The Local Harvest

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

2019 EARLY BIRD APPLICATION DEADLINE FOR PENNINGTON AND CHESTERFIELD SHARES IS DECEMBER 31ST by Sherry Dudas   

We’d like to extend our sincere thanks to all of our members for supporting us through this most difficult season! Farmer Jim has said it’s the worst he’s experienced in his 30+ years of farming, and younger New Jersey growers have lamented that it’s the most challenging of their farming careers.  It hasn’t only been tough on organic farmers, but conventional farmers as well; in fact, Phillips Farm in Hunterdon County gave up one of their tailgate markets due to their lack of produce.  More on the plight of New Jersey farmers this season can be found in this Asbury Park Press article.

Despite the challenges of this season, we’ve been planning for next year and have had our 2019 Early Bird applications in the Pennington and Chesterfield Distribution Centers for about a week now and have begun receiving applications for next year, for which we are most grateful. When members sign up early, it helps us better plan for the upcoming season.  This year, a good percentage of our members signed up right before we opened in May.  This resulted in Farmer Jim recruiting more employees than we needed for the 2018 season, adding to our expenses, so our hope is that members who are able to take advantage of the Early Bird application sign-up season do so.

Our links to our 2019 Early Bird applications are below. These applications reflect membership fees that are the same as the membership fees for the 2018 season (in other words, the fees as reflected on the 2018 regular applications, not the Early Bird applications). We are still finalizing new drop-off sites for our Boxed Share program, so Boxed Share Early Bird applications will be available a little later in this month.   Early Bird membership fees will only remain in effect until December 31, 2018, so all applications need to be postmarked or delivered to the farm office by December 31st.  This week, we will be revising our PayPal payment pages on our website to allow Early Bird payments via PayPal, without a service fee, until December 31st!

Pennington Application

Chesterfield Application

We do not plan to offer additional share sizes on either the Delivered Box Share program or at our Distribution Centers in Chesterfield and Pennington for next year.  However, in our Boxed Share program we are thrilled to announce the addition of RWJ University Hospital Hamilton, RWJ University Hospital New Brunswick and Edison to our roster of communities served by our weekly delivery program! Any questions regarding the Early Bird applications can be directed to Amy, our membership coordinator, at or 609-737-8846.     

OCTOBER BRINGS MORE UNSETTLED WEATHER by Sherry Dudas

So far this month, we have had temperatures that have vacillated from twenty degrees above normal to nine degrees short of the norm. On average, though, the month so far has been warmer and slightly drier than usual, and our crops are responding mostly positively.  September’s wet weather, however, made it impossible for Farmer Jim to plant additional crops for the Holiday Harvest, so we will not be offering that season extension program this year.  He was able to plant fast-growing crops such as arugula, baby kale, spicy mix and salad mix, so if Mother Nature cooperates we will have these crops in abundance through to the end of the season, which will be right before Thanksgiving this year.

We’ve been getting our heirloom dried beans ready to distribute.  Some of the beans we planted did not do well in the wet fields, but others were more resilient. A few varieties have been harvested and are already drying in our greenhouses.  After we winnow the chaff from the beans, the beans will be distributed in November, with instructions on how to cook.  Here’s just a sampling of the interesting names of some of the dried beans we ordered for this year: Borlotto Del Valdarno, Hidatsa Red, Ireland Creek Annie, Jacobs Cattle, Kenearly Yellow Eye, Mississippi Silver Cowpea, Rossa di Lucca, Silver Cloud Cannellini, Painted Pony, Tongues of Fire and Vermont Cranberry.  They sound so good, I can’t wait to have them simmering on the farmhouse’s wood-burning stove with some of our winter savory (known as the bean herb)!

We’ve also begun harvesting our sweet potatoes for distribution through most of the remainder of the season.  Our field manager David is impressed by how well the sweet potatoes did throughout the wet season, which can also be said of the storage beets we have been harvesting this week.  Some of these beets weigh in at about 3 pounds, so consider making beet steaks with some of these big boys!  Unfortunately, their tops got a little “beet” up in our rain storms, so we thought it best to remove the inedible tops. Probably our most popular crop, our fall carrots, is also being harvested and enjoyed by members.  While the carrots have done well throughout their growing season, there is some cosmetic unsightliness.

There have been more losses due to the wet weather, including the early fall spinach and chard (we've planted more for later in the season), and broccoli, winter squash and pumpkin which were partial crop failures due to disease issues.

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The pick-your-own season is winding down, and many members have marveled at the beauty and flavor of the pick-your-own cherry and grape tomatoes.  I just love these photos shared by long-time member Jonathan Kennen, a huge fan of most any crop that's pick-your-own!

