Blooming Glen Farm | On The Farm
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On The Farm

Tuesday pick-up at the farm, and like clockwork another crazy downpour. The skies opened up and we got an inch of rain in less than an hour, and another inch and a half early Wednesday morning. Well, it’s not Texas and our farm isn’t completely flooding away (yet), so I guess we will try not to dwell on it too much. Instead, how about those Japanese beetles. Holy smokes! We haven’t seen them in these quantities in years, if at all in the 10 years we’ve farmed here. They are devouring the foliage of our eggplants and basil. Wonder why they showed up this year? Nature certainly works in mysterious ways.

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Flooding has become a common occurrence.

We are super excited to have ripe tomatoes in the share this week- this variety is called early girl and they are particularly sweet and tasty- as well as sweet white onions, carrots, creamy golden potatoes and pick-your-own yellow wax beans. The cherry tomatoes are just starting to ripen, so we should see them in the share in the next week or two (the medium boxed shares got a preview this week). The cabbage is on the small side, so two it is.

7/14/15, CSA on-farm week #7

7/14/15, CSA on-farm week #7

We’ll be harvesting our field of garlic in the next few days, after things dry out a bit. We are thrilled with the size of the bulbs this year. Our hope is to get them out of the fields before they suffer damage from any more rain. We are worried about all the root crops- potatoes, carrots, onions- it’s a lot of water for them to handle. We give huge thanks for our farm crew for their enthusiasm, and for putting in the extra effort and long days when we do have dry moments. Go squad!

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Craig harvesting carrots.

Just a reminder that we are partnering with Otolith Sustainable Seafood again this season. The Otolith CSS (Community Supported Seafood) offers a variety of different options including halibut, rockfish, sablefish, Pacific cod, Dungeness crab, and wild salmon. All of the fish is sushi-grade, long-line caught in Alaska by small boats, blast frozen and packaged into conveniently sized pieces, and delivered direct to the farm during its appropriate season.

CSS enrollment is available online directly through Otolith. Visit communitysupportedseafood.com to register as a CSS member, select your fish and pay online. Your CSS shares will be delivered to Blooming Glen Farm on Tuesdays by 1pm. There will be a Signature Sheet to sign upon receipt of your CSS. CSS distribution is provided by Otolith Sustainable Seafood and will begin once your CSS fish has been harvested and arrived into Philadelphia. Notifications will be emailed to CSS members directly from Otolith.

Post and photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner. Tricia and her husband Tom have been farming together since 2000. Blooming Glen Farm is entering its 10th season bringing high quality certified organic vegetables, herbs, fruits and cut flowers to our local community. Tricia is passionate about food, art and nature and the intersection and expression of all three.

Every time we feel like we are starting to dry out, the rain pours down again. The cultivating tractors have been sitting idle, and the weeds keep growing and growing. Wet conditions are not ideal for us for many reasons, and it is difficult to stay optimistic as certain crops suffer. The average rainfall in June for our area is .22 inches, with a max of 1.6 inches historically. We received 6.7 inches in June and another inch so far in July.

On top of the day to day struggles with rain and falling behind in planting, we lost a whole field of celery to relatively new disease, “celery leaf curl”, that is striking celery crops in Pennsylvania and the U.S.- tissue samples will be sent from our farm to the Penn State Plant Disease Clinic to hopefully assist them in determining recommendations for prevention. This is the second year we’ve experienced it- but the first season where it rapidly killed the plants- rotting them from the centers out, and causing the leaves to wilt and pale. Disheartening to say the least!

We are excited for carrots and fresh garlic in this week’s share. The fresh garlic is pulled straight out of the ground- it has not been cured so the skin is still moist and the cloves fragile, but with a decadent flavor. Unlike cured fall garlic, fresh bulbs should be refrigerated.

7/7/15, on-farm share #6

7/7/15, on-farm share #6

This is the time of year where we find excuses to walk the tomato field daily, waiting for that first flush of ripe beauties. We are starting to see some blushing, so it won’t be long for the cherry tomatoes and early red field tomatoes. The greenhouse heirloom tomatoes aren’t far behind either- yes, we’ve harvested a few trays!- and cantaloupe and sweet corn are right around the corner as well.

First of the heirloom tomatoes!

First of the heirloom tomatoes!

The one thing I have noticed flourishing in this wet weather are the herbs in the discovery garden. Every time I walk by the discovery garden it beckons me closer, and I marvel anew at how much “medicine” can be found within. There are some monster catnip bushes in the garden this season, which had me flipping through my herb books for a refresher on its uses.

