Sorry to be a bit out of touch since the drop offs ended, but I have been busy
catching my breath after a demanding, and very successful season. I will be
writing more detailed emails soon with my thoughts on this past year, and also
with more info regarding the 2 subjects I am getting a lot of inquiries about -
the Pick-Your-Own event here at the farm, and signing up for next year.
The Pick-Your-Own event will be on Sunday, November 7th
at Parker Farm. I am still trying
to work out the logistics of getting people over to the rented field to pick
potatoes. As soon as I come up
with a solution and have worked out the times I will send an email with more
details, in the meantime plan on the 7th.
Regarding signing up for next season; I will be sending out
sign-up information soon. If
you were a participant in the 2010 season, there will be a grace period in
which you are assured of a spot for the 2011 season, plus you will qualify for discounts
as a returning shareholder. I don’t expect any major changes from 2010, no
price increase ect.; I just want to close out this year before starting on
Anyway, look for an email about Pick-Your-Own. I will be sending it out early next
Parker Farm News Letter - carrots, beets, scallions, peas, spinach, lettuce, napa, pak choi, bok choi, raad, arugula, mustard, turnips, radish, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, collards, fava beans
Sorry for the delay in writing a full blown newsletter, but I have been trying to post several times a week on the Parker farm Facebook page. For those of you following the post, you know that the planting is proceeding at a furious pace. Right now I probably have about 6 acres planted, with all types of early crops-carrots, beets, scallions, peas, spinach, lettuce, napa, pak choi, bok choi, raad, arugula, mustard, turnips, radish, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, collards, fava beans ect… In all, upwards of 30,000 plants have been transferred from the greenhouse to the field, plus lots of seed has been sown directly into the field. The weather has been quite co-operative so far, with both weeks planting being warm, then at the end of the week, a bit of rain to water the plants. The first planting
has shown some decent growth, with the direct sown spinach and beets popping threw the ground, and the lettuce/broccoli ect. transferred from the greenhouse putting on rapid, for this time of year, growth. No major problems to report so far, just the usual spring adjustments on the equipment. In other words, so far, so good!
Before I go any further, I should mention the Parker farm Facebook page again-its pretty hard for me to break away from the farming end of things right now to write a full update, but its easy enough for me to write half a paragraph and post it before heading out in the morning-and because the Parker farm page is a fan page, you need not be a member of Facebook in order to access it. Just Google search Parker farm/Facebook and you should be able to access it. There you can keep updated on the day to day planting but for more critical issues, such as the CSA drop start dates, you will be notified via e-mail.
Its nice to have a little weather break to update everyone, and to rest up, access the progress so far, and make the final mental preparation for the next major task, the transplanting of the onions and leeks from the greenhouse into the field and hopefully, getting the potatoes planted by the end of next week. All of this on top of the next round of seeding in the greenhouse, another round of seeding in the field as well as continuing to transfer plants from the greenhouse to the field-including the onions and leeks, we have around 75,000 plants to set out this week! I am actually looking forward to it-after spending the last several years in more of a management role, its been really nice to reassume my role as the primary labor force on the farm-I find my days to be interesting and productive, as I hustle to get plants in the ground, then fix a piece of equipment, then pull rocks, split wood or whatever job needs. I have managed to shift most of the greenhouse work to Dee and Low, which honestly, I really don’t enjoy doing-don’t ask me why, there’s nothing really unpleasant about it, in fact most people enjoy it-but I just assume be outside.
I want to mention that I do still have some shares left, mostly at the Porter Sq site, so if you could share this newsletter and website (parkerfarm.org) with anyone you might think would be interested I would appreciate it. I have attached all the sign up information to this email.
Well, that about all I have time for right now-got to go get Stephen Jr. at day care-and now the real work begins! -Steve
I’m very, very busy out here as the planting in the greenhouse is getting pretty intensive, and the logging/firewood processing continues. My best estimate is that I have somewhere in the vicinity of 200,000 plants started at this point, and will continue to plant another 12-15,000 plants each week for the next 8-10 weeks. All kinds of crops have been started; among them lettuce, broccoli cabbage, onions, leeks, celery, celery root, fennel, kohlrabi, bok choy, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, chard, beets and a whole slew of other crops. Its been very satisfying watching the various seeds sprout up and start to grow, and with last weeks warm weather kicking them along, as well as jump starting my fall sown cover crops, it is starting to finally feel like a new year to me and in another 7 to 10 days I will begin to plow and plant the first crops outside. I can’t wait!
