reason, it is good to know that our nation’s healthiest foods are being grown by good folks who are ready for whatever is coming next.
In this section we would like to take a chance to introduce new team members and give you a chance to learn a little more about them, where they have been, and what they are up to at High Mowing. Click here for a full Staff Directory. The Faces page also lets us highlight past and present employees that are up to exciting and interesting endeavors outside of High Mowing. Be sure to check out the Wind Riders below.
We want to say a very warm Congratulations to Denise Eagen, our former Office Manager, and her family on their brand new member.Denise gave birth to a lovely daughter on
June 26, 2008. She was born at
weighing in at 6 Lbs, 5 Oz and 20.5 inches long.
Denise’s great sense of humor and attention to detail will greatly be missed!
New Additions to the High Mowing Team
Katie Lavin, Wholesale Sales Manager
I grew up in Central New York, went to college in
Vermont, and lived in
California for a few years.
In 2003, I decided that I wanted to learn how to grow food, and planted myself back in
New York, where I grew vegetables for 5 years at Peacework Farm, a 300-member
CSA outside of
This past winter, the lure of the Green Mountains pulled me back in the direction of
Vermont once again, and I feel lucky to have landed at High Mowing Organic Seeds.
Although I love growing and eating most vegetables, I have a profound appreciation for beets.
Beets appear quickly in the spring, are great roasted, pureed, and steamed, keep well all winter without a lot of fuss, and with those tender tops, are a two-for-one vegetable.
Best of all, beets are humble but not shy, and they share their vibrant hue with all they come in contact with.
When I am not exalting the virtue of the beet or managing the High Mowing Seed Rack Program and Donation Program, I might be found riding my bike, cooking a great meal, identifying plants along a stream, or catching the sunset from a cliff facing west.
Gwenael Engelskirchen, Retail Sales Manager
I have freshly arrived in
Vermont from New Paltz, NY, where I spent the last two and a half years managing a 6-acre
CSA and educational farm. I grew up in
CA and lived in
Santa Monica for five years during and after college. It was in
L.A. that my interest in sustainable agriculture blossomed through my involvement in community and school gardens and food security initiatives. I worked on several organic farms in the
SacramentoValley before moving east with my sweetheart, Alex, a Brooklyn-native turned farmer and builder. I’ve worked on farms of varying scales and niches from a 3-acre seed-saving garden to a 2-acre non-profit urban farm to a 200-acre veggie, fruit, and nut farm. Although my agricultural roots are in veggie production, I also love working with livestock. I’ve raised laying hens, sheep and hope to have a milking cow one day. I’m happy to be getting an introduction to the
Vermont agriculture scene as well as the organic seed business.
Kerri Hansen, Office Manager / Customer Service Representative
I was born in
New York, and have spent time in both
California until I moved to beautiful
Vermont about 15 years ago.
I feel so fortunate to be living in such a beautiful state, in a sweet, partially solar powered home and now working for a company doing such good and important work.
I returned to college after raising my beautiful daughter, Sarah, who now lives in
I have Associates in Landscape Design and Horticultural Sciences from
VermontTechnicalCollege which gave me a critical eye when thinking about the way outdoor spaces are used and combining art and plants!
I then went on to complete my Bachelors degree in Wellness & Alternative Medicine at Johnson State College.
For literally decades I have been interested in organic agriculture, alternative energy sources and alternative ways of healing.
I have had many gardens throughout my life and love most of all the eggplant for its beautiful colors and the tasty recipes it is used in.
I also LOVE, LOVE, LOVE flowers of all kinds.
But my real passion is medicinal plants.
It is the combination of artistic design of herbal knot gardens and healing qualities of the plants that my green thumb is especially in tuned with.
When I am not at High Mowing, I enjoy cooking yummy meals, fooling around with watercolors, singing, and listening to music (“live” especially).
From Hoe Handlers to Wind Riders
Dana Szegedy and April Nabholtz, our star farm crew employees of 2005, have taken their show on the road.
These two were quite a dynamic duo when it came to working in the fields and now are on a horse back journey across the plains to raise money for Heifer International.
Here is an excerpt of their blog describing how they came together at High Mowing.
“Dana and April first encountered each other over a bed of lettuce in
Vermont, where they were both employed by High Mowing Organic Seeds. As they were two of only three summer field hands, they ended up spending most hours of most days hashing over everything from horses to permaculture to biodiesel, hoes in hand the entire while. At the end of the summer April left
Vermont, and the two women didn't see each other again for five seasons.
