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
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.
You asked and we listened, new winter squash varieties are coming to the fall harvest!
Bush Delicata Squash
We've never grown this variety before and we're pretty excited! The cylindrical, 8" long fruit has a bright yellow-orange flesh. The texture is smooth with a mild nutty flavor and reminiscent of a sweet potato.
Primavera Spaghetti Squash
This is a uniform variety with canary yellow skin color at maturity. Bake with your favorite red sauce and a little parmesan, mangia!
Festival Acorn Squash
The fruit is deeply ribbed and striped with a wide, slightly rounded bottom. Flesh is peach-colored, similar to an acorn squash but with superior sweet flavor and texture.
Three new varieties of peppers to spice up your weekly menu!
This variety is sweet and green, has thick walls and a traditional block shape. It's perfect for summer salads, fajitas, and stuffed peppers.
Red Rocket Pepper
This cayenne chile pepper is tapered, thin-walled, and about 5 to 6" long. It dries quickly to a bright crimson red. These dried fruits have tender flesh which is nice and soft when cooked.
The largest jalapeno offering! The fruit averages 4 to 4 1/2" and are slow to check (to show small cracks in skin). A great addition to any menu requiring heat.
So many of you have asked about herbs and again, we listened!
2 to 3" long glossy and cupped leaves with a classic Genovese Basil aroma.
Dark Opal Basil
Purple with 20% variegated green tips make this variety colorful and unique. It's sweet and spicy, slightly stronger anise flavor than the common green sweet basil, with mild ginger undertones and a robust aroma.
For all you pickling lovers! Edible seeds and greens with a flavor profile of fennel, anise and celery, with warm, slightly bitter undertones. A popular addition to sauces and a must for making Hatfield Pickles.
Stay tuned for updates as we will be adding thyme, oregano, and more!
We hope you enjoy these new products as much as we will enjoy growing them.
As always, we love your feedback, please share your wish list, ideas, and/or comments below. Thanks for reading!
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