News and Blog
It has been a good week at Harmony Fields Farm. We have been able to accomplish some of our field work goals thanks to the lack of rain. A lot of bed preparation for fall crops and continued nurturing of crops currently in production. However, it has been really hot and humid. Beth and I are discovering that it's much more challenging in our 60's to work outside under the hot sun than it was when we were younger.
Many of my fondest memories of growing up involve putting up hay in the summer. Small square bales that had to be loaded on a wagon then hauled to the barn and unloaded and stacked. I remember how hot and sweaty I got but that at the end of the day I still had plenty of energy to go out and play basketball for a couple hours after supper. As they say, "Youth is wasted on youth."
I was lucky that when I was about fifteen years old I apprenticed myself to a farmer in our community. Raymond Hayes was the "big" farmer who managed several farms and grew acres of crops. Most of the farmers in our area were small farmers and most had full time jobs in town. Very similar to how it is today. But if you were lucky enough to talk Raymond into taking you under your wings, then you wold really learn how to do things right. When I started I was not old enough to legally drive (although that didn't stop me from taking the occasional spin down the road ) and my father would deliver me to Raymond's place every morning and pick me up in the evening.
I had visions of driving his large tractors and hauling stuff around on wagons. My first task for him was to organize tobacco sticks in the barn. When you cut tobacco stalks they are speared onto a four foot long one inch square stick until it is full of stalks. These sticks of tobacco are then taken to the barn where they are hung up to dry. In the fall they are taken down and the stalks removed from them and the leaves stripped off and packed up to take to market. Often the sticks are then thrown into the barn in haphazard fashion to be sorted out later. That was my new task in my journey to learn how to be a real, big-time farmer.
As I glanced into the barn I saw not just hundred's of sticks but thousands. Maybe millions or billions. My heart sank as my vision of disking ground on the big IH Super M tractor slowing sank into oblivion. I did not think this was a worthy task of an eager young apprentice who was ready to take on the world of farming in a big way.
It took me two weeks to get all the sticks organized and stacked but when it was finished I felt really good about how things looked. And I also learned some incredible lessons about farming. It takes patience. It takes perseverance. It takes a vision for how things will look when you are finished. And, no matter how frustrating it may be at times, you don't give up. This experience truly helped establish the foundation and blueprint for how life should be lived.
So now, almost fifty years later, the lessons are still the same. Patience, perseverance and a vision for the future. And don't give up. The weather this year has been challenging. But, it is becoming obvious that the changes in weather are no longer a fluke, but an ongoing reality. To adapt we will have to be creative and open to adaptation. This will take patience and perseverance and vision for what organic farming in the future may look like.
I think it's pretty exciting. Thank you for joining us on this journey. Come see us today at the market.
We hope everyone had an enjoyable Fourth of July. One of the things I enjoy most about the Fourth is that the music featured that day on 90.5 WUOL is always by American composers. A lot of Aaron Copland ("Appalachian Spring," "Rodeo", etc) Virgil Thomson's "The River" and "The Plough That Broke the Plains", Gershwin's "An American in Paris" and many other pieces that are a part of our great heritage of American music.
Many of these compositions, though often written to be performed by large orchestra's, are based on folk music. That is, music that came out of the community for the benefit of the community. Not to sell records (oops!, I mean downloads) but express the very essence of who we are as human beings, They have an earthiness and raw beauty that distinguishes them from much other music. This is music rooted in the land. From a period when our country was much more rooted to the land. A time when everyone understood where food came from and the struggle to work in harmony with nature. A time when there were no pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers. When you hear Copland's treatment of the Shaker tune "'Tis a Gift to be Simple" in "Appalachian Spring", you are immediately drawn to the fields, meadows and mountains of the countryside and can smell the aroma of freshly turned earth and flowering plants.
This is music that speaks deeply to me because it represents much of what I am rooted in and what we are trying to do at Harmony Fields. We are growing food in the context of a community of people who share our values. We are growing food in a way that honors and respects nature.
The fresh earth that has not been tampered with, but only nurtured, will produce even when others won't. We started digging potatoes yesterday. Talk about fresh earth, that's where they grow and they come out of the ground with much of it still clinging to them as if the earthly particles are admonishing them -- "a little of me is going with you -- I have nurtured you and now it's your turn to go nurture another being." Come today and be nurtured with some wonderfully fresh and flavorful Red Norlands.
