Homegrown News Blog
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!
It's nearing the bittersweet end of the growing season here at Bardwell Farm. We are cleaning up the rest of the winter squash out of the fields before the frost, taking up plastic, and putting all of the fields to bed. Seems like a normal routine right? You would think so, but area farmers behind the scenes have been having one heck of a time this year.
We want to take some time in this blog to reflect, not negatively, but more to explain some of the difficulties of being at the mercy of Mother Nature during Season 2018.
Early spring was cold and we were excited to get planting. Temperatures were below average across much of the state which made warming soil temps difficult. In between very cool days and the warmer days, we managed to get the first transplants in the ground. Cabbage and chard settings sat in the soil for almost a month with minimal growth. This led to a lot of dampening-off (seedling death) and cabbage root maggot desiccation. A root maggot is an insect that eats the roots of crops such as cabbage, radish, and broccoli.
Below is a picture of the first setting of cabbage I'm talking about.
We got through the cold spell and were blessed with average rainfall through the early weeks of May, this helped us plant all of the main season crops. We even had to irrigate here and there because there wasn't enough rain. Local farmers were saying it was almost drought conditions by this time. Below you can see me irrigating scallions. May is the month for planting and we sure nailed that!
Conditions were really good through most of June, then on June 19th is when things turned for the worse. June 28th started these crazy rain spells, getting 3.5" of rain in one day! Luckily crops were still in their smaller stage so not much damage was done. If you think about it though that's almost enough rain for a month in just one day! There are a few pictures below that demonstrate how the rain can effect crops in just one storm.
Through the rest of July and August we dealt with constant above average temperatures and excessive rain, it really took a tole on both the farm crew and crops. We had average temps in the mid 90's with high humidity, which made work very difficult to keep up with the crops, weeds, and daily life on the farm.
Crops grew so fast that sweet corn settings were coming in on top of each other. Vine crops such as winter squash and pumpkins matured in the first weeks of August! Winter squash and pumpkins are supposed to mature by mid September, but the hot humid weather we had pushed things along too quickly. These crops love the heat! Sometimes too much which can change harvest dates for crops that are more of a cool seasonal crop.
Heat and humidity, coupled with the excessive rain, took a major tole. Crops just rotted in the soil they were planted in because of the amount of moisture in the ground and in the air. Many crops were lost and we experienced a major decrease in crop yields. The bottom line, too much rain!
This season was also a struggle with pests, soil borne diseases, and weed control.
The insect pressure has been incredible this year because of flea beetles, an insect that munches on cabbage and other crops love the heat. The excessive rot, rain, and humid conditions made the population of fruit flies explode both in storage and in field with crops such as tomatoes, fruits, and basically anything that had potential to rot because of the weather.
Soil borne disease like Phytophthora Capsici which attacks crops such as peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, winter, summer squash, and pumpkins is a killer in the wet seasons. Most fields in the Pioneer valley are infested with this disease which is nearly impossible to get rid of. This is a fungal disease that is only active in saturated soil (moves in water) and can persist dormant in soils for up to 7 years. This disease can travel on equipment or your shoe from field to field. It infects crops by attacking the roots and slowly cutting the water and food source to the plants. This disease wiped out many of of our winter squash, peppers and tomatoes decreasing our yields.
Lastly, weeds have been a struggle to control this year. So much rain has made cultivating and other weed control tactics difficult to maintain because of the mere fact of not being able to physically enter the fields. The result was a lot of weeding and coping with reduced yields... basically, we couldn't keep up with the amount of weed germination and growth because of the rain and heat. Quick fact, most weeds love the heat and don't mind the rain because they are acclimated to this area.
No one ever said farming would be easy, but this year sure pushed many of the farmers in the valley to their limits. There was much learned this season, much lost and gained at the same time. To me, a season like this one made farming real.
There are major downfalls in choosing a career and life like this one, but we cannot let this stop us. We have to push through the difficulties and harvest the crops that grew the best for us. It was a great season to see which varieties held up better than others under these extreme conditions, which ones were resistant to certain diseases and weather conditions, and ones that failed miserably. We look at the 2018 season as an experience, not a loss.
We hope this sheds some light on the season and the life of local farmers.
From all of us here at Bardwell Farm thank you for your support!
