Friday, September 7, 2012

A Day in the Life of a Retiree

Guest Writer:  Robert Brown

It was just after 4 am when Brooke got out of bed to get dressed and to go with our son, Kevin, on the deliveries he would make to Hebron, NH, and Cambridge, MA.  They wouldn’t be returning until after 7 pm.  I smiled as I rolled over to go back to sleep.  That could have been me, plus the irony of Brooke getting up early any day was not lost on me.

The day usually starts with breakfast at 5:30 am at Groundworks Farm, except on delivery days, but I was sleeping in—until 6.  After all, I’m retired.  My legs were complaining loudly to me from the constant bending over while harvesting the day before, but I reassured them that today would be easier.

I hobbled out to start the day at 7, one hour after Margaret and their helper Kevin A. had begun.  The first job was sowing seeds: kale and lettuce for fall harvesting.  I smiled. My legs let out a sigh of relief.  The instructions were simple, just one seed per indentation.  You don’t realize how difficult it is to put just one little seed in each indentation until you try it.  Margaret quickly and smoothly fills tray after tray, as I struggle to get the seeds to drop one by one.  Oops, five fell into that one, better move on, darn three in that one.  Well, someone is going to be thinning a bit.  The lettuce seeds were worse.  They look like tiny grass seeds, and they don’t roll out of your fingers easily.  But we finished with seed to spare.

Next on the list was harvesting onions.  My legs said, “hey wait a minute,” but I pointed out that they had just gotten a couple of hours of rest, so suck it up.  Onion harvesting is quite musical, actually.  The tops of the onions stick out of a small hole in the black plastic that they grow in.  You grab the onion and as you pull the onion through the tiny hole, the plastic stretches and rubs against the onion skin, causing a squeaky noise followed by the pop of the onion as it escapes the hold of the plastic.  I liked that.  My legs could have cared less.  We made several trips to the greenhouse to spread the product out to dry.  The heat was intense in the greenhouse, and that slowed me down.  Margaret only left me once, though I took advantage of that to go into the house to down a quart of water.  But I did have a long walk back to the onion field for more onions, and that musical sound. Squeak, pop.  We harvested a lot of onions before lunch.  The greenhouse floor is filled with drying onions.

After lunch we finished the final row of onions, one where the weeds in the walkway had grown so tall that a machete would have been useful to get to the product.  We didn’t have one, but we muscled our way to every onion in the ground.

Next on the list was something less physical: transplanting kohlrabi. Margaret gave me the job of punching three rows of holes into the black plastic , eight inches apart. I was in heaven because I got to use their “toy” hole-puncher.  It is a wheel with spears every eight inches on an axle attached to a four foot long stick with handles.  As you steer the wheel down the bed, the spears make popping sounds when exiting the plastic.  More music!  Then we transplanted: plunge two fingers into the dirt, drop in the plant, and cover.  The hard part was getting them to come out of the flats in one piece.  Margaret did most of that, thank goodness.

That job is now done, and the bending over has finally put my legs on life support.  But we have one more project:  weeding carrots.  I kneel for this one so that I can pull grass and weeds away from the small carrots, cringing when I pull a weed and find a carrot in my hand as well.  But most carrots survive me, surprisingly to me at least.  By 4:30 pm I am sitting on the ground while weeding because I can’t kneel very well anymore.

Margaret then asks me a question.  “If Kevin were here, what would he have you do until 5:30 when dinner will be ready?”  I sense a trick question, but somehow I come up with “By now he would be worried I might die on him, so he would give me the rest of the day off.” That seemed to satisfy her.  I offered to write her farm news for her which thrilled her.  As we completed the weeding Margaret was singing Willie Nelson’s “Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to be Cowboys.”  We both knew she meant farmers.
So now I am writing this as the sun sets behind the mountains to the west and as the radio plays soft country music.  More music.  I am smiling.  The day’s music has been lovely.  My legs have a different opinion. They tell me this isn’t what I envisioned in my retirement.  So what?  I don’t listen to them.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Truck Saga

Some days being a farmer can be a very calm job.  You wake up, you look at you list of what you want to get accomplished and you go outside and do all (who am I kidding) most of the things on the list.  You come inside at the end of the day, tired and satisfied.  You eat, go to sleep and get up to do it again.  Ideally it rains while you are sleeping (but not every day).  But if every day went like that we would be too spoiled and it would take the fun out of things.  And so things do tend to go wrong and be less than ideal on many days. 