They are smaller than normal be we feel very fortunate to have any at all. Many organic farmers have lost their potatoes this year because of overwhelming weed pressure. We hand weeded ours and it has paid off. We also took advantage of the dry weather to plant the rest of the potatoes we have been holding in one of the walk-in coolers so hopefully we will have more in the future.
The lettuce also looks and tastes amazing. We have finally gotten all of our transplants and seeds in the ground, but as I said earlier, it will be a while before we will be harvesting.
It's going to be warm today. I encourage you to come early. Come celebrate not only the joy of harvest, but the joy of community and connection to the land that we all have, even if we aren't aware of it. It is deep within us all. It's part of being human. Let it out.
It is a bright, sunny and hot morning at the market. In fact it's so hot that my computer decided to have issues. Still not working well but did want to get something out to you quickly.
We have some lovely lettuce and kale today and Beth will have some flowers available too. The weather has put us about four to six weeks behind our normal schedule but this week sun and heat has given the ground a chance to start drying out and we got a lot of stuff planted that had been hanging around for some time.
So, hope to see you today.
We are looking forward to another great day at the market. Looks like the rain will hold off till this afternoon.
We have taken advantage of the last couple of dry days to get more planting and field prep done. Yesterday we covered an area with ten 100 ft beds with ground cover (also known as landscape fabric) to help us with weed control. We will burn holes where we want to plant. This was very labor intensive to set up but hopefully it will save us lots of time and labor in the future.
We are happy to have Jeremy back working with us on a full-time basis. He is taking a sabbatical from his restaurant job to get some fresh air and exercise. I did ask him for a suggestion for a recipe that combines snow peas, kale and June apples. He would char the snow peas in a heavy skillet, massage the kale leaves (brings out more sweetness and makes more tender) and cut up the apples to make a salad. The apples are pretty tart so you may want to make a sweet balsamic dressing to go on the salad.
We will have plenty of Kale, Snow Peas and June Apples today. I'm pretty sure that we are the only farm that offers local, organic apples. And we don't have them every year but we do this year. I hope we have some leftovers today because I think that salad idea sounds great.
Next week you will have an opportunity to meet Jeremy at the market from 9:00-noon. I'm calling it "Ask a Chef Saturday" so plan on stopping in next Saturday too.
Thank you for making it possible for us to continue to bring local, organic food to you each week. See ya soon!
May have a little rain today but it hopefully it won't discourage people from coming out and supporting their local farmers. Rain has been in the news quite a bit lately. I heard one young farmer interviewed on NPR who said she doubted they would get a crop in this year. She farms with her father in Arkansas and the the fields are not going to dry out enough for them to put in their corn and soybeans. Her father has farmed this land for fifty years.
The rain is keeping us from getting crops in too. You see the ground has to be dry enough to work with tillage tools. Then it must sit there for a few weeks for the soil biology to do its trick of breaking down the raw materials. Then it has to be dry enough to prepare a seed bed. Then it has to be dry enough to plant. This can easily put a farmer behind six to eight weeks. And, all this rain can have a negative effect on plants already in the ground as the ground becomes waterlogged and disease takes advantage of the wet conditions to attack the plants.
But, we work through this and eventually everything seems to work out . Usually. It's nice that we have crops we can grow in succession that don't have to have one window of opportunity like the commodity crops that Arkansas farmer grows.
We will probably have asparagus for the last time today. Also have some very nice lettuce. We are happy to have Jeremy back working for us. He started this week and got more accomplished in two days than I can in two weeks. It's nice to be young.
Please come see us today. We enjoy your company even if we don't have something that you need today.
Sorry for the late delivery but I had some computer issues this morning.
What a beautiful morning. Last week it was hot and humid and this week we have cool temps and low humidity. We had about two and a half inches of rain this week. It's nice to not have to irrigate, I just wish we could have a couple days of dry in between. Some awful weather west of the Mississippi has brought destruction from tornadoes and floods to a lot of farmland. I have read that many farmer's will not be able to recover from the flood damage and that their crop insurance will not pay for their losses.
