Woodbridge Farm is Changing Hands

There’s a big change coming for the Grand Street CSA in 2012 that you should be aware of: our farmers for the past four years, Julia and David (and Heather), are moving on from Woodbridge Farm and handing the farm over to another couple.

It was a difficult year for Julia and David — he took a job in Delaware to help with the family finances, and she gave birth to their second son in March. The result, in Julia’s own words, was that she was “not able to fulfill my obligations on any level.” So she’s moving to join her husband and bring the family back together. She wrote to us earlier this month, saying, “while this was probably the most difficult decision a farmer can be asked to make, our departure from Woodbridge Farm should be for the good of both the farm and ourselves.”

(And Heather, it should be noted, who was managing the farm this year and delivering our shares every Tuesday, is also moving on — getting married, in fact.)

Woodbridge Farm will be handed over to Max and Kerry Taylor, experienced farmers from CSA farms in Massachusetts. Their expectation is to continue working the farm for our CSA, but before we make that commitment there are a few steps we need to take. First, Just Food will be talking to Max and Kerry to make sure they fit into the CSA in NYC program. Second, the core group from our CSA will meet with Max and Kerry to make sure that they are aware of the issues we have had the past two seasons, and to make sure we all get along. Third, we will want to schedule a meet-the-farmer earlier than usual to make sure our members are fully involved before making the decision to join again in 2012.

So there will be lots more details about all of this as we move forward, hopefully with a clear path set before the end of the year. In the meantime, we hope you’re keeping your CSA herbs watered and sunned, and we hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Oh, one more thing — if anyone is interested in joining the CORE GROUP, please write back and let us know. With these changes coming up, we would welcome some help keeping the CSA running.


Notes from Woodbridge, After Irene

I’m quoting in full from Woodbridge Farm’s Facebook page, because there have been a lot of questions about how they weathered last week’s storm:

Hope everyone has made it through last week’s storm okay… We are receiving emails and notes from fellow farmers who have lost almost everything, and the stories and pictures of the devastation to crops and livestock in some areas are shocking. We are thankful here that we sustained no serious damage, and that all animals and people are safe.

We have been out of power for almost a week, and are just getting back online. Luckily, here at the farm, we have a generator that enables us to keep our meat frozen and cheese properly stored so that a storm like this doesn’t take out an entire season’s worth of work. It does, of course, put a large and unexpected dent in our budget, but we are thankful that the year’s work of hay stacking, milking, pasture set-up, cheese making, and especially, the sacred lives of our valuable animals have not gone to waste.

Our entire farm staff has been working incredibly hard, coming to work for harvests, especially last Tuesday, from dark homes, without showers, flushing toilets, hot meals, or laundry. Despite living in powerless homes all week, our apprentices, harvest helpers, and staff have showed up every morning, still ready to go.

Here at the farm, most damage has been relatively minimal. We have many large trees down on the pastures, knocking down fences and making areas unsafe for cattle, but all of our animals survived unscathed, and buildings and infrastructure sustained relatively little damage. Despite being so close to local rivers and streams, we had no flood damage in the fields and most of our crops just looked a little wind-worn.

The crop sustaining the most damage in the field were the tomatoes, so expect that their season will be ending very soon. We were already seeing blight on the plants, although they looked as if some healthy new growth might have continued for a few more weeks. But the already weakened plants did not survive the harsh winds very well and seem to be loosing their steam.

Luckily, we also managed to get many other fruit crops out of the field in an early harvest to prevent more serious damage, including a great-looking winter squash crop. Judging by the looks of the winter squash field after the storm, we are lucky we did.

We were glad to hear that NYC also survived relatively unscathed, and hope the same is true for all of you.

Thanks for your patience and well-wishes as we weathered the power and internet loss and started to clean up the farm.

From Woodbridge: Share Discrepancies and First Fruits!

A nice, long answer from Heather::

Hi CSA Members!

It seems that there are some grumbles and frustrations going around about some of these delicious tempting first fruits only going full share members so I wanted to send out some communication to help the whole community understand what’s going on with this.

As a technical ‘half share’ member myself I can say that my eyes too have been longingly following the red globes gracing the baskets of full share members as they collect their vegetables here at the farm. That wonderful season of color and diversity and juicy fruit is almost upon us and we are all wishing we had more and more!

Right now, we are just starting to see fruit ripen on our zucchini plants in the field and on our tomatoes in the greenhouse. There are two reasons why there is not very much right now.

