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Seedlings! and ordering notes

We just added a list of all the plants we are growing for sale this year, with brief descriptions for most of them, to our website. You can see it by clicking this link. We still have grandiose plans of adding beautiful pictures of every variety, but we’re not going to get to that project very soon, so text is all it is for now. We tried to group plants to make it easier to read – vegetables, common herbs and flowers are on the first several pages (tomatoes filled a whole page on their own!), with the less common herbs and house plants on the last few pages for the plant lovers out there wanting to take a deeper dive. We know that a lot of people are planning to have new or bigger gardens this year, and are trying to anticipate that increased demand. But we have already sold out of our first seeding of lettuce six-packs (don’t worry, there will be more coming!), and we expect to run out of other things this season as well. The trick with unprecedented change is that, well, it’s hard to predict just what it is going to mean.

We have also added a current product list for pre-ordering to the website. We are filling orders on Saturday and Wednesday mornings, for pickup after 10am on Saturday or after noon on Wednesday. Orders should be emailed before 8am on Friday or Tuesday for pickup the following day. We will continue to have the Farmstand open on Saturdays from 10am-2pm, with a full selection of our products, and we will be staffing it at that time to get you produce, answer questions, and accept all forms of payment (cash, check, credit, debit, and EBT/SNAP cards). The farmstand is also open everyday on a self-service basis for a more limited product range – meat, eggs, seedlings, and sometimes some vegetables. Self-service payment can be check or cash (change is limited to coins).

You can also use our product list to place orders to pick up at Tuesday Market in Northampton, which is starting next week! (We think – we still haven’t gotten the official green light and new protocols from the Northampton Health Department) Because of constraints on space in our van, we will probably not be able to pack orders before leaving for market, so we may not be able to have orders ready right at opening bell at 1:30pm. We know that things will be different this year at market, and there are a lot of new things that we are having to do to keep everyone safe and healthy. Again, it is hard to predict right now how things are going to go. We will try to check email regularly throughout market to check for new orders.

We hope that you all are staying healthy!


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Farmstand opening on Saturdays

Starting on 3/21, our Farmstand will be open and staffed on Saturdays from 10am-2pm with a full selection of our produce and all of our other products. During that time one of us will be available to answer questions and help get things for people, as well as be able to run credit, debit, or EBT card transactions. That would be a great time for folks who receive SNAP benefits to stop by, because we can accept SNAP for meat, eggs, produce, and food producing plants. Produce and food producing plants are additionally eligible for the State’s HIP benefit, which is a great program that we know has been hard for Hilltown residents to take advantage of, due to a lack of staffed farmstands.

Produce that will be available for the next few weeks includes Salad Greens, Potatoes, Carrots, Cabbage, Celeriac, Turnips, Radishes, and Kohlrabi. We have lovely houseplants available, and the first of our vegetable starts are almost ready. We’ll have lettuce and kale six-packs to get your garden started, as well as things like basil and tomato plants that can’t go out yet, for those with nice sunny windows who want to get an early start. As the spring progresses, we will have a wide selection of plants for your garden, as well as an increasing supply of vegetables.

The farmstand will continue to be open on a self-service basis during the rest of the week for meat and eggs and a limited selection of other products. Payment must be by cash or check during self-service hours. If you’re not able to make it during our Saturday hours, do send us an email or call to set up an appointment to pay by card or for help with meat or plants.

One of the reasons why we are making this change is that the Northampton Winter Farmers’ Market, which we’ve been attending on Saturdays, has been cancelled for the remaining six weeks of its season, in response to the Coronavirus outbreak. We are hearing that many other indoor Farmers Markets are also closing, or are discussing potentially closing. While we understand the need to reduce large gatherings of people, it is also important for people to have access to fresh, healthy food. Opening our farmstand seems like a great way right now to help people access that food without having to go out to larger venues.


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Summer CSA & Market changes

It’s time to sign up for CSA shares for this summer! You can find out more information about our CSA on the CSA page; details like pricing are on our 2014 CSA Signup Form. To sign up, print out the signup form and mail it to us with a deposit.

The big change that we are making to the CSA this year is dropping to one distribution day each week. We will no longer have CSA distributions on Mondays; only on Fridays. While we know that this may be less convenient for some of our shareholders, we are working to make our operation more effective, and this change will allow us to spend more time farming by consolidating our harvesting and distribution time. Please remember that we offer part time shares if your schedule doesn’t allow you to make it to the farm every week.

The Burgy Farmer’s Market in Williamburg will not continue this year. While it has been a worthwhile market for us, several other vendors felt that they were not able to sell enough at that farmer’s market to justify their time. We were unable to find enough new vendors to make it feel like it was going to be viable, so the decision was made to not continue the market.

