Tomatoes Before the Blight

The Tomatoes

The Tomato Plants

It is pretty sad to see the tomatoes hit by the late blight. They were looking great, as you can see in this photo. Full plants, multiple fruit clusters per stem, many just turning orange.

We just went to the fields with Channel 5’s David Brown – to air tonight – regarding the late blight. Big box retailers distributed seedling tomatoes with the fungal blight. These were taken by customers all over the northeast. The blight uses the host plant to reproduce by sending out spores. These spores find more host plants and continue. It is now an epidemic in this region. No farms that we know of have been spared. Many are doing just as we are – pulling up the stakes and cutting down the string to mow or burn the crops to prevent further spreading the blight. This treatment also helps reduce the risk factors for the blight coming back next year.

We’re doing the best we can in light of this pestilence. Thank you for your ongoing support.

Volunteers Make a Difference

Every Monday and Wednesday, our volunteer crew comes out to help us with all manner of task at Land’s Sake. Here’s a picture of the crew helping weed the flower beds in the front garden. With the combination of ample moisture and great heat, the weeds are really going bonkers. We are responding with more mechanical cultivation and also gangs of hand-weeding crews to get right up the plants and eliminate the competing weeds. If you are intested in helping us out, come over to the main farm at 9am on Monday or Wednesday or 1pm on Saturday to lend a hand. If you have any questions about our program, please contact us at volunteering@landssake.org.
Thank you!

Here's a great group of folks helping weed the flowers

Here's a great group of folks helping weed the flowers

Strawberricious!

Our strawberry fields filled with happy pickers

Our strawberry fields filled with happy pickers

It was a fabulous day at Land’s Sake this past Saturday, June 20st! The weather held, the people came, and the Strawberries were Plentiful!

Thank you to everyone who came out to enjoy the good old times at the farm. We had a great band – The Pretty Pennies – and tons of great food. Grass-raised beef from western MA for burgers and many other goodies. The Education Committee had a bake sale which supports some of our programs to bring city kids to the farm.

The kids had fun making ice cream, jumping on hay bales, and enjoying the wagon rides. I did see some kids dancing too.

It wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our many volunteers and helpful board members who rolled up their sleeves and helped put it together. The farm staff and all of the Land’s Sake crew were in good spirits and made everything go smoothly.

We hope you had a great time! If you didn’t make it, we hope you will come to another event at Land’s Sake later this summer.

See you then!

Grey

Beetle Mania

Whitespotted Pine Sawyer , not the dreaded

Whitespotted Pine Sawyer, not the dreaded Asian Longhorned Beetle

The other day, a friend of the farm, Oliver Constable, stopped by the office with his mother Melinda and this big bug (in the photo). We were trying to identify it and found a good site to compare this critter to the Dread ALB (asian longhorned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis)). This is from my alma mater the University of Vermont.

There has been a lot of talk about Asian Longhorned Beetles taking over the forests of New England. Worcester has suffered a lot and had to sacrifice a lot of trees trying to control the spread of these critters. They are a threat to our trees!

Luckily the beetle that Ollie found was just a whitespotted pinesawyer (Monochamus scutellatus), pretty regular around here. They started flying in mid-May, whereas the ALB will come out just about now. It does lay eggs that hatch into larvae that love to eat trees, but they love to be eaten by other critters and so the ecosystem stays in balance.

If you see a big beetle with really long antennae (“longhorns”) make sure it has this white spot at the base of the wing covers (the top of the back, as it were). This is the telltale mark distinguishing it from the ALB. If it doesn’t have this mark, contact the Mass NRC.

Thanks for bringing it by, Oliver and Melinda! See you at the farm!

Responses to our recent Town-Wide Mailing

A couple of weeks ago we sent out about 3300 letters asking residents of Weston to become members of Land’s Sake. So far we’ve had a great response and dozens of families have become new members. This mailing has been part of a larger effort to attract more members as supporters of Land’s Sake.