The first reason is that when the plants first start to develop, there is never much fruit. The first fruiting is oh-so-exciting, but is usually just 1-2 at at time from each plant. Once they get their juices flowing and the sun starts heating up, things start to progress much more rapidly and we hope to see much more ripening together at the same time. They’re just practicing right now, gearing up for the height of the season.

Secondly, we plant these things in succession. So only half of our zucchinis are actually producing ripe fruit now. The other half are flowering and tiny fruits are just starting to fill in. Also, some varieties come in faster than others. So of the half that are actually producing ripe fruit, two of those varieties (out of six) are still not quite there yet. Soon they will catch up, and by the time they do, the other half of plants will be fruiting as well. This is when we start to have enough for everyone to have some (and hopefully plenty!).

Similarly, we are just getting tomatoes now from the greenhouse. We have about 200 plants in there now that are producing fruit, while we have over 500 tomato plants in the field. These too are beginning to flower, and shape fruit, but it hasn’t quite ripened yet. Once we are able to harvest from these plants (over 12 varieties all together!) the harvest will be much more substantial.

When we just have a very little amount, like the last two weeks, there is sometimes not even enough to give one tomato or zucchini to each half share, especially since there are so many more half shares than full. We have also heard from you in the past that 1 tomato or 1 zucchini is not too helpful in making a meal. So we’re trying to give what we do have to the CSA somehow, and right now that means just sending to full shares. We always try to make up for that extra vegetable by sending an even amount of something else (note that this week for example everyone got the same amount of lettuce…. last week, peas).

I know it hurts! I am jealous of those full shares too! But please be patient, as we are working with the inflexible mysteries of nature and they are just gearing up to give us all some love.


News from Woodbridge, Week 7

Woodbridge Farm is expecting to send us:

Lettuce (or possibly salad greens)
Swiss Chard
Fresh Garlic
Herbs (dill or basil)
and probably some extras for full shares from our fruiting crops that are just starting to produce: zucchinis or tomatoes.
Don’t worry, there will be much fruit to come for all shares soon, farm blessings willing!

Heather notes on Facebook that the tomatoes are from the greenhouse, just a small prelude to what should be coming later this month from the field. She also writes about the nutrient density course that she and Julia have been following this summer and what that means for our kale, and about the importance of a living soil cover, like rye and clover, in keeping the crops healthy.

Notes from Woodbridge: Fruits and Flowers

Farmer Heather writes on Woodbridge Farm’s Facebook page:

Our fields are now full of bright flowers: the snowy white dusting of pea flowers, tiny yellow stars on dark green tomato vines, and brilliant splaying orange on the zucchini and summer squash. The sunset-orange-colored zucchini blossoms are bigger than my hand!

And flowers… mean fruit! We have an abundant crop of peas flowing in, tomatoes and peppers just beginning to form, and zucchinis stretching out from the base of those fantastic blossoms.

Today’s shares should include:

salad greens
swiss chard

and possibly:
garlic scapes
salad turnips

There’s also a scary story about a pesky groundhog.

See you later!

Week 4: Notes from Woodbridge Farm

Here’s what Woodbridge Farm’s Facebook page tells us today:

Shares this week will include:
salad greens
garlic scapes
napa cabbage
sugar snap peas
and herbs (dill and oregano most likely)

There was a request to share more about what varieties we grow of different crops, what you’re looking at in your shares. Since there is sometimes a mix, we’ll just share some information here you can maybe match to what you’re seeing at home!

The peas are sugar snap peas, they can be eaten raw or cooked in a stir fry, they are sweet and juicy.

Salad greens are a mix of a dozen or so lettuce and mustard green varieties, including things like romaine, red leaf lettuce, kale, tatsoi, mizuna, and many others.

We grow German White and German Red garlic, so that’s where our scapes are coming from.

We’ll have napa cabbage this week from two different varieties (though they are quite similar): Rubicon and Bilko, the Bilko is a slightly darker green, while the Rubicon is supposed to have a slightly sharper tang. Napa cabbage is what is traditionally used to make kimchi, and will store just above freezing with high humidity for a month or two.

Find out more about lettuce varieties on Facebook.

