Spring progress

May 15

Wonderfully hectic time of year. The 1500 pounds of seed potatoes went in Tuesday, last of 8000 cabbages seeded yesterday and set out strawberry and raspberry plants today. Cabbages are to be set out in the field Saturday.

The farm has several different soil types, with six acres of fine silt loam being the prized possession. It dries quickly, has great natural fertility. Allows work to proceed despite the cold. wet weather.


May 15

Excellent session with the kinderwienies in Richmond this morning. Framing the whole practice of agriculture as a magic show seemed to create excitement.

We got into tree communications, seeds knowing to grow away the center of the earth, plants bending to the sun; all seemed to intrigue them. They will be here at the farm in early June to install 100 winter squash that they seeded today.

I am in awe of their teacher, Ileen Gilbar who managed to curb their physical enthusiasm while maintaining their joy and their curiosity. As example, just before the event moved outdoors to plant seeds, the children were clamoring at the door. They were asked to form a line and, like birds,flap their wings vigorously, then diminish the pace to gliding. Amazing transformation and centering of energy. Me, I would look upon more than a dozen boisterous five-year-olds as an opportunity to try cat herding. Kids are lucky to have her and her brethren, civilizing the coming generation.


May 15

Back to kindergarten!

The kids who came to the farm last fall for a joyous day of mud puddles and potato picking will get some insights into spring planting at the school today.

Each will get a pot to plant with pumpkin seeds, experimenting with seed points down or up to see how emergence is affected. They'll learn about potato eyes and how the tiny hairs on a tomato stem can become roots.

A flat of squash seed they sow today they can plant out at the farm on an early June field trip.

I was their age when introduced to alchemy of seed, soil, sun and water that sustains us all and that became my life's work. Hoping to pass the magic forward.


Fifteen hundred pounds of seed potatoes, delivered on this cold and lowery day, await the knife, their reduction into ounce-and -a- half chunks. Those 15,000 pieces of seed will plant 10,000 feet of row.

We await warmth enough to get the soil into the mid- 50 degree range. That temp will awaken the eyes. Hopefully the earth will not be so soaked as to rot the seed.
It is all such a crap shoot. Hours and days of work to set the maximum possible yield are followed by longer days and hours still, preserving that potential from losses threatened of drought, disease and insects.

In my mind’s eye, the field looks gorgeous; bright green bushy plants, cleanly cultivated and dotted with the bright white blooms that signal the initiation of the new tubers. Planted in mid-May, a favorable spring will allow for pea and new potato soup for Independence Day.

We plant 500 pounds each of Superior, an early yielder, Kennebec, a round white standard variety, and Green Mountain. This last is reputed as the best baking potato, flaky and fluffy. Its eating quality is such that the state of Maine made its reputation on the Green Mountain potato.

Today was also the seeding of the third of five batches of cabbage seed. The two thousand seeds are sown with an ingenious vacuum device lifts them, perfectly spaced and singulated, for transfer to the flats where they will grow until transplant time.

These too will be set out at their maximum potential to face the vagaries of summer weather and the certainty of cabbage moths that will bob across the field, so white and pretty.

It feels like pre-game jitters, checking to make sure the implements are ready, all the supplies on hand. We need some warm, dry days with wind to dry the ground for tillage.

Last year we gave away over 30,000 of produce and hope to boost that by a third this year. Can’t wait to start!

Off to the Flower Show

We will have a booth at the upcoming Flower Show, March 1,2 & 3 at the Champlain Valley Expo, space shared with Salvation Farms, our chief partner in the harvest and distribution of over 15 tons of organic vegetables last summer.

The Flower Show is a collaborative effort by members of the Vermont Nursery and Landscape Association and includes a fantastic garden display; the refreshment of fragrance and color is a sure antidote to cabin fever.

The booth space that will allow us a presence in front of the estimated 10,000 who will attend. This is an incredible opportunity to publicize our joint efforts to meet the needs of Vermont’s hungry.

Spring Fever

Ten hours of light!  Even at sub-zero, walking north, the black-backed jacket gathers warmth enough to hint at spring.  Two feet of snow insulate the fall planting of rye grass; in 90 days it will stand knee high.  Oats that grew knee high last autumn act as mulch for the white clover with which they were inter-seeded.

