Homegrown News Blog
In early May we received a visit from Lindsay Sabadosa a progressive Democrat running for Massachusetts State Representative. Not only is Lindsay running for office, she is a hardworking mom and a Western Massachusetts Native.
She toured our farm and wanted to know what was important to me as a farmer and being a young business person in my district. I can talk farming all day and Lindsay was genuinely interested.
She was thrilled about what I was doing right now and my plans for the years to come. She was also excited by the trend of young people getting into agriculture and becoming farmers.
We walked and talked and she took quite a few photos. She and her team posted to Instagram later in the day and it was awesome seeing our humble little farm talked about with such inspiration and hope!
A big thank you to Lindsay and her team for giving me the opportunity to talk about my business and giving me a voice!
You can learn more about Lindsay's campaign at www.lindsaysabadosa.com! #TeamSabadosa #SabadosaMA
Well the 2018 season sure caught up with us! If you recall, we were just finishing the doors, got the cover crop in, and waited for some growth until we planted the heirloom tomatoes.
As you can see below the Bardwell Farm Crew prepared the high tunnel to plant rows of tomatoes. We started by tilling the soil and incorporating the essential amendments needed. Next, we measured out each row for the different tomato varieties. We only made five rows because these plants get massive.
We planted each plant roughly 3' apart and 6' between rows to give adequate spacing. Lastly, we watered the plants heavily before and after they were planted and added a beneficial compost to get them moving along.
We gave the tomatoes a few weeks to get use to their new growing habitat. This meant monitoring them for water, disease, and heat stress. The tunnel can get up in the 90's easily on a sunny day.
After the plants were established we added drip irrigation to keep them from getting thirsty in an environment where it doesn't rain unless we let it.
We also added a trellis system where we use twine in a "v" shape on poles that lay above the tomatoes, and stapled at the bottom of each plant. This supports the plants as they climb to the ceiling.
Next, we clipped these fast growing plants to the twine so they would stay up-right and not hang to the ground. We used biodegradable tomato clips specially designed to hold the tomato stock and not suffocate them once they are big. We clipped the two main leaders to the two pieces of twine going up to the ceiling. They will continue to be clipped as the continue to grow.
Plants are at a month of growth in the photos below.
While the plants are growing up, up and away, we prune the suckers and branches that will take away from the growth of fruit and the structure of the plant. This is done every few weeks to keep the tunnel from looking like a jungle, increasing air flow and decreasing the chance for disease.
After months of prep, constant monitoring and a few learning curves, we finally saw some beautiful fruit forming and turning color. From this point on it was harvest, harvest, harvest!
From July through late October we were able to stock beautiful and tasty fruit at our farmstand sourced directly from our high tunnel. We harvested over 2500 pounds of heirloom tomatoes in a space of 2160 square feet and we are very satisfied with the results.
Below is just some of the beautiful fruit we harvested!
It all finally came to the end in October where it was just getting too cold for adequate protection in the tunnel, so it was time to remove these monstrous plants.
We started by cutting the stems at the base and letting them dry/freeze with the weather for a few days to decrease the weight. Next, we removed the tomato clips and twine and let the plants fall to the ground.
It was a sight to see as the sun set and the high tunnel was empty again. It signaled the next steps. Cover cropping, liming and letting it grow over the winter.
Below you can see me rototilling the soil in preparation of adding the seed and amendments into the ground.
The first season really was a success and we learned so much along the way. Stay tuned next year as we begin to build High Tunnel 2!
Thanks for reading :)
Western Massachusetts News Meteorologist Jacob Wycoff's series 10 Towns in 10 Days rolled through Hatfield on April 12th and we were lucky enough to be interviewed!
The 10 Towns in 10 Days series highlights a different town each night, showcasing just some of what the area has to offer. Pioneer Valley Indoor Karting, Black Birch Wines, Good Stock Farm and our farm were mentioned.
Thanks again to Jacob and the crew, you did Hatfield proud!
10 Towns in 10 Days: Hatfield
HATFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM)
May 2, 2018 | Jacob Wycoff, Meteorologist & Erin Fitzsimonds
Take a short spin off of I-91 in Hatfield, and you'll find Pioneer Valley Indoor Karting.
For the last five-and-a-half years, tens of thousands of people have zoomed around the track in their not-so typical go-karts.
"On the inside track, they're capable of 40mph. once we go outside, it'll probably be near 50," said Ryan Bouvier, the Owner of Pioneer Valley Indoor Karting.
If you're looking to slow down a bit, head to Black Birch Vineyards.
Co-Owner Michelle Kersbergen said while they continue to work on their grape harvest, the winery looks local when it comes to finding grapes.
"All the grapes that we've sourced in the past and in the future will be from our own vineyard," said Kersbergen.
You can enjoy some of their collection in their beautiful tasting room, and while the wine list may be growing, Hatfield seems to remain the same.
Some farming roots in Hatfield are deeper than others. Harrison Bardwell of Bardwell Farm said his family has been tending to the land since the 1680's through nine generations.
"Farming can connect you to the Earth and nature. Being able to grow food on the land we have been provided to us is really some meaningful."
Bardwell said the town of Hatfield recognizes his hard work.
"They praise the local vegetables, how good they taste, how nutritious they are. It brings a smile to my face to know that I can support people," Bardwell continued.
His farm also sells and donates some of his crop to places like the Food Bank of western Massachusetts. The food bank serves as the central hub for local food pantries and soup kitchens.
"There are 223,000 people that rely on the food that we distribute from our warehouse," said Chris Wocjick with the Food Bank of western Massachusetts.
Monetary donations are hugely important to the food bank.
"Every dollar that is provided to the food bank, we're able to provide three meals to a neighbor in need," Wocjick added.
For all of the food bank does for people, Western Mass News wanted to help so a $500 check on the behalf of Diamond RV, Big Y and Western Mass News.
Tune in at 12:30 p.m. on Better Western Mass on Thursday to find out what town Jacob is headed to next.
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