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) or catmint, is probably best known as a stimulant for cats. Interestingly, its action in humans is exactly the opposite!

Lemony-mint tasting, catnip is a gentle, and relaxing herb especially good for children. This mild sedative soothes flu, colds, belly-aches, and intestinal viruses. It is a fantastic remedy for adults who internalize emotions in the stomach or gut. Take catnip tea hot to induce sweat and break a fever. Combine with peppermint and elderflower for children, or combine with yarrow for adult fever. Harvest it now and dry it for the winter.

Most interesting to me, there seems to be a direct correlation between the fact that the catnip is thriving in the wet conditions which also means an influx of mosquitos. What you may not know about catnip is that studies have shown that it is a powerful mosquito repellant. Nepetalactone (the essential oil in catnip) is 10 times more powerful at repelling mosquitos than DEET. Amazing how nature provides!

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To make a homemade bug spray, you can simply harvest the catnip when it’s in flower (that is the very best time, which is right now!). Chop it up, put it in a glass jar and cover it with cheap vodka or apple cider vinegar (which I prefer) for at least two weeks, strain, measure and dilute it (by half) with distilled water. Add a a few drops of any essential oils that you like for repelling bugs and transfer to a spray bottle. Examples of essential oils for repelling bugs: lavender, peppermint, and rose geranium amongst many, but do your research- some are not recommended for children or pregnant women. Spray as needed. (Don’t feel like making your own, but interested in this natural alternative? Susan Hess of Farm at Coventry, a local herbalist who has taught classes here in the past, makes a fantastic natural bug spray. Contact her to find out where you can purchase it.)

Post and photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner. Tricia and her husband Tom have been farming together since 2000. Blooming Glen Farm is entering its 10th season bringing high quality certified organic vegetables, herbs, fruits and cut flowers to our local community. Tricia is passionate about food, art and nature and the intersection and expression of all three.

Despite the past two days of passing showers, May has been an incredibly hot dry month on the farm. We are lucky to have a robust irrigation system that we have established over the years, but that system doesn’t function without the work of an irrigation manager. That person this season is Justin Seelaus, and he’s had a busy month with extremely hot temperatures and a lack of rain.

The average rainfall for our area for May is around 4 inches. So far we have received a little less than an inch this month- and that was all in one day. Despite the steady supply of water provided to them since transplant, spring crops are certainly suffering due to the extreme heat. Our sugar snap peas are looking pretty pitiful, despite the attention we have lavished on them over the past month. However, the heat-loving cucumbers and summer squash and tomatoes are growing in leaps and bounds.

This time of year is the peak of transplanting for the season- Justin must hustle to keep the baby plants watered when they are their most vulnerable. And with every new planting, a new field gets added to the irrigation schedule. After an initial soaking in, the goal is to water everything two times a week, for at least 2 hours at a time. This mimics about a half inch of rainfall with each watering.

Justin hooks up drip irrigation on the greenhouse heirloom tomatoes.

Justin hooks up drip irrigation on the greenhouse heirloom tomatoes as the crew transplants them into the ground.

“One of the things I really love about being irrigation manager, is knowing I have a direct correlation with the plant success (or doom!) and seeing noticeable growth from day to day, especially in crops like cucumbers and summer squash. ” Justin’s job takes him around the farm on a daily basis. “I get to walk the fields almost everyday, I have an intimate connection with each bed and each crop.”

The majority of our crops are watered with drip irrigation, though we still do a fair share with overhead irrigation, which is delivered through above ground pipes and sprinkler heads. Overhead is used on bare ground crops like potatoes, beets, carrots, radishes and turnips. We use sprinkler heads called the R2000 Windfighters- aptly named because they actually function better with a little wind, critical on the hill tops of Blooming Glen.

From a water conservation standpoint the value of the drip tape cannot be underestimated. Buried a few inches underground, and then covered by the black mulch, the drip allows us to use less water to achieve the results we need.

On the left is a field of potatoes on bare ground, irrigated with overhead sprinklers. On the right is a field of potatoes planted on black plastic mulch, irrigated with drip, and covered with row covers.

On the left is a field of potatoes on bare ground, irrigated with overhead sprinklers. On the right is a field of potatoes planted on black plastic mulch, irrigated with drip, and covered with row covers. Notice the size difference of the plants.

Each bed, depending on the crop, gets one or two lines of drip. Cucumbers, tomatoes, squash and melons, 1 line; fennel, kale, and onions, 2 lines. So far this season we have laid 16 rolls of drip tape- that’s close to 23 miles of drip irrigation bringing life sustaining water to our plants that Justin has to monitor and repair if needed.