Last Saturday we had a great harvest day.  We got everything done in time and felt good about what was going in the share for the Sunday CSA deliveries.  Over dinner we were talking about what we might be able to get done the next day.  I said something along the lines of: “I bet I can get a lot of carrots weeded if I don’t get any phone calls or anything tomorrow.”  I was making a joke, as when we head out on delivery and I stay back on the farm I usually get a lot of calls asking about details of what is packed, what are the limits for this week, who are the new members who are showing up etc.  After loading the truck and sending Kevin on his way I started my planned out day.  Seeding lettuce, transplanting basil, then as we were about to move on to weeding carrots, my phone rang.  It was Kevin, calling just to let me know that the delivery truck had broken down on the interstate and he was waiting for the tow truck.  “I think it may be the transmission but I’m not sure.  You should email the members.  I think I might be late.”

This is not the kind of message that leaves one with much confidence or direction for the remainder of the day.  I went and sent an email and then I went on with weeding, only now anxiously awaiting the next phone call, one in which I would find out what was actually happening.  That came an hour or so later and only about 30 minutes before the scheduled start time of the CSA pick up.  Kevin called to say that the transmission on the truck was definitely broken but he was in a UHaul truck with all the produce and eggs and was headed to Cambridge.  He was still an hour away, but could I send another email to the members announcing that the pick up would be 1 hour late and he would just focus on driving fast and not missing any turns.  This seemed like a good plan to me.  And so around 1pm (the pick up starts at 12:30) Kevin arrived at the CSA pick up location, set up and people arrived and got their shares.  Of course, I was not entirely aware that he had gotten there until I got the regular phone call, “Hey, what’s the limit on Kohlrabi?” “One per share.” “Thanks, Bye.”  That was when those of us back here at the farm knew that things had turned out alright.    

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Bread and Butter Zucchini Pickles

Here is one idea for using up some of the Zucchini in the share this week.  You can also use Summer Squash.  I got this recipe from the book Can It!.  If you want to multiply the recipe and still can this make sure to multiply EVERYTHING.  If you don't want to process the jars you can make the recipe and then refrigerate them and eat them within a month or so.

You will need:
3 1/2 pounds Zucchini
1 cup thinly sliced onion
3 tablespoons pickling salt
Crushed Ice
2 cups cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

Step 1
Wash zucchini.  slice off the stem and blossom ends.  cut zucchini crosswise into 1/4 inch-thick slices.  Measure 12 cups zucchini slices.

Step 2
In an extra large nonmetal bowl combine the 12 cups zucchini and the 1 cup onion slices.  Sprinkle with salt; toss gently to coat.  top with 2 inches of crushed ice.  Weight down the mixture with a heave plate.  allow to stand at room temperature for 2 hours.

Step 3
Remove any remaining ice in zucchini mixture.  Transfer mixture to a colander set in sink; drain.

Step 4
in a 5-6quart pot combine vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, celery seeds, peppercorns, and turmeric.  Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar dissolves.  Add the zucchini and onion mixture.  Return to boiling, stirring frequently; reduce heat.  Simmer, uncovered for 5 minutes.

Step 5
Ladle hot mixture into hot, sterilized pint canning jars, leaving a 1/2-inch head space.  Wipe jar rims; adjust lids.

Step 6
Process filled jars in a boiling-water canner for 10 minutes (start timing when the water returns to a boil).  Remove jars from canner; cool on wire racks.  Makes 5 pints.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Inside the Greenhouse

Right now the greenhouse is really taking off and filling up with plants and with a rainy week ahead of us we are staying on top of all of our seedings.  We are scheduled for our early direct seedings as well and the rain should help us out, watering in the seedlings and helping them to germinate.  Here are a few recent pictures from inside the greenhouse, where summer is on its way.







