The Local Harvest

THE LOCAL HARVEST   The Newsletter of Honey Brook Organic Farm CSA, April, 2017




CHESTERFIELD FARM OPEN HOUSE FOR POTENTIAL CSA MEMBERS!

Join us on April 29th, from 2 - 4pm at our farm located on 258 Crosswicks-Ellisdale Road in Chesterfield, NJ for our Open House! If you’re interested in becoming a member of Honey Brook Organic Farm's Community Supported Agriculture program, please come to the farm for a tour, a "Q&A" with Farmer Jim, to purchase organic transplants, to check out our resident nesting kestrels and to sign up for the upcoming season! This is a family friendly event and potential members of both our Boxed Share program as well as on-farm pick-up program are encouraged to attend! Please RSVP to so we can get a head count.

MEMBERSHIPS AVAILABLE FOR ALL OF OUR MANY LOCATIONS! – by Sherry Dudas

Applications for all pick-up locations are still being accepted.  Please join today if you haven’t already (the Join Us page is HERE).  If you haven’t checked out our Boxed Share page in a while, you may want to do that now, as we’ve added many new pick-up locations for this season!

In early May we print our member identification cards, which on-farm pick-up members receive the first time they visit the farm.  Membership Handbooks will be revised for 2017 and posted on the website in early May for members to download and read prior to Opening Day.  Beginning May 1st, please check the “This Week” page of our website to learn when Opening Day will be for your program, as on-farm pick ups begin before Boxed Share deliveries.  We will also be sending emails with Opening Day information, as well as announcing it on our Facebook page.  Please keep in mind that usually the ripening of the strawberries dictate when your Opening Day will be, and Boxed Share deliveries may begin as early as Memorial Day weekend.  Please also keep in mind that all memberships include PYO crops, so Boxed Share members may harvest PYO strawberries even if the Boxed Share deliveries have not yet begun.  The Veggie Hotline (609-737-8899) will also provide Opening Day information after May 1st.  Remember, we are not saying that we open on May 1st, but rather that is the date that you should begin checking for when Opening Day will be.

FARMER JIM: FOCUS IS ON IMPROVED SOIL FERTILITY AND MANAGEMENT THIS YEAR – Sherry Dudas

Farmer Jim has decided to make soil fertility a top priority this year, and has several exciting projects in the works.  He’s going to be looking at a soil balancing approach to address nutrient deficiencies and to enhance nutrient density, producing more nutritious crops and also improving crop cosmetics as well as nutrient quality.  This process begins by taking multiple soil samples to ascertain where our deficiencies are and applying the right amount of organically sourced nutrients. 

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Farmer Jim is also really excited about his new biochar project!   Biochar is a type of charcoal that is used as a soil amendment and improves many soil properties. It starts with renewable carbon in the form of organic materials, charring them, and then incorporating them into the soil where the carbon will remain stored for thousands of years.  Using biochar effectively removes it from the environment, creating a ‘win-win’ situation for both the environment and our farm.  In fact, in a classic case of what’s old is new again, archeological research in South America has revealed that pre-Columbian Amazonians used biochar for soil improvement.  Those soils, referred to as terra preta, are also less vulnerable to nutrient leaching due to heavy rains, as they have a high concentration of organic matter.  As we prepare the farm to be more resilient to damaging storms as a result of climate change, we need to adopt low cost, low-tech strategies such as using biochar and compost.  Image title

There are several fields we manage on our four farms that we have recognized have inherent problems.  For example, nearly all of last year’s Chesterfield PYO crops seemed to have production problems.  Mid-season, Farmer Jim began to suspect that the drainage tile vital to draining the fields of excess water may have been broken, leaving water to pond and saturating roots during critical growth periods.  He also considered the possibility that the PYO fields were suffering from nutrient imbalances that led to partial crop failures of several of the PYO crops.  This year, he has decided to retire the primary PYO field from last year and plant PYO crops in last year’s strawberry fields.  These fields also get a lot of action in terms of birdlife, as our resident kestrels, red-tailed hawks and red-winged blackbirds use these and other adjacent fields for hunting and mating.