You may spot Justin cruising the farm on the orange ATV we call “The Shark”, one of the perks of the job. This Del Val grad is constantly on the go, turning water on and off in various fields, accompanied by his bucket of parts- connectors, end plugs, tools to build the manifold, knife, screwdriver, cordless drill, pvc fittings, pressure regulators and pressure gauges.

Tools of the trade.

Tools of the trade.

The drip lines are laid by the tractor drawn implement, but they all come together out of the fields into a manifold that Justin builds, and each manifold gets a pressure regulator. The drip lines function best at 12 psi, but the well is set at 50 psi, the optimum pressure to run our Windfighter sprinkler heads. Pressure regulators are used to bring the pressure down to keep from blowing the drip lines out.

Even though the drip lines are buried a few inches in the soil, they can still get holes in them during the transplanting process. A certain amount of Justin’s time is spent repairing leaks. The biggest culprit, besides tractors running over the manifolds, is driving in stakes for trellised crops, of which we have about 2 acres. This activity can quickly make swiss cheese out of the drip lines if the crew isn’t careful.

Another crucial job of the irrigation manager is fertigating, which is running fertilizer through the drip irrigation system. Right now Justin has been fertigating the strawberries with a certified organic fertilizer that contains seaweed, calcium, and other vital nutrients that aid in bloom. We also utilize a fish and kelp blend to provide support to the growth of our leafy green crops.

According to Justin one of the biggest challenges of the job is finding the sweet spot where you are running as much water as you can without overburdening the system to the point where it loses efficiency. “It’s something I have learned by observing pressure changes in the lines as more water is turned on.”

Justin makes weekly and now daily maps to plan out his irrigation schedule.

Justin makes weekly and now daily maps to plan out his irrigation schedule.

The ground is still a bit damp from the rain we had a few days ago, but soon enough Justin will be heading out to hook up the drip lines on the newly planted field of sweet peppers, juggling his daily water schedule between the regular farm jobs like harvesting and weeding, and heading home at the end of the day to empty his pockets of all the miscellaneous drip connectors he’s accumulated over the day.

Post and photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner. Tricia and her husband Tom have been farming together since 2000. Blooming Glen Farm is entering its 10th season bringing high quality certified organic vegetables, herbs, fruits and cut flowers to our local community. Tricia is passionate about food, art and nature and the intersection and expression of all three.

The only thing predictable about spring in southeastern Pennsylvania is how unpredictable spring is in southeastern Pennsylvania. Last year was wet and rainy, this year winter just doesn’t seem to want to let go. We’re farmers so it goes without saying we are pretty in tune with the weather (ok, some might say obsessive, but hey, we’re like sailors over here- this land is our sea).

Spring morning over Blooming Glen and the rising heat off the compost piles.

Spring morning over Blooming Glen and the rising heat off the compost piles.

By April the greenhouses are brimming full with rootbound plant starts and we’re sick of the weekly propane deliveries. We’re down to the last of our canned tomatoes, and we’re eager to move through the pages of our planting chart that we labored over during the “off season”. We start scanning for the annual patterns and signs that hint at winters swan song- the first sound of the spring peepers (check), the nesting of the killdeers (definitely), the blooming of the daffodils (late!), the warbling song of the red winged blackbird (still waiting). The dandelions, which I like to imagine are winter’s white flags waving in surrender, typically coincide with our potato planting. Not this year.  They finally reared their sunny heads in the last few days, weeks past when our spuds hit the ground.

Freezing temperatures at the end of last week had us scrambling to unroll our giant row covers and protect the field crops from lows in the upper 20s. Then the constant onslaught of wind has us tacking that very same row cover back on at least every other day.

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We’re not complaining (well at least not too much). We are super thankful for the long stretches of dry weather, which enabled us to till, make beds and plant, plant, plant. Over the past three weeks we have been able to get a ton of crops in the ground, and we’re still going strong. However, due to all those cold windy days, those plants aren’t doing a heck of a lot of growing. Today was the first truly beautiful warm day, and the wind on our hill top died down quite a bit. What a relief! What a day!

So what have we managed to plant out in the fields over the past three weeks?? Lots! We planted 3,000 pounds of potato seed, 5 plantings of lettuce, spring onions, red onions, shallots, bok choy, radicchio, escarole, cabbage, kohlrabi, kale, swiss chard, arugula, spinach, turnips, radishes, beets, field tomatoes, flowers, and sugar snap peas.