We intend to keep more vegetables and other products available in our farmstand on a self-service basis this summer, for those who are unable to get here for Friday CSA pickups or get down to Northampton for Tuesday Market. We are hoping that being able to focus more on production this year will enable us to have more products available at our reduced market times, and make our summer a little less crazy.


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Changing seasons & the Food Safety Modernization Act

This is the last week of our summer CSA season, but we are not done for the year. We are again offering a winter season CSA (here’s the sign-up form: 2013wintercsasignup), which this year is running through December. The early part of the season this year was a bit rough, and resulted in a poor harvest of several full season crops, including some of our major staples, like Potatoes and Winter Squash. A lot of our fall storage crops are looking great though, so which we are not offering a long haul option, we’ll have lots of vegetables through December.

Our Northampton Farmer’s Markets extend right through the winter – Tuesday Market is running through November 12th, and the Northampton Winter Market is starting up on the 16th, and will happen every Saturday through April. As some may have seen in the Hampshire Gazette, it looks like the Winter Market is going to lose the space in Thornes that we have been using. It’s still unclear how that is going to play out and where we will be, but we are expecting that the market is going to happen and we’re planning to be there.

Depending on how the winter market goes and how our hoophouses are producing, we’ll be assessing our vegetable supply in March and deciding on whether or not to offer a spring CSA season before our regular summer season starts. All we know right now is that we need a little bit of a break in January and February.

In other news, we want to encourage all of you to comment on the Food Safety Modernization Act. If you haven’t heard about it, this is a new piece of legislation that gives the FDA broad new powers to control the food supply from the farm through processing. It was enacted in response to the many disease outbreaks in recent years linked to fresh produce. Fresh produce has been almost entirely unregulated up until now. Since much of the produce industry really is industrial in scale, some level of regulation seems appropriate. In just the past week there was another recall of salad greens from a processor in Boston, of 300,000 pounds of salad. It’s a mind boggling amount of salad. But the proposed federal standards were mainly written based on the recommendations of the industrial processors, and are going to hurt small and mid sized farmers and processors much more than the big ones.

CISA has put together a lot of great information about the issues on their website: (including a petition to sign and sample comment letters to send)

Crabapple Farm fits into the Small Farm Exemption, which means that we are (maybe) exempt from the new standards and so won’t be harmed by them. But here’s the catch – there are some folks arguing to get rid of the exemption (which would be terrible for small scale local production and would likely put us and most farms like us out of business), and the exemption as proposed leaves a lot of unanswered questions. My understanding of the proposed exemption is that a small farm is exempt from inspection, and so can ignore the rules, but if the FDA feels like inspecting you, they can, and if they want to, they can remove your exemption entirely, and then you must comply with the full requirements of the law, with no mechanism for getting back into the exempt category.

The exemption was written into the law due to an understanding that the costs of complying with the new rules would be prohibitive for small farms. There is a significant recordkeeping component to the rules, with many estimates determining that most farms would need to hire a full time employee just to handle the paperwork involved.

While not prohibiting it, the standards place so many restrictions on livestock and manure that integrated diversified production like we do will be very difficult. Basically, the FDA doesn’t want a farm to raise both vegetables and livestock. They also want farmers to keep wildlife away from fields used for vegetable production. While I don’t particularly like it when deer nibble our seedlings, we consider birds and other wildlife in our fields to be a sign of ecosystem health and something to encourage. The proposed rules could lead to the destruction of riparian areas near farm fields, which happened in California when the first produce rules were created by the processing industry there.

Meat and Dairy are both subject to federal regulation, and have been for decades. The effect of those regulations was serious consolidation in the processing industries, and most small farmers going out of business. It is only in the past decade or so that some small farmers like us are finding our way around the regulations and beginning to produce those products for a local market again. We produce a lot of different kinds of food. Two that we don’t do, you may have noticed, are dairy and poultry. Why? Because of the regulations. It would cost us too much money to build facilities that would be approved by the inspectors for either product to be profitable on our scale. There are a small handful of folks in the area who have waded through the bureaucracy in order to provide folks with these products, but the reason there are so few is not that there isn’t demand, and it isn’t that milking cows or raising chickens is so much harder than raising vegetables. But selling milk or poultry legally is way, way harder and more expensive than selling vegetables.

The only way we can do meat is to truck our animals to a USDA inspected slaughterhouse an hour and a half away. If you’ve ever heard of the idea of the hundred mile diet, well, you can’t do that around here. Our meat has over a hundred miles on it just to get from our fields to our freezers. There is no other option, if we want to sell our meat legally.

