Wednesday, May 20, 2015

News from the Big Red Farm, May 20

Hello friends,

The weather has gotten hot and things have gotten busy in a hurry, but I wanted to take a moment to give you all some important updates on our plans for this season on the farm.

Gone, but not forgotten...

After much soul-searching and hesitation, we have decided to discontinue our weekly farm stand.  As much as we enjoyed bringing the farm onto campus and interacting with our community and customers every Wednesday, after two years of operating the farm stand we are forced to admit that the time required to set up, take down, and staff the stand could be better spent on the farm.  We are shifting our main focus to growing produce for Lawrenceville's dining halls, but we still want to provide delicious fresh veggies to anyone who's interested.

...New: fresh seasonal produce
packed for you!

We're glad you asked!  This season, we're moving to a more traditional CSA model, in which customers receive a pre-packed bag of veggies, picked up at the farm.  The weekly newsletter will contain a button to click if you would like to reserve a farm share for that week.  We'll tell you (in the email) what we're harvesting, and if it looks good, you can enter your name and reserve a share.  If not, or if you're out of town, or if you just went to the farmers market, or whatever, no need to reserve a share for that week.  Every time you opt in for a share we'll deduct $20 from your Big Red Farm Share account (if you don't have an account, you can leave $20, cash or check, in our mailbox in Mackenzie, or bring it to the farm).  Each week's share will consist of $22 to $25 worth of produce, depending on the time of year, so $20 is a good deal!

We're looking forward to trialing this system in the 2015 season, and we hope it will work out well for everyone concerned.  Please send me an email at if you have any questions, or if you're interested in joining the Farm Share program.  We hope to offer the first share in early June -- we'll keep you posted!

Tomtoes and lettuce in the hoop house

This year we seem to have skipped spring and gone straight to hot, dry summer (though we still do have the odd spring-like day every now and then), and work at the farm has kicked into high gear with corresponding swiftness.  Seedlings in the hoophouse seem to grow an inch overnight, but conditions in our un-irrigated vegetable fields are so dry that we're reluctant to do much field planting.  So, we have giant lettuce, tomato, and summer squash seedlings sitting in the hoophouse (where they can be watered daily), waiting for rain.

The plants already in the ground are waiting too.  We haven't seen too many things die off, but the plants we put in a week or two or three ago are still the same size as they were then.  According to weather records kept for New Jersey, in March and April of this year we received about half of our usual amount of rain, and May has pretty much been completely dry.  Last Saturday night's thunderstorm and brief downpour was really helpful, but we could still use a nice, gentle, 24-hour soaking rain.

Local farm kid uses hose
to good effect
Happy hogs
In the meantime, however, work continues, and we've already harvested our first crops -- arugula, lettuce mix, and radishes which were served in the school dining halls in the past couple of weeks.  Our senior project students grew these spring veggies in an unheated hoop house.  The seniors also helped build a shed and fenced enclosure for our newest arrivals: two eight-week-old Berkshire hogs!  The pigs are turning compost for us, and enjoying their big, shady yard and delicious vegetable scraps.

This week we say goodbye to the spring 2015 student farm crew, which was our biggest group yet, and included a couple of returning workers!  They were enthusiastic, dedicated, and a joy to work with.  They also really embraced the custom of wearing broad-brimmed straw hats while working in direct sun, which, with the very hot, very sunny afternoons we've been having, I wholeheartedly endorse as a Really Good Idea.  We wish our seniors all the best in their ongoing adventures this summer and in college, and freshmen, we'll follow your Lawrentian exploits with interest, and hopefully see you on the farm again in three years!

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