Sugar snap peas

Sugar snap peas

The overwintered strawberry plants are just starting to bulk up, and the garlic has pushed through its straw blanket in neat tight rows of green.

Field of garlic

Field of garlic

We’ve pre-sprouted the ginger seed from Kauai. We’ve grafted the heirloom tomatoes and prepped the greenhouses (including reskinning the wind damaged one).

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Grafted heirloom tomatoes; skinning their future home (yes that’s a hot air balloon in the background!)

It’s a steady merry-go-round of plants from the heated greenhouse, to the coldframe to harden off, and than off to the fields where they’ll grow until harvest time. And just as soon as we make space in our propagation greenhouse, Jenna quickly fills it back up with her weekly seeding of more flats. While we’re planting spring and summer outside, she’s always a few months ahead inside- seeding late summer crops like watermelon, peppers, corn and winter squash, making sure we have a steady supply of plants to go into the fields.

The greening of the greenhouses from March to April.

The greening of the greenhouses from March to April.

On a side note we have an awesome crew this year- I hope you get to meet them all when you come to the farm, or at least see their smiling faces- so positive and upbeat and hard working- some new faces as well as a lot of familiar folks that have been with us two, three, even four seasons.

Lexi learns to drive the cultivating tractor.

Lexi learns to drive the cultivating tractor.

Everyone is finding their groove, learning new skills, and excited to be here growing food for ourselves and our community. We are looking forward to the first of the farmers markets this weekend- we won’t have a ton quite yet, but we’ll be representing with a few things like broccoli raab, overwintered leeks and hakurei turnips! And soon enough the bounty will come.

The on-farm CSA pick-ups will start the first week of June: Tuesday June 2nd and Thursday June 4th (hopefully just as those luscious strawberries are ripening). Registration is still open and available for on-farm pick-ups as well as for the delivery share to CrossFit Summa in Doylestown and Congregation Beth El in Yardley. Those delivery shares will start Wednesday June 10th. More details and registration for all these pick-ups can be found on our website. And lastly, we’re having fun posting these photos and more on Instagram (search bloomingglenfarm), yet another way for you to follow the progress of your food from field to fork!

Post and photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner. Tricia and her husband Tom have been farming together since 2000. Blooming Glen Farm is entering its 10th season bringing high quality certified organic vegetables, herbs, fruits and cut flowers to our local community. Tricia is passionate about food, art and nature and the intersection and expression of all three.

Stop and go, wait and sprint. That’s April on a vegetable farm. Warm and windy weather means drier soils, and drier soils means tillable ground. If we can till, we can plant! At least until it rains again. That window of opportunity may close again soon- so we race to take advantage.

Tilling and Transplanting

Stop! The tractor got a flat, the irrigation system sprung a leak, the part we ordered to fix the tractor that hills the potatoes has a hole in it. Reshuffle. Come up with a new play. Go! Plant a field of potatoes by hand, take soil samples, decide what fertilizers and amendments to buy. Stop! The wind has torn the greenhouse plastic loose. Go! Repair the broken side! The tomato seedlings are big enough- start grafting. The soil is dry enough- start planting!

Justin coats potatoes with beneficial mycorrhizae before planting.

Potatoes being coated with beneficial mycorrhizae before planting.

Do our CSA members know that spring is here?! The cold weather had us all fooled, but our planning is done and planting has begun. Do you know why we need you now, before the crops are in? So many expenses before harvest- tools and repairs and supplies and payroll, so much planning and planting until we pick that first radish, that first tomato, that first watermelon.

Row cover protects a field of spring greens from wind and cold weather.

Row cover protects a field of spring greens from wind and cold weather.

Has it hit us yet that there is a water crisis in California, the mecca of agriculture in the United States? There is no better time than now to support your local farm. Does our community of eaters know the real costs in growing food, the difficulties in paying a competitive living wage to farm workers, the challenge of keeping hard working idealistic young people on the land? Input costs have risen, but the prices of food have not. Join us on our farm journey. Follow our blog, join our CSA (if you haven’t yet) and walk a mile, or 12, in a farmer’s boots.

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So many choices: CSAs, farmers markets, road stands, chain grocery stores, health food stores, your backyard. Even after 10 years growing our farm, CSAs still strike me as radical, as thinking outside of the box. CSAs are unconventional, they are a shake-up of the current system. They are you, an eater, voting with your local food dollars. You are making that early season commitment, a handshake agreement in a world of legalese. You are saying loud and clear, I will support you, this farm, from seed to harvest. I will look outside at the brown and barren winterscape and envision spring and bounty and fresh vegetables to come. I will eat the food you grow. I will help you buy your seeds and pay your farmers for their labor of love. I will support you so you can make choices that nurture the soil, choices that nurture this community, this land. And then after all the planting, weeding and watering and tending, we will feast!