Organic farmers have not had access to crop insurance until recently. And, it is limited in what it will cover -- mainly commodity row crops like corn and soybean. Vegetable farmers are a much more challenging group to cover as we do so most of our sales by direct markets such as Farmers Markets and CSA. There is no standard price for each variety of vegetable as you have with commodity crops where the market determines the price. We determine our price based on how much it costs to produce, profitability and what local market prices may be. Sometimes I will even check local groceries.
It would be nice to have some insurance right now. The weather has kept us from getting in the field and we have lost some transplants because we couldn't get them set. It would be nice to have insurance to cover that month of sales of tomatoes that we won't have because they are still sitting in trays.
The Amish don't carry insurance. If there is a disaster, the whole community jumps in to help out. Barn burns down. Raise a new one with materials and labor from the community. I think they call this self-insurance.
I guess that's what we have too. It may not pay for a new barn or a lost crop but it expresses itself every Saturday when you come out to the market to "insure" that we will be able to still be in business. You are a part of our community and without you there is no us. You get to hear about the successes and challenges on the farm. You know our story. Many of you have been with us for years. Others are new to the community but have joined right in with enthusiastic support.
Come out today and check out the lettuce and asparagus. Or, how about some fresh herbs to bring some wow to that dish you will cook tonight?
Thanks for insuring that your local organic farmers will still be around bringing you all the healthy, wholesome goodness you deserve in you food.
Again, we are having unseasonably warm temperatures. Not everyone is getting the same rain though. We have had quite a bit this week but some of the other farmers I was visiting with this week haven't gotten any.
Weather variables like this are one of the reasons we need many small, diversified farms to meet our local food needs. This is referred to as Food Security. When I first heard this term I thought it meant safe food, and yes, food safety is very important and part of Food Security, but this really refers to how secure is our food supply. What if I have a spell of really hot and rainy weather and it effects my crops? And what if everyone in my community was depending on me? By having many other small farms, it mitigates the risk for our community. Pretty important. Should be at the top of the list for everyone. As Wendell Berry said, "If you eat, you're involved in agriculture."
So fellow eaters -- welcome to my world. And yours. Earlier this year there was a recall of Romaine lettuce . It got so bad that people were encouraged to avoid purchasing ANY Romaine lettuce. It seems that most of the Romaine produced in our country comes from farms in Arizona that raise thousands of acres of lettuce. They had major problems with salmonella or e coli (can't remember which) and it infected their entire crop. Therefore, it was assumed there was no safe lettuce in the entire universe since it all comes from one place. This is Food Insecurity. That's another reason for buying local, organic food.
We have Romaine lettuce today and it is amazing in quality and taste. Red lettuce is also in abundance and we have more asparagus, but in limited quantity. I had to mow down all the Asparagus this week in order to give it a new start as it was being smothered out by grass. Not weeds, just beautiful, tall fescue, orchard grass and bluegrass. Would have made wonderful hay and I almost hated mowing it. But, it was winning the competition and needed to be stopped.
I encourage you to come early today. It's going to be very hot and humid.
See ya soon.
Last week we were unloading the truck and trailer wearing our winter coats. This morning it's short sleeves and short pants. It's amazing how quickly things can change. We got a good shower on Thursday night. High temps yesterday and today means the weeds are rejoicing. They got a good drink and now it's on to Hot Yoga for them. They are stretching upward.
Last week was asparagus festival for us. This week's bounty of asparagus is not as bountiful but it will be balanced by a few more things: Lettuce, Swiss Chard and Spinach.
Beth will also have a few Peony/Dutch Iris bouquets.
Also, don't forget the potted herbs and assorted wood products made by Beth's 87 year old father, Bill Newman, from re-purposed wood from the farm.
This Tuesday the polls will be open for you to voice your choice for those who will run for office in the fall. I remember an old saying when I was growing up about voting in Kentucky. "Vote early, vote often." Well, hopefully we won't have any voter fraud but it will be safe for you to "Come early, come often" to market today. You won't be charged with market fraud.
Yeah for democracy!
A new season is upon us and a new opportunity to support local, organic food is yours to seize.