Saturday, March 31, 2012


Lately everyone keeps asking about the warm weather we have had on the farm. How is it going to effect the upcoming season? What might we do differently? It is hard to say at this point what kind of effect an extra warm spring might have on the farm. We have been able to work up our soil a little early, plant a couple of things in the ground before we usually do. However, over the last couple days, the cold has returned to remind us that, though it may have felt like it a week ago, it is not yet summer. Inside the greenhouse lettuce continues to grow, tomatoes have germinated and we continue to seed many more plants. Thousands of little seedlings are getting their start. With the ground thawed we have had a chance to begin to prepare the fields for this year’s crops. Late season crops like kale and Brussels sprouts came out of the ground as well as the plastic mulch they were planted into. Our temporary hoop structures, which helped protect our kale and enabled us to have it all winter long came down and were brought out of the field. We welcomed 20 more piglets to the farm and next week 400 baby chicks will arrive. We have pulled the remaining winter spinach out of the new unheated greenhouse and are preparing the soil for an extra early tomato planting. The garlic is several inches high already. In many places around the farm, especially pasture where chickens were rotated last year, the grass is already dark green. Spring is here. We are pumped for another great season.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

GROW! At the Maclure Library on Sunday

This Sunday at 2pm there will be a viewing of the movie GROW! at the Maclure Library in Pittsford. GROW! is a movie profiling young farmers in Georgia over the course of a growing season. Come join us for a viewing followed by a discussion!

GROW! Movie Trailer (2:00) from Anthony-Masterson on Vimeo.

A film by Anthony-Masterson

2011 WINNER BEST AMERICAN DOCUMENTARY - Rome International Film Festival
2011 WINNER FOCUS AWARD - Montana CINE International Film Festival
2011 WINNER BEST OF CATEGORY - Montana CINE International Film Festival
2011 WINNER BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT - Asheville Cinema Film Festival
Official Selection 2011 Slow Motion Food Film Fest - Nova Scotia
Official Selection 2011 Savannah Film Festival
2012 WINNER BEST DOCUMENTARY, Runner Up - Macon Film Festival
2012 WINNER BEST FEATURE FILM - Colorado Environmental Film Festival
Official Selection 2012 Wild and Scenic Film Festival
Official Selection/Jury Nomination - 2012 Reel Earth Environmental Film Festival, New Zealand

The filmmakers are the recipients of the Georgia Organics 'Barbara Petit Pollinator Of The Year Award 2012 for GROW! The award honors an individual or organization for outstanding community leadership in pollinating Georgia's sustainable farming and food movement.

Because our food system is broken, more young people need to start considering organic and sustainable farming as a viable career choice. People with land, money and knowledge need to start enabling them. Communities need to support them.

GROW! provides a look at this new generation of sustainable farmers through the eyes, hearts and minds of 20 passionate, idealistic and fiercely independent young growers. In the film they speak of both the joys and the challenges involved in tending the land.

Filmed in Georgia, USA.

Official movie site:
GROW! Trailers, clip and more:

GROW! Premiered March 11, 2011 at the Georgia Organics Conference, Savannah.

For information about farming in Georgia contact:
Jonathan Tescher at Georgia Organics

Sunday, March 4, 2012

First Seeding

Yesterday I planted the first seeds for the 2012 growing season.  It felt so good to have my hands return to the soil.  To drop seeds along rows and water them.  In the coming weeks the seeding schedule will take off and I am ready for it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

February Middblebury CSA Pick Up

I tend to not be so good about taking pictures during the actual CSA pick ups, but this month I was set up early and managed to take a few pictures of the Middlebury pick up.  Here they are!

Check out all the different things that were in the share this month!

Yummy Eggs

Southwind Farmstead Cheese, so popular we ran out before the end of the distribution week.  Look for it in the cheese share this summer.

How many things can you cook with beets?

