Homegrown News Blog
What is a germination chamber?
It's basically a miniature climate controlled greenhouse. Its job is to germinate seeds.
We use a crockpot filled with water to generate heat and humidity. This gives us uniform germination over the trays and speeds up the time for most crops. This is because it is always at 80 degrees to create that perfect growing environment.
The chamber does not need light because the seedlings are only looking for heat and moisture to start. It is very important though to make sure you pull the seedlings out as soon as they have popped through the soil. At this time, without light, they would die.
This is the process of how we went about building this mini wonder...
The experiment worked!
The chamber heated up just as planned. We seeded cucumber seeds in a tray and added them to the chamber. We had germination within 3 days! It really sped up the process along with creating a uniform germination across the trays.
This is a great tool to use all season long because it will hold the desired temperature you need. For instance if it's 100 degrees in August and you're trying to germinate lettuce, you can place trays in the chamber and let them go. And, most likely, you'll have 100% germination every time.
We'll keep you informed throughout the season as we use this new piece of equipment. Give it a try, we think you'll love it!
Earlier this month I was asked by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) to join a panel of three farmers to help with a New Beginner Farmers Class they offer.
After a brief introduction by each student the panel shared what it was like to start, maintain, and generally own a farm still being beginning farmers ourselves. We talked with students about the struggles we face day to day, the hard work that goes into the operation and the positive aspects that make us wake up and go after it for another day! This was really exciting for me because I was able to share my story with people a little less than twice my age. I was able to inspire others and left that night feeling as I did good for others! As many of you know I love talking farming and it was right up my alley!
The conversation was really engaging. There were so many great questions about how to financially and economically run an agricultural business, how to sell and advertise to a saturated market, how to balance personal relationships, and so many more.
I was proud to share my passion and love of farming with all of them. I was sincere in saying farming is a lifestyle and an industry built on hope. That it is more about the ride than making a million dollars. To expect mistakes and work through them. To have an open mind and learn something new every day.
If there were five things I would want the students to remember...
I want to thank MDAR and the students for this opportunity. Thank you for listening to my story. Knowing programs like this one exist brings hope and promise to our profession of farming!
Last week I was welcomed by Smith Academy to participate in their Agricultural Career Day presented by the Szawlowski Farms Agricultural Foundation.
This day was to educate and expose students to the importance of Agriculture and the local food movement in the Pioneer Valley.
I sat amongst a group of ten panelists who are all involved in one of the many branches of agriculture. It focused on two very important aspects. One, how important local food is to our community and economy. Second, all of the people that are involved in making local food possible.
Whether it's the farmer growing the food, the banker who provides a loan for farm equipment, the trucker who distributes food or a food bank that feeds people that are less fortunate, each and every one is important to agriculture.
Bob Wagner represented the Agricultural Commission of Hatfield. Having a background with the political side of farming he shared how important it is to be involved with legislature, the bills being presented, and how it can effect the industry.
Lisa Limont and her colleague Amber Letourneau were representing the Food Bank of Western Mass. The Food Bank helps feed communities and people that cannot afford to purchase food. Lisa is a coordinator and helps source local foods to feed people. They work with local farmers during each season to source food that the farm cannot market. They also work with businesses to arrange donations of canned goods. Amber Letourneau is a nutritional specialist that works with people who lack the experience in how to cook healthy meals. She works directly with communities to provide a base foundation for people to properly cook nutritious food for their families.
Gina Gallagher from Farm Credit East was there to share the financial role in agriculture. She explained that Farm Credit East works with farmers to develop profitable business plans, marketing tactics and loans to help agricultural businesses succeed.
Carl Loomis, from Swazlowski Farm, represented a trucker who has the important roll of moving produce and goods across the country to supply the needs of the food industry.
Big Y Produce Sales Manager Sean Stolarki works with local farms in the area to source local foods to stock the chain of stores and feed the communities around them. He does his best to bring in local foods being produced in the valley to give their customers the same feel and quality of what it means to be "local".
George Semanie from C&S Wholesale in Hatfield's job is similar to Seans where he is the manager dealing with the buying and selling of products coming into their facility. He helps supply local grocery stores all throughout the Pioneer Valley to meet high demands within the industry.
Kevin Rodak from Helena Chemical in Hatfield is a sales representative that deals with farmers to help better their growing operations and create a more profitable crop. He works closely with farmers to help with control of weeds, insect and disease pressure, as well as help feed crops being grown.
Melanie and Diane were there representing Swazlowski Farm and everything that goes into bringing an agricultural product to market. From farming the fields to marketing a product, to distribution and performing important office tasks, it's no wonder they sell two hundred million servings of potatoes each year!