Post and photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner. Tricia and her husband Tom have been growing together since 1996 and farming together since 2000. Blooming Glen Farm is entering its 10th season bringing high quality certified organic vegetables, herbs, fruits and cut flowers to our local community. Tricia is passionate about food, art and nature and the intersection and expression of all three on the piece of red earth that is Blooming Glen Farm.

Did you know that every day in February we gain 2.3 minutes of daylight? It is true that the below normal temperatures we’ve been experiencing this month make it hard to get outside and enjoy that extra sunlight. Typically the month of February hits the mid to upper 40s. No need to mention the single digits and negative wind chills we’ve all been experiencing. It may be colder than normal, but every day it is getting a little lighter as we get closer to the Spring Equinox on March 20. Over the course of February, the day length is steadily increasing. From the start to the end of the month, we gain 1 hour and 7 minutes of daylight.

 

Jenna

Spring will come, I promise! It does every year without fail. Despite the freezing temps, here at Blooming Glen Farm we have the heated greenhouse fired up, and seed by seed we are preparing for the season ahead. Our propagation greenhouse manager Jenna can make quick work using a vacuum seeder- averaging about 30-40 flats per hour depending on the seed size.

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Tomatoes, swiss chard and onions have germinated. Seeded and patiently waiting on the heated bench are kale, parsley, cabbage, kohlrabi, shallots, scallions, lettuce, escarole, radicchio and more.

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Every year foodie magazines and restaurant organizations post their food trend predictions. Though beards, trucker caps and carrhart pants may be “in”, we don’t consider ourselves the trend setting sort. Yet one trend everyone agrees will continue its uphill climb is interest in local organic produce. Good thing too, because I doubt we’ll jump on some of their other trend forecasts, like insects (ant guacamole anyone?) or ramen noodles. Butter is back- though I can’t say it ever left our house. Maybe it’s the guilt that’s on its way out (ditch that margarine, mom!). And it may come as no surprise to anyone that the interest in local has grown to include grains, beers and meat. And if I may add my own non-food prediction- that growing interest definitely includes local flowers.

One trend we have seriously bumped up against this winter is kale. You may not know but there is quite a kale seed shortage, thanks to the increase in popularity of baby kale and kale sprouts. Seed suppliers just cannot keep up with the demand from growers. Thankfully Tom has a good relationship with our local seed rep, and got early word of the shortage, so we are all stocked up. Have no fear- we will be growing plenty of kale this year (and sticking with full size).

Post and photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner. Tricia and her husband Tom have been growing together since 1996 and farming together since 2000. Blooming Glen Farm is entering its 10th season bringing high quality certified organic produce, herbs, fruits and cut flowers to our local community. Tricia is passionate about food, art and nature and the intersection and expression of all three here on the piece of red earth that is Blooming Glen Farm.

Like many of you, in the colder winter months when our farm coffers start to run dry we head to the grocery store for our fresh produce. With the exception of kale which we have in our greenhouses, we go on a greens hunt, searching out head lettuce and spinach, and carrots amongst other offerings. Besides Lady Moon Farms in Florida, the shelves are overwhelmingly stocked with produce shipped in from California.

California, the sunshine state, the land of palm trees, surfers, and epic landscapes. What do your Pennsylvania farmers do in the winter? Follow the sun west of course, for a two week road trip from San Fran to San Diego. We embarked on a journey to see good friends, feel a bit of warm sunshine on our skin, and expose our 9-year old to a variety of landscapes from the coastal tide pools of the pacific coast, to the towering redwoods, to the otherworldly boulders and desert fauna of the Mojave. But no trip to California by two curious east coast farmers would be complete without a look at the epicenter of vegetable production in the United States. On our journey through the state we were awed by the scale of the farms and shocked by the unsustainability of a system of farming in a barren desert, where water is a precious and rapidly dwindling resource.

As we headed south from San Francisco we detoured inland through parts of the Salinas Valley. In Castroville, the “artichoke capital of the world”, we hopped out of the car to photograph the artichokes, only to leap back as a low flying helicopter aerial spraying buzzed overhead.

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Artichokes in Castroville, Ca.