In the meantime I have also been finishing up the logging job I've been doing for the past several months, and now the excavator is working on removing the stumps and readying the newly cleared ground so it may be plowed and hopefully produce great crops for the woman who own the land. Once the stumps are cleared and the weather settles I will return and plow for her. I am pretty excited to do so, as I have put considerable time and effort into the tree clearing part of it and it is a source of great satisfaction for me to help create new farmland.
One of the more interesting aspects of the clearing process has been the fate of some of the logs; typically I process all the trees into firewood, but over the last several years I have developed a relationship with Brian Brown, owner of Artisan Lumber here in Lunenburg (artisanlumber.com). I got to know Brian because he purchased a farm about a mile from mine, and I started using his land last year, and will continue to do so this year. I mentioned to him me own small logging operation, and invited him to look over and select out any of the logs that are of interest to him. He’s got a great eye for high quality logs, and much of the cherry, red and white oak has gone to him this year to be sawn into premium, furniture- grade lumber. Among the better find from this seasons cutting was some premium, curly red oak, which apparently is quite rare. For those of you involved or interested in building furniture or any type of work requiring high quality lumber I suggest you give him a call.
Anyway, back to the greenhouse-a little follow up to the last email-the tomatoes sown back a few weeks ago have been transplanted into 1 inch square containers, and are now awaiting the next transplanting into 6 inch pots before being planted into the field-the actual field planting date will be sometime in mid to late may. The leeks and onions took a little longer to sprout than usual, perhaps because I am keeping the greenhouse down to about 55 degrees at night in order to conserve cash. The will be transplanted directly from the containers that they where sown in to the field, pulling the individual plants apart from the groups of 8-10 per cell, and setting them about 6 inches apart, with about 18 inches between rows-this is wider spacing than you will need if you are doing this at home, as I need to plant with the tractors in mind-about 4 inches part and rows 10 inches apart are fine for home gardeners. Also, as I mentioned, keep an eye on the height of your plants; you want to trim them back with scissors to maintain about a 4 -inch high plant while they are in the containers.
As far as starting the other crops I have mentioned above, a single seed in 3/4 inch or so containers is the technique I use. Give them plenty of sun and not too much water-your much better off to give several light water rings a day than one heavy one, and by growing on the dry side you will encourage a much hardier root system.
For those of you still on the installment payment plan, your next payment is due March 30th-if you are able to I want to encourage you to pay off the balance of what is owed as this is the most critical time of year for my cash flow, with greenhouse heat and supplies, as well as parts. More seeds and other supplies for the upcoming outdoor planting will be needed.
Well, Hopefully by the next time I write you, I should be able to give you some details of how the first plowing and outdoor planting went, but until then say happy spring again! -Steve
Parker Farm News - Beets, onions, leeks and tomatoes...
I don’t care what the date is, I am taking this opportunity to wish everyone a happy spring, as I will be starting to seed in the greenhouse tomorrow (Sunday), and for me, as soon as the first seeds are sown, spring becomes official!
Anyway, as I mentioned, the first seeds will be sown starting tomorrow, and I am quite pleased to be saying that, considering that there was a point last fall when the future of the farm seemed in doubt, and the idea of sowing another seed seemed quite remote-but, the storm has been weathered, thanks in good part to you, the CSA members, who understood the unique challenges that farming presents, and choose to continue to support and be a part of the farm despite a disappointing 2009 season. So with that, I thank you again, and here is to another year!