In the midwinter of 2007, April showed up again in
Vermont but only for a few hours. She and Dana sat on snowy logs around a bonfire, talking about the seasons that had elapsed and what had sprung from them. Dana told April about her visions of riding her horses across
Canada when spring came. April left
Vermont before the night ended but she took some of Dana's visions with her and before long she, too, felt Wanderlust pricking her toes and foot soles and a strange urgency in her chest to swing herself up into a saddle.”
As Tom mentioned in his segment of this newsletter we have received our fair share of rain this early summer.
Thankfully, nothing like what they are seeing in the mid-West but enough rain to set plants back a few days and delay cultivation.
As a strong burst of sunny days streamed through last week we hopped on our tractors, fired up our rototiller, and had all hoes in hand to start battling the weeds.
The major weeds on our farm are annual lamb’s quarter, wild mustards and of coarse some of our own seed crops that shatter in the fields.
As far as persistent weeds our most prevalent problem around the entire farm is milkweed and in the Trials we have a patch of bindweed that very much enjoys its location.
The most troublesome weed we are most fearful of however is Galinsoga, that pretty little thing that blooms at just inches from the ground spreading millions of seeds mid-late summer, for multiple generations.
We have spotted it periodically but have been very careful to quickly remove the plants before flowering.
If left unnoticed it could ruin our field within one season.
Cabbage maggots are back as well.
We had our first incidence with them last year and quickly salvaged greenhouse plantings using nematodes.
We were not able to detect them in direct seeded crops this season, however, and have lost a few small seed crops.
All seed crops are well established at this point and we have been in the field rogueing the first of the Brassica crops.
We have a number of new specialty crops we experimented with producing seed for last year and now have a full on production.
We still have a good amount of row cover on our cucurbits to keep away the cucumber beetles and keep them warm and strong until the flowers appear (usually in early to mid July).
This year on our production farm, instead of covering individual rows we have used large blankets of row cover that can be removed much more easily when cultivation is needed.
We also hope they will last longer than single row covers that tend to get ripped and dirty easily.
After our last cultivation we have all cover crops planted in between rows as well as our main areas for next years crops.
We are looking good!
TrialGardens we have 95% of our crops planted, and now are just waiting on fall brassicas and some summer lettuce.
We are experimenting this year using annual rye grass in between plastic for our cucurbit crops.
With single row covers it is almost impossible to get in between to cultivate, and when it is time to take row cover off and plants are ready to vine out immediately.
This year we laid our plastic beds early before the most weeds were ready to sprout and planted annual rye grass in between the rows.
We bought a cheap mower to keep it from going to seed and are so thrilled with the out come so far.
Grass was seeded in late April and established well by our planting date in early June.
Annual mustards sprung up and we simply mowed the bolting seed heads down.
So far so good!
We performed our first evaluations on radishes and spinach a few weeks ago and are keeping a good eye on lettuces and other greens now that we are getting into the real summer months.
ShowcaseGarden is coming together!
We just pulled off the row cover on our cucumbers and summer squash and are looking forward to checking out mass plantings of some of our best varieties.
The tent is up and we are getting ready to make some needed repairs.
All are welcome for a self guided tour of the trials any time, or stop by our annual field days.
We have our Summer Field Days on July 30 and our Fall Field Days will be on Sept 17.
We have pre-event workshops and will be serving up local food and beverage.
Always a good time, hope to see you there!
Your customers expect a lot from you; sustainable methods of production, responsible stewardship of your farm, high quality and a fair price. Chances are they also want the produce they buy to last a long time at their home in the fridge. How you take care of your vegetables after they are harvested might make you a hero in the eyes of your patrons, but they will definitely remember if it spoils quickly.
It is all about the heat.
The quicker you can get it out of the hot sun, the better.
Respiration rates are a function of temperature, and are best slowed by rapid cooling. The microorganisms that cause decay are also slowed by lower temps.
Most walk-in coolers do not have the capacity to pull field heat out of produce.
Putting vegetables that are not properly cooled in the walk-in not only wastes energy it prolongs the time that the produce will be prone to an increased rate of decay.
The most common way to initially cool produce involves cold water.
Since all of the water is coming in contact with food, it should be potable.
In VT we are required to test our water as part of our Organic Certification.
A system as simple as a tank of cold water is a good start.
Two tanks are better.
As the vegetables are washed, the water gets dirtier and warmer.
Both are a problem, any pathogens present will be transferred to all the produce that comes in contact with the water.
Having two tanks allows one tank to be freshly filled as the other one gets dirty and warmer.
All the heat that is coming out of the food has to go somewhere, and the tanks ability to adequately cool will be diminished over time.
Therefore it is always a good idea to change the water frequently.
A more elaborate system is a hydro cooler.