I want to thank all those who have already responded. To those who are still evaluating us, I hope you will come out to the farm stand and pick some strawberries this week! Come to our Strawberry Festival this coming June 20th for a whole lot of community spirit and fun.

Each letter we mailed also included a coupon to be used on one of our various products. I think once people try us, come to us, experience the magic of Land’s Sake, they’ll be hooked and come again and again.

We did get one particularly interesting response. On the reply card, scrawled out loudly, was “You are costing taxpayer money, get a job!” There was no check included.

Just so everyone knows, Land’s Sake is a private non-profit corporation.  We earn money from a variety of sources, including donations and including the Town of Weston. Most of our income is from the sales of our farm-fresh produce, our land care services, and some other products. Taxpayer money is used when the Town of Weston pays us to mow the various fields of conservation land throughout town, to pay for some of our educational programs like when the kids help us collect maple sap, and to handle various conservation land “emergencies” like blocked culverts or downed trees. This work is in a contract that we bid on every few years and is approximately $35,000 of the Town’s budget. We also grow and ship about 10-12 tons of food for the needy. The Town pays us a grant of $25,000 to produce this food and arrange with hunger relief agencies to pick it up for distribution to the needy in Greater Boston.

We sure appreciate the support of the Town for the food for the needy program, and we are proud to be contractors to the Town to take care of conservation land and the public farm land in town. I don’t think this is a waste of taxpayer money in any way, and I’m actually quite honored to have this job, doing this great work to support a vibrant community in this town. So thanks again for your support!!

Summer Programs at Land’s Sake

Both Amy and I are very excited for the summer education season to officially start. I will be heading up the Green Power (GP) program that involves participants entering the 6th through 9th grades in the process of community farming at the fields on Merriam Street. Amy is leading our newest program, Farm & Forest Explorers (FFE) at the 40-acre farm that will get participants entering the 4th and 5th grades excited about and feeling comfortable on the farm, in the forests, and in other ecosystems through nature-based activities and small scale farming.

Since the beginning of the year, we have been planning our curriculums, putting our plants into the ground, and readying our projects. One of our most exciting projects will utilize the chickens pictured below. Both the GP and FFE participants will care for the chickens throughout the summer learning about animal husbandry, rotational grazing and egg production.

The other project will be the donation of kid grown food to area food banks. Last year the GP participants grew over 3,000 pounds of food that was directly delivered to needy individuals and families at the Walnut Street Co-op in Brookline, MA. This year with the help of help of the FFE participants I am sure we can top last year’s number.

Casey Townsend, Education Director

Green Power Summer is for students entering the 6th through 9th grades. Participants receive a stipend for their work each week. This program runs June 29 to August 21 in one week sessions. Sign up for one week or several. There are new things to learn each week!
For more information about these programs, please visit us online at www.landssake.org. Or, contact Amy or Casey by phone at 781-893-1162 or by email at greenpower@landssake.org.
To register for these programs, please visit http://www.landssake.org/ education/greenpower/registration

For more information about these programs, please visit us online at www.landssake.org. Or, contact Amy or Casey by phone at 781-893-1162 or by email at greenpower@landssake.org.

To register for these programs, please visit http://www.landssake.org/education/greenpower/registration

 

Baby GP and FFE chicks

Baby GP and FFE chicks

Supper Club with Land’s Sake!