This week will see the planting of the onions and leeks, early cherry tomatoes and some beets-most of the beets are sown directly in the field, but I always start the first ones inside and then transplant them into the field for an extra early crop, sometimes maturing as early as the last week in May, more typically the first week of June or so. The leeks and onions will be ready to plant into the field in 6-8 weeks, the beets around 5 weeks, and the tomatoes about 2.5 months. The tomatoes will be transplanted 2 more times into larger containers in the greenhouse, with the final container being a 6 inch pot, before being planted in the field. The leeks, onions and beets stay in the same size container until being set into the field. The reason for this is that if you don’t place the tomatoes into larger containers they will not grow properly, producing tall, thin (leggy) plants as opposed to the stout, more balanced plants. The root systems will not develop properly and what you will end up is a plant that will take longer to produce and grow into "normal plants”. You might wonder why I don’t simply plant the tomato seed into the final size container as I do the leeks, onions and beets, thus saving the additional handling; the first reason is space, 1500 6 inch pots take a lot more space than the initial 6 or so 8x12 flats they will be sown into, but also they still wont develop into the type of plant I want for field setting, as I can control and create a better plant/root system via the transplanting process.
For those of you wanting to try this at home, I will outline the steps you want to take to grow your own plants.
For the tomatoes, sow the seeds thinly in flats or whatever containers you have available. Two things are important in choosing your container-the first is drainage, the container should be able to shed excess water so that the seed doesn’t drown, and secondly it should be sized so that you can control the temp of the soil. Tomato seeds germinate best at about 75 degrees, and it is important to try and maintain this temp though out the germination process-I use heat mats and soil probes placed in the middle of the soil depth to maintain the temp. Such an elaborate system is not needed, however most home gardening centers and catalogs offer scaled back versions of what I use, and I am sure you can go online and find instructions for creating your own. After about 2-3 days the seed will begin to spout, when it appears that the majority of seed has sprouted remove the soil heat source, it wont hurt the plants at this point, but it is not needed. Place the plants in as sunny a spot as you have, if using artificial light 12 hours or so is about right. About 2 weeks after seeding, your plants are ready for the next step, which is the initial transplanting into 1 inch or larger individual containers; I will describe this process in a few weeks, as I get ready to do mine.
The Leeks, onions and beets are much simpler!
For the leeks and onions, simply scatter the seed into a fairly large container filled with your choice of potting soil, cover with additional soil, water and wait! If you have the ability to control soil temp, 65 degrees is optimum, however leek and onion will germinate anywhere from 32 to 90 degrees, so it is not as critical as with the tomatoes. For an idea of container size, a pint or half pint sized berry container is large enough for about 25-30 plants.
For the beets, plant single seeds into 1/2 to 1 inch sized containers, I use about a 3/4-inch cell, cover with soil, water and wait! As with the onions/leeks, beets tolerate a wide range of soil temps, but 65 is optimum. As much natural sunlight as you can give is important as well, and again, remember to make sure your containers can drain well-grow on the dry side, use several light watering a day as opposed to one heavy one to insure proper root growth.
I find it kind of ironic that as I am writing this as it is snowing, in fact this past week has brought some of the most severe winter weather of the year!
Stephen Jr. is well, and keeping me on my toes. We went to see the monster trucks last weekend in Worcester, which was fun, but we are both anxious to be back out on the tractors on the farm. On that front, let me take this time to congratulate Shobu and Corey O-Z as they take an early lead in the youngest CSA member contest and welcome young Haruki into this world!
Well, that's about it for now-I do still have shares available for the year, so if you can continue to spread the word I would appreciate it. Until next week, Steve
828 Lancaster Ave
Lunenburg, MA 01462
Parker Farm News - Seed Orders are Complete
Well, the days are getting longer, the sun is warmer and
brighter, the maple syrup makers have their taps up, and by late afternoon the
ground that I am skidding logs over is thawing out and turning into mud - all
signs of spring! As I mentioned a few years back in one of the newsletters, I
remember as a kid going over to my grandmother’s house around this time of year
for the annual screening of "The Wizard of Oz" on television. It
always represented the beginning of the end of winter, and I knew that the next
time we would go to her house it would be Easter, and spring would really be
upon us. For that reason Easter was, and still is, one of my favorite days. On
top of that, Grandma made a kick ass raisin sauce served with the Easter Ham!