Under the hazy sun, we observed endless acres of irrigation pipes, feeding fields and fields of brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and of course, artichokes. In the summer, the fields of Salinas Valley are full of salad greens, but this time of year they are mainly planted into strawberries as far as the eye can see, which will winter over into spring. The lettuce production moves south for the winter to Coachella Valley, the Imperial Valley and Yuma, Arizona.

Thousands of acres of almonds trees in the Central Valley.

Thousands of acres of almonds trees.

Midway through the trip we drove from a little town on the pacific coast north of LA, inland toward Joshua Tree, located east of San Diego, near Arizona. We passed south of Bakersfield through the Central Valley where 850,000 acres of almond trees grow, along with wine and table grapes, pistachios, and pomegranates. The farther inland we drone, the dryer and less green the landscape became. The soil was as sandy and barren as the desert we were approaching, the trees were dormant, the irrigation canals dry. Land that was once farmed in cotton has now been converted to orchards, the trees seen as easier to manage. However the lack of water is causing unprecedented problems. Many farmers are being paid by the acre not to farm, so the water they would normally use can flow west to the urban sprawl that is Los Angeles and its ever growing population.

Garlic in the Imperial Valley fed by a series of irrigation ditches and tubing.

Garlic in the Imperial Valley fed by a series of irrigation ditches and tubing.

After a few days exploring Joshua Tree we were back on the road, heading to San Diego through the Imperial Valley, the “wintertime salad bowl of America.” Here’s where it got interesting. Early settlers saw this valley as a land of fertile soil, lacking only in irrigation water to make the desert bloom. In 1905, torrential rainfall in the American Southwest caused the Colorado River to flood; including canals that had been built in the late 1800’s to irrigate the Imperial Valley. Since the valley is partially below sea level, the waters never fully receded, but collected in the eerily blue Salton Sea, the world’s only artificial inland sea. This sea serves as an important stop on the path of migratory birds, and also helped to create the micro climate favorable to year round agricultural production.

Irrigated spinach fields in the Imperial Valley.

Irrigated spinach fields in the Imperial Valley.

Under pressure the US government built the Hoover Dam to control the river and to protect the productive farmland that was seen as a respite from the dustbowls of the Midwest. After decades of construction, the dam allows the Colorado River to now provide consistent water flow to 40 million people and 4 million acres of farmland. After river silt is removed in giant basins, the water flows out in 3 major canals. One of these canals, the 80 mile All-American canal, flows to the Imperial Valley and then on to the Coachella Valley. Hundreds of millions of gallons of water through miles and miles of canals, ditches and irrigation tubing keep onions, lettuce, cauliflower, garlic, spinach, carrots, and more growing. Acres of dates, and truck after truck loaded with lemons flew by our car window. 80% of the nation’s winter produce is grown in the Imperial Valley and is all fed by the Colorado River. That is a staggering thought.

Acres and acres of head lettuce in the Imperial Valley.

Acres and acres of head lettuce in the Imperial Valley.

What’s happening as these canals and irrigation ditches run dry, the Salton Sea shrinks, and the water flow slows to a trickle or to nothing at all? There’s a race to the bottom as farmers dig deeper and deeper wells. There’s a 6 month to 1 year waiting list for wells to be drilled, wells that seek water at depths from 250 to 2500 feet deep. Deeper wells dry up neighboring wells at shallower depths, pitting neighboring farmer against neighboring farmer. In a matter of decades underground aquifers are being depleted that were created over thousands and thousands of years. For many farmers the cost to keep trees watered is higher than any profits, so they are pushing them out of the ground. Up north, in the Salinas valley the water problem also exists. There the water flows west from Yosemite, and snow melt. But the snow pack in the mountains is shrinking. As farms produce less, unemployment rises along with the prices. Everywhere you go there are signs to conserve water, and everywhere it is dry.

Cauliflower harvest in Imperial Valley.

Cauliflower harvest in Imperial Valley.

Tom and I were humbled to see food production on such a mass scale- it was a reminder to us of the value of our work, which is at its core, about feeding people. We were also invigorated to be a part of a local farm community charged with finding alternatives to the grossly unsustainable system that currently exists in California. You clearly cannot grow food in a desert forever. To depend on irrigation to that level, to continuously divert water from the Colorado River, is simply unsustainable. The current drought conditions in California only shine a light on a system that is at its heart unsustainable. As much as we may curse the downpours that are typical here in the summer, water is life giving. As if we didn’t need another reason to encourage local farming, our winter sojourn to California delivered one of the most glaring reminders we can offer.  We were also struck with a greater appreciation and sympathy for the challenges farmers face out west, and were given a stark visual reminder of exactly what it takes to bring that head of lettuce to a Whole Foods in Pennsylvania from the Imperial Valley of California.

