Monday, November 25, 2013

The Close of the Summer Season

Recently I came across a passage by the writer Wendell Berry in which he poses the question of why anyone would want to farm and his answer is:

"Love. They must do it for love." Farmers farm for the love of farming. They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable. They love to live where they work and to work where they live. If the scale of their farming is small enough, they like to work in the company of their children and with the help of their children. They love the measure of independence that farm life can still provide. I have an idea that a lot of farmers have gone to a lot of trouble merely to be self-employed to live at least a part of their lives without a boss.”

Day in and day out farming will drive you crazy; it will break your heart and repair it again over and over.  You can spend a week planting tomatoes that don’t end up producing a good crop, or go out and weed a section of carrots only to discover that a groundhog came and ate it all in the night. Then there are times when you go to check a bed of carrots to find large fat and long roots below the surface, when a few rows of sweet potato digging leads to a few thousand pounds.  Some days you just glide through your work, and most of the time you can look back and see what you accomplished. 

I don’t know how many of you know the timeline of this season but I am going to share a bit of it with you.  This winter after a few years of leasing land we purchased our farm here in Pittsville.  We still had a CSA in Vermont which ran through April (we begin seeding things in our greenhouse in February). So as soon as possible Kevin and I took down our greenhouse, loaded it on a trailer and Kevin headed to Maryland leaving me to keep up with the winter CSA and wait for the ground to thaw so I could clean up the fields while he got to work taking a house and farm that had been sitting doing nothing and turning it into something again, bringing it back to life.  And in the first week of April I made the final CSA delivery and then with an incredible amount of help from friends and family we moved the rest of the farm in a weekend. 

We started right up and by mid April there were pigs, chickens and vegetables in the fields and with much anxiety we had some produce ready by the first of June.  We have spent this season learning and growing a lot.  The new and warmer climate of Maryland has offered up challenges and advantages.  Mid-summer pest pressure was higher than we have ever seen, we also had a melon crop like never before (there is only one variety of watermelon that will ripen in the short New England summer).  And now the long fall has led to all kinds of greens and lettuces’ continuing to grow and really thrive as the air has turned chillier and the bugs have slowed down.  In many ways I feel as if I have been here forever and yet it has been less than 10 months.

It has been a whirlwind season and as we come to the end of the summer season we are excited to take lessons we have learned and look towards making the farm better and better with each year.  This coming season the buildings will be built and the equipment is already here before we need to use it.  We could not have gotten to the point we are without all of our amazing members, those from the past three years up north as well as all of you who have joined us in our first season of growing.  We hope to continue to be your farmers for years to come. We feel so lucky to be able to do what we love and grow your food for you.


Last Friday, with the knowledge that our sweet potato supply was dwindling, we went out and dug up 5 more rows.  The first step in this is to pull the actual vines out of the ground that grow above.  We use black plastic mulch to heat up the soil as sweet potatoes like the heat and we lay a line of drip irrigation in each row as well in order to water them when they need it throughout the season.  So after pulling the plants you go through and pull the plastic out of the ground and the irrigation lines.  Then we come through with a potato digger.  I think I have described this before, but it is pulled behind the tractor and has a shovel and a metal conveyor belt kind of thing which is slatted so that the potatoes stay on it and the dirt falls down.  Then when the sweet potatoes fall off the back of it they land on top of the soil.  Then we come through with boxes and pick them up off the ground and fill the boxes up.  Once all the boxes have been properly filled we drive a big trailer along side of them and pick them all up and stack them on the trailer, then drive them to the walk in coolers and put them into storage.  Well as we began to dig these beds we felt they were giving us a pretty good yield.  Large sweet potatoes (you will see this week at the pick up, some of them are monstrous) made for a heavy yield and pulling them out of the field was not an easy task.  Each box when filled weighed about 55 lbs. We filled about 130 boxes (at least, Kevin lost count at some point in the unloading process).  But at that rate alone we harvested at least 7,150 pounds of sweet potatoes, not to mention there is a whole field of them left to get still. 

We also had our first two frosts this week.  We went around preparing for the frosts, especially winterizing things we built this summer that had never needed any protection, like our irrigation well, which now has an insulated building around it. We harvested the last of the peppers which had ground back a little since we last harvested them and you will see a few peppers in your share this week. Tomato plants, which had stopped producing finally, went black and several of the cut flowers did as well (though some live on past several frosts).  Frost is not just about killing summer plants though.  The frost also sweetens many things.  When the plants get cold they start to store up more sugar in order to survive.  This means that kale looses some of its bitterness and becomes sweeter and carrots also begin to store up sugar as well.  So there are advantages to the cold weather that we will see in the flavor of some of the crops. So happy eating this week!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Farm Manager Employment Opportunity

Farm Manager Employment Opportunity

Qualifications Sought:
Groundworks Farm is seeking an experienced, motivated, and highly skilled manager to join our farm team.  The successful applicant will meet the following criteria:

  -Have a minimum of 2 seasons paid experience growing diversified organic vegetables on a   production scale, 
  -have a positive attitude,
  -have demonstrated leadership ability and people management skills with references,
  -have excellent customer service skills,
  -be comfortable driving tractors, trucks, and trailers,
  -be interested in butchering,
  -have a passion for good food and local agriculture, and
  -be able to lift 60lbs.

Description of Work:
We are looking for a positive and creative person with ideas and experience to help manage and develop our growing CSA Farm.   This is a fast-growing business and there is lots of room for professional growth for the right person. 

Day to day responsibilities will be dictated partly by the applicant’s skill set and interest, but will definitely include: developing vegetable harvest plans, leading field and greenhouse crews of 1-12 people, driving a pickup truck with trailer, operating a 100 hp tractor, operating a cultivating tractor, participating in a rotation of animal chores, and helping with chicken processing and animal cut-ups in our butcher shop.

-Competitive salary based on experience
-Generous health insurance stipend
-1 month paid vacation
-1 Whole Farm Share per employee

To Apply:  Send cover letter, resume, and three references to

Groundworks Farm
8284 Gumboro Rd
Pittsville MD 21850