Anyway, my seed orders are completed (and hopefully in
transit to me as I write this) and now I begin to finalize my planting scheme,
committing to paper my thoughts of how much, and where, to plant various crops,
when and how often to start them in the greenhouse, what problems I may
encounter in the various plots I plant them in, and what to plant after the
first crop gets harvested, how the first crop may affect the second, and even
third one after that. Some sections of ground will be planted 3 separate times,
I am thinking ahead as far as September right now! And my crop scheme will
change many times over the course of the season, I know for sure, as you can
never be positive that crop A will be ready to harvest by the time the ground
needs to be re-plowed and planted into crop B. For that reason, I often wonder
why I bother to plan when it seldom ends up going according to plan! I guess it
would be more accurate to calling it a crop strategy than a plan, similar to
the approach one might take in preparing for a chess match. While I hate to
think as the earth and the elements as my opponent, the reality of it is just
But, I am ready for it - confident but cautious, and fully
focused on the awesome task ahead of me. Although, because of the downsizing of
my farm, with fewer CSA shares and marketing outlets than in the past few
years, I feel a whole lot less pressure than I have in years past. I do still
feel haunted by the ghost of 2009, and as much as I want to churn out some type
of superhuman effort to completely vanquish the ghost, I have to keep in mind
that a superhuman effort is not what is needed. Just go and do what I have down
year after year after year. Just go out and work hard and do the best job I
As far as CSA shares, I do still have some available, and I
would appreciate any help you can provide in terms of spreading the word about
the availability of the shares.
For those of you interested in my musical career, I will be
playing at the Plough and Stars in Cambridge Tonight at about 10 o'clock. I
have not done very much with my music this winter, preferring instead to stay
focused on the rebuilding of the farm, but lately have been feeling better
enough about things to resume playing - so if you are in the area, stop on and
Anyway, until next week,
Closer to Finishing the Seed Order
As of this writing, there are only 49 days until
its officially spring! Anyway, another week has passed. The weather at the start of the week
gave us a glimpse of what lies ahead and then the cold front moved in to remind
us that we are not out of winters grip. As I mentioned last week I need the
ground to be frozen to facilitate the skidding of logs during my firewood
harvest. But, with the rain and warm weather at the start of the week I did
manage to get a little bit of work done related to the vegetables, including
getting closer to finishing my seed order, as well as doing some minor adjustment's
and repairs to some pieces of equipment
A while back I put a few blurbs on the Parker Farm
Facebook page asking for input on what to order. Thanks all for the input, and
keep it up-the more feedback I get, the more it makes me feel part of an actual
community and not just a merchant servicing clients-and I cannot say how
important it is to me to regain that feeling. As I mentioned this past fall, as
the CSA started to expand, I had begun to feel less and less part of the
community. So anyway, keep up the
feedback-it’s inspiring to me!
Speaking of community participation, although
working on the farm is still not a requirement of this CSA, this year I am
planning on expanding the volunteer opportunities both on the farm and at the
drop sites. Part of the difficulty I had in the past with doing this type of
thing was my hectic schedule. I
was unable to dedicate a regular block of time facilitate the volunteering,
however, this year I should be able to do so.
Another idea that I had in the past was the creation of a cut your own flower and
herb garden for the members, the idea being that it would be entirely planted
and maintained by volunteers-if anyone is interested in helping to form and
maintain a group dedicated to doing this, shoot an e-mail back so I can gage
interest in this to see if it is viable.
The CSA shares are selling well, with both Davis Sq and Central Sq
heading towards an early sell-out, so if you haven't signed up yet, or know
someone that wants to get in, you would be well advised to do so soon-for those
of you already signed up, thank you for the tremendous show of support, and I
am looking forward to another season! -Until next week, Steve
closer to spring!