Here an enclosed space has a stream of refrigerated water running over the produce. If fresh water is used, it allows the temperature to remain constant, and also reduces the risk from cross contamination.
A true hydro cooler is an expensive item, and is out of the reach for a lot of growers.
Top icing is another way to get a good reduction in temps for a cheaper cost.
It is not appropriate for all crops however, and the use of ice on some can cause more harm with chilling injury.
The USDA has a publication, Agriculture Handbook Number 66, which lists the ideal temperatures for the storage of every crop. It’s a great resource, and has lots of information in it, including approximate length of storage. I got my copy from our extension agent, and although it may sound dry, it is very interesting and useful.
A good example at our farm is when we harvest leafy greens.
We harvest as early as we can in the day, before the fields have had a chance to warm up from the sun.
We put the greens in the shade and run them back to the barn as soon as we can.
Once we are at the barn, everything is off loaded onto a cement slab and hosed off with cold water.
There is only so much time before the sun gets high, however.
At some point the sun comes out full force, and the plants start to get warmer.
At this point we shuttle back to the barn more frequently.
Once the produce has been washed, we let it drain for a few minutes, and then it goes into the cooler.
We have learned to stack the boxes loosely so air can get around them better to aid in the cooling.
We try to have most of what will leave the farm in the cooler for one full day.
That way I know that when it gets to my customers it is thoroughly cooled and stable, and will last a while for them.
On a side note, we have been putting head lettuce in a sleeve for four years now, and the difference is amazing.
I agree that the world needs less plastic, but I would argue that there are few gains made when the product has to be thrown out because of its condition.
The sleeves protect the head from broken leaves and make the lettuce much easier to handle at market. They also keep it hydrated much longer.
This all translates to a better product with increased shelf life.
I still remember early in our career when the cost of a walk-in cooler seemed prohibitive.
Now I can’t imagine farming without one.
If you are a young grower, it should be high on your list of must haves.
Sometimes the difference between a sale and the compost pile is only a few days, and a cooler can quickly pay for itself.
Breeding for Resistance to Septoria in Tomato: Part II
Well I’m afraid I don’t have as much to report as I expected at this point, because I am still in the midst of disease screening and do not yet have clearly-resistant individuals. The process of isolating pure Septoria culture has proved much more difficult than I imagined, and for the moment I am using culture sent to me by Dr. Stella Zitter of
CornellUniversity, as the season was getting so late.
Hopefully we’ll work out the isolation procedure for ourselves by the end of this year.
The difficulty lies in the fact that Septoria is a slow-growing fungus of the pycnidial type, meaning that it produces spores from small volcano-like eruptions rather than as a massive mat of mycelium and spores.
The pycnidial fungi tend to be more finicky to grow in culture, and their slow growth makes them prone to becoming overgrown by faster-growing contaminants.
In any case, we have launched our screening program for this season and I am awaiting the onset of disease symptoms to be able to begin to make selections for more resistant individuals.
The process is to take plants that are a few weeks old, rub their leaves to break the leaf hairs (trichomes), which make them more susceptible to infection, and then spray the plants with Septoria inoculum suspended in water.
Once the inoculum dries, the plants are placed in a mist chamber to provide constant wetness so the fungus can most effectively infect leaves.
Any plant that resists this ‘perfect storm’ of fungal infection is a truly resistant plant.
By comparison, doing this kind of screening out in the field is much more difficult because it is nearly impossible to control environment to create excellent infection opportunities. Also it is not feasible to screen nearly as many plants out in the field as can be screened in trays in the greenhouse. The process of screening hundreds of plants at a time in a controlled environment is what makes this type of breeding so powerful for selection of resistance.
Assuming resistant individuals are identified, these individuals will then be planted out to the field to grow and set seed.
The seed will be harvested from individual plants in the fall.
Ideally the plants wil be grown in isolation from one another to prevent crossing between individuals, and we will effect this isolation if pollination cage space proves available.
If not, we will at least grow them in isolation from other tomatoes so that we do not introduce susceptibility to the population.
Most tomatoes outcross at only small percentage, though, so the bulk of the seed set will contain only the genes of the parent plant.
Many of you may remember our “Ask the Grower” section we previously had in our newsletter a few years ago.
Now that The Seedbin is up and running smooth again we would like to bring it back but add a new twist.
We welcome all grower questions but also want to open the doors to all areas of our expertise including; seed storage, seed packing, shipping and handling, quality control, breeding and trialing to name a few or just anything you are curious about.
A few good examples are:
Where does the name High Mowing come from?
How do I calculate the number of seeds I need to plant enough corn for a half acre?
We will try to get back to everyone by email, and will include a few questions in the next issue of the Seed Bin in the “Inquiring Minds Want to Know!” section.