I represented the farmer. I talked about the process of growing food, the steps of planting and maintaining a crop, and how we market and sell our produce to the community. It was exciting to be able to see the students react to agricultural related topics and see their interest!
I want to thank the Swazlowski Farms Agricultural Foundation for inviting me to speak, to share my passion and why I think agriculture is so important to our community.
I would also like to thank Smith Academy for hosting this event and giving students the opportunity to listen to all of the good things agriculture has to offer!
Lastly, thank you to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts for the certificate presented to me. I'm honored to serve our community.
Last Friday Senator Jo Comerford stopped by the farm to talk about agriculture. She was excited to learn how Bardwell Farm came to be and was really blown away to hear we were established in 1685.
Jo listened to my story and asked, ”Why farming?”
I told her it’s in my blood and I go crazy if I’m not playing in the soil in some sort of way. I explained our long family history from being passed on from generation to generation, to it finally falling into my hands; where I transformed it into my own business. I explained to her I’m slowly building this farm to make a bigger impact on the local community and the earth combined.
Jo also came with news herself. She wanted to share information about the new bills she had passed and ones she is working on for the farming community.
One that interested me a bunch was legislation she filed to incentivize low-til/no-til practices for healthy soil and carbon sequestration. This bill falls directly in line with our changeover to a no-til system we actually implemented last year, really exciting!
Jo also talked about a bill that would tax non-contiguous farm land at the same rates to stop penalizing farmers from farming on small plots of non-connected land.
It was a productive meeting and she said she would be back to tour again as soon as things started to green up a bit and the farm is in full operation.
Many thanks to Senator Comerford and her team, I really enjoyed our visit. We can't wait to have you back and try some of our fresh veggies!
We were recently interviewed about the government shutdown and how it's impacting our farm. Change doesn't come by looking the other way. We are all in the same boat and need to be heard. Be a voice.
Many thanks to Caroline Powers and Western Mass News for the opportunity.
Local farmers feeling the impact of partial government shutdown
WGGB/WSHM Ryan Trowbridge & Caroline Powers
HATFIELD, MA - Monday marks day 24 of the government shutdown.
800,000 federal workers continue to go without pay and with major departments being closed, the people they help are also left in the dark, creating a bigger impact.
One group that people might not realize rely heavily on federal dollars are local farmers.
A Hatfield farmer told us they are really feeling the effects of the shutdown.
For the past eight years, Harrison Bardwell has continued his family's long history of farming.
"This farm was actually established in 1685. Yes, you heard me, 1685. I'm ninth generation farmer, eleventh generation Bardwell in this town. We go back quite a way," Bardwell noted.
The farm has 15 acres full of carrots, tomatoes, peppers, and other vegetables.
"We've been farming this land for hundreds of years and it's pretty cool to think about and I continue to keep it going, so I look forward to it," Bardwell explained.
However, right now, Bardwell is facing multiple obstacles as he tries to continue his family's legacy.
"We're dealing with situations with money issues. This past season was pretty tough crop wise with the rain and excessive heat. We experienced a lot of crop loss, lower yields," Bardwell noted.
While crop loss is a concern, Bardwell told Western Mass News it's something farmers are used to dealing with. He can usually make up for it with crop insurance from the USDA, but right now, that's on-hold as the government shutdown continues.
"All the work I had to do is in and now I'm sitting here and waiting not knowing when I'm going to get a check or how much that check is going to be. I have a grant out for harvest bins and I can't talk to my rep that's dealing with it. I can't go to the USDA office in Hadley right now or call them if I have questions regarding my insurance or my loan that I have out with them. It's nerve racking to not know when we're going to get answers or when we're going to get paid and for farming, we don't get a check every day," Bardwell explained.
Bardwell said their 2019 season will start in about two to three months. He's taking a closer look at his budget and expenses to see what he'll be able to do as the shutdown continues.
You hear it all of the time, "know your food, know your farmer", but now more than ever we have to take these words more seriously. A CSA is the perfect way to make those words a reality!
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a way to bring together the consumer, farmers, farmland and the food they grow into a mutually beneficial relationship that sustains local agriculture, ensures greater food security, and strengthens the local community and economy.
In this blog we will explain to you what a CSA actually is, how it works and how it may benefit you!
HOW DOES A CSA WORK?
A CSA is a model where you purchase a seasonal farm share up front at the start of the season from a local farm. This means you are "investing" in the farm for that season and in return you are taking the reward and risk of the bounty the growing season offers. For example, if a crop is doing very well you will get your appropriate share and maybe more. On the other hand if crops are doing poor due to weather, or other natural issues you may take a risk in not receiving much during a particular week.
To give you an idea of how a CSA share may run here is an example how a few farms in the area structure theirs.