Hello All -
Well, another few weeks have passed, and we had
some fairly warm weather, which teased that spring was upon us, then a couple
snowstorms slapped us back into reality! That’s ok, for as anxious as I am for
spring to appear, I still have a good bit of logging/firewood, and I need
frozen ground and some snow cover to do it properly, otherwise the logs will
pick up mud as I move ("skid") them into position to be processed
Currently I am working on my neighbors land,
removing trees damaged in last year’s ice storm, and clearing additional land
for her newly started farming enterprise. She was an accountant who got laid
off and decided to try a bit of farming. Last year was her first year, and she
was a bit dejected after it, as all were, but she is going to push on; I hope
she succeeds. In the meantime, I should end up with around 80-100 cords of wood
out of the deal. It derails my own clearing plans for another year or so, which
is fine, as the land I eventually hope to turn into farmland will require a
substantial amount of excavating and grading on top of the tree and stump
removal needed to allow it to be tilled. After last year, I do not have the
capital available to invest in the project-however, with the downsizing of the farm;
the land that I will gain from the resulting clearing is less critical in the
Many of you who visited the farm for the
pick-your-own festival this past fall accompanied me to one of the fields that
I rented this past year. That is
where I grew the turnips, raab, arugula, carrots and some other crops. I am sad to say that the owners have
opted to sell it for development. Wrong time to do it, I know, but the economy
has forced them to make the decision. Robert, retired after working as a
programmer, has watched his stock portfolio dwindle and his wife, Nadine is
going to be laid off from the company she is working at as it is filing for
bankruptcy. So, they are going to sell the house and land and hope to net
enough to buy a condo and salvage some sort of comfortable retirement. Sad, but the reality of harsh economy.
Its hard to write something positive after
reporting such hard news, but I personally feel on the upswing-last years
disaster of a season at first left me feeling a failure, but now I feel better
about the future path of the farm than I have in years-as I've mentioned in
Pearl, who has so graciously donated many hours to
help restructure the communication aspect of the farm, expects that the new
website will be up and running with a matter of a weeks. If anyone has any expertise in setting
up web payments and online forms and would like to share your knowledge, please
e-mail back. On my own computer front, I finally got my Mac back, along with
new hard drive, software and operating system, and will be able to once again
add photo's ect. To my weekly e-mail.
Well, no Parker farm newsletter
is complete without a mention of Stephen JR, who has awoken from his slumber and
spent the time since crawling all over me and alternately demanding that we go
out for pancakes, as we do every sat morning, and that I turn sponge bob on,
and is now giving me a "daddy neck stretcher”. So, before he tears my head
off I will say, goodbye for now. Until next week, - Steve.
Well, another week has gone by out here
in farm country, where winter can feel a bit like a time-suspension
That said, I am already noticing that
the days are a bit longer, an encouraging sign that spring will eventually be
here and soon enough I will begin to plant the first seeds in the greenhouse;
in the meantime, I am passing the time cutting, splitting and selling firewood,
which I have been enjoying quite a bit this year. I feel like I have regained
my work rhythm that was interrupted last winter by a ruptured disc in my back,
and although the disc had mostly healed by veggie season, I feel like I never
really recovered my “swagger”. But things feel really good right now, and when
I lay down at the end of a day of cutting and splitting I sleep pretty easy.
And, honestly, I am starting to feel a
bit better about the 2009 veggie season - not great, and perhaps not good, but
better, thanks in part to the many supportive cards and e-mails I have received
over the holiday season and things like the shareholder who took photos of all
the 2009 distributions (the photos are up on the Parker Farm Facebook page)
that enable me to look back and see what was accomplished despite the
overwhelmingly hostile conditions. They make me feel that the huge amount
of money, time and energy I spent trying to overcome those conditions were
worth it, and though I am not thrilled with the results, I will say that I feel
like everything that could be done was, and the effort I put into 2009 was 100%
honest and committed.
I want to take a little extra time here
to thank Pearl, once again, for all she has done in setting up this e-mail list
and very soon, a new Parker Farm website with all kinds exciting features that
I don’t understand, which should enhance your Parker Farm share and also help
prevent the communications difficulties caused by my computer crash of last
For those of you who signed up with the
payment plan, the second installment payment is due January 15. If you can pay
the balance of your share that would be great, but if not, the installment
payment is outlined below. I will not be offering the installment plan anymore,
it is proving to be a lot more work for Pearl than I thought – however, if you
signed up to pay in installments, you may continue to do so.