There are a lot of young farmers like us these days, and while some of us are raising meat or milk, most of us are vegetable farmers. Because that is the only sort of farming that you can do without investing a ton of money in infrastructure. If the small farm exemption isn’t made solid, then that may stop being true in the near future.

The comment period on the proposed rules is until November 15th.

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2013 CSA Season

We’ve just updated our Summer Vegetable CSA brochure, and it’s time to sign up for a share! You can download a signup form by clicking on this link: 2013csasignup.

We have decided to change our CSA distribution system a bit this year. We will no longer be using a volume limit based on bag sizes, but are instead switching to a unit system. This is the system that we have been using this winter for our Winter CSA and it has been working pretty well. It continues to offer choice while giving clearer guidelines of what a “share” consists of. It will make it easier for us to adjust for the bounty or scarcity of crops (by adjusting portion size, for instance) on a weekly basis, without resorting to a vague and confusing “short supply” sign. It also gives us a system that watermelon and pumpkins can fit into (physically!). As an added benefit, shareholders no longer need to worry about forgetting their bag. We still, of course, encourage you to bring a bag to bring your produce home in, but now any bag will do.

In our new system, we will arrange crops by type on different tables, and post how much each share size can take from that table. For instance, on a hypothetical week in August, a small share could take 3 pounds from one table (of cukes, squash, carrots, beets, and potatoes) and 3 items from another table (of heads of lettuce, cabbage, and bok choi, and bunches of kale, chard, amaranth, and basil), plus 2 units from a third (with tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, beans, and sweet corn on it, each with different unit sizes). That week, a Medium share would get 4 pounds from the first table, 4 items from the second, and 2 units from the third, while a Large share would get 4 pounds, 5 items, and 3 units (or some other combination adding up to more, depending on what’s plentiful and what’s short). It will make a little more sense when there are actual vegetables on real tables.


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Winter CSA!

Yes, we are offering a Winter CSA this year. We’ve been doing the Winter Farmer’s Market for the past two years in Northampton, and have been able to have vegetables available straight through the winter, so we have decided that it’s time to offer a CSA share that extends our CSA season, well, forever. Not really forever, but without a break between this summer and next. We’re offering two season length options, one running for November and December, and the other running all the way through spring. We’re offering the shorter option because we expect that some folks will want to have plenty of vegetables for all the holiday meals in those months, but might not want to continue coming out to the farm once hibernation mode kicks in in January. Also, we’ll have more vegetables available at the start of the winter. But we’re going to keep things growing in the hoophouses and fill our storage spaces as full as we can for those people who want to join us for the Long Haul.

Space is limited for the Winter CSA, so please sign up quickly if you are interested.

More information and a Sign-up form can be found on our CSA page.


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Workshop Series

We are going to be giving a series of workshops over the summer. Right now we have three scheduled – a Scythe workshop on June 9th, a Seed Saving workshop on June 30th, and a Wheat workshop on July 14th. For more information, check out our workshops page.

Tevis will also be presenting a workshop on breeding and seed saving at the NOFA Summer Conference at Umass in August.

We’re planning to continue this series with more workshops on the farm through the summer and into the fall. If there is a workshop you would like us to give, please suggest it to us. Also, if you are unable to attend either the Scythe or Seed Saving workshop but wish you could, let us know – if there is sufficient interest we will offer those workshops again later in the summer.

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Spring Seedling Sales

The growing season is upon us, and we are working hard getting our crops planted in the greenhouses and the field. I know many of you are getting your gardens prepared. As we have done in the past, we have grown many flats of seedlings for sale in addition to the plants that we need to plant our own fields.

The Burgy Thursday Market starts tomorrow on the lawn of Meekins Library in Williamsburg! We’ll be there with lots of seedlings, as well as beef, lamb, eggs, and lots of greens (we’ve got spinach, lettuce, scallions, kale, and chard!). We’ll have seedlings at the Burgy Thursday Market through the beginning of June. (the market runs from 2:30-7)

You can find us this weekend at the Hilltown Spring Festival at the Cummington Fairgrounds on Saturday (10 to 5).

We’ll have our farmstand open on Sunday and Monday as well, from 10-5, for folks to stop by and get seedlings (or beef, lamb, wool, eggs, spinach, lettuce . . .). For the rest of May, we’ll be open Friday through Monday, 10-5.

What’s so great about our seedlings? First of all, they’re organic (not certified) – grown with natural fertility and no nasty chemicals. Just as important, they are varieties proven to do well in Chesterfield. We trial a lot of varieties in our fields every year, and we only sell seedlings of varieties that we have had success with here in the hilltowns. We even have a couple of things you can’t get anywhere else – because we bred the variety right here!

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