This was our first week of veggie harvest, and we had a very successful first effort from both our student farmers and the plants. Both will get stronger and stronger as the season progresses, the students will master both the physical actions of harvest and the understanding of how the process is managed, and more and more acreage will mature into beautiful harvestable crops. The systems that we’ve put in place for harvesting, moving, washing, labeling and packaging will be refined and mastered, and as familiarity with the whole operation deepens, we’ll find new efficiencies and improvements. There are several crops that will mature a bit later in the season and that will have significant impact on the volume and labor of the harvest. This will put our new-found skill to the test as those added crops expand the work of harvest days. The two largest additions will be tomatoes and squash. When the tomatoes put on fruit and ripen later in the summer, and if we have a large and successful crop, the work of harvest will increase dramatically. We’ll have flats of tomatoes stashed everywhere, bowls of tomatoes covering the the counters of every kitchen, and every kind of tomato processing we can
imagine running full tilt everywhere that we can find the space. Often the tomato crop here in Massachusetts is curtailed by blight, so in an effort to ensure that we have enough of this super popular crop, we plant quite a surplus of bed space. If they all come to fruit, we end up with more tomatoes that we know what to do with, though the pigs are happy to eat their share too. A successful squash crop will also put a bit of a strain on our harvest systems as this crop, when doing well, will put out just a staggering amount of product. Individual squash fruit also increases in size rapidly, becoming difficult to process and much less palatable as it matures, so the urgency to harvest them at the right moment demands attentive management and adequate labor at the right moments in the season. Luckily this is another crop that the pigs are really happy to do their part in consuming, and the huge over-developed squash fruit ends up entertaining them as they try to dig the seeds out of the middle of each one. We also grow quite a few peppers, though they are often disinclined to thrive in our frequently cool and wet conditions, lots of small cooking pumpkins that love our soil, acres and acres of various greens, and a whole variety of small fruit. The strawberries are exploding right now, and the community has been gathered, on sunny days, in the upper field strawberry beds harvesting as fast as we can to try to keep up with production. Strawberry plants will continue to fruit productively with the regular harvest of their ripening fruit, and the warm sunny weather that we’ve had this week has accelerated that growth and ripening dramatically. I know that the chest freezers at my house are filling really nicely with berries, and judging by the turnout in the strawberry beds yesterday, I bet the same is happening at most houses around the farm. The strawberry crop is one of the first really prolific ones to develop in the harvest season, and one that renews that ancient notion of harvest and storage for the darker days of winter that we know are coming. Pulling a bag of frozen berries out in January does a lot to lift winter spirits, and the vitality of summer, preserved in that beautiful sparkling fruit, is like a little echo of lightning from a summer thunder storm. After strawberries, we’ll move on to raspberries and blueberries, though their fruiting never seems to match the opulence of the strawberry fields, and then on to apples and peaches, if conditions are right for them this year. The ripening of these fruits casts real markers along the path of the summer season, and although they come on strong and fast, and only seem to last for a couple of weeks, the profusion of their bearing is enough to command our attention. They are fleeting over the year, but abounding in their season; they are perishable in their nature, but overwhelming in their accumulation; they mark the summer, but we try to keep them for the winter.