News from Woodbridge Farm

Everyone came together this weekend to put all of our tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, summer squash, cucumbers, winter squash, and basil into the ground! We had several volunteers, and everyone had an important piece of the puzzle! Making deep holes over and over again crouched down with a trowel or planting cosmos and zinnias to mark the borders of each different variety of crops. Someone was pounding 8 foot stakes into the ground to support the trellising (not an easy task for some shorties like us! but we’re ambitious about how big those crops will be this year!) and others following a dirt-smudged map to sort our 19 different varieties of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant into their places. We trellised tomatoes, laid big black blankets of tarping down for winter squash, watered watered watered, breathed in the sweet summer smell of basil in our hands, and tenderly untangled eager cucumbers from each other as we put them in the ground. We are ready for summer!!

Read more on Woodbridge Farm’s Facebook Notes.

Notes from Woodbridge Farm

We have germination!

This week we have onions, scallions, and tomatoes sprouting up in the greenhouse! It feels like the season has really begun now, even if the work has never stopped. Walking down the hill at midday when the door to the greenhouse is open, you can see this glimmer of green across the table tops! The onions were the first to come up and are finally popping straight up. We had some worries over the weekend as the onions began showing signs of dampening-off disease, a mold that can grow and suffocate the new plants when there is too much moisture and not enough sunny days to air out the soil. Since we had so much rain and clouds over the weekend, the first hints of that white fuzz began to appear. But with the sun these last few days, they have dried up and are doing great.

Read more on Woodbridge Farm’s Facebook Notes.

(And if you’re into it, friend them … and friend us too.)

Winter Greetings from Woodbridge Farm

We got this email from Woodbridge Farm and wanted to make sure we passed it along:

Dear CSA Members,

We hope you all enjoyed a happy holiday season.

We are writing to you this winter full of appreciation for your loyalty and support during the past season, filled with immense challenges and sparse yields.

As you can imagine, we are in the middle of an exciting planning season, inspired, as always, by experience and new books. Given the experience of last summer, we have been working out major adjustments for the upcoming season, starting already late last summer. We are confident that we have developed solid solutions to prevent major issues such as the water shortage from happening again. We are going to go into more detail below on how we are going to grow our vegetables this coming season, and what decisions we have made to secure the quality and quantity of delicious, farm fresh, organic produce.

In this newsletter, we are going to give you a general update of what is happening at Woodbridge Farm, then recap the challenges we found ourselves confronted with in the 2010 growing season. And finally, we will go into the details of the upcoming season: how we are going to grow our vegetables and which crops you can expect in 2011.

What is new at Woodbridge Farm?

As we are entering our 6th year here at Woodbridge Farm, there are a lot of exciting changes happening. I am expecting to give birth to our family’s 2nd child in early March. We are excited to have brought on board Heather DeWolf as our new field manager.

After helping to get this farm on its feet for the past five years, David now left his job as one of Woodbridge Farm’s managers to further his career in the banking world and to provide more financial security to our growing family.

In our annual meeting with the owners and directors of Woodbridge Farm – Anne Bingham and her family – we decided that it will make most sense for the next few years to focus our efforts on our two most financially and farm-systemically relevant operations: the vegetable production and the dairy and cheese production. This will mean that we won’t raise any chickens or pigs in 2011. We apologize to the pork and egg lovers, but it makes a lot of sense financially as well as labor-wise, especially this year with a newborn and the need to restructure all the work that David used to do.

Review of the 2010 Growing Season

While agriculture is always hard work and always a confrontation with unexpected challenges, such as floods or droughts, pests and broken equipment, the past year brought us an extraordinary accumulation of such. Because Southeastern Connecticut experienced an unusually dry year with minimal rainfall, there was hardly sufficient water to keep the grass on our pastures alive, and our irrigation pond at the Gadbois Field dried up. At the same time, we had problems with our overhead irrigation system (a traveling sprinkler system design to roll itself up – but failed to do so) in our Bailey Field location and had thus moved most summer crops to the Gadbois location. Now we had two fields with minimal water supply. In addition to this we encountered a severe crab grass infestation at Gadbois Field, which was swallowing our crops alive until we finally got financing for the appropriate piece of equipment to take care of it. Growing intensive crops in two different locations added logistical problems and transportation challenges.

Adding to all of this, we were lacking a strong work force. We found ourselves with a group of apprentices with very questionable motives to farm and even less motivation to learn how to perform tasks efficiently. One aspect of large scale vegetable production is that timing is absolutely crucial –in other words if you don’t get a bed of carrots hoed today, next week it will take you at least twice as long, and meanwhile the carrots will not be able to grow.

Everybody who was a member of our farm last year knows all too well what the consequences of all this were: very low yields, small, often misshaped vegetables, as well as off-flavors in some crops.