The St. Matthew's Famers Market will begin tomorrow, Saturday, May 11 from 8:00 - noon at Beargrass Christian Church on the corner of Shelbyville Rd and Browns Lane.
The primary crop we will be offering tomorrow is local, certified organic asparagus. If your only experience with asparagus is the stuff in the grocery store, you are in for a BIG surprise. A very pleasant BIG surprise!
Compared to last year, this spring has been very satisfying. We are still getting a lot of rain but we have had some nice dry spells that have allowed us to get some stuff in the ground. And it's looking good.
If you would like to explore your own green thumb, pick up some fresh organic herb plants we will have ready tomorrow for sale.
And, of course, you will want to check out the new folk craftsmanship from the hands of Beth's eighty seven year old father, Bill Newman, as he repurposes wood from the farm into incredible wooden creations. Just make a trip to Berea sometime and compare the price and craftsmanship of the offerings there with what you can get in your own back yard here in Louisville. Don't miss out on these. Seize this opportunity while you can.
Looks like it will be a nice day. Beth and I will be ready for you at 8:00.
Come see us. It's been along time and we have missed you.
Today is the last day for the St. Matthew's Farmer's Market 2018. We appreciate Beargrass Christian Church for their commitment to providing a space for local food to be offered to this community. This is the the twelfth year for this market and we have been here from the very beginning. When this market opened in 2007, we had just received our Organic Certification. Prior to this we had been selling at the Shelbyville Farmer's Market. We started the three year transition to organic in 2004 and were so excited to be able to get into a Louisville market. At that time there weren't many markets and it was very competitive with a long waiting list to get in. Little did we know that the St. Matthew's market would become one of the largest and most successful in the state.
We have seen a lot of changes in the local, organic food "movement" through the years. In 2007 we were one of two certified organic vendors at St. Matthew's. Now there are seven. Back then if you wanted organic food you had to come to a farmer's market, join a CSA or find a specialty grocery like Whole Foods. Now you can find organic at Kroger, Costco and other large groceries.
This has caused some confusion for the consumer. Why buy from a local farmer if i can pick up organic produce at my convenience and often at a lower price at the nearest grocery. Well, the difference is that when you buy from a local organic farmer the produce will be fresher (produce in groceries has often been stored for long periods of time plus it spends several days being shipped from California or Mexico or wherever) and you will be supporting a local economy. This is a major part of food security. If we depend on produce from California, then what happens when a devastating wildfire destroys thousands of acres of crops? Or a hurricane in North Carolina floods fields of produce and drowns thousands (maybe millions) of animals used for food production?
If we don't support local farmers then we don't have any real food security. That extra effort it takes to seek out local organic food means that you and your family are will not be compromised when disaster strikes another part of the country that supplies our food.
We need more small farms. This is how we spread out the risk. If I have a crop failure (like we did this year for potatoes) then you can find another local farmer who did not. A lot of growers were hit with blight on tomatoes this year. We grew ours in our high tunnel and they were protected from water splashing up on the plants from too much rain. This is how we achieve food security and economic security. More small farms.
But, if we have more small farms then we must have more people that are willing to put in the effort to seek out local organic food. Now I'm preaching to the choir 'cause all of you all do put in the effort. The question is how do we continue to get the message out and involve more people? I'm not going to take time this morning to get into all of that but I would encourage you, as a consumer, to become a member of the Organic Association of Kentucky (OAK) and get involved in this great organization to spread the good news. Check them out at oak-ky.org.
I hope you will come out on this beautiful fall morning and drink in the miracle of a small tent city that appears for a few hours each Saturday. Feel the energy and community that transforms cold,hard asphalt into a bright and warm place for you to experience a living local economy. And the connections made between people. Farmer to customer. Customer to customer. Farmer to farmer. Connections that last. Connections that aren't made by clicking the Prime button on Amazon.
Some of us are going to try to continue these connections for a little while longer. Next Saturday a few of us will be moving down the street to the Fresh Thyme grocery on Shelbyville Rd. Less than a mile (east) of our St. Matthew's Market location. We will be setting up in their parking lot from 9:00-12:00. More on this next week.
Thank you for your support this year. We don't exist without your support. Nor do the other small farms. Spread the word.
Larry and Beth