We were interview by CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) recently for their new video series "Breaking Ground: Beginning Farmer Stories", highlighting young people in farming. Have a look!
Many thanks to the CISA crew for the opportunity and featuring our humble little farm, outstanding job!
In the spring of last year we were contacted by UMass student Isabel Brofsky to participate in a bird and vegetation study. We were excited and jumped at the opportunity and invited Isabel to our farm.
After several visits and rounds of study she presented us with her analysis and it was pretty amazing! We were surprised at the diversity of birds our little farm hosted.
Have a look at the report it's an invaluable insight for us farmers and interesting information that we don’t typically think of.
A big thank you to Isabel and her team for including us in her important work!
Bird & Vegetation Study: Bardwell Farm
Isabel Brofsky, MS Student
Department of Environmental Conservation, University of Massachusetts Amherst
This American Robin became a familiar sight as the season went on. I was able to recognize it individually because of the unique white patches on its wings, caused by a genetic mutation known as leucism.
Field Season Review
The purpose of this field season was to collect data on the abundance and species diversity of birds and quantify their habitats. I completed three rounds of bird surveys over the course of the summer, each time performing 10-minute standardized point counts of all birds within a 50-meter radius. During each point count I recorded the number and species of birds I observed, as well as which habitats they were occupying and any feeding or breeding behaviors they were exhibiting. I also conducted two rounds of habitat surveys, which I completed by dividing the area of the 50-meter radius point count circle into distinct land cover types (i.e.orchard, cover crop, woodland, etc.) and measuring the height
and density of the vegetation and identifying the plants present throughout each land cover type. I began these surveys in around late May and finished in mid-July to coincide with the breeding season of most species in this region.
Highlights of the Field Season
Not only was Bardwell Farm one of the smallest farms I surveyed over the course of the summer, it also was located in one of the most developed or suburban areas that I visited. Because of these two points, I did not anticipate Bardwell having a very long species list. I was, however, proved totally wrong. With a list of 40 bird species and a total of 225 individuals, Bardwell was a remarkably diverse and unique farm that surpassed my expectations. Due to Bardwell’s more suburban surroundings, I observed a number of species that are uniquely adapted to human-altered habitats. Chimney Swifts were a common aerial visitor, as well as Rock Pigeon and Eastern Kingbird. On my very first visit to the farm, I observed a pair of Redtailed Hawks perched and calling from the top of one of the trees on the edge of the farm. Although I didn’t see them on any subsequent visits, I wouldn’t be surprised if they nested somewhere nearby. The only Canada Geese I saw at any farm all season long were in the grassy fields adjacent to the farm.
While many of the birds I recorded on and around the farm were suburban species, I also observed a diverse array of woodland and shrubland birds as well. The forested areas at the edge of the farm produced species such as Warbling Vireo, American Redstart, and Yellow Warbler. The big hickory tree near the main field was a magnet for songbirds. The list of species that I observed in that single tree includes Baltimore Oriole, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Northern Cardinal, Downy Woodpecker, and Song Sparrow. As I have started my data analysis, Song Sparrows have become more and more of interest to my research. A common but declining species in the Northeast, Song Sparrows were present on small farms like Bardwell in higher densities than any other natural and managed habitats in this region. They were also one of the most common species that I observed feeding in and around
row crops, and because they feed primarily on insects during the breeding season, it is possible they are providing an ecosystem service in the form of insect pest control.
With a field season complete, my primary tasks were to enter all of my data into my computer and organize it so that it could be used in future data analyses. With that step finished, I have recently been working on some preliminary Song Sparrow analyses to determine the major habitat characteristics (vegetation height, density, cover of different habitat types, etc.) that are driving bird abundance and occurrence on these farms. I will also be preparing for a second field season this summer.
The following list includes all species observed or heard in and around the farm (not just those observed during 10-minute point counts) across the combined three visits. I have highlighted shrubland birds in green because many of these species are declining in this region due to habitat loss and their presence on these farms is of interest to my project. Another of my interests is the extent to which birds are feeding on farm pests, so I have also included a brief description of the diets of potentially beneficial species. Here I define a beneficial species as one whose diet during the breeding season is composed of over 50% animal and/or insect matter and whose feeding behavior would allow it to potentially feed on a farm pest.Bir
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