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Archive for June, 2010

Week 3: veggies, and first week of fruit!

ree-licious Orchards is bringing down our first fruit share delivery (2 pounds of sweet cherries).  The following few weeks will be sugar and shiro plums (about 3 pounds) and then we will move on to the bigger (10 pound) weekly shares with peaches and nectarines, apples and pears.

The vegetable share for this week will be: Green leaf lettuce, pearl onions, radishes, spinach bok choy, arugula, sugar snap peas, broccoli, summer squash, choice of escarole or endive, and choice of an herb.


Starbrite Farm Update #5.

Hello Everyone,

Well, it was a scorcher of a week!  It’s summertime in New Jersey just
like I remember it-hot and humid. While the hot warm weather crops
such as the tomatoes and peppers have been in their glories, the cool
weather plants have been looking quite dejected- wilting and droopy.
Fortunately the heat wave is predicted to break and we will have some
milder temperatures by mid-week. There’s no rain in sight though, and
the ground is getting pretty dry. We are moving into the time of
summer when passing thunderstorms are our best chance of
precipitation. We find ourselves hoping for them, with the caveat that
they not be accompanied by high winds or hail.

We are in the weeds, as they say; only in this case it is meant both
literally and figuratively. We have been fighting to keep the grasses
from swallowing the potatoes and the leeks and pulling the pigweed out
of the carrot and beet crops. Once we begin deliveries and markets,
harvesting occupies so much of our time that it’s hard to keep up with
the maintenance.

The pea picking is especially labor intensive and for that reason I
wish to thank profusely the volunteers who came out on Sunday to help
with the pea harvest. They picked nearly 300 lbs. of sugar snap peas,
more than half what we will need for the week.

The Guatemala workers I have been waiting for finally had their
interview at the embassy this past week and were given visas. They
will arrive this Wednesday day night. Hallelujah! Help is on the way!

We were visited this week by a gentleman named Mark from the state
insect labs. He brought with him and released thousands of parasitic
wasps. Parasites you say?  Yes, but fortunately they only parasitize
the larva of the Mexican bean beetle. This undocumented alien was once
the scourge of bean growers throughout the state until this wonderful
biological control program was developed.  It’s a beautiful thing; one
less crop that has to be sprayed and it’s good to know something good
is being done with our tax dollars.

The share for this week will be: Green leaf lettuce, pearl onions,
radishes, spinach bok choy, arugula, sugar snap peas, broccoli, summer
squash, choice of escarole or endive, and choice of an herb.

Farmer John

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week #2: veggies!

The vegetable share for this will be: Red leaf lettuce, scallions,
salad turnips, sugar snap peas, spinach, a mustard (tatsoi, broccoli
raab, green wave), choice of endive or escarole, broccoli (some
groups), summer squash (some groups) and choice of an herb (parsley,
cilantro, dill)

Farm Update from Starbrite Farm

Hi Folks!

The first round of deliveries seems to have gone fairly well, from all
reports. There will generally be some glitches and confusion with the
first couple of deliveries, especially with new groups. Some lucky
groups got broccoli last week, an item that wasn’t on the list. Those
that did not, will receive it this week.

The earliest variety of broccoli we planted is producing a meager
harvest due to stress from temperature extremes soon after
transplanting. Stress in plants, it should be noted, is completely
unconnected to stress in humans, except as it relates to my stress
levels. Plants react to stress by flowering, which since broccoli is a
flower, should be good, but the flower forms when the plant is still
too small and hence produces a small bud. There are 4 other varieties
in the field for which I have good expectations (not great though-
sorry Charles).  We should have sufficient quantities for all groups
several times in the coming weeks.

We are also beginning to cut summer squash, though not in great
quantity, so we will begin a similar delivery rotation with this crop
until we have more in 2 weeks. Which leads me to the following
disclaimer: We reserve the right to omit or change any item on the
farm update list from your actual share for that week. We also reserve
the right to add a vegetable to your share which was not on the list.
All legal facetiousness aside the update list should be considered a
close approximation, my best guess, of what will be in the share. I
can’t be 100% accurate all the time.

We have at present, what I suppose should be called a good problem to
have- we have too much stuff (foodstuffs).  There is enough spinach
for this week and probably next week as well. It still looks beautiful
but it won’t hold as we head into some hot days this next week (and I
was trying so hard not to talk about the weather!). The problem is
that we don’t have the time to harvest it all, and don’t want to
overwhelm you, the members, with too many greens all at once.

The Swiss chard looks great, but will have to wait. The bok choy is
ready too, but next week will have to do.  All of the mustards-
tatsoi, broccoli raab, and green wave are bolting to flower and the
arugula is already too far gone to salvage anything from this
planting. We will be sending as much broccoli raab as we can as a
choice with the mustard greens this week. The flowers have been
damaged a bit by a new pest- the tarnished plant bug, but the leaf is
nice, and there’s never much of a bud with raab anyway. There will
also be Hakurei salad turnips in the share this week, a favorite among
the veterans and hopefully a new treat for the neophytes. They are
delicious eaten raw, sliced like a radish or grated in salads or can
be cooked.  The root is sweet and mild flavored and the leaf can also
be steamed or braised.