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EDAMAME EXPERIMENT PROVES REWARDING! by Sherry Dudas

We are thrilled with the results of our edamame soybean experiment.  While we were able to plant the edamame with ease in Chesterfield, the pick-your-own fields in Pennington remained too wet (their soils are high in clay, which retains rainwater for longer periods than the sandy soils of Chesterfield) in spring for planting not only the edamame, but also the sunflowers. Farmer Jim planted additional fields of edamame in Chesterfield, in the hopes that he could use our mechanical green bean harvester in the edamame fields and provide members with edamame as a harvested crop, instead of a pick-your-own crop.  Not only did the bean harvester work for edamame, but we actually had better results with the harvester on the edamame than we do with it when it’s used for green beans as, for some yet unknown reason, the machine when used for edamame picks up less leaf litter.  We were then able to offer the crop as a harvested crop in both Chesterfield and Pennington, as well as our Boxed Share members, for the first time this season!  The flavor and quality of the edamame has been very good, and I’ve savored them in my miso soup for the last two weeks!

FRUIT PROJECT HAS SURPRISING PATRON! by Sherry Dudas

Farmer Jim is passionately pursuing his expansion of our tree fruit offerings at the farm.  Our summer fig and early fall pawpaw crops were the most prolific since planting and we enjoyed our first harvestable crops of Asian plums and hardy kiwi, though those fruits were sparse. 

During October, we’ve been sampling our American persimmon fruit with our members, who have been giving us excellent feedback, so we will be offering these hard-to-find fruits next year.  One of Jim’s great joys in experimenting with tree fruits is knowing that locally-grown certified organic tree fruits are extremely hard to find, but much appreciated by our members and their children.   During October, I noticed that Chip, our senior farm dog, was quite unsettled at night.  Nearly every night between 3am and 4am, he would whine to be let out.  I figured that, much like senior people, perhaps Chip had to go relieve himself in the middle of the night so, of course, I let him out.  On two nights, I could hear him barking wildly while running a fox off the farm, which I never heard him do before, but didn’t think it was all that unusual, as he often chases deer, rabbits, turkey vultures and other critters off the farm.  When he returned home at dawn, he looked exhausted and walked stiffly, but being that he’s 66 in dog years I figured the exercise was good for him. This unusual behavior continued for days, leaving me quite the insomniac!  

During this time, Farmer Jim and I took Chip and Jamie, the junior farm dog, to the park for a walk.  Once, after Chip pooped I was dutifully scooping it when I noticed its color was extremely light. I inspected more closely and called to Jim, “What’s wrong with Chip, look at the color of his poop?!” Jim took a look, then starting chuckling. Asking what was so funny, he asked that I look for the seeds in the pile.  I did and to my surprise it was just full of persimmon seeds!  Though Jim thought it was funny, I immediately became concerned that eating persimmons could be hazardous to Chip’s health.  

Once I was able to do some research, I discovered that persimmons are safe for dogs, as long as they don’t swallow the seeds as they can irritate their small intestines.  Persimmons are loaded with Vitamins A and C, potassium, lycopene, beta-carotene and manganese. Many of these nutrients are antioxidants and therefore may have an anti-inflammatory effect. In fact, I’ve noticed that when Chip overindulges on persimmons he’s as perky as he was when he was 33 and is able to easily climb stairs and hop on our high bed, something he hasn’t been able to do in ages!  As for intestinal irritation, we haven’t noticed any apparent discomfort, as this dog’s digestive system is built like a German tank.  In fact, he’s a mix of German shepherd and Border collie and quite a resilient (and intelligent) pooch.  

Since Jim has been so devoted to the care of our fruit trees, he did notice that each day at least six or seven ripened fruit would fall to the ground and the next day, these fruits would be gone, so he knew some animal was enjoying them at night.  He suspected red fox as they are known to appreciate the sublime flavor of persimmon (this also explains why Chip was running the fox off the farm!).   Now we had proof that Chip was the pilferer all along!

Members unfortunate enough to eat an unripe persimmon know it’s no fun.  The astringency causes one’s mouth to pucker and the bitter flavor is unpleasant, so persimmons must be super soft before eating.  Now that Chip’s secret is out, I’ve been watching him as he harvests the persimmons from the ground of the orchard. He actually nudges them with his nose, rejecting hard ones in favor of the softest and most delectable.  I didn’t know quite how discerning of a patron he had become until just last week.  On a walk in Veterans Park in Hamilton, we visited the few wild persimmon trees and found a few of the berries (botanically-speaking, persimmons, like tomatoes, are berries) on the forest floor.  Chip took a few cursory sniffs of the fruit and turned his nose up, not even taking a curious nibble!  Just our luck, we’ve created a fruit snob of a farm dog, who prefers certified organic persimmons to foraged fruit! 



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