Just like an old-time Tavern!
Smiling faces, clinking glasses and plates full of farm-fresh local gourmet delights!
Last Thursday we held the first Land’s Sake Supper Club at the Josiah Smith Barn in Weston Center. Chef Sam Hunt prepared a feast using local and seasonal food. A crowd of about 40 enjoyed the meal at one very long table. We started with a fabulous pottage of spring dug parsnips from Verril Farm. As you leave root veggies in the ground for the winter, they kinda sweeten up, so in the spring, you can get a very enjoyable parsnip. Land’s Sake provided asparagus wrapped in wild leeks from nearby and Sam created a really good pearl couscous/lentil/other small things bed to lay under the asparagus. I’m sure it had a name but I didn’t catch it. The main was a succulent breast of naturally-raised chicken from Giannone Farms in Maine. The dessert elicited coo’s and ahh’s as a sour cream ice cream with a consomme (that is a reduction-prepared syrup) of our farm’s rhubarb. It was a great meal!
The setting was delightful. Floral arrangements were provided by Pam Swain, Sam’s wife Lindsay’s mother, who even found a few blossoms at Land’s Sake to put on the tables. She is on the Josiah Smith Tavern and Old Library Committee here in town working to restore the building to an active culinary use. She was thrilled. So was Irvonne Moran – of the Women’s Community League who take care of the Barn and rent it out for community events – she hopes the future of the barn has nice dinners just like Supper Club. Nick Danforth even made a toast to our continued success and wanted me to start singing show tunes, but I held off on that this time. (It’s a long story going back to Weston High). Luckily it was more important to focus on the coincidence that it was our Board member (and Nick’s sister) Nina Danforth’s birthday! So we all raised our glasses and sang Happy Birthday. Quite festive indeed.
Who has a birthday next Thursday? Well come on down, Land’s Sake Supper Club is happening on the 28th at 7pm. The menu is just about ready and you can read more of the details on our website. Thanks for being excited about Farm-to-Plate at Land’s Sake. See you at Supper!

Enjoying Dinner at the Barn

Enjoying Dinner at the Barn

In the news, again

We had a great volunteer day on Earth Day, April 22 when we put about 2,000 shiitake mushroom plugs into fresh cut oak nursery logs. We had a couple other small projects and a good group of volunteers came out to help. A reporter from the Globe came and talked to a few of us, as well a few other local community farms. You can read the article here. I think everyone at Land´s Sake is glad for the growing interest in farming in the suburbs. I hope to see you at the farm real soon. If you want to sign up to volunteer at the farm, please contact Jim at volunteering@landssake.org. Thanks for your enthusiasm!

Grey Lee, Executive Director

A Community Farm Vision

 

Ned Rossiter, Land's Sake Board president

Ned Rossiter, Land's Sake Board president

The visitor coming to the farmstand one still summer morning takes in the blaze of color in a field of flowers next to the road. A few women and children move slowly through the rows cutting stems. In the morning haze before the heat of the day sets in, there is a sense of calmness and serenity on the farm. Later, a breeze makes the shade of the maple tree next to the farmstand cool and pleasant even in the worst heat. The stand features a glorious display of tomatoes, greens, carrots, and flowers. Bottles of farm-produced honey and maple syrup are arranged and a nearby board displays information about the farm, how various crops grow, and upcoming events. Visitors linger to chat about the produce, share recipes, and catch up. 

The stand will be busy all day. People will come to sit at the tables under the big maple; some with children to watch the hens and bee hives, others to chat with farm staff, and others to cool off after berry picking in the hot sun. Two Board members arrive at the stand to pick up produce. They chat easily with staff and hear how the season is going. One of the Board members needs a lot of produce for a dinner she is catering and the conversation turns to recipes for an upcoming potluck supper for CSA shareholders.

This morning, middle school children arrive for the Green Power summer program where they have their own small farm. Today they will go to a nearby farmers’ market to sell what they have grown. The students have learned the names of the varieties of tomatoes and peppers and greens they are selling. They talk knowingly to customers about sustainable agriculture, soil maintenance and organic principles. At night they ask their parents why their family buys produce grown in Mexico. The answers do not satisfy.

The visitor notices many young people at the farm. High school- and college-age students are busy weeding nearby. Many of the staff are young and eager, yet mix easily with older staff, some of whom are retired volunteers. The farm manager directs the activities for the day: replace a tractor belt, irrigate the new strawberry plants, mow several fields in town, and harvest for tomorrow’s CSA pick up. The length of the to-do list is daunting, but priorities are made and soon staff are off to their assigned tasks in various parts of town. Later this afternoon, the farm manager will attend a meeting with the board farm committee to discuss how things are going and trouble shoot, if necessary.   