The 2011 Vegetable CSA

So, we are off into a new season, and I can say that we are truly optimistic, excited and confident.

We have learned a lot of lessons from the past season, and have been able to make clear decisions that will help us prevent similar scenarios in the future and continuously improve both yield and quality.

As the whole farm centralizes our production, we are also embracing a more focused vegetable growing operation. We have come to believe that a more consolidated field plan will allow us to focus intently on plant care and maintenance, producing higher quality, more abundant vegetables, rather than spreading our operation out where it is harder to provide needed attention. So first of all, we are moving all of our vegetable production back to the Bailey Fields. This will allow us to utilize a deep and secure well, which is deep enough to be unaffected by seasonal climate changes. This decision will also alleviate the need to travel back and forth to a far away field.

We are going to focus on the staple crops and slightly reduce the variety we offer . The crops that we are discontinuing either yield unsubstantial amounts (hot peppers, shallots, edible flowers), or are extremely costly and labor-intensive to grow (celery) or to harvest (beans). We hope that eliminating these crops will allow us to grow more delicious favorite staples in greater abundance. Please see below for a complete list of crops offered in 2011.

We are going to use an integrated system of drip irrigation and plastic mulch with grass strips in between the beds. This system will allow us to:

  • supply adequate water at all times, without wasting water lost through evaporation, common in overhead irrigation systems
  • mulch instead of continuously hoeing or tractor cultivating the soil. This will leave the soil life undisturbed and highly functional
  • use grass strips in between the beds to allow for a permanent vegetative cover, which builds soil rather than allowing for erosion
  • reduce the use of tractors and thus the use of diesel fuel
  • use different colors of mulching material. Black plastic  adds heat to the soil and thus benefits heat loving crops, while white plastic can be used in summer lettuce production to keep the soil cool.

And last but not least, we are implementing the Nutrient Density approach to growing organic produce, in addition to our organic and biodynamic certification. There is a wonderful website featuring great short educational videos highlighting some key aspects of this scientifically thorough, inspiring, and supportive approach to farming (www.realfoodcampaign.org). Visit the website to see for yourselves how excited we are by this philosophy to produce the best produce for both taste and nutrition, support the natural life cycle of plants to give farmers less disease and pest problems, and conserve the earth’s precious resources of vital and alive soil.

The goal of the Nutrient Density approach is to ensure the highest quality of organically produced crops that are loaded with nutrients, and to provide the consumer with tools to verify the presence of those nutrients themselves.

At the same time, by addressing underlying nutrient deficiencies, particularly of micro nutrients such as zinc, copper or manganese, the health of the plant will improve and allow resistance to diseases and pests, producing more fruit for a longer period of time.

Thus we will be able to ensure adequate quantity of vegetables to our CSA members while simultaneously and continuously improving the quality, taste and appearance of the produce. In particular, we are hoping to successfully resolve the issues that we have encountered in the past by producing:

  • properly shaped cucumbers
  • larger broccoli heads
  • larger peppers and eggplants
  • higher yields of all fruiting crops
  • better tasting radishes, turnips and summer salad greens.

This is an exciting season for us, loaded with new inspiration and supported by excellent consultation from Dan Kittredge and the Real Food Campaign.

Finally, we are striving this season to develop and sustain closer connections to you, our CSA members. In order to foster a more intimate understanding of the farm that feeds you, we will be writing weekly updates throughout the season. We hope to share events and news from the farm, as well as information about that week’s harvest. During more relaxed times in the season, we hope to share more detailed stories and discussions, while the super busy summer months might just provide a quick hello! Look for this update on our Facebook page: facebook.com/woodbridgefarm. Feel free to send us questions and comments!

Crops, we are growing in 2011:

Basil, beets, boc choy, broccoli, cabbage, carrots,  chinese cabbage (napa), cucumbers, dill, eggplant, garlic, kale, leeks, lettuce heads, onions, parsley, parsnips,  peas, peppers (sweet/bell), potatoes, radishes, salad greens, scallions, swiss chard, tomatoes, turnips, winter squash, zucchini.

Have a wonderful, cozy winter!

Julia and Heather
Your farmers at Woodbridge Farm

“Know Your Food!”
Julia and David Smagorinsky
Woodbridge Farm LLC
30 Woodbridge Road
Salem, CT 06420
phone: (860) 531-8090
e-mail: woodbridgefarm@sbcglobal.net