Welcome to the pick up!  We do it out of the truck in Middlebury :)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Saturday Morning Walk

Once a week I walk the farm just to observe its changes and features.  This week I brought a camera.  You are welcome to walk the farm yourself (it may be cloudy but for February it is quite warm today) but if you can't here are some pictures:

Recently repainted sign has summer brochures in it.  Stop by and pick one up!
It's snowy and cold outside the greenhouse but on the inside...
The ground is even thawed in the greenhouse! Well mostly :)
The tractor is receiving some TLC from Kevin
It may not look like much now but there are thousands of heads of garlic, waiting to pop up in the spring!

Looking out away from the farm towards Otter Creek

Happy Chickens

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Creating a Farm

In the fall of 2010 Kevin and I moved our farm from central New Hampshire to Pittsford and last season we jump started the farm operation and built it into the living breathing thing that it is today.  While still running our CSA and farmer's markets in New Hampshire we began commuting back and forth to prep the land for the season ahead and slowly move our belongings to the new farm.  The land needed to be cleared, plowed, manure was spread and cover crops planted to enrich the soil for the year ahead.  We constructed a greenhouse, planted garlic, reorganized and cleaned out a barn that had been vacant for decades.  We built a walk in cooler right by the road, which now serves as a self service farm stand.  In February we welcomed 11 piglets to the farm and 300 baby chicks, who would grow to become our laying hens.  It was beginning to feel like a farm.  We began to plan and map out what the farm would look like, what we would grow and where it would be planted.  Then we went out seeking CSA members, people to grow the food for.

Then spring arrived and everything that had been a plan began to take real form.  Baby chicks arrived (we also raise meat chickens in addition to hens), and more pigs.  Hours and days were spent in the greenhouse. seeding all the tiny plants that would grow into tomatoes. eggplants, lettuce and kale.  The ground thawed out and the air became warmer and we prepped beds and seeded early crops.  We moved the hens and meat chickens out to pasture.  More and more people signed up for the CSA and every day we moved closer to our goals, the amount of people we were comfortable guaranteeing vegetables for the season ahead.  We transplanted, weeded, seeded and raced ahead to keep up with the crops.  

Finally came the day of our first CSA distribution early in the morning we woke up and began harvesting.  Bins full of Lettuce, Pak Choy, Kale, Radishes, Turnips, Scallions and more all made their way to the barn where they were washed and packed.  The distribution area was set up the signs made and the produce ready and washed.  

A few hours later I was standing by the barn looking out on an amazing sight.  In the barn people were talking and greeting each other, standing over bins of produce and picking out their shares.  In the fields there were people of all ages, bending over next to one another, picking sugar snap peas, cutting herbs and chatting.  This moment made it all worth it.  The logical side of my mind knew that this was a result of months of hard work and extreme efforts.  That without that there would be nothing there.  But another part of me saw this moment as magical.  Strangers and old friends had all come together for an hour or so to share in a different way of shopping and eating.  Kevin and I may have done the work, but these people had made it possible.  The farm belongs to everyone who believes in it and believes in a new way of feeding our community.    

Saturday, January 28, 2012

What Does Next Season Have in Store?

Winter has not arrived on the farm in the same vigor that it did last year.  Instead as I write this a freezing rain is falling upon the farm and the chickens are huddled together under their eggmobile in the same way that they do on a rainy day in August.  The weather has been good to us.  Just yesterday it was warm enough to open up the greenhouse and give our precious spinach, growing in there a breath of fresh air.  This fall a high tunnel was constructed on the farm and we are thrilled to be harvesting spinach out of it for our winter CSA.  The month of January is about planing and preparing for the season ahead.  When Kevin and I sit down and talk about the vision we have for our farm we always seem to return to the idea of a whole diet CSA.  We really like the idea of this model.  Kevin spent some time a few years back on Essex Farm in Essex, NY.  There they provide their members with one share option, a whole diet CSA that is picked up on the farm.  Their members receive milk, meat, grain and vegetables.  We often talk about how this is something that we would want to buy, were we not farmers.  This year our farm has moved closer in that direction.  However, we have chosen to put our own spin on things.  There are things that we do not produce (like milk) and things that we do that are not part of other peoples models.  There are so many wonderful farms sprouting up all over the country and we find that we continue to pay attention to what others are doing and try to come up with some ideas of our own in order to constantly improve on our farm model.

