Greens and Valore Galore

Déjà vu. The radar showed purple, Northfield Farmers Market was cancelled and the radio alerts brought us back to a year ago when we retreated to the basement during tornado warnings. No hail this time for us but the rage of these storms is sobering. The Cornish Cross chicks (a.k.a. the Adirondacks) became soaked and hypothermic in the early morning deluge but all are now back to fluffy, with their down and legs once again working for them and perk in their chirp. Thanks Lauren and Melissa for rapid response and Kati for sending towels.  And our dry orchard and pastures are now well watered!

A few days earlier Mary and Liva’s scouting identified the presence of onion maggots. Does one share this type of detail with customers? Absolutely. We can’t take our food for granted. You all should know we’ve been worried since reports arrived via Vermont’s Veg and Berry listserve of crops decimated in Massachusetts. And when you’re a “Chief of Crops” and you have field biology under your belt, you are in the unfortunate position of also being chief worrier. But as such, Liva had taken a plugged- in and proactive approach and had chatted with the knowledgeable folks at Green Spot ( Millions of nematods arrived via mail in a tiny cooler as the onion starts sprouted weeks ago. These beneficial insects have been working for us since and we hope they can hold their own and limit the scourge of the onion invaders, who are thought to be months ahead of schedule throughout the northeast as a result of the mild winter and early spring.


If that wasn’t enough the mild Spring hastened the bloom of one of the most dreaded invasive plants in Vermont, Chervil. What a cruel twist that the only crop failure we’ve had in the past is with last summer’s parsnips (they are devilishly demanding to sprout) and yet this cousin seeds with ease and is spreading from Vermont’s roadsides, ruining hayfields, pastures and forests, while looking pretty like Queen Anne’s Lace. Crueler still is the fact that its sap on skin exposed to sunlight creates a chemical burn. We pulled as many as we could this year and just as seeds were setting, we weed-wacked all others found on the farm, knowing the battle will require more time in years ahead.


Yet this week on the farm there were are also delights. Sunshine was plentiful. Eleven enthusiasts rolled up their sleeves and learned to make chevre. Buckets of cilantro were harvested for the sauce planned for the roasted goat for this Sunday’s farm picnic. Farmstand sales boomed with fresh lettuce, salad mixes and a new round of sausage. Piglets moved on to good homes at Knoll Farm and Three Springs Farm. Over 100 Freedom Rangers, known as the Alps, arrived at the Post Office this week, giving you the potential to visit three groups chicks when you come to the farmstand. Tomatoes were pruned. Tons of compost was moved and thousands of starts were planted out. Two farmers even removed years worth of dust from our bikes and road around Berlin Pond. Neighbors and community members ate big salads that had travelled just a few miles instead of the typical thousands.


And a cadre of talented folks chipped away at systems improvement and chores, keeping the faith in sustainable agriculture and the long view.


One such farmer, Tessa Bussiere, joined the ranks of Farmer Emeritus choosing to establish herself

Tessa loading compost

further in her new home in Bristol with her fiancé. Tessa taught us to up-sell “do you need bacon to go with your eggs?”, as she simultaneously found her inner gift for sales. She tackled technical tractoring including removing the bedded pack from our barns, tended compost piles and contemplated permaculture and farm design. She regularly became a whirling dervish, making order from our chaos – especially on flat surfaces. She reigns forever as the best Jar Czar. She quests with us all for sustainability. Tessa has great strength and valor that we were lucky to tap for two years. Now she’ll unleash her talents elsewhere. She’ll likely be back for special projects. Meanwhile Tessa, thanks for helping to not only get this farm off to a strong start but thanks for your passion for Northfield and farming and your shared commitment to our complex bottom line – high quality products, engaged neighbors, thriving farmers, profitability and natural systems functioning well.