The manager of the education program is joined by a group from two churches in Mattapan to make plans for a special two-day camp program later this summer at the farm which is funded by a grant. A team of educators from the Board and staff offers a camp curriculum which has been tried and tested by the many school age groups who visit the farm throughout the year. 

After a quick trip over to some fields on the north side of town to check in with the farm crew and to see how things are going, the Executive Director heads over to Town Hall to review contracts with the Conservation Commission: one regardging food shipments to the soup kitchens in Boston (which the town pays for) and the other regarding payments for mowing the fields on the town’s conservation land.

Tonight, the Executive Director will attend the summer Board meeting to report on the farm season and discuss plans for a new cooperative education program with a local university. It will end up being a twelve-hour day for him. Tomorrow he will meet with a member of the local Forest and Trail Association to discuss a trails clearing project needed in the town forest and to invoice for contract payments for trails work.  

Another typical, busy summer day at the farm, and the visitor leaves thinking that the small farmstand is, indeed, the center of many wonderful things in Weston. 

Ned Rossiter, Land’s Sake Board President

Jaws

Well, the dozen plus Baldwin apple trees on Concord Road were long overdue for a major haircut. They were planted at least twenty years ago by Brian, an old-time Land’s Saker, and nobody can remember the last time they were pruned. Needless to say, they were looking unruly. Last year’s harvest was plentiful and tasty but many of the apples were small and blemished by the “apple scab” fungus. Those apples were small and ugly but they sure tasted good!

To start the pruning project we first cut very large branches out of each tree to allow more sunlight and air circulation to reach the remaining branches. We were careful to chose the main branch that will become the “central leader” of the apple tree, growing up in the middle of the tree and higher than all rest. We removed, on average, 3 to 4 very large branches from each tree, leaving 5 to 6 intact. This was a severe pruning.

Will, our junior apprentice, pruning our trees

Will, our junior apprentice, pruning our trees

We also cut off many smaller branches, especially those that were growing up straight and vertical. An apple tree branch can do one of two things —grow up straight and vertical and produce no apples, or grow horizontal and produce apples. We chose horizontal. All of this pruning left each tree looking rather denuded after we finished, like a wet dog after a bath. The good news is that the trees will now flourish this coming fall. They will produce only half the number of apples, but the apples will be much bigger. The apple scab will also be greatly reduced by the increased sunlight and air circulation. (Thank you, Ben, our new farm manager, for all your insight and guidance on the entire tree pruning process!)

After we finished pruning, branches littered the Concord Road field. It was time for “Jaws.” Jaws is a “DR Rapid-Feed Wood Chipper” for wood chipping up to 4 1/2 inches in diameter. I do not think the “DR” stands for “doctor.” This thing will chomp your fingers off in one second flat. We donned our safety glasses and earmuffs and began stuffing branches into Jaws’ maw. Jaws went to work, “I think I can, I think I can.” The razor sharp chipper knife on its massive flywheel powered through branches of all sizes. The smell of burning wood wafted through the air as Jaws spewed wood chips up into the back of Land’s Sake dump truck with ease.

Me, Jim, respecting the Jaws

Me, Jim, respecting the Jaws

To our surprise, after we ground up about 100 branches (exaggeration), we had maybe ONE CUP of wood chips! This thing grinds up tree branches into nothing. Nevertheless, we pushed on and three hours later filled up the back of the dump truck with a bed of wood chips two feet thick. What will happen to these wood chips?  Well, hang on to your socks. We are going to bag them up and you can purchase them at the farm stand this coming Summer. Imagine that wild salmon cooked on the grill over a bed of coals smothered with Weston’s own Baldwin apple wood chips. Yum. And you can thank “Jaws” for this — that tireless, relentless, branch eating monster of a machine who is ALWAYS hungry. Thank you, “Jaws!”

Jim Danaher,  logger first, farmer second