If you have not yet signed up, I am
still offering a discount for returning shareholders, $325 for a Small and $500
for a Large. New shares will be priced at $375 for a Small and $550 for a
Large. If you have not signed up for the 2010 season and plan to, the
sign-up form is attached. Please print it out and send it to Pearl along with
Anyway, I am enjoying getting back into
writing my weekly e-mail after I let it go to a good degree last year. I
welcome your farming questions as well. If you have any subjects you want me to
touch upon, please send an e-mail and I will try to address it here in the
weeks to come.
For Returning Share Holders:
1. January 15, 2010 – $133.33 for the
Large Share and $75.00 for the Small Share
2. March 30, 2010 – $133.33 for the
Large Share and $75.00 for the Small Share
3. May 15, 2010 – $133.33 for the Large
Share and $75.00 for the Small Share
For New Share Holders:
1. January 15, 2010 – $150.00 for the
Large Share and $91.66 for the Small Share
2. March 30, 2010 – $150.00for the
Large Share and $91.66 for the Small Share
3. May 15, 2010 – $150.00 for the Large
Share and $91.66 for the Small Share
Greetings all and Happy New Year! –
Well, I, for one, have never been so happy to say Happy New Year! 2009
was, for me, not only the worst of my 20 years spent farming but, on a
personal level, not too good either - ruptured disc, 30 stitches,
broken cheek and orbital bones, truck getting destroyed by someone
running a stop sign and not getting fair value from the insurance
company, 60 straight days of rain in June and July and late blight,
plus the ongoing challenge that my parenting situation presents took a
toll on me. By the end of the veggie season I was pretty well spent -
much, much more than I had ever been before - to the point that I
thought seriously, for the first time since I started, about quitting
farming. In fact, by late September, I thought for sure that I was
done. Only the many kind words and acts of support and understanding I
received from CSA members kept me going, and I want extend my deepest
thanks to all of you for lending your support.
Over the past several months I have spent hours thinking about my
approach to farming over the past few years versus the previous 18 or
so, and as I mentioned in a past letter, have opted to scale back the
scope of the farm, both in acres farmed and in planned output in terms
of CSA shares and other marketing. The end result is that I feel
considerably more enthusiastic; in fact, I am quite excited about the
coming season and beyond. Pouring over the seed catalogs, I feel a bit
like I did as a kid looking through the Sears catalog before Christmas
– it’s a nice feeling after several years of this aspect, and so many
other aspects of farming, feeling more like tedious work.
And now, with 2010 here, I feel that, symbolically anyway, the burden
of 2009 is off of me - the good work can begin in earnest. While I
have been busy with firewood, and enjoy that aspect of farming,
vegetables are my passion. When I lift my head from the wood splitter
to survey a section of my land, and think what crop might work well
there, or when I draw out my fields at night or look at the seed
catalogs, these thoughts seem so much more tangible than they did a
week or two ago knowing that I am growing closer to the day that the
first seeds will be sown in the greenhouse with every day getting ever
so slightly longer, giving assurance that the rebirth known as spring
will be upon us soon.
While overall I feel very good about the redirection of the farm, from
a financial standpoint I am still feeling the effects of 2009, and
have some short term loans (operating and equipment) as well as the
usual start up cost (seeds, greenhouse fuel and soil, etc.) to deal
with, so with that I am asking those of you that can, to disregard the
previous installment payment system and pay the balance of your share.
If you are unable to pay the entire balance I understand, but if you
can it will be much appreciated.
If you decide to pay for your share in full, please send a check to
Pearl Emmons at 30 Glenwood Road #1, Somerville, MA 02145 and be sure
to write the primary share holder’s name in the memo field on the
check so that Pearl can credit your account.
For those of you that have not signed up yet, I want to encourage you
to do so. I am confident that I have taken the correct steps toward
restoring my CSA's reputation as the best in terms of variety, volume
and overall value, and I want you to be a part of it. Thank you, and
once again - HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!