Through this process of observation, creative thinking, trail (and yes, sometimes error) we continue to aim to improve our farm and the systems that run it.  Here is a little glimpse of what 2012 will look like at Groundworks Farm.

Summer Vegetable Share

In the upcoming summer of 2012 we are offering 6 different CSA share options because we believe that people like to have choices.  Our Summer Vegetable Share will be much like it was last year with changes made to some of the crops we grow and some of the ways we harvest and pack them, based on your feedback from this year.  We are taking stock of what went well and what we can do better.  We are trying out some new crops based on your requests.  There will be more standard slicing tomatoes and with the new addition of our high tunnel we hope to improve the overall quality of our tomatoes.  I will be attempting to grow celery for the first time and will push to diversify the variety towards the beginning of the season.

Pasture-raised Chicken Share
The Summer Pasture-raised chicken share seemed to work out well in many ways.  If you found it was not enough for your family you may want to try out 2 chicken shares.  We are making a couple changes to try to make the Chicken Share more convienent.  The pick up will be monthly instead of every other week like last year.  This way if you do not have a vegetable share you do not have to come out to the pick up just to get 1 chicken.  The pick up for the Chicken Share on the farm will be monthly as well instead of self serve.

Pasture-Raised and Grass Fed Meat Share
After trying out a Winter Pasture and Grass Fed Meat Share we are excited to offer the meat share again this Summer.  This is a new share and we are absolutely in love with how well it seems to work.  With our very own pasture-raised pork and grass fed beef and lamb from neighbors we are able to put together a convenient way to get some of the best meat around all in one place.  The meat share is free choice meaning that you are free to pick what cuts you want and of what kind of meat.  It’s a great deal and very delicious.  The meat share will also be monthly to make things more convenient.  Hebron Members, please note that the Summer Meat Share will be prepackaged with our choice of cuts.   

Pasture-raised Egg Share
Last spring we introduced laying hens to our farm system and moved them around throughout the summer to fresh pasture where they ate grass and bugs and ran around.  The quality and taste of these eggs is truly amazing, even in the wintertime when there is less for them to forage.  So this summer we are including an option for a Egg Share.  Did you get tired of having to email us every week to make sure you could reserve your eggs?  Now you don’t have to.  Reserve them ahead of time with the Pasture-raised Egg Share.

Vermont Farmstead Cheese Share
This past fall we were introduced to Jeremy Russo who makes Southwind Farmstead Cheese in Pawlet, VT.  We tried some of his cheese and thought it was amazingly good.  However, he only makes a small amount and there are not many places to buy it right now.  He is not the only nearby farm with an outstanding cheese with limited availability and so the idea of a cheese share emerged.  We will bring together all of these fabulous cheeses and pack them up for you for an outstanding treat once a month. 

Groundworks Farm Whole Farm Share
Our Whole Farm Share combines all of these shares together for a truly local diet and a great deal!

We are so excited about all these shares and about the opportunity to share them with you.  We are grateful to have a strong membership base, allowing us to be a CSA and nothing else.  This allows us to pass on the bounty of the season to you, our members.  It means that there is less food wasted coming off our farm because we do not rely on unreliable farmers markets as our outlet for selling our produce.  When there is excess food we have places for it to go, it feeds the pigs, chickens and compost piles which feed the land and rejuvenate it so we can continue to grow high quality produce. 

Now is a great time to make sure that you can be a part of the farm for the season ahead.  Sign up for our 2012 Summer Shares and pay in full by April 1st and you will receive a 5% discount. 