This season Bardwell Farm will offer a "choice share" to CSA members. Members will pick up their share by choosing from a variety of products available and quantities designated by our farm through the season.
Keep reading to see how a CSA benefits you and your local farm!
6 CSA BENEFITS FOR YOU & THE FARMER
WHY IS CSA SO IMPORTANT?
Community Supported Agriculture is the stepping stone to sustainability. It helps you, your local farm, the people who grow your food, the local community, our environment and the Earth.
Please join us in our new adventure! We look forward to building new relationships and strengthening old ones.
Are you excited about joining our CSA? Click here for more information and see our brand new signup page!
Despite the rain-rain-rain and struggles we had this past summer, we had a ton of fun this year too. Grab a cup of coffee and relive some of the best moments with us from Season 2018!
April was the start to most of our farming fun. From seeding in the greenhouse to burning off the asparagus field.
In May we were expanding our wholesale offerings and harvesting early season crops. We planted our hearts away almost every day.
Thank you Sue from The Laughing Tomato for kicking off our wholesale season for 2018!
By June Trevor was had already done "The Goblin" pose so many times we had lost track but we all knew it wasn't over with!
We kept a close eye on our long season crops and started to get into the yummy summer squash and greens.
A huge shout-out to Smiarowski's for supplying the yummy strawberries throughout the month!
July was an exciting month, the Triple Sweet Corn was in, along with several varieties of Heirloom Tomatoes. The new planter arrived as well! I still need some practice with it, but I am pretty sure Season 2019 will take care of that :)
Being the rainiest month of the summer thus far we still kept smiles on our faces and kept the produce cranking out! We performed new experiments and learned new things day after day.
Thank you to Clarkdale Fruit Farm for supplying us with the freshest fruits into late summer and fall!
Into September we were blessed with an earlier fall than expected. Much of the autumn crop was in and we had all the feels! You can thank the extreme weather for that but it was sure nice to see!
October was our last busy month, the stand was stocked to the brim, the Hatfield Elementary School kids had a blast exploring the farm, and yes Trevor was still doing "The Goblin" pose LOL!
We wrapped up the season with planting the new varieties of garlic and cleaning-up the high tunnel. A bittersweet month, but it was nice to have a little break.
It's fun to reminisce about the good times we had all season, but at the same time I'd like to take a minute to thank all the people that made those good times possible.
For starters, thank you to my family for supporting another busy season, and helping me in so many ways. I can't begin to thank you enough. I also would like to thank Rick, Kaitlyn, Trevor, Spencer, Navi, Brandon, Jonathan, and Cam for all the long hours and time they put-in this season to keep the farm running smoothly. I couldn't have done it without all of you there to lend a hand.
Thank you to all the farmers who took time out of their days to share their experience, let us borrow their equipment and have good laugh. I couldn't do what I do without the people that love farming just as much as me!
A big thanks to everyone. The advice, community and family all of you bring. It really means a lot.
Lastly I'd like to thank YOU, my awesome customers, for supporting our local farm. We wouldn't be here without you. Thank you all for another wonderful season, we can't thank you enough for the support you give us!
From all of us at Bardwell Farm, Happy New Year!
It’s middle November here at Bardwell Farm, the fields have been put to bed, equipment washed and stored in the barns, and the farmstand has been officially rolled away to complete another season.
It’s a bittersweet time of the year for us. We’re sad that the season is over but excited and hopeful for a new one to come. It’s also a time that we reflect on the season and think of all the things we are thankful for.
We are so thankful for the Earth, providing us with healthy soils and beautiful farm land to grow our crops on. As many of you know the 2018 season was a struggle in many ways. It was difficult to grow and maintain our mainstay crops. Many times we were at the mercy of Mother Nature, fighting the persistent heat and humidity, the deluge of rain and the stubborn cold. We did our best to bring you the best quality product the land and elements had to offer. With the help of family and friends (and a little luck too) we persevered.
As Bardwell Farm approaches its sixth season we are “Farm to Table” committed by offering several ways to access our fresh veggies. Whether it’s through our farmstand, a CSA Farm Share, or our trusted delivery system, it’s our promise to support our local community!
I personally would like to take a moment to thank all our valued customers who have come back year after year, and to those that took a chance on a new farm they were not familiar with. Thank you for giving our fruits and vegetables a try. This farm would not be here without the support we receive from you each year and for that we are extremely thankful.
Even though we are closed for the season, stay up to date by visiting our blog and social media. Exciting things will be happening in Season 2019!
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, we will see you soon!
Owner Harrison Bardwell
From the UMass Extension:
November 15, 2018
High tunnels have been planted and greens are up, while in the field, roots are being dug. Fields are being put to bed and equipment stored away ahead of today’s predicted snow. November is a time when we can look back and reflect upon the growing season, so we chose to share a reflection from one of you. We heard from many of you that this year was the most challenging yet because of the weather. Why? Here is a synopsis from farmer Harrison Bardwell in Hatfield, MA.