Feed the soil, feed the plants, the plants feed yourself.  Every year we spend hundreds on these cover crops, building up organic matter, breaking pest cycles, and, in the case of clover, plucking fertilizer from thin air!

These crops will soon be nourishing 10,000 cabbages, 1500 pounds of seed potatoes, 3000 bell peppers and over 5000 transplants of winter squash.  These figures represent a modest increase from last summer, when the farm yielded about 16 tons of organic vegetables, all then given away. 

A major improvement for this summer will be an irrigation system to boost the potato yield.  The components of that system represent a wonderful web of friendship.

I exited strawberry farming in 1989 and financed an education, in part, by selling an irrigation system.  That degree enabled a design-build landscape business and the acquaintance with the members of its professional community, who were exceedingly gracious to a newcomer.

The droughty summer of 2018 severely limited potato production, in a field not 100 yards from the pond that furnished frost protection to the strawberries all those years ago. So, enter the support group of nursery operators who allowed my gracious re-entry into the irrigation business.

Two years ago, a nurseryman donated his used irrigation pump. A perennial grower gave a valuable collection of quality brass fittings. These will connect with plastic pipe, freed up when another nursery operation shifted his methods of production.

These items combined should add several tons of potatoes to this fall’s yield. 

Seed orders are starting to arrive.  The cabbages and peppers will be sown into flats with a vacuum seeder donated by a local greenhouse.  The benevolence of my associates from landscaping days sustains me.

The vast majority of last year’s crops, about 30,000 pounds, went to Salvation Farms, a not-for-profit dedicated to wringing the waste out of the food system.  They organized volunteers for harvest, arranged for transportation to their food hub in Winooski, and got the produce sorted and packed by work-force trainees.  Perhaps 90,000 servings went out.

Another large recipient was the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps.  Based in Richmond, the group’s Health Care Shares initiative makes scores of home deliveries to needy households in northern Vermont.

We are in conversation now with this group to arrange for occasional help with weeding crops, a bottleneck in the production cycle.  We are fortunate again to be associated with a group that, like my landscaping friends, honors the concept of the two-way street.

So we enjoy this time of planning and promise, await the advancing warmth to melt the snow, to stiffen the mud, to reach the day when field work can commence.  From the outset you’re two weeks behind.  But the growing light, the loam aroma animate the fast dance into spring.  Can’t wait!


We set ourselves a new record in 2018, growing 18 tons of organic vegetables donated to agencies committed to ending hunger in Vermont. That is more than 100,000 servings !

This is more than than the previous two summers combined. We significantly expanded our plantings of cabbage, green beans and winter squash, all of which performed well despite high humidity, record heat and scant rainfall.

Weight is the only statistic we can quantify, the manner in which all the food distribution agencies mark their performance. It tells the size of the crop but misses its importance.

Imagine the anxiety of wondering when you might next have a meal. Imagine sending your kids to bed on empty stomachs. Imagine going to school, the teacher’s voice drowned out by a grumbling stomach.

To whatever extent our food heals those hurts, we are grateful for the opportunity to do so. We are grateful as well to our partners whose labor at the harvest brings it all together and without whom we could not do this.

It’s All About the Team

Final harvest over the past two Fridays. By mid-morning today 30 volunteers were picking produce. By the end of the day about 8500 pounds of squash, peppers and pumpkins were ready for distribution to hungry Vermonters.

Thanks to Youth Build of Burlington, Community Bank, True North and the marketing staff from NRG for their assistance in bringing in the last crops.

Hats off to Carly Monahan of Salvation Farms who coordinated volunteer picking efforts here at the farm for the past three months and oversaw distribution of approximately 15 tons of produce.

One of the eleven bins, nearly five tons total, awaiting delivery to Salvation Farms thanks to the donated services of Black River Produce.


Mud Munchkins

  Our favorite volunteers this fall came from the Richmond kindergarten class of Ileen Gilbar. The kids spent a sodden morning last week picking potatoes. The pictures say it all.

The children each brought back a pumpkin and on a follow-up visit to their school received potatoes, peppers and winter squash to take home for sharing with their families.

We are pleased to be able to touch another generation with the joy of farm life and the importance of giving back to the community.

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