Also in Chesterfield, I’m happy to report that our persimmon trees survived our harsh late winter weather and the fig trees look healthy and were also totally unaffected by the wild weather! Every inch of the fig cane is alive and in all likelihood is going to probably produce our best fig crop to date.  Since we are growing them in specially protected high tunnels, we expect to have fruit earlier than field-grown figs.

In other news, March was another month of farming challenges due to the wacky weather.  We went from a high of 73 degrees on March 1st to a low of 13 degrees on the 5th!  With respect to the early warmth, when it happens that early in our planting season it is not very helpful for plant health: it encourages early blooming of perennials such as strawberries, leaving them vulnerable to frost damage, and premature sprouting of garlic bulbs and herbs, leaving their early leaves also exposed to killing frosts and freezes.  Overall, March was cooler and slightly wetter than normal, but the late, heavy snowstorm set us back with spring tillage and planting. The severe freezing temperatures appear to be behind us, so we were comfortable hand-planting our PYO snap and snow peas at both the Pennington and Chesterfield farms and our early spring broccoli in early April.  Garlic, which was planted last fall, looks very healthy and is on track to be available in early summer.

Our spring transplants, grown in our Pennington greenhouses, look very good, we are just waiting for some dry weather in order to transplant the spring lettuce, cabbage, collards, kale and other early season favorites. Farmer Jim also is planning to direct seed arugula, lettuce mix, radishes and hakurei turnips just as soon as he can get the tractor on the currently saturated soils. While our strawberries, which look to be a better crop this year than last, will be roughly on schedule (being ready to harvest sometime in mid-May), other crops are going to get a late start due to the heavy rains of late March/early April.

Farmer Jim, always looking for a new crop challenge, is planting popcorn this year, and our first crop of turmeric (we’ve planted three different varieties), planted at the same time as our very popular ginger, is looking quite nice, as is the ginger. He also is growing personal-sized watermelon and cantaloupe, which should be popular with members purchasing our Personal-sized shares. 

The tomato plants destined for our Chesterfield high tunnels are looking fabulously healthy!  Farm staff successfully grafted the plants by fusing the rootstock of tomato varieties known for resiliency against soil borne diseases to the top (scion) of varieties known for the superior flavor of their fruits. In this manner, we have created plants with increased vigor as well as delicious fruit, getting the best of both worlds!  We will get disease resistance, as an organic farmer’s challenge is always managing diseases, especially fungal, in a high tunnel environment.  The beauty of grafting is that it is a natural process, in that you are achieving disease resistance without the use of chemicals or GMOs, you just need time and patience, and sharp scissors and some grafting clips.  This spring, we will be planting one acre of grafted tomatoes in our high tunnels in order to get the earliest, tastiest tomatoes to our members, hopefully by early July!

EDUCATION AND OUTREACH PROGRAMS MORE IN DEMAND NOW THAN EVER! - Sherry Dudas

In addition to spring planting, it’s a busy time for our education and outreach programs.  In February, Sherry was part of a discussion regarding organic farming in New Jersey, along with farmer Jon Knox, with an environmental policy class at Rutgers taught by CSA member Dr. Ethan Schoolman.  In March, Sherry gave a presentation to seniors at the Monroe Township Senior Center which was a real treat, as she was raised in the township. April is always a busy time since it’s Earth Day month, and this year we will be at Bristol-Myers Squibb in both Hopewell and Lawrenceville, NRG Energy and Bloomberg promoting the benefits of our Community Supported Agriculture program.  Also in April, Sherry spoke to students at Grant School in Trenton about organic farming. For some of them, it was the first time they ever met a farmer!  In late April, the Mercer County Master Gardeners will be visiting the Pennington farm for a farm tour and in June students from Kean University will be touring the Chesterfield farm! On April 29th, Ellie from the farm will be staffing our informational table at the Chesterfield Bordentown Green Fair in Village Square Park from 11am to 3pm, which is the same day as our Chesterfield Open House!

Our first yoga class of the new season will be a Full Moon yoga class, held at our Chesterfield farm on Friday, June 9th at 7pm.  This is a free, members-only event and Gina Gilligo, our yoga instructor, asks that participants register by emailing her at . Lastly, we are coordinating food demonstrations as well as other yoga classes for the 2017 season, so please continue to read this newsletter for more information.



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