Submit your questions to Inquiring Minds Want to Know!
Thanks for your help and we look forward to hearing what you folks are interested in.
The 2008 High Mowing Organic Seed’s Summer Field Days are scheduled for July 31 from 5:30 –
at the HMS Trial Gardens in Wolcott, Vermont.
Come early and join us from 3-5 pm for a plant disease walk with Ann Hazelrigg from the Plant Diagnostic Clinic at UVM.
This is a free event, kids are welcome.
The High Mowing sales staff will be on hand to give guided tours of over 700 vegetable, herb, and flower varieties that are being trialed as well as the all new Showcase Garden that highlights new and up-coming varieties.
There will be taste tests and food concessions donated by local food purveyors.
This is a great chance to see what High Mowing is up to and share your input on varieties, growing techniques and more.
Check out the link above for more information and directions.
The rest of the world is coming to discover the importance of local and organic food, and we hope to show the way as more folks adopt this sensible approach to farming and living. We have lined up our best experts to help you hone some of the skills you will need. Whether at workshops, in the dining hall, hanging around the registration tent, socializing at one of the evening events, at the fair, or our two keynotes, you will be among the best minds in the region - people who have been working for years to feed themselves and their neighbors while living in a sane and regenerative fashion.
Come by the High Mowing booth and say hi, we are always happy to meet our customers face to face!
August 26, 2008
High Mowing Field Days at the Intervale
Join High Mowing Organic Seeds at the Burlington Intervale for a walking tour of commercially produced High Mowing varieties.
Gain insight on how to select the best varieties for organic production.
We will also discuss choosing varieties for different markets.
This is a great chance for Market Growers to see currently available organic varieties offered while having HMS staff and Intervale growers on hand to answer questions.
The tour will start at the Intervale Community Farm at
sharp (feel free to come early to say hi and hang out before the tour, High Mowing staff will be there by 4:30), and work its way to Digger’s Mirth Collective Farm, ending at Arethusa Collective Farm around
. This is a free event open to all.
For the past seven weeks we have been participating in Localvore Friday Lunch at High Mowing.
We have traded seed for a share in Pete’s Greens
VT fifteen driving miles away from our warehouse.
Every Thursday Tom will pick up the share and every week someone new will volunteer to cook a lunch on Friday using ingredients from the share.
Over the past few months we have had some of the healthiest and fun lunches feeding up to fifteen folks each week.
I thought it would be fun to include some of the recipes we have used during Friday Lunch.
Some are made up on the spot and others are from the Pete’s GreensCSA newsletter that arrives a few days before each share highlighting what will be included as well as Localvore insight and recipes.
Snap Pea Tart
This tart goes together in no time and is delicious both hot and cold, especially served with a wedge of cornbread and a hearty salad of nuts and roasted vegetables. The ricotta really highlights the fresh flavor of the snap peas. If you don't have shallots on hand, chopped onions or scallions will work.
2 cups sugar snap peas, plus extra for garnish, if desired
1 clove garlic
1 1/4 cups Ricotta cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 shallots, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg
Preheat oven to 425F.
Put snap peas and garlic in food processor or blender, and process until finely chopped. Add Ricotta, Parmesan cheese, shallots, salt, pepper and nutmeg, and process until just combined.
Add eggs, and process until smooth.
Pour mixture into crust. Bake 10 minutes; reduce heat to 350F, and bake 25 to 30 minutes more, or until filling has puffed up and set and crust is golden brown. Garnish with steamed sugar snap peas, if desired.
6 Parsnips shredded
½ c Breadcrumbs or 2 slices bread chopped up, or flour
Chives or green onions, chopped
Salt and Pepper
Butter or Olive Oil for frying
Add breadcrumbs to shredded parsnips in mixing bowl.
Add egg and toss till mixture is sticky and wet, add tsp of milk if seems dry.
Last add chives and herbs to flavor and mix well.
Heat fry pan with butter or oil covering surface and take spoonful of mixture and make cake shaped patties.
Cook on med heat, flip and brown each side.
Lower heat and cover for 5-10 minutes (this will sweeten up the parsnips more so than a quick cook).
Add butter to pan before each batch.
Serve with fresh salad or a crème fraiche.
Basil Barley Salad
Pearled barley cooked
Chives or green onions, chopped
Beet roots, steamed and cubed
Beet tops, steamed and chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
Prepare barley and cool with cold water before mixing ingredients.
Add dressing to barley first and then all other ingredients.
Toss well and put in fridge to sit for at least one hour before serving.
All ingredients are to taste so have some fun.
Add more seasonal ingredients for a wholesome Localvore salad such as blueberries, carrots or apples.