2012 CSA Pick Up Locations and Times:

Pittsford, VT (Rutland Area) Tuesdays from 3-6pm on the Farm
Middlebury, VT- Tuesdays from 4-6pm at the Bridge School
Cambridge, MA- Sundays from 12:30-3pm at the Harvest Coop in Cambridge
Hebron, NH- Sundays from 12-3pm at the Coppertoppe Inn and Retreat Center

If you are interested in signing up or have any questions about the farm feel free to contact us:
Groundworks Farm, P.O. Box 437, Pittsford, VT 05763 - - 802-310-4951

You can also stay in touch with the farm by following us:

Monday, January 16, 2012

2012 Farm Shares Available NOW!

We are now offering shares for the 2012 Summer season!

For more information Check out our recently updated website:

6 Summer Farm Share Options:
1)Vegetable Share: You CANNOT beat this deal on produce at ANY grocery store.  This is sustainably-grown local produce for half what you would pay for conventional at the store!  See monthly produce availability chart on the next page.  Each week members are greeted with bins of freshly harvested produce to choose from (usually 12-20 different varieties).* The Share averages 1 bushel of produce each week and feeds a household of 3-5, or 1-2 avid veggie eaters. We grow everything on our farm.

*Note: Hebron pickup only has pre-boxed shares, 1 bushel per week.

2)Pastured Chicken Share: 2 of our Pasture-raised Chickens--dressed, whole and frozen--at each monthly pickup.  Chickens are approximately 4.5 lbs each. Total of 12 Chickens.

3)Pasture-raised and Grass-fed Meat Share: Average of 14lbs/month.**  Feeds a household of 3-5, or 1-2 meat lovers.  Free choice*** each month of…
Pork (our own) - Breakfast Sausage, Italian Sausage, Pork
   Chops, Roasts, Natural Bacon, and other tasty items.
Beef (Fox Brothers Farm) - Ground Beef, Steaks, Roasts,
   and other delicious items.
Lamb (Meadowview Farm) - Chops, Roasts, shanks,
   sausage, and other scrumptious items.

**All meat is frozen and either vacuum packed or wrapped in butcher paper.
***Hebron Pickup has pre-boxed Meat Shares, our choice.

4)Pasture-raised Egg Farm Share: 1 dozen of our delicious, fresh, deeply-orange-yolked, heart-healthy eggs/week.

5)VT Farmstead Cheese Share: Cheese from Southwind Farm, Twig Farm, Does Leap Farm, and Blue Ledge Farm.  Approx. 1 lb of amazing raw milk cheese per month—at least two different varieties per pickup, our choice.  The best cheese Vermont has to offer.

6)Whole Farm Share:  Sign up for all four options, for a truly local diet, and great bargain.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Groundworks Farm is Hiring!

Groundworks Farm in Pittsford, VT (15 minutes north of Rutland, VT) is seeking a highly motivated, experienced, efficient, and self-starting member to join the farm team.  We are a young couple running a year-round farm, growing 10 acres of vegetables, pastured chicken, pastured eggs, and pastured pork for our expanding Summer and Winter CSA membership.  

This position starts April 2nd 2012 and ends November 20th 2012.  40-50 plus hours, 5 days per week. One week vacation.

Responsibilities of this position include: 
All aspects of year-round organic vegetable production and distribution, including winter storage, growing winter greens, and winter preservation.  All aspects of care, management, and butchering of poultry, and care and management of pigs.  Management of our on-farm and delivered CSA distributions. 

The successful candidate will be timely, very efficient, able to self-motivate while working alone, comfortable driving a pickup truck, tractor and delivery van, able to lift 50lbs, willing to work 50-plus hour weeks at peak season, have a car, be generally handy, and have at least 1 season of vegetable-growing experience.

This is a fast-paced work environment and there is room for the right person to take on lots of responsibility.   Pay will be commensurate with experience, starting at $800/month.  Vegetable Share, Eggs, Chicken Share, and Pork/Beef Share included.  Nice RV trailer with kitchen, bathroom, available for housing if desired.

There are ample opportunities to attend NOFA VT Summer Workshops, as well as the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link New Farmer Workshop Series during the season.

Please email resume along with cover letter and three references to