Reminder: Register and pay in full for the Blooming Glen Farm CSA by February 1st to receive a discounted share price! Registration is on the home page of our website.

IMG_4995Post and photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner. Tricia and her husband Tom have been growing together since 1996 and farming together since 2000. They started Blooming Glen Farm in 2006. Tricia is passionate about food, community, art and nature and the intersection of all four.

 

Today’s final CSA distribution marks 48 CSA harvests for the 2014 season. With the equivalent of 300 full shares per week, that’s a lot of produce for a lot of families. Over the season, a family picking up a full share of produce enjoyed 34 cucumbers, 30 pounds of potatoes and sweet potatoes, 8 melons, 13 winter squashes, 26 head of lettuce, 49 pounds of an assortment of tomatoes (not including the PYO cherry tomatoes) 17 weeks of garlic in its various forms, 13 weeks of pick-your-own flower bouquets and so much more!

11/11/14, CSA share #24

11/11/14, CSA share #24

Each season we try new crops and new varieties and this is the time of year when we start to evaluate what worked and what didn’t. Some clear successes this season were the popcorn, the long light pink eggplant (dancer), the little gem head lettuce and the kabocha winter squash. We were pleased with two of our bean varieties from certified organic seed- jade and easy pick. Both varieties were high yielding, flavorful, easy to pick and stayed slender and tender even as they matured. Sweet corn went better this season, as did broccoli. We were thrilled with out field heirloom tomato and cucumber yields, as well as winter squash, but felt the potatoes and sweet peppers suffered from various weather related events early in the season. 

Two different plantings of italian eggplant proved that wider plant spacing yields larger eggplant, which seems to be what everyone wants- better for your eggplant parm! Reaching way back in our memories to the spring, we had a great sugar snap pea and strawberry crop. Whether that was because of agreeable weather, good management, or a combo of both, we’re not sure, but we’ll take it!

Weeding next year's strawberry crop as the sun sets.

Weeding next year’s strawberry crop as the sun sets.

Some crops we dropped this season and didn’t miss terribly were okra and edamame. We are quadrupling our ginger seed purchase this winter now that we feel comfortable with the growing process, and we have high hopes of expanding our yields to be able to distribute at least a few weeks of ginger to the CSA. We continue to struggle with growing carrots- a very, very labor intensive crop for our farm, but we are not ready to give up on them yet. A big bummer was the basil crop this year. The lack of frozen pesto in my freezer speaks to the utter failure of this herb- despite growing a supposed mildew resistant variety, multiple plantings were decimated by powdery mildew. Ah well- you can’t win them all!

How does the farm crew celebrate the last harvest for the CSA ? Why with a game of croquet of course!

How does the farm crew celebrate the last harvest for the CSA ? Why with a game of croquet of course!

We hope that you enjoyed the chef demos this season. Next year we plan to try to have them later into the evening so the after work crowd can enjoy them too, as well as do better providing the recipes from the demos. Having a designated CSA distribution greeter and stocker (thanks Sandi!), was a wonderful addition, and we hope it helped make the pick-ups run more smoothly. Please feel free to provide us with any feedback or suggestions for next season- we are happy to do what we can to make the pick-up process a pleasant experience for everyone.

Of course the big news for us in 2014 was getting our organic certification this summer. This felt like a validation of the systems we have developed over the years for delegating, planning and record keeping. Overall because of these extensive sytems being in place, it felt like a rather painless process, one that will ultimately make us even stronger farmers.

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A big shout out to our farm crew this season as they cross the finish line here in the last week of the CSA. This was an exceptionally hard working and agreeable group that was a real pleasure to work with. This includes Corbin on the tractors, Katie in the greenhouse, all our enthusiastic volunteer washers, our part time crew in the distribution room, kitchen, fields and wash area and our farmers market staff, Mikaela who helps me with the website and posts delicious nutritious recipes, Linda and Kurt working behind the scenes to help us create reports from all our data, our super supportive parents and friends, Cathy at Rolling Harvest Food Rescue for helping us waste less and donate more, the incredibly hard working crew over at Zone 7 and all our market customers and CSA community. The list goes on and on!

Thanks so much to everyone that makes this farm function, and thank you to our community of eaters for giving us the opportunity to grow food for your families and for providing us with the means to do meaningful work.

tcheadshotPost and photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner. Tricia and her husband Tom have been growing together since 1996 and farming together since 2000. They started Blooming Glen Farm in 2006. Tricia is passionate about food, community, art and nature and the intersection of all four.