I apologize that there was so much soil on several items last week. We
had a torrential downpour last Sunday and it splashed a lot of soil
onto the leaves. We can’t practically wash the leafy greens like
lettuce and spinach, because if they remain too wet they rot quickly
in storage and transport. My crew compounded the problem a bit by not
removing enough of the lower, dirtier leaves, during harvest and so
soiled the other heads in the tub. We will try to do better!

Many thanks to the pea picking volunteers who came out to the farm to
lend a hand today. We had representatives from Metuchen, Jersey City,
Westfield and Staten Island. Together they picked about 120 lbs. of

The share for this will be: Red leaf lettuce, scallions, salad
turnips, sugar snap peas, spinach, a mustard (tatsoi, broccoli raab,
green wave), choice of endive or escarole, broccoli (some groups),
summer squash (some groups) and choice of an herb (parsley, cilantro,

Farmer John

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First delivery of the season!

Hi all, this week is the first delivery of the season! Exciting!  Below is the letter from Farmer John

Hi Folks,

The week you have been waiting for has arrived, the first delivery.
We have lots of nice stuff in store for the beginning of the season.
The spinach looks beautiful as do the lettuces and the peas have been
flowering profusely.  We received a good slow rain just after my last
writing and a drenching thunderstorm on Sunday, so we are in good
shape in the moisture department.

We finished transplanting most of the warm weather crops this past
week, with just another 1000 or so tomatoes to put in this week. We
will also be planting out the melons this week.  The sweet potatoes
plants have taken root nicely and should start to grow rapidly in
another week. The stage is set for a great season, now all we have to
do is follow through- keep ahead of the weeds, get the tomatoes and
cucumbers tied and trellised, and get the harvesting done.

The biggest challenge I face right now is a shortage of labor. I have
5 field workers presently, but I have been planning and working at
bringing 7 more workers from Central America for the season. At least
some of these I expected to be here by now. I have experienced about
every bureaucratic delay imaginable this year, beginning with the
Dept. of Labor changing their address without notifying those who use
the program or posting it on their website. After a month of
correspondence with the Embassy in Guatemala I finally have
appointments for the interviews the workers need to get their visas,
on June 23. Hopefully the 3 workers from Guatemala will be here by
early July. The other 4 from Honduras are still waiting in
bureaucratic limbo for Immigration services to notify the Embassy
there. I don’t expect to see them until at least August! In the
meantime I will have to go in search of day laborers, which is not
really the best use of my time.

Any volunteer help with the harvest will be greatly appreciated.
Calling all pea pickers!

The share for this week will be: Spinach, lettuce (various types),
peas, garlic scapes, kale and radishes.

Farmer John

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Welcome Spring!

I guess technically, it should be welcome summer, since we’re full on into June at the moment…

The first share of the season is almost upon us, which means orientation meetings are almost upon us! This week–Thursday the 10th and Sunday the 13th–are the orientation meetings for this season. Orientation meetings are mandatory, for old members as well as new ones. As we have two sites, please make sure that you’re attending a meeting at your own site.

And here’s Farmer John’s update for the week!

Hello Everyone,

The battle is in full swing now and we are completely and exhaustingly engaged. Make no mistake about it; producing quality vegetables is a battle from start to finish. It’s quite amazing how many critters there are that want to dine on your veggies before they can make it to your plate. We have fenced around the pea patch to keep the deer out and buried fence along the periphery of one field to try (unsuccessfully) to exclude the ground hogs. Compared to the four-legged creatures, the six-legged ones don’t eat as much but they’re much more numerous. Our 2 worst insect pests, the flea beetle and the cucumber beetle have attacked with a vengeance this spring, and we are
spraying to control them before their populations explode even further.  We use only approved organic materials, products that are naturally derived, have low toxicity to humans and breakdown quickly.

The weather has been okay, too hot and a bit too dry, but it’s better than wet and cold!  Most of our chances for rain over the past 3 weeks have been from scattered thunderstorms and none of these potential storms have materialized so far. We have a cool front moving in for the week ahead, which will make working conditions much more tolerable and hopefully bring some rain ahead of the front.

We are in the process of transplanting out into the field all the warm season crops. We have planted about a third of the 5,000 tomato plant and all of the eggplants, 1800 or so.  On Friday the sweet
potato plants arrived and we needed to get those in immediately as they have hardly any root and wilt quickly. They looked quite sad as they baked in the blazing sun, but most of them should take root. This week we will be planting the peppers, melons, summer squash, ground cherries, and the rest of the tomatoes.  We also have herbs and flowers to set out.

The peas are flowering profusely and I expect an abundant supply for the first delivery and during the subsequent 3-4 weeks. The brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, etc.) are growing well for the most part. They could use a good rain and will enjoy the cooler temps forecast for the week ahead. One of the early varieties of broccoli is showing sign of “buttoning” because of the stress of several extremely cold nights in early May. Buttoning means flowering when the plant is still too small and producing a tiny head.  If this variety is a complete loss, it will reduce the number of weeks we will have broccoli in the shares during the early summer harvest. I have also had problems with the emergence on my potato crop. Several varieties did not come up at all, and several others came up so spotty that I will have to abandon them.

These few problems notwithstanding, most everything is growing well and we have lots of great stuff coming on for the beginning of the season; now just a little more than a week away.

Thanks to the volunteers who came out to help with covering the greenhouse on May 15th. We were able to get it done on the first try this year!

I look forward to seeing many of you at the farm visit next Saturday. Remember if you can’t make it on Saturday, you are welcome to come on Sunday.

Farmer John

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