Garlic is an herb in the allium family, such as leeks and onions and it originates from the region of Siberia. Some say it has traveled across the world over 5000 years ago and is used for many culinary and medicinal purposes. Garlic has been cultivated for so many years that we have taken its ability to make seed. So we now propagate the cloves as seed to produce new cloves every year, just like the potato.
There are two types of garlic that is grown, hard-neck and soft neck garlic varieties.
Hardneck (or topset) garlic produces false flower stalks called scapes, which are edible and you can find them on our farm stand in June. Hardneck typically has a half dozen cloves per bulb. Many farmers prefer hard-neck for its flavor and appearance. These varieties if stored properly can keep up to 6 months.
Softneck garlic, which has more than twice as many cloves, generally has a longer storage life than hardneck and is easier to braid. These are typically a nice white color vs. the hard-neck which usually has a red/purple tint to their wrappers.
On our farm we grow hard-neck varieties. Now you thought two different types of garlic was interesting, I'm going to delve farther into the story. Hard- neck varieties can be categorized into two different groups: Porcelain, Rocambole, and Purple Stripe.
This variety has a rich, full-bodied taste. It peels easily and typically has just one set of cloves around the woody stalk. It keeps for up to six months.
Porcelain garlic is similar to Rocambole in flavor and typically contains about four large cloves wrapped in a very smooth, white, papery sheath. People often mistake porcelain garlic for elephant garlic because its cloves are so large. Porcelain garlic stores well for about eight months.
This hardneck variety is famous for making the best baked garlic. There are several types of purple stripe, all with distinctive bright purple streaks on their papery sheaths. Purple stripe garlic keeps for about six months.
We decided to try out four different varieties of garlic this season to share with you next summer!
First off, German White, a porcelain hardneck garlic that containing up to 6 big, easy-to-peel cloves. A beautiful garlic with creamy-white outer bulb wrappers, and often purple striped inner wrappers, that tend to be thick, parchment-like, and tightly cover the cloves. It is richly flavored with a distinctive, moderately spicy taste. Plump cloves make it a great roasting variety.
Next, Russian Red, a member of the Rocambole family, Russian Red offers a strong garlic flavor. When it is eaten raw it can be described as being "hot". The clove wrappers are brown and purple and the bulb wrappers are purple.
Music is a hardneck garlic, generally regarded as the most prized porcelain type. It produces very large bulbs; the white wrappers have some pink tint and purple striping.
Lastly, Spanish Red is a generally a vigorous grower with large foliage that is dark green and results in a pretty good sized bulb. Being a Rocambole garlic, its flavor is very strong, hot and spicy and sticks around for a long time. It seems to have an especially rich taste.
Now lets talk planting. It all starts with the very bulbs we consume for our cooking needs. The nicest, biggest, strongest bulbs typically get chosen for seed garlic. Weird huh? But yes, these will produce you nicest cloves when we harvest!
We start by breaking the bulbs apart into individual cloves like you would to cook with but we are saving to plant into the ground. We don't want to let them sit like this for very long because they can dry out and not germinate once planted. So yes, we break hundreds of bulbs apart to get the cloves!
Lets take a quick peek at the field prep of garlic. There are many ways to plant and every year we try something a little different to see the best result.
Garlic is traditionally grown on bare ground at 6" in row and 18-24" between rows. Our first year we did these cultural practices. Last season we tired bare ground raised beds. This season we are trying raised beds on silver plastic mulch.
We first prep the field with the amendments we need for the garlic growth and incorporate this. Next, we laid silver plastic with our bed shaper, this made a raised bed of plastic mulch. We decided to use silver plastic mulch for a few reasons:
Next, we use our transplanter and set it up to plant three rows per bed at 6" in row. This marks our spacings for each clove.
Then we get on our hands and knees and plant over 5000 cloves by hand! It's tough to do any mechanical planting of garlic seed because in order to get a good yield you need to follow a few precessions. You have to make sure you plant your clove UPRIGHT. Meaning the part where the existing roots are need to face down to the soil. Cloves should also be planted 2-3" deep into the soil.
The last steps with planting is laying down straw over the beds at about 4" depth. This helps keep the soil insulated over the winter and early spring to keep a more neutral temperature throughout the cold months to prevent frost heaving. It's also great for converting moisture and suppressing weeds in the field, since garlic isn't very good at fighting it's weed competition.
This is the last crop to be planted in the season and one of the first to come up. We have put it to bed for winter and it will see you in the spring!
As always, thanks for reading!
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