A sparkling haze of frost blanketed the fields this morning. The crew arrived bundled in warm gear, but had to busy themselves with other tasks, waiting to harvest once the sun rose high enough to burn the ice off the ground.

10/30/14, share #22

10/30/14, share #22

Though the growing season is starting to wind down, the hardy greens and the roots still in the field all start to get sweeter as the weather dips. Crops in the cabbage family (Brassicaceae), as well as beets and chard, are known for growing well in cold temps and for being frost-tolerant. The cabbage family includes cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, kohlrabi, radishes, and brussels sprouts. Being hit by a blast of cold makes these crops convert their stored starches to sugar. This acts as a sort of anti-freeze, and explains why you can still enjoy these hardy varieties fresh-picked from local farms well into the winter. Most striking, typically bitter tasting kale will continue to sweeten as the temperature drops- another reason to shop local, and an advantage we have over those warm-weather imports from California.

Keep an eye on your emails as we will be sending out the link to re-register for the 2015 season in the next few days. Returning members will have an extra month to register before we go live to the public. To celebrate our 10th growing season, 2015, (that’s right- 10 years!), we will be offering an early registration discount. Register by Febuary 1st to take advantage of this amazing offer!

We also have some exciting new CSA member referral incentives. Refer a new member to Blooming Glen farm CSA and as long as you’re both registered for 2015, you will receive a $20 coupon you can use next season toward bulk crop offerings (like plum tomatoes and slicing cucumbers), or you could use at our farmers market stand, or toward farm swag like a t-shirt or cookbook. And the new member you refer will receive a free cookbook on their first pick-up. Not a bad deal! Just make sure the new member puts your name down as a referral on their online registration form. Now get out there and tell your friends how awesome BGF is, and let’s make year 10 the best season yet!

tcheadshotPost by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner. Photo by Meghan Clymer. Tricia and her husband Tom have been growing together since 1996 and farming together since 2000. They started Blooming Glen Farm in 2006. Tricia is passionate about food, community, art and nature and the intersection of all four.

A hard frost hit the farm early Monday morning. Tom and I were out with the headlights shining on the fields late Sunday night, fixing the row covers that had blown about in the wind during the day. It always seems that the major frosts follow a windy day, uprooting our “blankets” of protection, and requiring a late night scramble under a clear star-filled sky. It was incredibly beautiful, actually- so no complaints here!

This week we have been concentrating on getting the winter radishes out of the ground and into burlap sacs for storage. The purple top turnips have sized up considerably as well, and are in the share this week, along with celeriac, a delicious celery flavored root. Just peel the rough outside layer and use in soups, oven roast it with a mix of other root vegetables, or mash it up and combine with potatoes or turnips.

10/23/14, share week #21

10/23/14, share week #21

We’ve begun the process of planting our 600 pounds of garlic seed, but with the rain the last bunch of days, we are now waiting for the ground to dry out in order to finish this last big farm task. Tom and the crew broke out the shovels this week, to experiment with transplanting large kale plants from the field and into the greenhouses for winter protection.

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I had the opportunity to attend the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers (ASCFG) national conference on Monday and Tuesday, in Wilmington, Delaware. It was a wonderful experience, drawing a few hundred passionate farmers and floral designers from all over the country- Alaska, California, Texas, Virginia, Maine, New York, Wisconsin to name just a few. Having attended annual vegetable conferences on and off over the past 15 years, I was struck how local cut flowers are where local vegetables were 10 years ago. Much education still needs to be done on why supporting local, and sustainably grown flowers over chemical drenched South American imports is important. But it is clear that the demand for local flowers is on the rise, and now it’s up to the growers to start to fill that need, and work together to create distribution channels.

From a personal perspective it was also pretty darn cool to be in a room with so many strong, inspiring entrepreneurial women. Philadelphia floral designers Sullivan Owen and Jennie Love led a design demo that had me itching to learn more about wedding bouquet styling, as I was just able to get my feet wet a bit this year (see photos below). And I felt a kindred spirit in Sullivan’s committment and passion for the growth and success of her business. Needless to say, I will be looking for ways to incorporate more cut flowers and the creativity they inspire into Blooming Glen Farm.

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tcheadshotPost and photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner. Tricia and her husband Tom have been growing together since 1996 and farming together since 2000. They started Blooming Glen Farm in 2006. Tricia is passionate about food, community, art and nature and the intersection of all four.