The Local Harvest

THE LOCAL HARVEST   The Newsletter of Honey Brook Organic Farm CSA, August, 2018 

FIRST HARVESTS OF THE FARM’S TREE FRUITS  – Sherry Dudas  

Over the past several years, Farmer Jim has been planting several varieties of nut and fruit trees at one of our Chesterfield farms. We now have established orchards of pomegranate, fig, peach, nectarine, apricot, apple, paw paw, persimmon (both Asian and American varieties), Asian plum, jujube, chestnut and hazelnuts, as well as hardy kiwi vines.  This summer, we harvested the first of our apricots, nectarines and peaches and received very positive feedback from our members regarding adding this fruit to our repertoire.  Our fig trees have really taken off (Farmer Jim is growing three different varieties), so we expect to have more available as an “add on” crop this year than last.  

We still have quality issues with the fruit trees, which will be addressed next year.  There is an insect pest and a late season fungus that have to be controlled better, and our thinning and pruning needs to be more vigorous in order to harvest larger fruit.  Our hope is to hire someone with experience in tree fruit practices, as well as vegetable production, to add to our crew next spring. 

In order to highlight Farmer Jim’s efforts at growing these fruits and nuts, we hosted two potlucks in July, followed by tours of some of our fruit orchards and our hazelnut planting.  The potluck offerings were delicious and varied, and the attendees came from as far north as Livingston, NJ and as far south as Voorhees, NJ! Farmer Jim never misses a chance to wax poetic on his latest horticultural passion, and our two groups of attendees were quite patient during his dissertations on the history of paw paws and the advantages of growing tree fruit in high tunnels!  Keep an eye on our monthly newsletter for news about other potlucks and tours we will be hosting in the future! 

NEWS FROM THE FIELDS AND FURTHER AFIELD –Sherry Dudas 

It will come as no surprise to members to hear that the months of June and July were wetter and hotter than normal. Field staff has therefore had to do a lot of harvesting in the rain and transplanting by hand.  

Similar to last summer, the abundant rain in the spring already set back our transplanting schedule as our tractors could not get into the wet fields, so our transplants were ready and waiting to be planted and released from their transplant trays, but the unrelenting series of rain events continued to hold them hostage in the greenhouses or hardening-off benches. Some transplants, like our mid-season sweet corn, had to be composted as the plants were too root-bound to plant after fields dried adequately (this is why there is currently a gap in the availability of sweet corn). In addition, Farmer Jim estimates that nearly a third of the potato crop was also lost due to our inability to plant during the appropriate window of time because of saturated fields. The potato crop was also planted at a time in the spring where we had to make some choices: do we continue planting potato seed, which was already going in late, or do we tackle transplanting other plants that were backing up in the greenhouses?  We choset o plant the other crops.  This is the first time in Farmer Jim’s career where he didn’t plant all the potato seed he ordered. 

The first planting of our watermelon crop had germination problems in the greenhouse, so the harvest will be diminished. However, our main planting of watermelon, the largest we have planted in about three years, is looking very healthy. It was planted late, so we expect to harvest it in mid-to-late August. 

Other plants, like cut flowers, were planted late and root-bound, but are doing okay, although some of their stems are short. Crops such as ground cherries and tomatillos needed to be planted by hand into muddy fields, an arduous task for our farmers.  It’s not only the number of rain events that have hurt us, but the timing of them as well.  It seems that just as the fields are drying out and nearly ready for us to do field work, the rain comes again, and sets our plans back further.   

During a wet season, weeds are also difficult to manage and this season we’ve lost our first planting of beets, our storage onions and some of our summer lettuce and salanova lettuce mix to weeds.  Also when it’s wet, fungal diseases are more prevalent, and we’ve just detected downy mildew in our winter squash and pumpkin fields, so Farmer Jim will be working hard to stem the losses to this disease. 

As  a way of compensating members for spring losses, Farmer Jim is planting an overabundance of fall crops, including more chard, beets, spinach and lots more carrots! We plan to distribute produce until mid-November.  

We have had successes in some of our crops as well this season. At both farms, the blueberry quantities and flavor were the best ever! Our garlic and scallions were planted on raised beds which prevented the crops from standing in too much water, so we were pleased with their yields.  Our salanova salad mix is being harvested again, though some of it is a bit bitter since it’s being grown in hotter than normal conditions. In fact, some of our members have mistaken it for frisee, a salad green in the bitter chicory family! Currently, our slicing, heirloom, cherry and grape tomatoes are being harvested, with many members noticing a distinct improvement in their flavor. Farmer Jim speculates that the seaweed he’s using as a soil amendment deserves some of the credit! Seaweed adds sodium to the fields and tends to enhance tomato flavor.   

Also, for long-time members who love Genovese basil, you may recall that for years our mid-season crop has been a crop failure as year after year it became infected with basil downy mildew, with no treatments available to organic farmers.  This disease is not a problem this year, but we planted lots of basil to ensure we’d have at least a middling crop if the disease was a problem.  As sometimes happens, we now have a boatload of Genovese basil and the specialty basil is healthy as well.  We’re overjoyed that we are having an excellent tomato season so far as well as ample and flavorful basils at the same time! 

In other news, in September,The Rooted Affair in Robbinsville, NJ, is hosting a Farm to Table Dinner featuring our farm!  Interested in attending?  Click here for more information and hope to see you there!! 

FARMERS LOOK TO SCALE BACK FARM SIZE – Sherry Dudas

As many of you know, Farmer Jim grew the farm and its Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program from its humble beginnings, when, in 1991, he took over 3 ½ acres of farmland the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association (SBMWA) had already converted to an organic produce farm and recruited his first 50 CSA members, largely drawn from the Pennington/Hopewell community.  Over the course of the CSA’s history, we expanded the farm’s acreage in order to serve our growing community, by purchasing two permanently preserved farms in Chesterfield as well as renting another Hopewell farm in addition to the one leased to us by the SBMWA.  We were, and continue to be, forever grateful for the support of our CSA members for enabling us, with their emotional and financial support, to realize our dream of owning a portion of the land we have nurtured for so long.   

Another aspect of our dream, however, was the hope that, since we have no children, we would eventually attract a new or young farmer or farm family interested in slowly taking over our farm, so we could gradually retire.  After searching for the right farmer or farm family for this potential transfer for over ten years, we’ve accepted that this aspect of our farm dream may not be realized.  Part of the problem for new or young farmers is that our farm is too large for them to sustainably take over, so the young farmers we have attracted to the farm have left after a few years of our mentorship, to start their farms on smaller acreage owned by others.   

In order to at least keep the possibility of a farm transfer to a new or young farmer or family open, we are selling one of the farms we own in Chesterfield in order to downsize the farm to a scale more attractive to either a young or new farmer.  This is the farm where our Chesterfield blueberries are grown; if you are a Chesterfield member, please know that next year we will have a large enough blueberry crop in Pennington to be able to share that harvest with you. Please also know that while we have no plans to retire in the immediate future, we need to start our transition planning now.   

We hope you will continue to support us while we search for the right stewards to care for our farms down the road.  We are looking forward to the exciting new changes in store for us!

  “It may be that when we no longer know which way to go that we have come to our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.” – Wendell Berry   



This Week’s Harvest
Plan your meals for the week.

Our harvest calendar indicates produce availability throughout the growing season.

The Local Harvest
Please read our newsletter The Local Harvest to connect with the farm and the larger community.



Sign up for mailings


Buying A Share

Become part of our community by purchasing a share.